The result of a La Nina weather pattern over New South Wales has resulted in months of heavy rain, with occasional days of sunshine. Our intended camping trips, planned from June of 2021 had to be cancelled one after another, first because of Covid-19 lockdowns, then the rain. But last week there was a gap in the weather, away from the coast at any rate, so we seized the opportunity to pack up and go, heading south west. First stop was a flying visit to Canberra, to see a major Jeffrey Smart retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia (which was wonderful, well worth the stop) then on up into Kosciuszko National Park in the Snowy Mountains.
First camp was at Three Mile Dam, bush camping. A few people were there, but none close by and we had a beautiful view across the dam. It had been built in the 1880s by gold prospectors, and was used again in 1949 to supply the workers building the Snowy Hydro Scheme. All the people who lived here survived tough conditions. The gold miners set up a town at Kiandra, close by, where thousands of optimistic prospectors lived. Nothing now remains of their homes. The men who worked on the Snowy Scheme began by living in tents, then later in wooden huts, now gone, where we were camping. The winters would have been bitter, heavy snow and deep mud to contend with. The Hydro Scheme was a massive undertaking – over a period of 25 years were built 7 power stations, 16 major water storages and 220 kilometres of tunnels and aqueducts. Of the 100,000 people who worked on the Scheme, 60,000 were migrants from war-torn Europe, starting a new life.
We stayed for two nights at Three Mile Dam, then moved further north in the Park to Cooleman Mountain Camp, near the Blue Waterholes for two more nights. The geology here is limestone, so there are caves and gorges, interesting walking trails. There is evidence of early Aboriginal occupation, it would have been a bountiful summer camp area, and also European agriculture, before the area was declared a national park. Numerous native animals live here, kangaroos, possums, wombats as well as a range of birds – eastern rosellas, gang gang cockatoos, black cockatoos, sulphur crested cockatoos and ubiquitous magpies. There are also a great many brumbies, or feral horses, who have been breeding up and now are in sufficient numbers to cause concern about the damage they do to the ecosystems. This has become a contentious issue, with divided views as to whether (and how) the numbers should be reduced, with them regarded as a destructive pest on one side and a romantic symbol of the Snowy Mountains on the other. There are notices up around the campsites as to what to do if a mob of horses comes into camp, advice to shoo them away gently but firmly without causing them to panic. None came into our camp, but we saw several mobs at a distance and a great deal of droppings and hoofprints. The horses we saw were in beautiful condition, fat and glossy.
There was good walking in both camps, and, as the weather was cool but clear, excellent for comfortable walking. Because of the rain, there were masses of wildflowers, far more than I would have expected this late in the summer.
Below are the sketches I made over the four days of camping. Shortly I will do a post showing some of the flowers and landscape. Now we are back home to more rain, but feeling revived and refreshed!