18/01/2015 PEPOMA List – -√ Highest Point – Mount Kosciuszko, NSW (2,228 metres)
By the time we arrived at Thredbo, it was 2:00pm. The trip up from Corryong had taken much longer than we’d expected because the windy road had limited our speed to no more than 40kph and we had stopped so many times to sightsee and take photos.
After finding what was possibly the only available parking spot in Thredbo, we had a very nice lunch nearby at the Black Bear Inn, one of the original Austrian-style lodges still remaining in the village. It turned out that we had arrived on the last day of the annual three-day Thredbo Blues Festival, which explained the number of people around and the lack of available car parking spaces. Due to the late hour, we realised there wouldn’t be enough time to do the walk to Mount Kosciuszko summit and get back to Colac Colac, so we got a room for the night at the Black Bear Inn. That afternoon, we had many drinks and listened to some great blues music.
It occurred to me that our initial planning for the caravan trip was slightly lacking, as we hadn’t included my 45rpm record of Russel Morris’ The Real Thing. This only dawned on me on one of my staggers back to the bar when I spotted Russell sitting nearby with a small group of people. Damn, where was that single when I needed it autographed! What a missed opportunity.
The next morning, we took the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift to the closest access point to Mount Kosciuszko. The ride is 1.8km long, rises 560 vertical metres and takes 15 minutes one way. Neither of us had been on a ski chairlift before and were a little apprehensive about how to get on and off it, but the attendants at both ends were very helpful and probably are used to newbies like us. Di was especially worried as she does not like heights and was dreading doing it on an open ski chair. The views as you were lifted upwards were spectacular, and Di found the trip up to be OK.
Just next to the chairlift terminal at the top, we had a hearty trekkers breakfast at the Eagles Nest, the highest restaurant and bar in Australia, then headed off on the walk to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko. The sweeping mountain views were absolutely breathtaking, and the mountain air so clean and fresh. The walk is medium grade with flat sections and up hills that will make most people puff. There are no trees this high up. The walk undulated through herb fields of snow grass and snow daisies, heaths, dwarf and prostrate plants up to about 25 cm in height, with bare, stony ground between the plants. Much of the terrain was alpine bogs and water trickling over rocks could be heard most of the time. At one point, we crossed a bridge over a small babbling alpine stream that was the start of the Snowy River. We found the scenery to be magnificent.
Prudently, we turned back after reaching the Kosciuszko Lookout. The additional 12km round trip to reach the summit would have been too much for Di and could have turned an enjoyable walk into a trudge. We were close enough to satisfy ourselves and I was happy to touch the summit with my finger.
The ride up the mountain on the chairlift in no way prepared us for the return trip down. We’d no sooner settled into the seat and adjusted the safety rail in front of ourselves, than we were hurtled out over the edge of the terminal platform and were suddenly suspended at an enormous height that dropped down to the town far below. Di absolutely freaked! I have never before heard such expletives as those that passed from her delicate lips without pause for the next 5 minutes. And all this with her eyes clamped tightly shut and a death grip on the safety rail in front. I must be honest, though, and admit that my immediate reaction to being pulled out over such a magnificent height was to gasp, but Di’s swearing quickly drew my full attention and laughing soon had me breathing normally again. By about halfway down, Di had recovered enough to release her white-knuckled grip of the safety rail and begin to enjoy the ride and the magnificent view. I can’t see her ever getting back on a chairlift, though.
Back in Thredbo, we chanced upon the only wombats so far encountered on our travels. The Wombats Throne was carved from mountain gum as a seat for tired walkers to catch their breath.