Overnight stays: Wilks Park, North Wagga Wagga; Yarrangobilly River Campground, Yarrangobilly; Thredbo Diggings, Kosciusko National Park; Tumbarumba Town Parking, Tumbarumba; Snowy River Camp, Tallangatta Valley; NRMA Bright Holiday Park, Bright
After a quick few days back in Tamworth to farewell my Grandfather’s incredible 95 years of life, we realised not only that time is precious, but the Wombatical’s innings is coming to an abrupt end. And just like life, there is still so much to see, and very little time to experience it.
So we stayed out of Victoria for a few more days, to bend through the Snowies, which would allow us to totally relax along the coast for our home stretch leading up to Christmas.
The winding road through Alpine NSW was pretty speccy, surrounded by lush green fields, beautiful flowing rivers, and picturesque lakes. As we rose the temperature dropped dramatically and we were throwing layers on quicker the US can throw another tariff on Chinese imports.
We pulled into an awesome free camp on a pretty river in the old village of Yarrangobilly. There we picked a ripper of a site next to the flowing water, and stoked up a smoky fire to cook dinner on.
Catching our unicorn
I had read about this particular campsite on WikiCamps, and was holding high hopes of a brumby encounter at some stage. Brumbies have been elusive for us on the entire trip, and until this point, were sitting alongside camels as some of the only wild animals we hadn’t seen (although Liv has made it very clear that if we see a unicorn she gets to keep it as a pet 🦄).
And just as we sat down between the river and fire for dinner I glanced around for one final Bo Peep, hoping desperately to bring a Brumby into vision. They do exist! Low and behold, a couple of beautiful wild horses were just trotting in to say hello to our neighbours at the very moment I happened to be looking.
So we ditched our dinner and raced over to say hello to the wild but clearly comfortable with human Brumbies, just as beautiful as we imagined.
These couple of savvy creatures knew if they turned up at the same time everyday they were a good chance for a free feed, of which we happily hand fed to them for a truly memorable experience. Many wouldn’t consider this a Ranger Stacey totally wild experience, but for us it was our first brumby encounter, and the fact that they were friendly made it all the better.
We did also spot a whole herd of them the following day when driving, just as majestic as we had imagined they would be.
Yarrangobilly Thermal Pool
The following morning was beautiful and warm, providing the perfect backing for a Danny Brown in the Yarrangobilly Thermal Pool, located just down the road from our campsite. The beautiful mossy pool consistently sits at around 27’C, heated naturally by thermal springs, and was super quiet with basically no one around, so we had it mostly to ourselves.
South Glory Cave
We were super caved out, but I convinced my amigos that one more wouldn’t hurt, so we strolled along the Yarrangobilly River towards the South Glory Cave, where Liv then led us on a dark solo tour, ensuring we didn’t miss a single thing along the way. Never had I seen a tour guide so comprehensive and attentive, stopping us at every turn, pointing the torch, and directing our eyes to absolutely every stalagtite, stalagmite and rock imagineable.
Winding down through the beautiful mountains we spotted even more brumbies and sparse green fields until we reached Jindabyne to stock up before settling into Thredbo Diggings campsite, just out of Thredbo on the river for the night. This was another absolute ripper of a campsite, riverside, with a fireplace and great quiet vibe.
We received an overnight downpour of rain and the wind started to get pretty hectic, almost taking our entire awning off at 2am, forcing yet another middle-of-the-night wind-in. You’d think I would know better by now 🤦🏼♀️.
This rain brought the mud in pretty heavy below the WomBatmobile, so rather than sticking around for the snow that was a chance to arrive the day after next, we agreed to get out rather than risk another bogging.
Just as punters around the world held high hopes for the 2018 APEC Summit, we were hoping to take the chairlift from Thredbo and complete the 12km Mount Kosciusko Summit Trail the following morning. But sadly the weather wasn’t playing ball – the winds at the top were 65km/h, the rain was patchy, and visibility was non-existent, so we agreed to leave that for next time, meaning a room full of elected Asia/Pacific leaders wouldn’t be the only summit failure this year. Unfortunately this meant that Liv wouldn’t see snow until we return in winter 2019 – “oh well”, we thought, some kids never see snow in their lifetime, so she would be okay.
Hitting the slopes
Only just avoiding a bogging the following morning we again set off, continuing our way winding through Kosciusko National Park, misty and mysterious, until we came out and flatlined for Tumbarumba, one of my dad’s favourite places in Australia (mostly because of the quality of wine that comes from Tumbarumban fruit).
Paddy’s River Falls
Loz and Liv couldn’t have been more waterfalled out, so much so that they remained in the car while I took the 100m walk to check out the impressive Paddy’s River Falls, just out of Tumbarumba.
Tumbarumba offers free overnight parking behind the main street, where we parked and decided to pay our way by dining at the recommended Union Hotel whom provided the best chicken parmy to ever hit my lips.
After a cold lazy morning we strolled over to a local cafe to decide what we were going to do for the day over a hot brew. We agreed to start with Sugar Pine Walk in Bago State Forest, and then return back through town towards Victoria again.
Sugar Pine Walk
I had seen photos of the Sugar Pine Walk, but had written it off a day or two prior, thinking we actually wouldn’t be all that close at any point. Turns out Tumbarumba is only a defecting Liberal’s distance away, so it became a no-brainer all of a sudden.
The terrifically tall sugar pines, I assume once planted for forestry and then handed over as public property, are equally beautiful and terrifying. We all know the stories of Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel, where bad things happen to people in the forest. With the wind roaring, shaking these tall trees, cracking them together, and the rain drizzling like an index fingered olive oil dressing, we were living the scene of a nightmare, but it was exhilarating.
This short shady 500m walk was awesome, something I’m now so happy we didn’t miss.
Let it snow
One of the best things about travel is being able to choose your own adventure. Each and every day we wake up and know full well we can make a decision on what we do and where we go that day. It’s an incredible feeling and one of the things I’ll miss most when we get back to real life in 2019.
On our way to Bago State Forest we threw around some ideas on where to go next – it was the middle of the day at this point, but with 8 hours of sunlight left, we could almost go anywhere.
Despite it being late November, we knew there was snow expected in the Alps, but we had yesterday written it off on the basis of bogging. But we were free now, and with nowhere to be, we figured this was our chance. The updated forecast was saying snow showers above 1200m altitude, so with a little more research we mapped out a route that would minimise back-tracking and maximise our chance of seeing a bit of snow, and set on our way, excited but setting low expectations.
The windy ascent offered very little for a long time until eventually the rain on the windscreen started to stick a little, then a little more, then to an amount to call sleet. At that point we thought that might be as good as it gets, with the finest signs of settled sleet on the ground beside the road giving us at least something to show Liv. But underneath we knew she’d be disappointed with what was there – her expectations of snow are pretty much made up entirely of the Frozen movie.
We pulled over to see if the sleet was dry enough to make into a snowball, and just as we exited the car the snow started to fall from the sky. And just like that it came and came, heavier and heavier, yet lighter and lighter, and starting to settle on the ground. This was no longer sleet, it was snow, real snow. Finally we had given our baby girl some snow to see, touch, and throw. And throw she did, using her weapon of an arm to smash us with snowballs at point blank proximity.
Now all excited, we piled back into the WomBatmobile to continue our journey, happy with what had transpired. But it was still snowing outside, a lot.
It seems we had only at this stage reached not only the beginning of the 1200m+ altitude, but only the beginning of the snow showers. We continued to climb as the snow cover on the ground thickened and the quality of snow falling dried. With more cover now on the ground we were comfortable we had enough to build a snowman, so pulled over again and built a mini Olaf, almost laughable in size. But the smile it brought to Liv’s face made it all the worthwhile, while the clouds continued to drop the most delicious soft snow on our heads and shoulders.
Two or three stops later, even higher and deeper in the snowstorm we felt like we had left Australia and somehow arrived in Switzerland. The snowstorm was thick, as was the ground cover. Even to a point where the road was completely white, making me quite nervous for the summit and descent drives still to come. But no time to worry about that, we now had more than enough snow to build a decent snowman, using all our clothing layers on-hand and freezer bags as gloves for young Liv.
So here we were, eight days from summer, driving in a 4.5 tonne motorhome, on top of the world, through completely white snow-covered roads. No snowploughs in November – that would be laughable.
After a few hours we finally called it and ever so carefully made our way through the snow, gradually descending until it turned to sleet again, and finally to rain, eventually washing the remnants of snow off the windscreen as we wound down into Victoria to finish one of the best days of 2018.
Brightening things up
For weeks we had been in touch with our friends, the Clohesies from Melbourne, whom we met on the road many months ago. We had been making and changing plans to catch up to a laughable extent, until we finally had some certainty on our location when we were in the Snowies. From there we planned in secret with Dan that we would meet them in Bright on the coming weekend, where they would be visiting for an annual getaway. His wife Ali and their three gorgeous girls had no idea we were coming to gatecrash their holiday.
Our excitement levels were high, so we arrived reasonably early on the Friday, to a ripper caravan park right in town, giving us enough time to hammer out a few rounds of mini-golf and get a fire going.
When the Clohesies pulled into the site next to ours Ali screamed with excitement out the window and their eldest daughter, Leona even jumped out of their moving vehicle, running to Loz for a cuddle. It was high excitement all around, and we were humbled to receive such an amazing reaction.
For the remainder of the night we caught up on all things travel and real life, and watched the video of their champion horse, Extra Brut, winning the Derby over and over again. Dan has openly admitted he now watches the race every night before bed, that’s how much it means to him.
Despite Dan’s unrelenting attempts to keep us in Bright another night, we were on a pretty tight social schedule, so parted ways, at least for a few days until we visited them again in Melbourne.
Summing up the Snowies
If you asked us what we’d be doing in late November, building snowmen and throwing snowballs would have been bottom of the pile. But it’s funny how things work out. Australia’s Alpine region gave us amazing snow, incredible catch ups, pristine beauty, and brumbies, which until the Snowies, were our unicorn. And just like the failed APEC Summit, we’ll be back and try Kosciusko’s Summit another year.