Although not quite living up to their name, the Snowy Mountains provide a scenic and accessible touring destination in the warmer months.
Our convoy of five Complete Campsite rigs was quite the sight as we pushed south down the Hume Highway from Sydney, NSW. Together with photographer Nathan Jacobs and videographer Barry Ashenhurst, I’d been invited to join the Complete Campsite family for a few days of exploring Kosciuszko National Park with the brand’s full line-up in tow.
Being mid-March, we knew we weren’t in for any of the white stuff that gives these mountains their name but, nonetheless, we’d heard this high country was a stunning place to visit in the warmer months and couldn’t wait to ditch the blacktop and check it out.
BIG DAMS, QUAINT TOWNS AND RENEWABLE ENERGY
When the convoy reached Gundagai, we turned off the Hume and headed through the pretty town of Tumut to our first night’s campsite at Blowering Dam.
Part of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric scheme, Blowering was completed in 1968 and, in addition to hydroelectric power, is also used for irrigation, water supply and recreation. Our campsite was a sprawling grassy area on the dam’s eastern bank, known as The Pines.
Twenty-two kilometres south of Tumut via the Snowy Mountains Highway, it offered heaps of space for the whole shebang to set-up and, in no time, we had a roaring fire going and were settled in to watch the sun set over the dam.
The next morning, we were up bright and early to get the show on the offroad, stopping in at Talbingo to fuel up. Perched on the edge of the Tumut River — now the Jounama Pondage — the quaint little town of Talbingo is framed majestically by mountains in all directions.
A VERY LONG PLAIN
Half-an-hour south of Talbingo, on the Snowy Mountains Highway, we turned off on to Long Plain Road — our first taste of the gravel. Aptly named, this road follows an extensive high plain populated by herds of the region’s iconic brumbies, which are a divisive issue around these parts.
They are culled by National Parks due to their rampant numbers and feral status, yet are majestic creatures that hold a special place in Australian literary history thanks to Banjo Paterson’s The Man from Snowy River.
I rose early for photography with Nathan and saw the brumbies in all their glory. We were up before the sun and ventured out on to Long Plain, which was freezing cold (quite literally), despite being March, and was blanketed in thick fog that rose gently with the sun.
Herd after herd of wild horses danced into our view before galloping off among the snow gums until obscured by the fog, which glowed purple and gold as the sun lifted. That Monet-esque landscape combined with the Paterson-esque poetry of the horses rendered that chilly morning one of the prettiest I’ve experienced.
Definitely worth getting up before the birds for.
BLUE WATERHOLES AND CLARKE GORGE
After crossing the upper reaches of the Murrumbidgee River on Long Plain Road — here little more than a stream — and descending through forests of silvery snow gums, we arrived at our first destination: Blue Waterholes.
Part of a karst landscape in which limestone has dissolved over millions of years to form caves, sinkholes and underground rivers, the waterholes get their name from the blue water that has passed through the calcium and magnesium salts within the limestone.
While it may conjure images of an idyllic place for a swim, don’t be fooled; the water here is icy cold, even in summer.
Still, we braved it up to shin depth in order to walk part of the Clarke Gorge Walking Track, which commences at the same site as the Blue Waterholes.
Meandering alongside Cave Creek (with more than one shallow water, shoes-off crossing required) the track is spectacularly wedged in a narrow limestone gorge whose sheer cliffs rise imposingly on either side, inspiring vertigo even from ground level.
We headed back up the Blue Waterholes Track from which we came and camped at the top of the hill at Cooleman Mountain campground, a magnificent campground perched high and dry with lovely views. There was plenty of space for all our campers and more, with a huge expanse of flat-enough grass, picnic tables, firepits, untreated water and a drop toilet.
Located around 2.6km from Long Plain Road and framed by towering gum trees, I cannot recommend this campsite highly enough. Plus, it’s just a 2km round trip walk to the Coolamine Homestead at the bottom of the valley, which is one of the largest, best restored and most interesting historical huts in the region.
It was a short but sweet trip to the Snowies, but it wasn’t hard to see why Kosciuszko is not only one of Australia’s largest national parks, but also one of her most pristine and cherished. With easy accessibility from Sydney and Melbourne, this is a very doable short trip that comes highly recommended.