Diamond in the Snow

I love listening to podcasts, particularly when driving. One that I listened to recently was an interview with Rupert Guinness who rode his pushbike from Fremantle in Western Australia to Sydney – 5000 kilometres in an event called the Indian Pacific Wheel Race. It was an amazing story. I have on my to-do list to read the book.

Part of the tradition of the race is to dip the back wheel of your bike in the Indian Ocean as you leave Fremantle and dip the front wheel in the Pacific Ocean when you arrive. My road trip last week had some similarities…and no, it wasn’t that I was anywhere near a bike, or involved any form of exercise for that matter!

My day started at Coogee Beach, Sydney, overlooking the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. It was a work day and I was aware that not far from the beach the rapid pace of morning commute was swelling as traffic and city life had awakened. I felt a million miles way soaking the soothing holiday atmosphere of Coogee. The beach had been freshly groomed overnight with the pattern only broken by a few footprints from swimmers brave enough to test the cool winter waters.

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Coogee Beach

I dipped my toes in the sand and breathed the dust free salty air.

And then turned the car west to the mountains that cosset the eastern seaboard of Australia. A stop in Bathurst for the night, visiting Daughter3 before setting on new adventures, six hours drive away.

For the best part of the next day I weaved up and down, left and right around the mountain range, slowly edging closer to my destination. From Canberra onwards the car gently climbed upwards. I had left the sea level far behind, the blue waters now replaced with winter tawny colours of the snowy mountain ranges. My temperature gauge dropping, the windows feeling colder as I travelled through Cooma and climbing higher to Jindabyne.

I had enjoyed this trip in summer a few times and was surprised at the transformation of the country in its winter glory. Jindabyne takes on a holiday vibe as visitors flock to the region for a taste of snow and winter ice. The streets are busy with people wrapped in their warmth, cars are returning from the mountains with little of mounds of white scattered across their hood and screens.

Eek! What am I doing here? My only experience with snow up until now is spotting it high on mountain tops in the distance and taking the children for a play in some really slushy ice when we had a sprinkle near home 18 odd years ago. I am no snow bunny!

I pushed onto Bullocks Flat, not sure what to expect. It seemed in the middle of nowhere and the weather was closing in. The commotion and busyness of the train station at Bullocks Flat is surprising for a first time visitor. Who knew this little central station chaos existed out here in the wilderness? Masses of people, dressed in their winter snow fashion pushing trolleys loaded with skis, food, and alcoholic warmers were waiting for the train to take them higher into the mountain. And then more were alighting from the ski fields, tired and exhilarated as they chatted about their day on the slopes.

The train – known as the Skitube Alpine Railway takes me higher up the mountain, running mostly underground. It is an easy way to enter Kosciuszko National Park and NSW ski fields. It transports its passengers to a white harborage where all you see is snow.

Cold, icy, white snow.

Magical, enchanting, frosted crystals.

But I still had further to climb, my days journey was not over yet. A quick hug from Daughter1 and we loaded into the Oversnow.

Just a few steps out the door and jump on up…

What? Doesn’t sound hard? I didn’t have my snow legs. I don’t think I will ever develop snow legs. The snow, while it looks magical is deviously slippery to the unqualified. A few tentative slips and lots of holding on to others I am seated up high on the Oversnow next to Dean, my trusty driver who lives for this time, year after year.

The weather had closed in and the winds were blowing another sprinkling of fresh white dust on the fields. The holiday makers were excited at the thought of fresh powder in the morning. I was fighting the images of being lost in a blizzard, to the extent I thought I could almost hear the wolves howling as we ploughed towards the top. But Australia doesn’t have wolves, I know that!countryhorizons_RoadtoCPSR

I was a mix of apprehension and wonderment as Dean steered the Oversnow higher into the snow, poles set out along the track our only guides as we traversed across frozen creeks and granite rocks to my digs for the next few days.

Charlotte Pass.

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Charlotte Pass from above.

To those who have never been here it can just look like a group of buildings tucked in the shadows of Australia’s highest mountain Mount Kosciuszko.

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The Chalet is the queen of the village. Built in 1938 the snow revives her tired bones and allows her to shine like a diamond amongst the white crystals. The holiday makers, many who have been returning to this same place for decades bring with them laughter, smiles, exhilaration and life. The staff, many who return year after year welcome with open arms as they accommodate guests every need.

I alight from the Oversnow and am propelled into a bustling village. Skiers are coming in from a day on the slopes as the groomers set out for their 6-hour shift to smooth the canvas for another day. Boards and skis are parked at the door, snow shaken off and the open fires welcoming guests to relax for the evening.

Inside the grand queen the bar cantillates with Après-Ski – the day is over, time for drinks before the village sleeps and fresh diamonds of snow silently fall to rest around us outside.

The first morning I got it. For many years I struggled to understand the lure of purposely travelling to the coldest areas of winter under the guise of a holiday.

Until that first morning. I now understood.

As the winter sun created the first light of day I was halted in my tracks as I peered out to the snow-covered terrain. It was still, it was quiet, it was fresh, it was white.

All white. Smooth white. Serene white. Magnificent white.

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I understood the attraction, I grew to understand how this country can call you back year after year.

Where else can you walk a few steps from your warm and cosy Chalet, clip on your skis or board, jump on a lift and within 10 minutes be hurling down the fresh powder of the morning runs?

Where else do staff know you by your first name, where you feel like you are with family, where every meal is like one that your mum makes at home?

Where else are you are perched at 1760 metres, breathing in clear, clean air in one of the most pristine environments of the world?

I dipped my toes in the snow and acknowledged, with gratitude the treasures our land has to offer

Charlotte Pass Snow Resort. A diamond that shines high in the mountain tops.

I had travelled my own journey from sea to mountain top and hope to again.

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Top of Australia – Mount Kosciuszko in the distance. Taken from the top of the chairlift at Charlotte Pass.

 

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