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.

 

Half time oranges and Tee Vee Snacks

The crisp dark night took me back. The scent of the frost settling on the orange tree picked me up and gently eased me back into the old lounge with its well-used green chairs, open fire and stripe shag pile carpet.countryhorizons_oranges1

State of Origin football night was a family affair, complete with oranges at half time. After a hearty meal of meat and three veg the first of the children would get a seat on the lounge, the last spreading on the floor in front of the fire. Mum with her knitting and dad commanding the TV to watch the weather and then settle for the football. No remote control to flick through the stations – but we only had two channels to choose from so it wasn’t such a chore.

Out the front of the house was a prolific orange tree, the envy of many visitors and travellers. Every year we waited with patience for the first frost as the fruit always seemed to be sweeter once the bite of Jack Frost heralded in the winter air. We enjoyed fruit on tap for months.

At half time in the footy we were sent out in the bitter dark cold to grab a few oranges off the tree for our dessert. Mum would sit with a towel in her lap and lovingly peel the oranges to share as we settled in for the finish of the game. She had a knack of keeping the peel in one long length that snaked to her lap as she unwrapped nature’s vitamin C offering.

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No wifi, no checking social media status, no idea what our friends or other family were doing at that very moment. We didn’t care. We were engrossed in capturing the sweet juice as it slipped down our chins, savouring the sweet flavours that tingled our buds in the warmth of our family home and writing memories for later.

 

That warm family lounge sparks another jolt in the memory banks and one I still recall every time I see Tee Vee Snacks in the shopping aisle. To this day they are a special treat, almost a forbidden sweetness. My dad had a routine many years ago of buying the afternoon newspaper and a box of Tee Vee Snacks on his way home of an evening. For those who don’t know they are a plain crunchy biscuit, about bite size that has been dipped in dark chocolate. Just enough chocolate to satisfy the taste buds and allow you to think you haven’t been too naughty!CHN_0209_tvsnacks3

My dad would wait until we went off to bed before settling in to enjoy the quiet of the evening while reading his paper and savouring the Tee Vee Snack biscuits…except for the last few. I never knew whether he left them on purpose or he had his fill but there was always a few left. Left for my brothers and I to sneak in and find the next morning. We felt so secretive, whispering as we cautiously investigated the discarded box hiding amongst the well read pages of yesterdays news left beneath his chair.

Oh how naughty they tasted, eating the forbidden sweet biscuits while mum stirred the porridge over the wood stove in the kitchen. They were too special to crunch, you HAD to leave in your mouth until you sucked the dark chocolate away from the biscuit, making the  illicit discovery last for as long as possible. All while keeping watch to make sure we weren’t caught, though I’m sure they knew what we were doing!

Like all children I thought I knew it all. I appreciated the magical tastes of forbidden biscuit and chocolate and the sweetness of a freshly picked orange, peeled with love and enjoyed in family warmth. What more could there be?

It was then I was introduced to the ultimate sweet flavour sensation found in a packet. I am sure most have enjoyed a freckle at some time – those little round disc of heavenly chocolate sprinkled with 100 and 1000’s.

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Have you ever tried combining them with a raspberry sweet?

Or sampled a raspberry – freckle sandwich?

It is superb. The crunch of the little coloured round pearls of pure sugar, the creaminess of the chocolate combined with the squishy flavour of the raspberry.

Gee Whillikers! A naughty explosion of heaven that dances on your tastebuds. Just try stopping at one.

You are welcome 🙂