Mount Kosciusko National Park

In February 2017, I had a work trip to Canberra. This was our first time to the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), and we wanted to do a bit of exploring. There are no direct flights to Canberra from Alice Springs, so we had to fly via Sydney. The flight from Sydney is via a little turbo prop plane.

We landed in Canberra around 1730. The Canberra airport is pretty small. We checked our bags since the backpack was too large to carry on. Once we grabbed them from the carousel, we walked across the street to the car rentals. We’d rented a car from Budget. For a week, it was $197AUD. We selected the smallest car available – they gave us a Holden Spark (same as the Chevrolet Spark). We were on our way by about 7:15pm. We headed south towards Mount Kosciusko National Park, cautiously though, since we’d heard kangaroos are plentiful in this region (the NSW police officer made certain to repeat this again and again).

We drove for about an hour, as dusk settled in, we decided to start looking for a place to stay. Luck would have it that we were just passing through Bredbo at that time. There was a the Bredbo Inn Hotel (they had one room left, and it was $120 AUD, inclusive of breakfast, or camping out back, which was free) and a pizza place just a bit further down the road. We went and ate pizza, and then went back to the Inn to put up the tent. We even stopped in for a drink at their bar. It was a fun, eclectic little place.

By 8am the next morning, we were packing up and getting ready to head to Mount Kosciuszko. (But first a stop in Cooma for breakfast!) Cooma is about 30 minutes from Bredbo. Judging from the map, it looked like there were a number of good cafes. We decided to eat at 123 Coffee House. The town itself is pretty cute, although high season is clearly winter, as a lot of places were closed. The Tourist Information was open, and the woman inside was super friendly and informative, giving us great tips for Kosciuszko National Park! Random tip: the public toilets are very nice in town, and in the park there are free drinking water filling stations!

We arrived in Kosciuszko National Park around 12pm. The entry fee is $17AUD per a 24 hour period. The woman at the TI said they are calling for rain on Monday (the next day), so we were rethinking our idea to do the 22km Main Range Track Loop, camping midway. Apparently they had been calling for rain for days, but it had yet to materialize. Although rain wasn’t great for our hiking plans, it had been pretty dry all seasons, so the locals were indeed hoping for rain.

In the end, we decided to pay for two days, but to scrap the 22km hike since we were unable to purchase stove fuel in Cooma. We headed to Charlotte Pass to hike the Summit Walk, an 18km hike.

Parking for the Charlotte Pass is on the road. We saw the cars queued up, and dutifully parked behind them. There are toilets at the start of the walk – the next toilets aren’t until you’ve almost reached the summit, some 7km later (evidently these are the highest public toilets in Australia). The summit itself is 9km of hiking one way. We arrived at the summit about 2.5 hours later, enjoying the views of the valley carved by the Snowy River. The weather on the summit was super windy, and it even rained and hailed a little! All of that work to get to the top, and we stayed for less than 5 minutes! Kosciuszko is 2,228 meters high, The highest mountain in mainland Australia, only a few mountains in the Australian Antarctic territory are taller. Back down the trail..! We finished at 4:30pm.

After our hike, we were famished so we headed into Jindabyne for dinner. Sadly for us, most places were closed. Fortunately for us, there was at least a pizza place that was open. In the end, the pizza was pretty terrible, but as hungry as we were, we didn’t even leave behind crumbs. We learned from the petrol attendant that the bank of restaurants is known as the Old Town Centre. The original town lies somewhere beneath Jindabyne Lake, which was fully relocated in the 1960s as part of the Snowy hydro-electric scheme. There’s also a newer town centre, built about 15 years ago. We never saw it, since the attendant didn’t recommend any of the restaurants there.

We then went back into the park to camp – we decided to head to Island Bend campground. It’s about 20 minutes past the entrance, and with only two other campers in this area, it feels calm and secluded. We saw kangaroos, wallabies and beautiful rosellas.

As predicted, it did rain – poured in fact, and it was even still raining the next day when we woke up. When there was finally a break in the rain, we hurriedly packed up the tent and sleeping bags, and placed them in the car. Once we were ready to go, we backtracked out of the park, and went to Thredbo for breakfast. Thredbo appears to be primarily a ski town, but there are residents all year round. There were two places open for breakfast, a little bakery and a larger restaurant called Cascades that overlooked the ski lifts. We opted for the restaurant, and enjoyed a great little breakfast. We watched the rain come down on the mountain.

 

After breakfast, we decided to drive through Kosciuszko National Park, heading northwest through the park on the Alpine Way. The first town we came to, which was just west of the park, was Khancoban, where we stopped for petrol. Back on the Alpine Way, we drive along until we came to Scammell’s loookout. There we had gorgeous views of the mountain ranges. Then we headed back into the park, and kept going until we made it to Cabramurra.

That was our three days in and around Mount Kosciusko National Park! Next up – heading to Bega, and then out to the coast, up the South Pacific Ocean coast to Mimosa Rocks National Park, and then eventually heading west, back towards Canberra. More on that next!

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Outback Rains

The end of 2016, and the beginning of 2017 were wet here in the Outback. We went to Tasmania at the beginning of the month, and when we came back, the grass in our backyard was out of control. I’m talking knee length grass that took forEVER to cut.

So, by the end of the month, things were looking pretty green, and it would seem that a lot of the water tables were pretty high. On 28 December 2016, We made a mandatory trip out to Simpsons Gap to see what it looked like. Always beautiful, it was really neat to see it full of water.

We had gone right after work, and as the clouds started to roll in, we could tell we were due for some more rain. As we made our way back to Alice Springs (about 15km away), we saw the storm behind us. It was still pretty far away, and it was creating the most beautiful colors. We even got to see it lightening.

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On 30 December 2016, we decided to check out the Todd River, which we knew had been flowing. By now it had been a couple of days after the rain, and while the water wasn’t deep enough to swim in any more, there were places where the water went up to your knees.

On 1 January 2017, we climbed up Mt Johns to watch the sunset. This was also a good eagle eye view of how green Alice Springs was!

Not a bad way to start the new year!

The Kangaroo Sanctuary

One of the classic Australian activities to do is to visit a kangaroo sanctuary. The one here in Alice Springs is world famous, and that’s likely for two reasons. One is Roger, the infamously strong kangaroo, and the other is the BBC documentary about the sanctuary.

The Kangaroo Sanctuary offers sunset tours of the sanctuary, usually led by Brolga, the founder. You have to book in advance, and then you take a bus out to the sanctuary. On the bus there’s a video about the sanctuary, and it also goes over dos and don’ts.

Then when you arrive, Brolga greets you, and leads you on a tour of the sanctuary.

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This is Brolga. He rescues baby kangaroos who have been orphaned (usually because a car kills their mom). He created an kangaroo sanctuary to house the orphaned kangaroos to prevent them from being sent to a zoo.

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This little gal is about 3 months old. She still needs to be carried most of the time. The pillowcase creates a “pouch” for her, where she spends most of her days.

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The males are kept in a separate enclosure. Most of the females are aunts and sisters to the males, and he wants to prevent inbreeding.

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This guy is about two. Usually there is one alpha male who has multiple female kangaroos who he mates with. The alpha male stays with the females for about a year, constantly having to defend his “claim” to the females. After a year, he’s usually pretty beaten up, and another alpha takes over. The males (usually the young), eventually get chased off by the alpha, and they band together for protection. Dingoes are their primary adversary.

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This is Roger. He was alpha for about 10 years. His son, Monte, recently battled with Roger, and won.

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This is Monte.

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Brolga has been “mom” to these kangaroos, and when they are still young, he’s able to pick them up and carry them around.

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Outside of the male enclosure, the females can wander around. There will usually be a male who is allowed outside to mate.  In this case, she seems uninterested.

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The females don’t fight and live peacefully together.

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These two are apparently best buds. The one who is lying down is apparently slightly disabled (has trouble hopping), so the other kangaroo is often with her, just hanging out. Right now she’s up, alert and on duty b/c of all of the people (potential threats).

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Tasmania – Part 4, Maria Island

This may have been the highlight of the trip. Maria Island is a magical place – peaceful, beautiful, full of gentle creatures.

We took a ferry from Triabunna, which is about an hour drive from Richmond. We took the 1030 am Maria Island Ferry. It was a lovely 45 minute ride to Darlington, Maria Island.

When you first arrive, there’s a welcome center where you can learn about the rehabilitation of the Tasmanian devil population, as well as the life of the prisoners who were sent here in 1825. You’ll also read a little bit about the original land owners were the Puthikwilayti people, who lived here for more than 40,000 years! There’s more of the history here.

It was raining off and on when we arrived, so we spent some time exploring this old settlement. Once the weather cleared up a little, we headed out. We decided we would walk to Encampment Cove, which according to the map, was 3.75 hours away. Along the way are the Painted Cliffs, a sandstone formation with beautiful colors.

The rest of the walk had quite a diverse landscape, and was very enjoyable. It rained a little off and on, but it was a pleasant rain and it helped to keep us cool on the hike.

When we reached Encampment Cove, we sat down our belongings, and took in the setting. There were all kinds of kangaroos, and – the most amazing animal EVER – a wombat!

And then we set up the tent, and as we were getting the fire going, a rainbow came out over the water, with a kangaroo and a wombat in the foreground. It was the most picturesque Australian scene I have ever seen!

And the of course the sunset was great.

That night we saw two Tasmanian devils sprint through our campsite. We saw the flash of white on their fur, which helped us to know that they were the infamous tassie devils.

The next morning we lingered, enjoying the wonderful scenery before we headed back. We even saw an echidna on the way another first!)!

Once back at Darlington, we saw these cool Cape Barren geese, and then when we got on the boat, we saw dolphins! The perfect end to our Tasmania adventure.

Maria Island will always hold a special place in my heart.