For a fleeting moment Lucy was the highest person in Australia. We had just completed our 9km fairly gentle hike to the top of Mount Kosciuszko, the highest mountain in Australia at 2228m. Having our photo taken at the cairn marking the top, Lucy decided to climb on top of the cairn and as such was higher than anyone else in Australia just for that moment.
We had been wondering what to do for Christmas for a while. As Christmas falls in the main summer holiday here, most Australians head for the beach,so we decided that to escape the crowds we would head for the mountains instead. Gilly and I had the idea that it would be fun to do something different on Christmas Day and to climb Mount Kosciuszko. Alisha and Lucy told us this would be so unfair to do this on Christmas Day so we decided to climb it on Christmas Eve instead.
We were lucky, the weather could not have been more ideal. It was beautiful and sunny but not too hot with a gentle breeze. We were rewarded with some fantastic scenery over the Alpine Heath with the Snowy River starting it’s long descent to the coast. Since it was not Christmas Day we told the girls there was no need to rush back so took the longer more up and down route back and were rewarded with even more magnificent scenery.
We had hoped that a 22km hike would tire the girls out for the arrival of Santa. We were amazed that when we returned to the campsite where we were staying for Christmas that the girls quickly ran off to play with some other girls they had met the previous evening. Gilly and I were ready to collapse but they weren’t, even dragging us out to feed the campsite kangaroos with special “kangaroo food”.
Whilst Lucy want straight to sleep on been put to bed, Alisha stubbornly refused to go to sleep. As we stayed up we heard a rustling outside, could this be Santa arriving early? No it was a possum scampering around near the truck.
Eventually everyone dropped off. Lucy of course was then the first to wake. At 5.45!! Fortunately Santa had been by then and she and Alisha found their pillow sacks full with presents. Even though we had said not to wake us before 7am it was impossible to ignore them in the tight confines of truck and so just before 6.30 we were all up, cup of tea in hand, to open Santa’s presents.
We had a lovely relaxing day doing nothing in particular but letting the girls play with their new toys. The weather was fantastic and there were kangaroos hopping around the truck. We feel very at home in Australia as many things are very similar to England. In fact in some respects things are more English than in England. This meant it was easy to cook a traditional English Christmas dinner. Whilst our oven is not big enough for a whole turkey we were still able to do a turkey roll with all the trimmings such as stuffing, parsnips and sprouts and we could even finish off with traditional Christmas pudding so I was very happy. Although the weather was fantastic, unfortunately this had brought out the flies so we retreated back to the truck to enjoy lunch.
Mind you we could not finish Christmas without a passing nod to Australian cuisine so although we did not need much for tea we introduced the girls to the classic Australian desert, the Pavlova. A great way to end the day.
Christmas week had started with us leaving Melbourne and heading to Philip Island. We were here to see the march of the tiny Fairy penguins up the beach. Every night at sunset nearly 1,000 of these penguins come out of the sea and waddle up to their nesting sights for the night. As the area was experiencing one of its hottest December nights on record we did not need to take heed of the warning to dress warmly and instead could sit on the beach and enjoy the scenery while waiting for the Penguins to arrive. It was funny to watch them as they tried to get their courage to do the dash across the beach. Initially they would come just out of the water and then dash back in again but eventually they summoned up enough courage and waddled up the beach. I am sorry we don’t have any photos but photography is prohibited due to flashes scaring the Penguins.
From there we made our way around to the Wilson Promontory. A spectacular national park on the ocean. It’s very popular so we had booked our camping spot in advance. What we had not realised was that there were 485 camping spots here and nearly everyone was full. We are certainly not used to this and almost drove straight out on seeing so many people but are so glad we did not. The vibe from the other campers was really relaxed and friendly and everyone was just intent on enjoying themselves. There were lots of families spending a few days before Christmas.
As we arrived the weather was breaking so we went straight to the beach to swim in the sea, which was delightfully cold and then to bathe in the warm river.
The area is famed for its resident wombats which come out at dusk. As we had not seen a wombat in the wild yet, Gilly headed out after the girls had gone to bed but without success. So I went for a walk. Having spotted one I dashed back to the truck to tell Gilly. She needn’t have dashed off to see it as whilst she was gone one strolled nonchalantly under the truck.
With the campsite been so large it even had its own open air cinema. While we were there they had their premier of Star Wars so I decided to go. It was a rather different experience watching it under the stars with people laying on bean bags on the grass. Gilly and the girls decided against as it didn’t start until dusk (9.15 pm) so they went out on another wombat hunt.
It was time to head to the hills. Whilst we have been loving Australia, Gilly and I love the mountains and the State of Victoria gave us the chance to head up into the Snowy Mountains. After all we wanted to see it ourselves after watching “The Man from Snowy River” and decided we had to camp ourselves by the Snowy River.
Australia has lots of signs telling you want you can and can’t do and warning you of any possible danger no matter how small. Unfortunately they do not differentiate between the level of danger. We had become used to seeing signs every time we turned off wonderful asphalt roads, warning us of danger ahead and bad roads only to find nothing of the sort. Clearly the people putting up the signs have never been to South America or Africa. So a bit like the “boy who cried wolf”, after a while we just started ignoring them and going with our own common sense. So when we pulled off the “main” road to head down a gorge to the Snowy River we only paid a cursory glance to the warning signs. The next sign said “no caravans” no problem we were not a caravan. But this time the signs had a point, as we descended the beautiful gorge the track became narrower and narrower; steeper and steeper; with a big drop off on one side. We were fine taking it slowly until we met someone coming the other way. He clearly had not read the signs either as he was pulling a trailer. Fortunately I did not have to reverse too far uphill to a spot where he could pass. It was worth it though for the views and to camp by the river in amongst the beautiful gum trees.
The next day we retraced our steps and joined the main road which had now also become a track to cross from Victoria into New South Wales. At the border there was another sign saying “Danger, narrow twisting road. No caravans.” Well it was a bit late to be telling us now as it was a couple of hundred kilometres to go back and round so we ploughed on. We wish we had had more time as the scenery was gorgeous and there were some lovely spots to camp by the river.