Riverina Reconnoitre


Reconnoitre, a verb meaning to inspect, observe, or survey in order to gain information.

Well, maybe that isn’t exactly correct as to what we were doing over the weekend just gone, but both of the words in the title start with ‘R’ and the general idea is there, so it’s close enough!

We live in the southern Riverina, and as it was school holidays, and I didn’t have to work on the Friday the wife, Miss 10, and myself travelled to town of Young about 3 hours drive north and spent the weekend there.

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Today Young is known as the Cherry Capital of Australia (hence the big sign [above] located in the railway station precinct). Young owes it original existence to that yellow precious metal, Gold, which was reported to have been found there in 1860. At the time it was known as Lambing Flat because it was a place were lambing took place before the discovery of gold. The town grew quickly in the next few years and with it the trappings and facilities of civilisation arrived – the newspaper, Post Office, court house, National School, the first race meeting (which seemed to benefit the bushranger Frank Gardiner more than anyone else), the hospital, Cobb and Co coach service, and telegraph line, along with a number of churches and a flour mill. Eventually the railway, that most excellent of transportation modes, arrived.

But the history of Young also has a dark side, as does the history of many towns – the ugly spectre of racism. In the various Australian gold rushes it was not only the anglo-saxons that arrived at the diggings in large numbers. The Chinese were also a major ethnic group evident in the gold fields. Young was no exception. And in 1861, there was the first anti-Chinese riot. The various anti-Chinese riots occuring on the gold fields of Australia eventualy influenced the introduction of the infamous “White Australia Policy”. But the Chinese and indeed many other races have contributed to Australia’s development in major ways. The Chinese, for example, often developed market gardens in and around the towns where they settled, and were also willing to search for gold in areas where other’s thought it unprofitable.

Today, the town of Young recognises and embraces the influence of the Chinese on it, in the form of the Chinese Tribute Garden a few kilometres out of town and the annual Lambing Flat Chinese Festival. The gardens have been establised “in recognition of the contribution of the Chinese community to the settlement of Young in the 1860’s and to the ongoing contributions of the Chinese people to Australia as a Nation” – a far (and vastly improved) cry from the general feeling in the 1860’s!

After attending church on Sabbath morning and experiencing country hospitality we drove out to Tout’s Lookout, where we had a great view of the surrounding valleys and hills, and a chance to try some ‘trick’ photography using the panorama setting on my camera.

The next day saw us back in the car heading towards home. Rebecca and Eliana ‘enjoyed’ some back-to-school shopping, while I decided that retail therapy was not for me so I went for a nearly 10km hike along a section of the Wiradjuri Trail which circumnavigates the town of Wagga Wagga.

The Wiradjuri were the largest indigenous people group in New South Wales that were united by a common language, with strong ties of kinship, and were hunter / fisher / gatherers throughout central area of the state. The tribal area of the Wiradjuri has been described as the “land of the 3 rivers”, those rivers today being known as the Lachlan, Macquarie and Murrumbidgee rivers. A fourth river, the Murray, was the southern boundary of the tribal area.

A family mini-holiday in Tumut and the Snowy Mountains

A family mini-holiday in Tumut and the Snowy Mountains


With the kids on School Holidays, the possibility of some fine weather, and even an inkling that I might be able to do some bike riding in less-known locations, my darling wife organised a few days away from home as a kind of family holiday. Tumut (New South Wales, Australia) is a town nestled up against the Great Dividing Range. Being only about 2 or so hours from home made it the perfect place to base ourselves for our mini-holiday.

We had been to Tumut before, but only while passing through to other places. It has a very obvious connection with the timber industry (I counted 3 sawmills near Tumut, there are probably more), and is the last major town encountered after leaving the Hume Freeway near Adelong on the Snowy Mountains Highway before the mountain ranges themselves are encountered.

As it turned out I didn’t take the bike, so didn’t do any cycling while we were there. But every day we were there I walked or ‘ran’ varying distances. From the time we arrived to the time we left I had walked / ran about 25km! Here are some photos of the Tumut area.

Autumn Trees

Autumn Trees

River Trail

Old Bridge across Tumut along the River Trail

River trail

Most of the fam on the River Trail

River Trail

River Trail

Rotary Pioneer Park pond

Rotary Pioneer Park pond

Rotary Pioneer Park pond

Pelicans on Rotary Pioneer Park pond

Tumut River

Tumut River

Tumut River

Tumut River

Tumut River

Tumut River

The morning of second day we were there we explored Adelong and the nearby Adelong Falls and Gold Mill ruins. What a fascinating place it was. Lots of photos of how things were and we had the vistas before us to see how it is today.

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill walk

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill walk

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Falls scenery

Adelong Falls scenery

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill walk

The Fam on the Adelong Falls and Gold Mill walk

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill walk

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill walk

Adelong - old rock crusher

Adelong – old rock crusher in centre of town

Adelong - old mining skip

Adelong – old mining skip

After lunch we decided to go for a scenic drive from Adelong and Talbingo via Batlow. We got through Batlow ok, but the road between Batlow and Talbingo was closed with a ‘Detour’ sign suggesting there was another way, so after travelling to the end of Snubba Road (which became Snubba ‘goat track’, and then Hume and Hovell Walking Track), we headed back to where the detour signs pointed and travelled for quite a long distance (we estimated at least 40km) till we got to another road closed sign and nearby was a signpost saying “Talbingo 16km, Batlow 15km”, so we went the long way around to no-where. But we did see some interesting things on the way.

Batlow Literary Institute

Batlow Literary Institute

Echidna, Snubba Rd

Echidna, Snubba Rd, between Batlow an Talbingo

Goanna, Lake Blowering Area

Goanna, Lake Blowering Area, between Batlong and Talbingo

Hume & Hovell Lookout on SnubbaRd

Hume & Hovell Lookout on Snubba Rd between Batlow and Talbingo.

Plaque at Hume & Hovel Lookout on Snubba Rd

Commemorative Plaque at Hume & Hovel Lookout on Snubba Rd

The 3rd day we explored the Yarrangobilly Caves, which is nestled in a valley a few kilometres off the Snowy Mountains Highway. There are a number of caves – we explored 3 of them (2 with a tour guide and 1 as a self-guided tour). And there were some entrances to other caves visible on the walking tracks too. There is also a Thermal Pool which is heated from rain water that percolates down many hundreds of meters into the earth’s crust then forced back to the surface as a warm spring.

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – Cave House

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves visitors center from Bluff Lookout

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cliffs

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations – pond

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cliff faces

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – decending down into one of the caves

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations – reflection in a pond.

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – thermal pool

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – thermal pool

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – rock formations.

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – rock formations.

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – tree lined walk.

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – Track to Glory Cave entrance

Yarrongobilly Caves - entrance to Glory Cave (self guided tour)

Yarrongobilly Caves – entrance to Glory Cave (self guided tour)

Then we continued on to Cabramurra for tea / dinner. We had a reason for going to Cabramurra – in the past we have had breakfast and lunch at this highest of Australian towns, and we wanted to complete the meal cycle by having tea / dinner there as well. After a tea / dinner of soup and bread, then some dessert, it was back into the car to return to Tumut so I could log into my online Hebrew class. I realised on the way back to Tumut that the class would probably be starting at 7pm rather than 8pm as Daylight Savings had ended. We arrived back at the cabin about 6 minutes late, but the class was experiencing some technical difficulties (no sound) which were only resolved a minute or two after I logged on.

The next day, after I went for a ‘run’ and we packed our sutff and cleaned the cabin, we headed for the familiarity of home.

Family Holiday Highlights – Fri 19th April


(This post follows on from the 2 previous ones, so if something in here doesn’t make sense try reading the previous two posts).

Trappers Gap Track

The Mountain Creek Camping Ground where we were camped is accessed via a road from Tawonga that continues beyond the camping ground to the Omeo Highway near Mitta Mitta. Between the camping ground and the Omea Highway the road is called Trappers Gap Track. On Friday we decided that a non-energetic day was in order, and so we decided to go for a drive to Mitta Mitta and explore around there. This meant travelling along Trappers Gap Track. As far as mountain roads go, it’s not a bad road. A little rough and steep in places, with very steep mountain sides above and below the track in quite a few places. But we have been on worse roads (the backwoods ‘road’ through the Wollondilly River valley to reach the Wombeyan Caves, for example). The road climbs steadily and provides some great views of the Bogong ridge. And I am fairly sure that it gets up above the snow line ad when I got out to take some photos it was very cold.

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Above and below: Views of the Bogong ridge from Trappers Gap Track.

MountainCreek_TrappersGap_roads_view_5175_500The photos above give the impression that the road is about the same altitude as the road, but I don’t think that would have been the case as a sizable portion of the Bogong ridge is above the treeline (not just above the snowline), and the road still had plenty of trees on both sides of it for it’s whole length to suggest it never gets above the treeline.

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Above: Trappers Gap Track

Averaging about 30kph, it took us a bit over an hour to travel the 38 km from the Mountain Creek camp ground to Mitta Mitta.

Mitta Mitta

Mitta Mitta is a small town nestled into the steep sided valley where the Mitta Mitta River and Snowy Creek converge. Actually the name Mitta Mitta means “meeting of the waters” in the Aboriginal language. The first settlers are believed to be William Wyse and Charles Ebden who took up cattle grazing leases in the area. Gold was discovered in the 1860s, which brought many more people to the region, as gold finds tended to do back then. The Pioneer Mine was opened in 1861 and was the principle claim, and the site is reputedly the largest open cut gold mine in the southern hemisphere. The mine is so huge that the road goes into the mine for a way, and then there is a 1.5km walk inside the open cut itself.

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Above: One of the walls of the open cut.

The Pioneer Mine used hydraulic sluicing methods to extract the gold. This needed a large volume of water which was brought in open channels (water races). These water races were hand cut on the contour to bring water from nearby creeks to the mine site. The water used for the hydraulic sluicing was channeled through iron pipes from the top of the mine to the bottom where it was channeled through a hose with a nozzle. The pressure created by this method was so great that it generated a huge jet of water that was used to hose down earth from the walls of the mine literally washing away the walls of the mine which was then ‘sluiced’ in sluice boxes to separate the gold from clay and loam that held it. Two men were needed to hold the nozzle to direct the water at the mine wall. A nozzle could deliver 18 MegaLitres of water a day. Thats 18,000,000 litres!

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Above: Remains of a water race inside the Pioneer Mine open cut.

Also in the area was the Mammoth Flume, which was built during the 1860s and was 35 metres high and 210 metres long. Made of timber, the flume was constructed to carry water across a creek as part of a 22km water race. The water race is still visible in places but the flume was dismantled in 1908.

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Above: The Mammoth Flume

Not far from the Pioneer Mine site, beside the river near the edge of Mitta Mitta township, is a historical reserve with a number of static displays related to the history of the town and it’s gold mining past.

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Above: Buckets used by ‘The Dredge’ which overturned large areas of the Mitta Mitta riverbed and discovered 5376 ounces of gold.

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Above: A replica miners cottage.

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Above: Poppet head used to crush quartz as part of the gold extraction process.

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Above: This wheel seems to have been used to generate power to operate the poppet head. Many things relied on the power of water to power machinery in the 1800s.

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Above: A mine tramway wagon used to haul rock out of a mine.

The town of Mitta Mitta today is a lot less busy’ than what is was in it’s heyday, but it still has a general store, hotel, caravan park, ambulance and police stations. It still has a number of old buildings around the town…

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Above: Union Church.

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Above: Mechanics Institute

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Above: I am not sure whether this building is really that old, but it captures the style of gold mining era buildings.

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Above: The hotel. While I am a non-drinker, I still appreciate the architecture of buildings such as this.

Eskdale

Not far from Mitta Mitta is the township of Eskdale. The township was first surveyed in 1887 and was named by the first shop owner, James Aitken. A bakery was opened around 1890, and the original hotel was opened in 1897. The discovery of gold in the area and early farming effected the development of the town.  Also in the 1890s, Eskdale had it’s own butter factory.

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Above and below: Remains of Eskdale Butter Factory. The chances of this being restored seem somewhat remote as the dreaded Asbestos is in the factory and it would probably take a large amoutnt of money to extract it before restoration could begin.

Eskdale_old_butter_factory_5195_500A declining mining industry saw the ascendancy in importance of farming, particularly dairying, as a viable regional pursuit. The area is very suitable for dairying. Farmers brought their milk to be separated at creameries from where the cream was transported to the butter factory. In 1967 the company that run the butter factory was merged into the Murray Goulburn Co-op, and when bulk milk road transport became viable the butter making activity was closed down.

Back home

This is not so much a highlight of the holiday (for me at least, as I was still eager to explore), but as everyone else in the family had by this time developed an ailment of some kind I reluctantly heeded the suggestion of the Wife and when we got back to Mountain Creek we packed up the campsite in record time and headed for home.

Thus endeth the holiday!

Family Holiday Highlights – Wed 17th April


From Tuesday 16th to Friday 19th April, we were able to have a family camping holiday. We camped at the base of Mount Bogong, the highest mountain in the state of Victoria (Australia), at a camping place called Mountain Creek.

Here are a few highlights of the activities we did on Wednesday…

Bogong village and Fainter Falls

Bogong village was created in the late 1930s by the State Electricity Commission (SEC) to provide accommodation and services for workers constructing the Kiewa hydro-electric scheme. A post office, a primary school and a shop were also established. When the Kiewa hydro-electric scheme was completed in the early 1960s, the SEC planted various terraced and lakeside gardens. In the Spring various flowers bloom, in Summer the gardens take on a cool and leafy green appearance, turning to a kaleidescope of color in the Autumn when the leaves of the deciduous trees announce that Summer is over and Winter is on the way. Autumn is the time of year we visited there, and the various colors of leaves throughout the region made for a very colourful vista. But it isn’t just the gardens at Bogong that provide beauty – there is Lake Guy, a man-made lake built as part of the hydro-scheme.

Above: Lake Guy wall

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Above: Lake Guy, looking upstream

While the wall itself is somewhat utilitarian and made of concrete, the lake that it holds in the valley is very pleasant to behold as are the various visual elements associated with the village. A little upstream from Lake Guy, there is a beautiful parkland setting where the Kiewa River is joined by a creek. A bridge crosses at that location, providing a good view up the valley.

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Above: Bridge across the Kiewa River at Bogong Village

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Above: Looking upstream from atop the bridge in the previous photo.

Photos really don’t do the scene justice (as is often the case with scenes of such beauty) – much less a wordy written description. A short drive from Bogong Village is Fainter Falls. According to the signage on the walk, it flows all year. This is hardly surprising as it has the High Plains to feed water to it. Winter snowfalls and seasonal rains recharge the ground water, springs and alpine wetlands which  slowly and continuous feed such water ways.

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Above: Looking downstream towards the Kiewa River.

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Above: The falls

While we all went on the walk, only Jesse, Rebecca and I actually went up to the closest viewing platform to the falls. Zoe and Eliana stayed at the viewing platform a few hundred metres back.

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Above: the family minus Dad (on the other side of the camera) at the intermediate viewing platform before Jesse, Rebecca and I went on to the next platform.

Falls Creek Alpine Resort

This was the first time we had visited the Falls Creek resort, but I had been there before, having been somewhat enthusiastic about snow skiing before I got married. I think the last time I was there was before Rebecca and I got engaged, so it would have been some time around 1994 when I was last there. Things had changed. New buildings had been built, but some of the ski runs looked somewhat familiar (but some had what looked like snow-making apparatus which they didn’t last time I was there), and the mountains themselves hadn’t changed (at least not noticably).

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Above: It wasn’t there last time I was.

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Above: Wishing Well. This also wasn’t there last time I was.

Another thing that I noticed was the non-ski-season marketing. Once upon a time a ski resort was basically just used for skiing. But it seems that the marketers for Falls Creek and Mount Beauty are recognising the potential for other non-Winter sports such as mountain biking, etc.

A ‘ruined castle’ and a Basalt Hill

Above Falls Creek, on the Mt McKay / Pretty Valley road is a naturally occurring feature called Ruined Castle. The feature is evidence of a basalt flow as a result of volcanic activity in the area years ago. The cooling of the lava caused cracks which divided the rock into close fitting columns, usually hexagonal (6 sides) in shape. The “Ruined Castle” formation is one of a few remaining examples of columnar jointed basalt in the area.

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Above: view of all of ‘ruined castle’ formation

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Above: Close-up showing hexagonal shape of columns.

A short-ish drive further up onto the high plains on the road between Falls Creek and Omeo, past the Rocky Valley Dam near the Wallaces Hut walk and car park, are some formations which also are apparently of volcanic origin according to the signage. One of the formations is called Basalt Hill, which I suppose is indicating what it is comprised of.

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Above: An example of a basalt topped mountain, where the basalt on top helps to protect the rock underneath from erosion.

From there we decided to continue on to Omeo, as if it might be some sort of Shangri-la nestled in the hills.

Omeo, Omeo, wherefore art thou, Omeo

According to the road signs and our calculations it would take us about 1.5 hours to get to Omeo, but none of us had ever been to Omeo before and so we had no idea what we would encounter. The Omeo Highway and the song “Life is a highway” (which our son decided was an appropriate song to have playing) somehow just don’t seem to fit together. For one thing, the Omeo Highway is not the sort of road that one would like to ‘ride all night long’. Why it would be called a Highway at all might even be questioned. Maybe it was to get government funding for it, or something like that. It may not be what would often be thought of as a highway, but the drive is spectacular! Jutting rock faces and deep gorges are the major features, and with an average speed of around 50 kmh we (except the driver) had plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. Sadly there were no places to pull over and just gawk at the scenery as the road is so narrow and winding.

As the kilometres passed we could all have been mis-quoting Shakespeare and thinking “Omeo, Omeo, wherefore are thou Omeo”. But eventually we made it! And here is the proof…

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Nestled in the mountains seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Omeo is a small country town surrounded by beautiful scenery and farmland. To the north is Mitta Mitta, and Dartmouth and Corryong, and to the south is Bairnsdale. Gold, that precious and allusive metal, was the reason the town came into existence, but as the gold rush ended farming became the main activity of the region. Very picturesque, the town has a number of old buildings, and has the winding streets seemingly so common in gold mining towns and towns in the mountainous regions.

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We couldn’t stay long in Omeo as we wanted to be back at our camp site on the other site of the High Plains in time for tea and it was about 3:30pm when we arrived at Omeo. We also didn’t really want to be driving on the High Plains as the freezing temperatures descended below freezing point! So we had a brief look along the main street and then, with a sense of urgency, we headed back along the Omeo Highway from whence we came and over the High Plains. But we decided fairly quickly that a holiday to Omeo was a must-do at some point in the not-too-distant future.