A Travellerspoint blog

June 2009

The Man From Snowy River

sunny 60 °F

After Jeff left, it was time to take one last out of state trip. Dawn had been talking about reliving one of her favorite childhood movies, The Man From Snowy River. We headed off to the airport and boarded a plane back down to Melbourne.

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The Man From Snowy River plot line goes something like this:
An 18 year-old boy, Jim, loses his father in a tragic accident due to a wild colt stirring up penned brumbies. Jim goes down into the lowlands to work. He later returns to run his father's farm, but finds he has to earn the respect of the mountain men. He takes a job on a horse farm, but eventually is wrongly blamed for the escape of the brumbies and losing the prized colt. Jim decides to round up the brumbies with the other men to prove his innocence. The escaped horses run down a steep cliff, leaving the men at the top. In the climax of the movie, Jim rides his horse down the steep incline to capture the brumbies and stand up to the colt that caused his father's death.

After spending a couple days in Melbourne, we hired a car to drive north east into the Snowy Mountains. Due to a mix-up with our rental, our Honda Getz was not available. Instead, we were given an Audi convertible (I certainly wasn't complaining).

We left the city behind us and drove into the quiet countryside. The weather was getting cooler, but I wasn't passing up the opportunity to put the top down on the car. It was awesome.

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Our drive took us right through a section of woods that had been destroyed by the recent wild fires (you may remember my blog about it). It was astonishing to see the extent of the damage done by the fire. Many road signs were badly scalded and illegible. Not a single green leaf or blade of grass could be seen anywhere. Blackened tree trunks stretched out as far as we could see.

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Before heading into the mountains, we made a detour to a wildlife park. It was going to be our last chance to see some of the native wildlife here in Australia. We saw more Koalas, birds of prey, wallabies, kangaroos, echidnas, platypuses, goanas, and jumping mice. It wasn't anything we hadn't seen before, but it was still cool. In the kangaroo pen, I encountered the largest kangaroo I had ever seen (it was easily over 6 feet tall). The goanas were also funny to watch swim.

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We made it into the Snowy Mountains close to sunset. The air was definitely chilly, but the views were great.

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We checked into our room and settled in for the night. I hadn't actually seen The Man From Snowy River yet, and after Dawn and I went all over Melbourne to find a copy, we fired up the laptop and started watching the movie. I think I made it half way through before falling asleep (if you've seen the movie, you could probably tell by my poorly written synopsis). Dawn did make me rewatch the scene where Jim rides down the steep mountain face. For those who haven't seen the movie, I found the clip on YouTube:

We woke up early the next morning to meet our guides. We were to take a full day horseback riding tour of the Snowy Mountains. We put our gear on, mounted up, and took off up the mountain. It was just Dawn, me, and the two guides.

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After letting the horses warm up, the guides picked up the pace to a trot and then full out canter through the valley. It had been about 3 years since my riding lessons and I had forgotten the feeling of riding such a powerful animal. After slowing back down to a walking pace, we started the trail up the mountain. The guides took us to some scenic lookouts. The views were beautiful.

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We stopped at several different lookouts to let the horses rest after the steep climbs. The guides told stories of other trail rides with students, and then tried to gull us into believing stories about the yeti-like creatures that live in the Snowy Mountains. After a quick lunch at a little cabin, we headed up another trail to the scene from the movie where Jim takes Denny down the steep side of the mountain.

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The movie doesn't do the cliff justice. While movie effects make the cliff look steeper, it also makes it look like Jim goes down the mountain just for a short distance. It is actually a very long way down.

I took a picture down the cliff, and I was scared just being at the top (and of course I kept worrying that my horse would take off down the mountain). The guides kept teasing me to "man up" and get the real Snowy Mountain experience. Dawn and I posed on the edge of the cliff with our horses.

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We made our way down the mountain (using the long way, but it was still pretty steep). The views were just as pretty on the way down. The guides told us there were impressed that our legs were keeping up after the long trot and canter rides, building up encouragement for one last canter back down to the stables. With a groan, I hauled my tired butt off the saddle and kicked the horse into a gallop. After 10 hours of being on a horse, I was ready for this ride to be over.

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After a nice long, hot shower, I eased myself into a lounge chair in the bush living room (a living room out in the open). After declining an invitation to watch the preseason footie matches with our host, I started a campfire to fight back the cold night. Dawn and I worked our way through a six pack watching the fire burn, and the host's dog tried to catch the sparks flying up from the fire. Sitting in a comfortable chair was about all I could manage after the long day.

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The next morning we started the drive out of the mountains back down to Melbourne to catch our plane. Backwoods Australia is even more empty than backwoods North Carolina. I think we were the only car for 30 miles in either direction. However, I managed to find a cop on the country highway who didn't hesitate to write me a ticket for "crossing a solid white" (i.e., the tax for the obvious tourist driving a fancy convertible sports car). After a $300 fine, we got back on the road and made it to the airport. We were headed back to Sydney for our last weekend in Australia.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 20:38 Archived in Australia Tagged mountains animals horseback_riding Comments (0)

Bye Jeff!

Leaving Adelaide, I flew back to Sydney to share the last three days of Jeff's stay in Australia. Jeff was coming back from his month-long excursion up the east coast. Over the course of those couple days, Jeff and I visited our old haunts: namely Paddy's, the kebab shop next to Paddy's, the Toxteth, Big Buck Hunter at the Toxteth, and the central YHA. There was only one thing left to do, have a going away party.

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Jeff and I met up with Dawn, Rob, Hailey, and various other people that used to work with Jeff. Our plan was to do a bar crawl to experience the bars we frequented most often along George Street. The plan didn't really get implemented as we only made it to two of the bars.

We first went to 3 Wise Monkeys where Jeff had worked while living in Australia. Jeff surprised everyone with his newly grown mustache. Everyone was jealous, so we each tried to create our own (Rob and I tried to wear a beer mustache).

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As you would expect, a lot of beers were bought and a lot of stories swapped. We stayed at 3 Wise Monkeys until closing time, only briefly leaving to run next door to Cheers to take a 'Dusty Fairy' shot.

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I have no clue how to make a Dusty Fairy, but I do know that it has enough liquor in it to light on fire. Once you light it on fire, you sprinkle chocolate dust on the shot to make sparks. After everyone oohs and ahhs, you blow out the flame and slam the shot home.

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We stayed at 3 Wise Monkeys until they kicked us out, and then we stumbled back to our rooms. It was after 4 in the morning and Jeff still had to pack to catch a noon flight.

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Posted by Mike.Flynn 20:12 Archived in Australia Tagged beer Comments (0)

Adelaide, South Australia

sunny 85 °F

Time to travel to the only state left unvisited, South Australia.

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South Australia is the fourth largest state (it is 1.5x larger than Texas), but only has 1.6 million people. In typical Australian fashion, the majority of the people live in a single city, Adelaide, which boasts a population of 1.1 million. Residents of Adelaide proudly claim that their colony was the only freely settled colony in Australia (no imported penal workers). Adelaide was a planned capital city, situated in the middle of the southern coast and near a river. Adelaide is known for its food, wine, festivals, and sporting events. We happened to arrive during Festival (a huge carnival filled with shows, food, and alcohol) and on the weekend of a V8 race (their version of NASCAR). It was unbelievable the number of people present in the city.

We arrived late in the afternoon, checked into the hostel, and set out to explore the city. Adelaide has nice wide streets and tons of shops. Walking the main strip, I was very impressed with the modern feel of the city and the cool looking buildings. One building was covered in white panels that would light up different colors to create a kaleidoscope of images. Cafes, restaurants, pubs, and clubs lined the streets, and people were spilling out of all of them. The road turned into a wide pedestrian walkway, and musicians played every 30 yards. Dawn even stopped to admire some of the artwork.

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We walked the entire strip and came up to the Festival. It slightly resembled a state fair, except there were no rides and no games. Instead, there were tents advertising shows of all kinds. All forms of dancing, singing, and performing could be found. Unfortunately tickets for the events sell out quickly, and we arrived on a Saturday night. Instead we made the most of the event by picking up delicious food (a fresh-toppings pizza and hot fried donuts). The vendors also tried creative ways for you to stop at their booths for drinks. Once person had a double-decker bus that had been converted into a bar. Wine vendors poured very full glasses and would give you advice on which glass to order. In my opinion, it was the perfect carnival.

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We left Festival towards closing time and made our way back down towards some of the bars. It was shoulder to shoulder trying to make it down the street. Every bar and cafe was packed. We gave up on the idea of fighting our way up to a bar and decided to make our way back to the hostel, until we ran into giant robots.

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We made it back to the hostel and got some rest. We were waking up early to do another wine tour.

The Barossa Valley is one of the most famous areas for Australia wine. Shiraz is the most popular grape grown in the region, as the middle-eastern derived vine fits well into the dry climate near Adelaide. Driving out to the valley, we passed by a giant tree that used to house a family!

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A married couple were too poor to live in a house, so they moved to the outskirts of town and stumbled upon this tree. They actually had 2 children while living here, and went on to have 8 total.

We made one more stop before reaching the first wine tasting at a toy shop. Australian tourist stops are often centered around ridiculously large items, like the Big Pineapple or Giant Guitar (there are over 150 such items around Australia), but we were lucky enough to get to see the Giant Rocking Horse.

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We went to a couple different wineries, and the wine was excellent as expected. After getting slightly tipsy, I got grilled by two Swedes about American politics. Thankfully the conversation moved towards European Union politics as a British man began filling me in on how the EU operated. After lunch we went up to a lookout to view the Barossa Valley. It was a beautiful day, and the valley provided magnificent views.

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After hitting up another couple wineries (and $150 in purchased wine later) we started making our way back to Adelaide. We went out for another night on the town and saw some very interesting people. I had wanted to go to a bar called the Stag Hotel, but it was overrun by drunken V8 fans. The race had ended, and the NASCAR-esque fans were everywhere (and every bit as redneck as typical NASCAR fans). We slowly made our way back to the hostel, keeping a safe distance from the rowdy and sunburnt crowd. Dawn and I rented a true Australian Movie, Two Hands, which was Heath Ledgers first starring role. It was pretty cool seeing a movie shot in Sydney after living there. Dawn was going on another tour tomorrow, so we both called it a night.

The next day I walked down to my office, the McDonalds, and had a productive work day. During the day I took a break and sat out in the sun along the river behind the Parliament House watching the swans and ducks swim lazily. Adelaide had really grown on me during my short stay, and would be a top choice if I had to pick one city to live in for an extended period.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 18:20 Archived in Australia Tagged tour wine Comments (2)

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