03/25/2009 - 03/29/2009 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.
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.
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.
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.
We made it into the Snowy Mountains close to sunset. The air was definitely chilly, but the views were great.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.