By way of contrast, V & I went down to the Snowy Mountains a couple of weeks ago and returned to Sydney to visit the beach for the first time this season. The ease with which we could transition between these regions was a welcome reminder of how fortunate we are to live in such a place. For the uninitiated, the Snowy Mountains lie about five hours drive southwest of Sydney in New South Wales and contain Australia’s highest mountain – Mount Kosciuszko. With a rather unimpressive elevation of 2228 metres, it is a reminder of what a flat country Australia is across its length and breadth. The Snowy Mountains form part of the Great Dividing Range, the 4th longest mountain range in the world after The Andes, The Rocky Mountains and The Transantarctic in, surprise surprise, Antarctica. While we’re on the statistics, for those who primarily consider Australia to be a hot and dry country, The Snowy Mountains are just one of the many and varied climate zones in a state which, while being only the 5th largest in Australia, is still bigger than France at a whopping 800,642 sq kilometres.
The Snowy Mountains are splendidly bleak; muted greens and browns, clumps of shrubs and grass and gnarly snow-gums with their twisting trunks that exhibit a surprising range of colours. They might lack the dramatic peaks and soaring walls of stone and ice found in higher ranges, and the skiing is at best mediocre, yet the mountains offer a curious play on the Australian landscape and, indeed, on Alpine zones generally. One noticeable contrast in Australian snow country is that, on account of the shape and nature of the gum leaves, snow does not generally sit on the trees, leaving them standing out starkly against the white.
In Jindabyne we found a magnificent Persian restaurant called Café Darya, set up by a former Iranian downhill ski champion with his wife. The menu was fascinatingly varied, with tantalising combinations of flavours and spices and a range of meats including goat and camel, yet in no way was it gimmicky. The love shown for the place on Trip Advisor confirms that we were not deluding ourselves in our assessment.
From here spent a couple of days in Canberra, a place often ridiculed as dull, bland or sterile, yet which we greatly enjoyed on this visit. A city planned from the ground up at the start of the 20th century, Canberra has the orderliness of Washington’s monumental heart, whilst exhibiting a far more modest monumentality. As the home of Parliament, the National Gallery and the War Memorial / museum, among many other significant institutions, it serves as a clean and refreshing shrine to culture and history, both Australian and international.
Back in Sydney now, the beach beckons and its lure is, as always, irresistible.