After Maddy shot-off several rolls of film on brumbies in the morning, we set off in a south easterly direction towards the far south coast of New South Wales.
On the way to our first planned overnight stop in Dalgety, we passed the former gold town of Kiandra and Adaminaby. Kiandra briefly had a population of 15,000 (for just 1 year), but the gold ran out and now has just a few scattered buildings (some are restored, like the courthouse below and some ruins). Today it has no permanent residents.
Adaminaby was formerly on the banks of the Eucumbene river, but when the Eucumbene Dam was built in the 1960s for the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectricity and irrigation Scheme, the old town was flooded and had to be relocated to higher ground.
Today the area is well regarded for it’s trout fishing, so in the spirit of making big stuff, Adaminaby boasts the worlds biggest trout.
The town also has a museum showing the history of the Snowy Mountains Scheme with exhibits of old construction and control equipment, information on the over 100,000 people involved with the construction, many of whom were immigrants from non English speaking countries. Considering much of it was built over 50 years ago, it is an impressive piece engineering with 17 dams 12 or so hydro power stations and over 120km of trans mountain tunnels that take water from the upper Snowy River and Eucumbene river catchments into the Murray and Murrumbidgee River system.
We were also told at the museum that rock bolting was invented in Australia during the scheme and is now used all over the world. Prior to this you had to encase a tunnel in concrete which made it much more expensive and took much longer also.
As the Eucumbene Dam was very low when we visited, we heard you could see the ruins of the old flooded town. So we took a drive down into the lake area (the GPS in the car was convinced that we had become amphibious) and had a look, however there was not much more than a few foundation slabs, some tree stumps and some bits of iron.
From Adaminaby we headed on down to Dalgety – a delightful little town on the banks of the once mighty Snowy River. We had intended to spend the night at a caravan park in Dalgety to refill our water tanks and have time to explore, but on arrival we encountered a packed caravan park (which we sort of expected being the last day of the Australia Day long weekend) and discovered that there was a wedding reception set-up in the community hall literally 50m. from our nominated site. The prospect of being kept up by music and loud voices until the wee hours did not appeal so we opted for plan B – a nearby camp on a farm on the banks of the river. Although it was also quite busy, the sites were 30m apart (unlike 6m in the caravan park), we have good views and a swimming spot and were treated to a great sunset. We did however have to pump our 50 litres of emergency water from the bottles in the car into the caravan tanks and there was a slightly concerning river crossing on the way in.
That evening I took a walk around, managed to identify two new birds. A white-throated tree-creeper some common starlings (feral to Australia) and also came across some cute farm animals. S
After a good night’s sleep we ventured back into Dalgety, but first went for a dip in the Snowy River and amazingly Maddy took a fully submerged swim in the river – in the cool of the morning and with no sunshine. It was quite warm – maybe 25 degrees, and I guess the proximity of a hot shower helped. S
In Dalgety we followed the town tour based on a pamphlet starting with the 1888 bridge and passing several old buildings and a quaint cafe where we stopped for some soup, (Maddy) scones (Steve) and delicious caramel slices. While there we spoke with the cafe owner who was very active in the community and in protecting the Snowy River and she described how badly the Snowy Hydro Scheme damaged the environment downstream as a result of reducing flows by 99% and how recent efforts to restore some environmental flows are helping it recover. It was an interesting counter-view to the 1970s video we had seen in the Museum which delicately glossed over the negative impacts of the scheme.
South from Dalgety we passed the Monaro Plains, a beautiful high altitude treeless grassland expanse which I seemed to enjoy more than Maddy. Something to do with reminding me of the areas where I grew up. Apparently the winter frosts high up prevent trees from growing. Maybe its the same in the South African highveld.
From here we descended into the south east coastal forests and spent the night in a secluded national park campsite which we had to ourselves. It might sound selfish, but we have really looked forward to the end of school holidays and empty campsites.
The catchment of the stream at our campsite came from pristine uninhabited uncultivated forest so we were able to pump water directly from the stream to enjoy long showers and refill our depleted water tanks.
After a peaceful night we enjoyed a slow lazy morning before heading on towards the sapphire coast.