The Australian Alps

Trip Start Aug 17, 2008
Trip End Jun 17, 2009

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Australian Alps are the tallest mountains in Australian but, despite their name, their height is not coming anywhere near their European counterpart; their highest peak is around 8.000 feet tall (~2,700 meters).  Nevertheless, they are quite beautiful and the road to the mountains was really charming, with wide, green valleys grazed by  what looked like the happiest cattle in the world. The road would be worth a trip in itself.  Too bad that when we got to the mountains, we realized that a good chunk of their forest was only starting to come back after a devastating fire that took place a few years ago.  The positive consequence for us was that the mountain resort we've stayed was quite empty and the hotel rates were reasonable.  Since that fire it seems that the Australian Alps resorts are busy only during the skiing season and not as much in spring or summer.
However, we did not regret going as the hiking trails still had picturesque scenery and allowed us to enjoy the wilderness.  We chose a trail that passed by a beautiful dam and then led us to a mountain peak overlooking the resort, the valley below and the mountain ranges in New South Wales.  While descending from the peak (mind you, carrying only our small daypacks) we met these teenage scouts with huge backpacks in their backs going on their way up and, boy, did they look miserable!  We felt sorry for the guys and again we reminded of the fact that we are not real backpackers; just travellers with backpacks. :-)
We also took a long walk in and around the "ghost" resort-town looking for something exciting to do, but to no avail.  It really was a ghost town as everything was closed and we did not see a single soul on the street... not even driving.  Therefore we went to bed early that night and the next morning we were on our way to Canberra.  However, we did not make it that far that day as we took a scenic tour crossing the mountains to Omeo over a dirt roads (that slowed us down significantly) and then crossing them back on an alternate route.  Therefore, we planned to spend the night in a small town halfway to Canberra.  That town happened to be Beachworth, one the sweetest small towns we've seen so far, surrounded by wineries and beautiful hills.  Not to mention its downtown full of well-preserved 19th century buildings, a museum in itself.  So, we could not miss the opportunity to enjoy what this town had to offer so instead of an overnight stayed, we spent there two full days
First, let's say the fact that the motel balcony had this wonderful view over the green hills and a free kookaburra show every morning (Kookaburra is a bird that has a very specific "laughing" song; it is as Australian as it gets since the bird has even folklore songs dedicated to it) was no incentive to move-on.  We spent the first morning walking a trail to a beautiful winery (Pennyweight Wines) where, due to the fact that we were the only clients of the day (OK, it was Wednesday morning, but we are in vacation, remember?) we really got the royal treatment.  Pennyweight is a small, all-organic winery making some decent wine and an even better port.  We've got a tour of the facility where the wine is still done the old fashion way and enjoyed a bottle of wine and (you know the routine by now) a cheese platter on the beautiful patio, while socializing with the dog responsible for the winery's homeland security.  We ended the day with some shopping and ordering a pizza that we've thoroughly enjoyed on our patio while listening to a kookaburra concert.  Quite a treat!
Next morning, before taking off to Canberra (no, this time for real!) we joined a Ned Kelly historical tour.  For those of you not intimate with Australian history (that included us) Ned Kelly is Australia's most famous 19th century outlaw (aka bushranger around here) made particularly famous by its armor suit.  Apparently, he had a suit of armor tailor-made by the local blacksmith to protect him during shootouts with the police.  While the suit weighed a mere 200 lbs/90 kg, it did protect him from the police; while making his last stand, Ned was shot 27 times and survived.  Only to be captured while trying to run away and then hanged a few days later.  Corollary: it is not easy to run from the police when carrying a 90 kg suit of armor.  While Ned's life story sounds a lot like the good old Robin Hood's, the guy leading the tour did a really good job making the history come alive and had a few interesting insights into Ned's career, too.  We found particularly interesting that, while Ned had only a few weeks of schooling, he had nevertheless a keen sense of politics and even had the ingenious idea to declare a "Republic of the North-East of Victoria" in order to make himself immune from the law.  But more on the life (and armor) of Ned Kelly at  And bookmark that page while you are at it, since every self-respecting visitor to Australia must know this piece of history that Australians seem to be so proud of (we've even seen the famous bushranger starring in a TV commercial to Nurofen/ibuprofen the other day; quite hilarious!).
So, finally, we have managed to leave Beachworth and head for Canberra, not before stopping at a farm that advertised freshly-picked strawberries.  Honestly, these were the best strawberries we've ever had.  As good looking as those you find in the supermarket but the taste was as good as (if not better) those we used to pick from our grandmother's garden when we were kids.  We don't know what the secret was but we took a photo of the strawberry field (see pic).  Apparently, they are grown in baskets about a yard/meter or so above the ground not to keep them away from insects, but for easy picking when the time comes for them to be picked (no, really, the farmer was swearing by it).  Ingenious!  So we bought another crate and were set both for lunch and dinner of the day :-)
Next stop: Canberra!
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