A great riding road is this one through the Snowy Mountains. The riders to the left
are taking a break. The curves and the speed of the riders left no time to get pictures
of any on the road. We are in a van but have enough riding experience to vicariously
enjoy their ride as they carve their way up one side of the mountain and down the
other. The top is 1,405 meters (almost 4,400 ft.) high and has a ski area. Not all
of the corners are as visible as the one above with the red snow poles disappearing
into the distance. The road is one and a half lanes for most of the way but is paved
all the way. That’s better than some mountain roads we have been on.
In one of the valleys we saw another flock of the Cockatoos. They swoop and swarm
like a flock of pigeons all the while making their screeching cry. Before coming
to Australia I had always thought of these birds as a pet in a cage, like a parrot.
I knew they must be wild somewhere in the world but hadn’t given it much thought.
I didn’t know they flew around in flocks of hundreds.
That afternoon we relaxed at the Ettamogah Pub. A very interesting drinking place.
It was started by a newspaper cartoonist in the 1950’s and claims to be the essence
of Aussie pubs. We had dinner there and bush camped (no power, no actual campsite)
in their parking lot, with permission. They have toilets at the beer garden in back
that are open all night. Ettamogah is an aboriginal word meaning “place of good drink”.
As you can see from the plane and truck the owners have a quirky sense of humor.
This morning we have more mountains to cross. We are headed to the Great Alpine Road.
This is another popular motorcycle road as you can guess by looking at this section
of it on the GPS.
We followed a valley south for a ways before we got to that part of it. This is timber
country. This picture shows a recent clearcut that was replanted on the top left
of the knob, an older planting all along the bottom half of it and what is probably
the next harvest on the top right. The planting of harvested forest land is what
I spent much of my career doing. I, using hired and inmate crews, planted nearly
a million trees a year.
Back to our travels. As we climbed higher we got into thousands of hectares (2.5
acres = 1 hectare) of old burns. The sign alongside the road said they had a huge
fire in 1939 that killed several people and devastated mountain mining towns. And
then again in 2003 much of the area burned again, without loss of life. The mining
was over and the towns gone. Looking close at the picture one can see the forest
recovering with the new sprouts about half as high as the snags. Some of the gum
trees, like the Lodgepole Pine back home, requires fire to open the seed pods.
Finally we reached the top, just around the bend in the distance. We are above the
tree line here at 1845 meters above sea level (5,700 ft.). This is the highest paved
road in Australia. To Americans and Europeans where we have roads that exceed 4,000
meters (14,000 ft.) this doesn’t seem all that high but the road getting here makes
it seem as high. It has been a long and twisty way up. There are ski areas and winter
resorts up here. The north side that we climbed does not have the population that
the south side has. The road going down is much better, wider and gentler than the
route we took up. That night we stayed in a campground near Melbourne, Australia’s
second largest city and the source of much of the customers for the resorts at the
top of the Great Alpine Road.
One of the things the highway department does here, and as we saw in Europe, is the
extra band of metal on the guard rails alongside the popular motorcycle roads. This
lower strip of metal is designed to prevent a biker who took the corner too fast
from ending up jammed under the guardrail. This extra strip is only in the slide
out area of the bends where the biker and his motorcycle would hit it.
That night we spent in a caravan park at the base of the mountains and a couple of
hundred kilometers from Melbourne. The next day it rained and heavy winds blew out
of the north as a cold front passed through. The winds at this point, 150 m. lower
than the top of the mountain, were 140 km/hr. (88 mph) according to the news. The
US weather dept. Defines any winds over 75 mph as “hurricane force”.