Sugar Pines, New Year’s Eve

Picture of the Day 24: Sax faces massive indecision about which stick to pick

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Our luck on New Year’s Eve was a mixed bag. We started the day bright tailed and bushy eyed, setting our sights on the village of Talbingo. Talbingo, itself on the Jounama Dam, is accessed by a beautiful, sweeping drive through the mountains and alongside the still blue waters of Blowering Dam.

As we set off, luck seemed to be in our favour. The sky was peerless blue, white and yellow tents thick on the Blowering foreshore. Every camping spot was its own city. On our left were the Blowering Cliffs, a walk accessible from Log Bridge camping ground. Later we passed the turn off to Jounama River, itself with a promising walk. We shot straight through Talbingo, along the Jounama banks, up past the Tumut 3 powerstation and into the hills between Talbingo township and the third dam in the chain, Talbingo Dam.

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Aaaaand that’s where our luck ended. It was nice enough to take photos by the giant pipes of the T3 powerstation, and the rough road leading to the dam’s “scenic lookout” wasn’t too debilitating on my plucky little Mazda. But when we reached the top? Trees. Although we were way, way above the waterline, 360 degrees of trees prevented our spying any of the view over Talbingo, Jounama, and the places beyond. All we could make out was the north corner of the dam and a dirt walled channel, and gum trees. I guess that’s something of a view, if you like gum trees, and I like them plenty, but I also see several million of them every day.

Determined it would not only be trees that we saw that day, Ryan and I loaded Sax back into the car and set off down the hillside. We took a left onto Borag Station, which promised to go by Buddong Falls. I spoke to a friend in National Parks that morning, who warned that there had been several landslips along the dirt backroad between Talbingo and Batlow, and Buddong Falls would be best accessible on foot. Well, that was no problem, we just needed to get a little closer. And closer we got. Close enough to see the signs up for baits laid for wild dogs and foxes. Also signs for “all vehicles passing through this property must have their UHF set to etc…” Plus conflicting signs marking the property as private and public access.

Perturbed, we turned around. Shot right through Talbingo again, as is proper, and back to Tumut for lunch. We were dismayed. Not by lunch, but Talbingo. It was too hot to climb Blowering Cliffs, too much snake weather to hike Jounama River, there was no view at the viewing point and Borag station should have had a big red neon sign reading DO NOT ENTER: YOU WILL DIE. UNLESS YOU WANT TO DIE, IN WHICH CASE PLEASE ENTER.

Yet a brief rest by the Tumut River revived our spirits, and without much further ado (we did stop briefly to rent the entire first season of Stargate), we roared off towards Batlow. We must have roared extra hard, because we went straight through Batlow and darted out its far side, where we continued for ten or fifteen minutes to Kopsens Road. Here we turned off, and within the minute had pulled in at the Sugar Pines. Here there is a lovely, if brief walk through a breed of pine rare in Australia. Sugar Pines have their origins in California, and even in Bago State Forest, a pine plantation, they are set aside as not to be touched. The Sugar Pines are towering, creaking trees, largely bare aside from a tuft of nettles at the top. Like most pines, they secrete a toxin to kill competing plants, and so the gentle upward slope of the plantation is matted in golden brown nettles, and silent, silent, except for the creaking of the giant trees.

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At the top of the hill, you can turn left or right and extend your walk indefinitely. We headed across the hilltop, to another. There are rumours of a giant living in the forests around Batlow, and I would love to see it. I fear, however, that Sir Giant is actually an ordinary resident of Batlow confused for something less sinister.

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Well, we didn’t see any giants. Unfortunately. But we hadn’t gone far when we heard a snorting from ahead. Not the grunting snort of a boar, but the protracted sigh of a horse. Brumbies! And there were plenty of tracks to prove it;

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We proceeded carefully along the hill. However, while we heard the horse again, it had escape routes a plenty and no reason to greet us. A few years ago, not in the Sugar Pine vicinity but closer to Blowering Dam, Ryan and I were lucky enough to see three beautiful wild horses; a mare, stallion and foal. They crossed the road close to the car, all of them a lovely deep chestnut colour, and wonderful and strong. They certainly made for a pleasant change to kangaroos jumping in front of the car! Lucky I’d been doing about 20kph at the time and easily came to a stop when the horses appeared.

As for the Sugar Pines? Horse tracks weren’t the only prints on our dusty orange path. There were strange, long lines. Some were kangaroos tracks, some maybe from wallabies, and others… we didn’t know. There is nowhere as silent as a pine forest. We’d heard distant gun shots as we climbed the first hill, and neither Ryan nor I had any desire to be in a firing range.

We could have ventured further, to the next hilltop, as we had done before. But rather than take that chance, we turned and headed back into the Sugar Pines. Cluck cluck cluck! Chickens! But in a forest it’s hard to shake the feeling that something is watching you.

Our New Year’s Eve excursion over, we stopped by the shops on the way home, stocking up on those New Year necessities like rum and pavlova. We had an enjoyable, quiet night watching Stargate, and then the fireworks at midnight. I managed to finish Sherlock Holmes five minutes before twelve. Awesome book, give it a read. As for resolutions, how about… adventure?

And pavlova!

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About Anneque D. Machelle

Anneque "Dangerpus" Machelle (rhymes with ranger wuss) is a rebel and a rogue from way out west. Strictly banned from interactions with other human beings, she spends her days amongst molluscs, dogs and lizards, whom she counts as her closest friends.
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