Yarrangobilly hides a surprising and rich past. Our family has made this our semi-annual holiday destination for the past five years with good reason. It was once (in the early 20th Century) a premier holiday destination in NSW. I guess that was when people believed thermal pools to hold healing properties and before swimming in the ocean became more mainstream. There have been a variety of owners in this area including a farmer who lived near the river. I really don’t know how he got his cattle in and out of this valley, it’s quite challenging terrain even for a vehicle. The farm is long gone and was superseded by holiday goers who spent time in the still present historic Caves House. It sounds like it was a fun place to come to and was well set up for day visitors, who most likely stayed in the then nearby Yarrangobilly Village, as well as the live-in visitors. There is an old bus shelter with a bell placed in the nearby cliff which summoned people for the trip by cart down the mountain to the pool, a short but slightly taxing journey which must be walked these days. The cord is still able to be pulled and the bell rung, which only adds to the charm of this delightful enclave. Tennis courts were built, now vanished, and the old caves house where we stayed was set up for a communal kind of living arrangement with shared bathrooms and a dining hall, obviously people did not come for privacy!
On a tour around the recently restored two storey section (you can see the scaffolding around that in the picture below), the manager of National Parks was telling us that it is in fact quite a miracle that this historic home wasn’t knocked down like the majority of the houses and villages in the area. When ‘Parks’ took over in the 70s they took the liberty of removing as much trace of man as they could in this wilderness area. And so, driving around the Snowy Mountains, you do in fact pass many places of former settlement: Long Plains, Yarrangobilly Village, Kiandra, they are gone and all but forgotten. Those monuments to times past, which would have enriched this whole landscape with their ode to history (white settlement), have been bulldozed into the dirt, and are now covered by lush alpine vegetation, with nothing but brass plaques to speak for them.
This area is (so far) one of my most favourite places in Australia. There is something about the mountains, their proximity to the clouds, the underground formations they hide, the spectacular wilderness, their particular flora and fauna-including brumbies (who couldn’t love that?). The towns around here are some of my favourites: Talbingo & Tumut being two where I have spent a bit of time. It excites the imagination to imagine this area overrun with immigrant families working on the great Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme from 1949-1974, a great ‘discovery centre‘ for which is in Cooma. The area in fact has a slight European feel to it, and this, surely, is why. I am greatly looking forward to seeing a similar scheme in northern WA, the Ord River Irrigation Scheme.
For the third time we visited the caves and there is no way we are bored of these yet. It is an awe inspiring place, rather damp and refrigerator cold – just the way I like it! – the best way to escape the awful Summer heat.
‘Us girls’ went on a few walks together, even making it twice (two ways) to the lookout which overlooked our house. It seemed impossible to get up there but was actually surprisingly easy & a lovely walk. I will not forget that feeling of being entirely surrounded by the elegant and mysterious Australian Alpine bush for as far as the eye can see. It ought to be normal to be surrounded so by trees, that most necessary, wonderful & supremely useful of creations. It is probably my love of trees that has, in fact, pushed me into studying Sustainable Development.
Then of course there is the pool. A 1.4km walk from the house, down a steep incline and you are faced with an impossibly beautiful turquoise pool. It is fed by a thermal spring so is a constant 27C. We came here every day and so our holiday was full of nature and walking and swimming and board games, good food & laughter.