In a Land of Giants pt. 2

Click here if you missed Part 1!

So begins day 2 of our journey. 

Farewell to the towering giants of the Sugar Pine Walk, and onwards to the great expanse between us and the Snowy Mountains of NSW. Between us and there? Well none of us actually knew. The plan was to venture south, whichever way the map would lead.

What greeted us along the way… well in truth, was nothing like what I expected.

The drive to the Snowy Mountains i’ve seen before, as have many, many others. You go through Goulburn, down to Cooma and on to Jindabyne. The usual NSW bush alongside huge dual carriageways, Lake George, and the wide empty Cooma rock farms. However because we weren’t going the usual route, and in reality coming in through the back and skipping Cooma (and everything before it), we didn’t really know what to expect. It was all new for us.

It started off being eerily similar to the usual route via Lake George. The big Gums, the dense bush, and even a Lake.

A few quick snaps, a visit to a poor excuse for a toilet, and onwards we went.

Towering steeps to our left and a vast lake to our right. Waterfalls, and rock faces high above us teased us between the trees. The terrain around us became more rugged, as did the narrow road we travelled. Turns became tighter, and we climbed higher. Steep roads and tight turns that make the entry to Lithgow seem like a gentle hill. Up we climbed. Into the clouds, and a clinging fog. By now the trees were truly wild. Towering over the road, wondering who dare enter their world, their wilderness. Snow began to line the road. 

With only the odd gap between the trees, it was hard to grasp just how aggressively the terrain had climbed, but an impulse stop at a lookout changed that.

An interesting feeling, looking out at the valley. Watching the low clouds fumble and roll over the ridges and spurs, the peaks of the mountains completely hidden. In honesty it’s a similar feeling and view to the Blue Mountains, where I love the feeling of looking on the huge valleys and feeling small and insignificant. Humbled. However this was so different… In amongst the clouds, from such a high point - we felt tiny, sure… but insignificant? Hardly. I felt alive, and connected. Connected to the ridges and the spurs, the valleys, the rivers, the waterfalls and the clouds. When in such a remote and rugged place, in a valley so untouched and wild, I couldn’t help but feel humbled, and be brought to the same level as every other living thing that lay before me. The birds, the trees. Every living thing held such a level of importance, and there I was in amongst them. No more superior, no less, but rather a part of it as a whole.

A crazy man in shorts, thongs and a t-shirt reminded us that it was nearly freezing, so we made our way onwards, the feeling of being humbled hanging fresh in the air.

The feeling of vulnerability and being completely at the mercy of the wilderness didn’t exactly stop once we were back on the road. If anything it just got stronger. Thicker. There were times where we didn’t know what was 50m in front of the car because the fog hung so low and so dense. It was that feeling of anticipation and unknown that would spur us onwards.

As the terrain rose and fell over the next hour, so did the fog and the snow. Constantly teetering on the edge of the sky and land.
We spotted a sign that I recognised. Words I’d seen on an information board and remembered in the back of my mind. Here it was in the familiar brown tourist sign, indicating a turn off. So down the dirt road we went, and onwards to the Yarrangobilly Caves, deep within Kosciuszko National Park.

The thought of ‘caves’ got me excited enough… but then there was this tiny dirt road, winding through ancient forest, with snow covering its base. The most snow we’d seen on the trip yet.
The road descended quickly, winding in and out and around through a steep valley.

An old stone gate, park benches. A red roofed building, and towering limestone walls. 


Out comes the flash, and in we go.

First through a quaint forest track, that then opened to a vast limestone valley, with black and gold stone 440 million years older than ourselves.

An enormous open shaft above us gave us a taste of the sheer scale of this place. Towering at least 60m above us, water dripped of the hanging vines, and birds flew through the huge hole. Onwards along the track it got wetter, and darker, until an open steel gate invited us further.
In, we dove.

Incredibly dark. Ferociously quiet. There aren’t many words to describe the sheer level of unexpected awe we found. A random spur of the moment decision to turn down some dirt road, somehow lead to an immense and vast limestone cave system. Caverns that seemingly have no roof, and ancient, untouched formations that defy gravity. Sensor lights urged us on further.

We were the only ones in the cave. The entire system. Pure, and utterly inexpressible silence, only broken every now and again by a drop of water into a pool, that was likely thousands of years old.

Ducking and weaving through tight passageways and open chambers, the path lead in all directions. Down at first before doubling back, rising up some stairs then descending into another chamber. Again and again the path turned and tumbled, and we immediately were filled with a huge respect and appreciation for the people that would have first discovered places like this. Our sheer awe, must’ve been only a fraction of theirs.

Eventually just as we were climbing out of the cave, we heard the first voices echo through where we had just been. A gentle nudge back to reality. As we exited the cave, the only reaction I found appropriate, was to just laugh, and smile.

This is what exploring and being on the road is all about. Those random little side tracks and moments that leave you with such a light and airy feeling. The anticipation of the unknown, and the joy of having ventured through it.
Had we known what was down that road, or deep within those caves, we wouldn’t have had the same joy. The same anticipation, and you could even say, no motivation to even venture there in the first place. You could say that it’s the darkness, not the light, that really draws us forwards.

So again, onwards.

The bush around the exit road, just as windy as the drive in, was covered in snow. Of course we had to stop for a shoot and a jump around, but it was more than that. With such an excitement still fresh in our minds from the caves, the snow served as a reminder of what was still to come. A week surrounded by the white stuff.

On top of the world. We were buzzing and feeling as high as we could be! The road out of there was white with snow, and I felt as if it couldn’t get any better; but the road ahead, was where some of my fondest memories of the entire trip would lie.

Wild brumbies, and the vast, open, snow covered plains they run in. The vastness of it, seemed to amplify the immensity of time. 

It was as if we spent an eternity in that valley… an eternity I would have happily stayed in.

An eternity owned by giants.

This post is Part 2 of a three part series about a little bit of time spent away with two of the people I hold dearest. Cramped car trips, smelly snowboard boots.
Snow covered valleys, crisp mountain air.
A time, a memory; a story to be told.

Click if you missed Part 1
Click here for Part 3

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