Main Range Loop Track – Mt Kosciuszko

Due to unexpected changes in the itinerary for my Great Southern Road Trip I was able to walk the Main Range Loop Track to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko from Charlottes Pass. It was a fine sunny day with an expected maximum of 19oC and winds up to 25 kph.

While Australia’s highest peak comes in at a little more than a quarter of Everest it is still worth the investment of time to complete the 22 km circuit. For a start you can do it in a T-shirt and you don’t need oxygen! Oh and there are toilets near the top!

At the start.

Three ways to the roof of Australia

You can reach the summit of Mt Kosciuszko three ways ranging from super easy to harder then hardest. The easiest option is to use the chairlift from Thredbo. Next you can walk straight up the 8.8 km of the Kosciuszko Walk from Charlottes Pass and return downhill by the same route or take the chairlift back to Thredbo. This of course will only work if you are able to use a shuttle service to drop you off at Charlottes Pass.

A harder but certainly do-able option even for Old Chooks like me, is the more circuitous Main Range Loop Track. This track also starts at Charlottes Pass and the return portion from the summit is via the Kosciuszko Walking Track. The NSW National Parks website has some good information. You can find the map on AllTrails and ViewRanger. (Search using Kosciuszko Main Range Track).

Higher altitude mean higher fitness required

You need a good level of fitness for the longer walks as both have sustained uphill sections (as you’d expect to get to a summit) but also because for those who are not used to walking at higher altitudes there may be some increased difficulty due to less oxygen.

The shorter Kosciuszko Track is also very popular with trail bikers although you can not take your bike right up to the summit. The tracks are snow bound in winter so you should consider doing the walk in late spring to early winter, (September – June) although if cross country skiing or snowshoeing is your thing, the tracks remain open. 

Main Range Loop Track

The track is very well made and maintained as it is a very popular route. In some sections it is paved with actual pavers you’d use in your own yard. In other areas there are large granite flagstones, a metal boardwalk and plastic webbing on steeper sections which holds the loose scree in place. It is wide enough to walk two abreast except on the metal boardwalk and one short narrow section above Lake Albina. 

Lake Albina

Being a circuit track you could go either clockwise or anticlockwise. I would recommend going anticlockwise (and so does the signage) because the first section of the track is a very steep section heading down to a stream. The thought of doing this as your last kilometre after already having walked 21 km is not very inviting! The downhill walk using the Kosciuszko Walking Track is much more palatable!

At the very start of the track you need to cross a small creek. It is very clear and deeper than it looks! While there are stepping stones I still ended up with a boot full of water! (Given how well made the rest of the track is it is surprising that there is not a board walk over the creek?)

In season there are lots of delicate little wildflowers in the alpine meadows and around the gurgling streams. The views are expansive and the outcrops of granite add interest to the treeless slopes. There are no small shrubs or trees at this altitude, only low ground covers. 

Fees, toilets and that sort of stuff. 

You need to pay to access the National Park unless you already have an All Parks Annual Pass. The fee varies throughout the year and is more expensive in winter during the ski season. 

People at the Summit

The recommended time to complete the track is 7 – 9 hours so you will need to take food and water for a whole day. There is a lodge and cafe at Charlottes Pass where you can get a simple meal and coffee. 

There are toilets at Charlottes Pass and more near the summit. As stated it is a very popular walk so there are lots of people on good weather days. Along with the lack of vegetation this makes it a bit difficult to take a quick squat with your waste bag on the way!

Always be mindful that mountain weather can change very rapidly and it can get cold even in summer, so take layers! (And another pair of socks for when you get your boot full of water 500 metres from the start of the track!)

Yoni and the smelly underpants

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Once again I was standing in a snake-y queue. This time in Sydney, waiting to board the American Express SkyTrain at Taronga Park Zoo as part of Vivid, Sydney. It would take ten to fifteen minutes to get to the front to the line. The family ahead of me was having a great time.

“Ok one… two.. three… say Yoni has smelly underpants” the young man said to the two boys in matching beanies. They giggled and smiled and the young man snapped away with his phone. I turned around and realized, too late, that I was photobombing their family moment.

“You photobombed our family photo!” the young man exclaimed in a theatrical style. He showed me the screen and there I was in the middle of everything. We bantered back and forward.

“Well since you are going to be on our fridge, what’s your name?

“Robyn – and since you are going to be in my blog – what’s yours?”

“Yoni”

“Ahhh ….the one with the smelly undies”

“Yes that’s me!”

As we twisted around another loop he asked “So what do you blog about?”

“Travel, mostly and …and stuff like this” as I waved my hand over his family.

“So you’re a writer then?”

“Mostly a photographer… but I want to write. I’m a teacher.”

“Teachers are awesome. Our mum’s a teacher” Yoni said.

So it’s Uncle Yoni I thought. Finally, we got to the top of the queue. I said goodbye and giggled to myself. Yoni and the smelly underpants.

The cable car door closed behind me and I was launched into the blackness and then the lights started.

The lights of Vivid…

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Australia, land of beaches and sunshine. Hot sun …babes in bikinis… beer in the sun.

That’s the image that comes to mind, even as locals. It’s not always beach weather and we do in fact, have a winter. Compared to the Northern Hemisphere, it’s not much of a winter, but heh… sometimes it can get as cold as 6oC in Sydney! That’s COLD! Tourists come in droves in the summer to sit on our sandy beaches, slap shrimp on the barbie and enjoy our great outdoors but their numbers drop in our winter.

This is (apparently) a marketing tragedy.

Back in 2009, the NSW government decided to try capture more of the winter tourist market. They created Vivid – a winter festival. It started small in the area round Circular Quay. It’s now a huge success. Locals and tourists flock to Vivid in the last weeks of May and early June. In 2017, over 2 million people visited Vivid!

Vivid is now an interactive collection of light, music and ideas. Over the years it has spread out to include more and more of Sydney, Darling Harbour, Walsh Bay and the Zoo. You can find more information here www.vividsydney.com/

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The highlights include the images  cast up on the Sydney Opera House and Customs House as well as the lights on Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Zoo Light Walk is amazing! The ferry ride across the Harbour gives you a great view of the skyline and all its brilliance. I might be a bit biased, but an already beautiful harbour comes to life during Vivid. Sparkling cold water, bright lights and friendly crowds all enjoying a mystical musical wonderland. While Vivid is over for another year, make sure sure you pencil it in for 2019, just pack a beanie and a scarf.

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PS: Yoni, I hope you enjoyed Vivid with your nephews! Good luck in your life. Stay fun! Stay friendly! You gave this old chook something to smile about! If you ever read this please, share my photobombing snap in the comments!

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The Sad Case of the Vanished Cracker Night.

Australia is a constitutional monarchy. The Queen of Australia – Queen Elizabeth the 1st (She is Elizabeth the 2nd in the UK but only the first Elizabeth we have had) has very little sway these days in terms of our laws, the parliament and that sort of thing but we still get a public holiday to celebrate her birthday. Even though her actual birthday is in April we celebrate it on the second Monday of June. It’s a welcome holiday. By the time June has come around, winter has usually hit and the Indian summer of May has ended with a bang. It’s probably raining and it will be cold(ish) It’s a perfect weekend for inland retreats at wineries or being indoors with a book and a fire and catching up with friends.

When I was a kid, Saturday of the Queen’s Birthday weekend was Cracker Night. There would be bonfires, pretty fireworks and explosive crackers in nearly every backyard. My favourite was the Catherine Wheel which would be nailed to the fence. It would spin around as jets of coloured sparks shot out the sides. The neighbourhood would be shrouded in smoke and the poor dogs would be going crazy.

You could buy crackers at any corner store, regardless of your age. My dad used to blow up our home made letter box every year. He’d fill it with bungers and attach a long wick and then run. The wooden box would get shattered into thousands of sharp, splintery missiles and we would squeal with glee from our hiding spots.

My family must have been a bit more careful than other families. I don’t remember any one getting hurt although my hair did catch on fire once when an ember jumped out of the bonfire. Despite our own personal luck, because in retrospect, I think it was good luck rather than good management, every year you would hear of a another 10 year old boy who had blown his hand off or blinded himself or suffered some other horrific injury because they had taped a few large bungers together or had tried to build a bigger, better explosive.

It became (sensibly) more difficult to buy crackers. You had to be 18. Then it become illegal to sell them in NSW. You could still buy them in the Australian Capital Territory, so people would take the drive down there to stock up for an illicit cracker night party. The firework shops were cheek-by-jowl with the porn shops (Canberra, incidentally also being the only place you could buy X rated movies!).

Many community groups had public firework displays which varied in quality. Over the years, these have petered out too. I guess the expense got too much. Perhaps, the audience got too used to the HUGE New Year’s Eve Fireworks that light up Sydney Harbour. What community groups could afford were fizzlers in comparison.

Last Saturday night would have been cracker night but I didn’t hear one. Not a single one. It’s a shame. Another fun, old tradition that has gone by the wayside.

It made me think, what will today’s kids remember? Oh wow I sat indoors all day playing Total Domination against some random in the US? It was like… So totally awesome!!

…somehow I don’t think so. Will their memories be totally devoid of the types of rich stories that made up my childhood and adolescence?

This year, my Queen’s Birthday Weekend was filled with reminiscences of other kinds. A weekend full of “remember whens” at a 40th high school reunion. Unfortunately, it was only a small gathering. We danced to old 70s and 80s tunes. We argued who was the bigger loss to the world – Lennon or Bowie? We talked about old teachers chasing the girls who were smoking in the playground (not me!!) We talked about those who had not come to join in the party.

Only 10 of us made the journey

Those who had left before the HSC (the NSW matriculation qualification) and had gone into more manual labouring jobs complained that their bodies were beginning to give out. We all complained about our failing eyesight. We compared photos of our adult kids and for some of us, our grandkids. We settled into an easy rekindling of old friendships and lamented that so few had made the journey to Old Bar, NSW.

This one from Primary School

As we tried to put names to all the faces in the old school photos, there was one girl, at the end of a row of the 1C photo that no-one could remember. I’d hate to be that girl. Why did no one know her? We had no special story for her. That made me sad and I wondered if there were other people looking at other class photos who wondered who I was? If there were some people I had never made an impression on? In my own Robyn-centric world I find that hard to believe but I guess I was not the centre of everyone’s universe!

I don’t know if we will have 50th reunion. By then I will be 67. I hope I will continue to enjoy the same good health I have now. I hope I will tick off some more of those bucket list items. But most of all, I hope I can contribute some good memories to the students I teach.

In 2038, I hope some kid says at their reunion, “Do you remember that old chook Ms Lang? She was a bit crazy!” and smile.

Tall tales and true! (Mark and Craig both school buddies since kinder!)