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H.A.R.S. Aircraft, Batemans Bay and the Snowy Mountains.

The H.A.R.S. Aircraft.

Okay, I know, some of you (assuming there's more than one that reads this drivel) are sick to death of trains and planes. In recognition of that I'm going to put all the pictures of H.A.R.S. aircraft onto a special page and you needn't go there. If you do want to go there, read the waiver below and click where instructed.

I understand that I will be bored silly if I am not an
aircraft enthusiast and I proceed at my own risk.

Very well, please click here: GO TO AIRCRAFT

A link at the bottom of that page will bring you back here.

What does H.A.R.S. stand for? Oh, sorry, it's the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society. They have a huge hangar at Illawarra Airfield in NSW and they are building a new extension that would accommodate most of QANTAS's fleet. Well, perhaps I do tend to exaggerate a little, but it will be enormous. And the aircraft the Society owns are old, naturally, but most are still airworthy. For those that remember the Lockheed Super Constellation airliner that was the mainstay of international air travel in the 1950s, the Society owns and flies one. How much maintenance would it take to keep that old girl flying, not to mention the cost? But the members do it all for love.

I might just tell you the story of how we happened to be there, you won't mind that will you? Well, we went to the Illawarra Light Rail Museum which I have NOT reported on. Near that museum was the H.A.R.S. hangar at Illawarra Airfield so naturally we popped in. There was nothing happening but on a blackboard (remember blackboards?) was a notice announcing that the Society's next flying day would be the following Saturday when a Catalina flying boat, a C-47 Dakota and a Neptune bomber would take off for a flight over Canberra for some show or other - never did find out what - and then return and land. Hey, who'd want to miss that? Not me, anyway. So several phone calls later I knew the take off time and that there was absolutely no chance of hitching a ride in one. Well, it costs nothing to ask, does it?

For those that prefer pretty countryside to interesting mechanical things, here's a nice photo from Mount Saddleback near Kiama.

View from Saddleback

The outlook from the lookout. Supposedly drought-ridden New South Wales from Saddleback Mountain.

Batemans Bay

Batemans Bay was named by Captain James Cook after Nathanuel Bateman, a Navy Captain under whom Cook served in 1760 as Master of HMS Northumberland. Jim named the bay on 22nd April, 1770 as he explored the area in the Endeavour. At that time Matthew Flinders, another hero, would have been just four years of age. Following in Cook's footsteps, Matt Flinders later mapped this coast so expertly in the Investigator that his charts were still used until fairly recently. Poor Matthew, after being unjustly imprisoned in Mauritius by the French for years, was very shabbily treated when he returned to England. A very sick old man although only 36 years of age, Matt completed his maps and charts and a report on his voyage for the Admiralty before he died just four years later. His report was published the day he died. I wrote this on Matthew's birthday, 16th March; he would have been 233. We drank a toast to him.

We had stayed a week in Kiama before moving on to beautiful Batemans Bay, and beautiful it really is. The caravan park was situated next to the beach where the Clyde River flows into the bay. We found all the surrounding countryside rich and green with no evidence of drought at all - at least, not when we were there.

One day we set out to visit a highly recommended place called Tilba Tilba. Funny names abound in this part of the country; we passed through Lilli Pilli on the way to Tilba Tilba, and on our way from Kiama to Batemans Bay we'd passed through Ulladulla. There's even Wagga Wagga not too far away. As it turned out we ended up in Central Tilba which isn't far from Tilba Tilba. Confused? Well, Central Tilba is where the Tilba Club Cheese comes from, or it did until they couldn't keep up with demand and production moved to Victoria. I'm glad that's cleared that up.

Central Tilba was a most picturesque place. Yes, I know, I've already used that word to death but I can't think of a better one to describe so much of New South Wales. It's charming, pleasing, pretty, pictorial, scenic, beautiful, quaint, it's strikingly vivid in appearance. Oh hell, it's picturesque, okay?

Tilba from above

The rooftops of Central Tilba nestling in a valley. Lovely people, lovely place.

The Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade at Central Tilba was very keen that nobody parked in front of their premises. So keen that they had . . .

Tilba Fire Station

. . . nine notices to that effect - don't miss the ones on the concrete in front of the doors.

Rusty object

Can I use that 'p' word again? A view from the lookout above Central Tilba.

Although situated in superb surroundings, Batemans Bay didn't have many items of particular interest and so we found ourselves sailing up the Clyde River on a lunchtime cruise one day. The wide river flowed between low hills, its banks lined with trees.

River Cruise

No crocs, no snakes, just a relaxing cruise up the Clyde.

There was one item that interested everybody aboard, and that was a busy traffic bridge adjacent to the town which had to be opened to let our boat pass below it. The centre section of the bridge, complete with road, was winched vertically upward so I had to get a before and after photo for you.

Bridge (rollover)

Move the mouse pointer off the picture. This was the scene as we approached the bridge.
Move the mouse pointer over the picture. The centre section was raised to let us pass below.

A red traffic light just below the bridge man's cabin was not functioning. It stayed red the whole time. Our skipper ignored it. I found myself holding my breath as we passed below all those tonnes of steel suspended above our heads.

Jindabyne, the Australian Alps and Mount Kosciuszko

After a week in Batemans Bay we hitched up and towed our home to Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains. The journey was a struggle for our hard-working Pajero (called a Shogun in the U.K.). We set off from sea level and had to climb the Great Dividing Range, rising almost 4,000'. It wasn't just the one climb either, the whole journey consisted of dragging two and a half tonnes of caravan up long, steep inclines then trying to tame it as it pushed us rapidly down the twisting road on the other side. And for what? Just to face another steep climb up. Midway between Bega and Cooma there is a ten kilometre gradient up Brown Mountain which bends and twists like a demented snake. On much of that incline we were down to 30 k.p.h. in second gear.

I'd had an image of Jindabyne being high in rugged, treeless mountains. In fact it was only at the same elevation as Toowoomba and not as high as Katoomba - and there were plenty of trees. The name, Jindabyne, is derived from an Aboriginal word meaning 'valley'. The present town is situated on the shore of Lake Jindabyne. The original town, now called 'Old Jindabyne', was submerged when the valley was flooded. This man-made lake is seventeen kilometres in length, north to south, and fed by the Snowy River. It forms part of the great Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme and the water level was pitifully low when we camped beside it. Small islands had appeared as the level fell.

Lake Jindabyne

Lake Jindabyne's water level was very low.

The Snowline Caravan Park is also on the shore of the lake, but three kilometres away from the town. More accurately, Snowline is a resort rather than a caravan park. It has a restaurant, petrol station and shops as well as many cabins. The nice receptionist gave us Site Number One, close to the lake. The nice receptionist had clearly never reversed a caravan in her life.


Site Number One was at the end of a short, narrow cul-de-sac which had trees and a grass bank falling steeply away on the right and four parked caravans along the left. We drove down to our site which was at the end, but were faced with a fence which prevented us from driving past the site sufficiently to reverse the 'van in at ninety degrees. We reversed back to the junction, turned around, then reversed all the way back to Site Number Bloody One.

Reversing a caravan is fun, in case - like the nice receptionist - you've never tried it. You turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction to that which instinct dictates. We reached our site again and, after a few attempts, we cranked the 'van around to roughly where we wanted it. Reversing a tandem axle caravan at a sharp angle is a cruel thing to do; the wheels and tyres are forced sideways creating horrible stresses on the springs, axles and bearings as well as the wheels and tyres. Sometimes though - and this was one of those times - manoeuvring space is so restricted that you have no choice.

We decided to unhitch the car which was by then jack-knifed at almost ninety degrees to the caravan, and then drive it down the grass bank opposite and reverse it back up in line with the caravan for the final positioning which would also relieve the stresses. Even that wasn't straight forward as the tow ball assembly dug into the grass bank and had to be removed and then replaced at the top. Naturally, these sort of performances provide wonderful cabaret for the other park residents. We don't begrudge them this entertainment and have long since given up worrying about it, so long as they don't start giving gratuitous advice. If we are still married and laughing at the end, we have won.

But back to Jindabyne. On our first day we visited the Jindabyne Information Centre several times to get to grips with where to go and what to see, of which there was much. Generally it fell into three categories:

We were able to discount the first category immediately. There wasn't any snow in March, and had there been, neither of us would have gone within a country mile of a pair of skis. However the whole region is geared up for the tourist influx from June when the snow is due, and all the prices increase accordingly. Not that they were cheap in March, not by any means!

The amazing Snowy Hydro-electric Scheme deserves a section of its own and I'll attempt to do it justice on later page.

The Kosciuszko National Park is a 'must see' so they relieve drivers of $16 every time they cross some arbitrary line to enter the park. That $16 becomes $27 at the sight of a snowflake. The park takes its name from the highest mountain in Australia, Mount Kosciuszko. This mountain rises 7,314' above sea level - one quarter of the height of Mt Everest. It was named by its discoverer, an early Polish explorer, Paul Edmond Strzelecki (his statue is pictured above right) after a Polish national hero of that time.

Paul - Sir Paul as he became later - may have initially misspelled the name which resulted in the 'z' becoming optional. In 1997 officialdom decided the 'z' would be included. Ten years on, the tourist literature is still getting the spelling wrong. Mount Kosciuszko - with or without its contentious 'z' - was only thirty kilometres from our caravan.

Glacial Lake

Up at 7,000' there were no trees or shrubs, just jagged rocks, a glacial lake and a cold wind.

On our second day at Jindabyne we drove to a town called Cooma to visit the 'Snowy Mountains Scheme Information and Education Centre'. It was absolutely fascinating! Naturally we'd heard of the Hydro-electric Scheme but we had absolutely no idea what a vast and significant achievement it was until we visited Cooma.

While in the Information Centre with the long name, I was looking at a topographical model of the Snowy Mountains. It depicted all the lakes including Lake Jindabyne. The largest, Lake Eucumbene (You-cum-been), was also shown but I wasn't familiar with the name at that time. I mentioned how low the water level was in Jindabyne to a member of the staff.
She replied, Eucumbene's pretty low too.
What I heard was You can be pretty low too.
For a moment I tried to make sense of this - and failed. I asked her to repeat. She did and again I heard what I'd previously heard. The woman seemed to be being downright rude but I wasn't sure so I asked her to repeat her answer yet again.
Lake Eucumbene, the largest lake, is pretty low too.

Pam wanted to return to Jindabyne via a place called Dalgety which is a tiny settlement of about 150 people. But how different things might have been! Dalgety was initially earmarked as the site for the National Capital but later rejected in favour of the present Canberra location. Dalgety lies on the Snowy River and - surprise, surprise - had an interesting 1889 pub called the 'Buckleys Crossing Hotel'. We walked into the bar, which was of polished wood upon rusty corrugated iron, and ordered drinks. As you do. On exploring, Pam found some interesting old photographs of naked politicians in the Snowy River from the days when Dalgety was to be the National Capital. I can think of a few politicians I'd like to see floating in the Snowy River today - preferably face down.

Buckleys Hotel

Buckleys Crossing Hotel.

The hotel was situated at a cross roads and one of those roads traversed an old bridge over the Snowy River just opposite the pub. Now if you've seen the film, The Man From Snowy River, be prepared for a reality shock.

Dalgety Bridge

The Snowy River, folks. Impressed?

The 1888 bridge could have benefited from some T.L.C., or at least some paint. It looked very precarious but a large truck and trailer roared across without the old structure flinching at all, so perhaps appearances were deceptive.

The next day dawned fine but then clouded up by ten o'clock. Still, it wasn't raining so we set off for Thredbo in the National Park. We paid our $16 at the entrance and received a bit of paper in return. We had to do some serious climbing from there to Thredbo which was at 4,500' above sea level. Periodically there were roadside areas for fitting chains to your car's wheels and the white lines on the road gave way to bright yellow lines. They take snow seriously up there. They even have signs warning that the road can be slippery when covered in frost or snow.

On arrival at Thredbo the weather had cleared and the sun shone warmly. We found huge carparks at the town's entrance - totally empty. Conversely, in the centre of Thredbo you could hardly move for No Stopping, No Standing and No Parking signs. The council must have got a good deal on a job lot. When we'd found a parking spot that wasn't reserved for some hotel or other we went to see if the chairlift was working. We actually could see it was, the enquiry was to see if we could afford to ride it. We decided we could and then had to leap onto one of its 'flying settees' while it was moving, then lower the safety bar without falling out. Getting aboard wasn't too bad as it sort of scooped you up. Getting off at the other end was far more difficult as you had to run as soon as your feet hit the ground because the thing chased you.

Chairlift from Thredbo

Looking back over Thredbo from the chairlift.
Pam was not a happy camper dangling up there!

The Thredbo Disaster of 1997

Most Australians will remember the disaster which took place in Thredbo in 1997.

The village is built on a steep hillside. Just before midnight on 30th July a mudslide caused the collapse of a section of the Kosciuszko Alpine Way pushing tonnes of mud and debris onto the Carinya Tourist Lodge, a four-storey ski lodge perched lower down the hillside. The ski lodge was pushed down the slope with such force that it crossed Bobuck Lane and crashed onto the Bimbadeen Staff Apartments. Both buidings collapsed. To make matters worse, an underground stream was exposed by the earth movement and icy cold water gushed through the wreckage.

There had been one person in Carinya and eighteen in Bimbadeen; most were in bed. Only one of those nineteen people, Stuart Diver, a ski instructor, was recovered alive after being trapped under debris for three days with the body of Sally, his wife. Night time temperatures had been as low as -14°C. and all hope of finding a survivor had been abandoned when a sound was heard and rescuers were ordered to be silent. Voice contact was established and miraculously Stuart Diver was unhurt though extremely cold. He had been protected by a large slab of concrete which was under tonnes of debris. In due course he was freed.

The coroner later found several authorities to blame for the tragedy. The mountainside above the lodges had been unstable. The Kosciuszko Alpine Way above the lodges had been built to give construction traffic access to two power stations. The village of Thredbo didn't exist at that time and the road was never intended to be permanent. When the power stations were completed, the Snowy Mountains Authority upgraded the road with fill and handed over its maintenance to the Kosciuszko State Park Trust. Another contributing factor was that subsidence had caused a water main to fracture, soaking the slope.

The site of the catastrophe has been left vacant as a memorial to the victims. In the picture below the relative positions of the buildings is shown. Eighteen people died that freezing cold night.

Disaster Site

A. The section of Kosciuszko Alpine Way that subsided in 1997.
B. The slope is now terraced with retaining walls.
C. The site of the Carinya Tourist Lodge, fortunately containing only one person. It was pushed down the hill.
D. The four-storey Lodge crossed Bobuck Lane and toppled over the edge onto the Bimbadeen Staff Apartments.
E. Both the Carinya Lodge and the Bimbadeen Staff Apartments, containing eighteen people, collapsed.

Of the 19 inhabitants of the buildings only one survived. Photo from the top of the chairlift using a 200 mm lens.

Pathway Grating

Back to our visit.

From the top of the chairlift there was a walk to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko, six and a half kilometres each way. We'd taken Alice with us to record our distance travelled and average speed. We set off but soon realised from our progress that we would be cutting it very fine to catch the last chairlift down at 4:30 p.m. so determined to go as far as a lookout 2.4 kilometres short of the summit. We also determined to go back another day and make an earlier start. The weather had turned out perfect for us and there was hardly an inch of the way when the happy sound of streams tumbling over rocks, gurgling and bubbling, could not be heard. We saw several little fish swimming in them, too.

The National Parks and Wildlife Authority had done a superb job of laying a slightly raised path consisting of steel grating (pictured right) all the way to the summit. Amongst the benefits are:

The path up Kosciuszko

Kosciuszko's summit is in the centre, about 4.5 km away. The excellent track to the
summit can be seen on the left. It's wide enough to comfortably walk three abreast.

It was of concern to us that both Jindabyne and Thredbo seemed to concentrate entirely on winter sports. Very many businesses catered to some aspect of it whether it be sales or hire of equipment, sales of apparel, transport to the snowfields, ski instructing, cuisine or accommodation. Global warming is already beginning to bite and if the snowline recedes up the mountain, these lovely little villages could be in serious trouble. Even now, artificial snow-makers have been positioned on the lower slopes because over recent years the snow has receded. So . . . we asked the question.

We had worried in vain, the good traders of the area were already on top of the situation. They had held a meeting and had an approximate date after which the winter sports might cease to be viable. They are already developing alternative attractions. We had noticed that the chairlift on which we had travelled in Thredbo was also carrying young men wearing protective clothing and carrying mountain bikes. On alighting at the top they mounted their velocipedes and hurtled at break-neck speeds back down the mountain. There was a track pegged out with jumps which crisscrossed beneath the chairlift. We had a spectacular view of these suicidal youths attempting to smash themselves to pieces. In the unlikely event that they arrived alive at the bottom, they would certainly require immediate hospitalisation for severe hernias. We saw many of these cyclists; a shop near the chairlift was doing good business hiring out the mountain bikes and protective gear.

There were many other businesses opportunities, some already operating, in the areas of abseiling, boating, bush walking, camping, canoeing, fly fishing, horse riding, water rafting and water skiing. In addition there are the Yarrangobilly Caves to visit. I expect the villages will survive.

A Good Trivia Qustion

Just before we leave this page, here is a great trivia question for you.

Mount Kosciuszko (2,228 metres) in NSW is the highest mountain in Australia but Mount McClintock is Australia's highest mountain.

Mount McClintock, in the Britannia Range, was discovered by the British National Antarctic Expedition (1901-04) under Scott. In 1933, a British imperial order transferred that territory to Australia.

Australia claims more territory in Antarctica than any other nation. However, that claim is not universally accepted. Japan, for example, disputes it and carries out whaling in antarctic waters claimed by Australia.

That's all for Page 42. More on Page 43.

Footnote: This re-working of Page 42 was completed on 01 May 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.