ANZAC Day in the high country

The First World War had a huge effect on country Australia with so many young men volunteering for service in the Middle East and Europe. Large numbers never returned, but of those who many took up rural land grants.

Today, on ANZAC Day, we had the opportunity to experience the pride in which Australia’s soldiers are still held in the farming districts.

As we pulled into Gundagai’s town centre we were greeted by the unexpected sight of a small formation of flag bearing soldiers mounted on glossy brown horses, the last element of the town’s ANZAC Day parade.

To round out the school holidays we are spending time in the roof of Australia in the Snowy Mountains.

Rather than head there via Cooma and Jindabyne, as we did last year, this time we go down the Hume Highway to the west. So often have we driven this route to Albury and Melbourne and I would always wonder what lay along the roads into the Snowies.

After lunch at what claims to be Australia’s oldest continuously operated bakery we followed our car’s GPS, in dispute with Google Maps, down Gocup Road. Our course through the high country wound along narrow roads up and down steep hills, past Tumut and the Batlow apple farms.

The views were spectacular, though hazy from the prevention burns, their need underscored by the recent bushfires so close to home. The willows and poplars retained much green in their canopies despite the mid Autumn timing, further evidence of the heat we have been experiencing.

Finally, we cross the Murray River into Victoria.

There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away…

Back in 1994, when B was studying in Albury, she and I took her Mum on a rural drive through the border country. We stayed out longer than expected and ended up spending the night in a motel at Khancoban, at the edge of the mountains. I remember staring up towards the dark mountains, watching a storm flash in the peaks, and thinking of ancient spirits lurking there.

We couldn’t find desired accommodation at Khancoban on this trip, instead staying at the pretty town of Corryong on the Victorian side of the river. Corryong is the home of The Man From Snowy River Museum, the Banjo Patterson poem from which the quote above was taken.

The poem commemorates the exploits of Jack Riley, who captured an escaped stallion gone to roam with the wild brumbies. It was made into a very popular film.

The museum has many artefacts and old buildings from across the area’s rich history, including that of the indigenous groups here. Particularly poignant or today was Jim Simpson’s woollen rug map of Australia, carefully knitted by him as a prisoner of war in Germany.

The eclectic collection also includes items of technology ranging from old music organs and record players to printing presses and even a Betamax video player! It is well worth a visit if you are in the region.

Despite the cloudscapes spied during our drive there are no storms I can see over the mountains tonight. Hopefully the weather spirits stay quiet for our trip into the mountains tomorrow.