Caravanning with Wep – Tuesday, 1st June 1937; Jindabyne and the excitement of first snow fall.

Campsite covered in snow

1st June

Patience rewarded. A biting wind all yesterday. Later, drizzle the noise of which ceased about 8 o’clock and a quiet murmurous warmth pervades the air. Jess goes out into the night for something or other, yells excitedly “Snow”. Instant excitement replaces sleepy boredom of work-doing. The “W. Weekly” strip pushed brusquely aside while I goggle & stare at the fat and sloshy falling snow. Great wet flakes defy expectations by falling noiselessly instead of splodging plunklyly. We run out with the lantern dancing in the whiteness. The alive quietness broken only by the sharp hiss of melting flake against the lamp. A curious velvety warmth replaces the chillness of the day. The heavens cloak the naked earth. We hasten to sleep so as to wake wide eyed upon an accomplished fact. 5 o’clock comes but the snow has been replaced by rain washing off the clinging whiteness. By 6:30 2 inches of snow still covers the land & has within the hours changed all colour. The country is hardly recognisable. Trees and fences are etched sharply against the paper white. Bewildered cattle and sheep nose in the damp seeking the grass that is hidden now from view. Three weeks calves, damp hided and amazed, bawl lustily for their parent’s comfort.

Dawn surveys the morning scene

We try to ski round the confined & grade less vicinity of the caravan. Hopeless endeavour. Dawnie stands in the caravan desolate & shivering. It is beyond her cognisance. We inveigle her out. She scampers & slips and bites the points of our skis. My low feeling disperses and we decide on Kosciusko. An early feed of soup and away. Chains are needed along the road & much to my rising annoyance are too big and flap madly against the mud guards. After two attempts I more or less remedy the trouble and re-enter the car with half the road on my arms and face.

Did a spot of skiing up near the Koscy on a down trodden practice ground. Elsewhere unreliable snow crusted over dangerous softness. Afternoon tea & home to sausages and eggs. The sky surprisingly variegated against the paling whiteness of the snow, blue then salmon then orange, reverting again to blue. Livid clouds smear the horizon. Cold! Return to snow less caravan. Feels like a hearty frost tonight.

George Longmuir came out over the week end & a good time was had by all. Took him up to snow less Kosciusko. Boiled twice on the way. Ate hearty on mixed grill. Billy of milk floated leisurely downstream during our absence.

(Margin note: Carl & Red dressed in everything but the hotel eiderdown.)

Caravanning with Wep – Saturday, 22nd May 1937; Collector to Jindabyne via Lake George, Canberra, Bredbo and Cooma

22nd May Sat.

Have been at Jindabyne since Wed. Met Jess’s ex-boss & party at Collector & received warmth per favour Rum. Country incredibly dry – rolling copper earthed hills crust broken exposing tired & dreary patina-ed rocks. Lake George, like all grass & colour “has-been”. Disordered litter of dead and near dead trees all jumbled in second-hand dealer profusion along the slopes resting down towards the flat reclining comfort of waterless, fenced & cattled George.

Drove straight through Canberra with nary an error. Am becoming really hot stuff on direction. Looked eagerly for snow on distance mountains – could still be looking. Bought villainous yellow pies at Queanbeyan and did eat & drink cold tea, the Thermos having departed this vale of tears between Collector & Q.

Once more over the road which I have sworn never to drive again. Still the same rocked, rutted, frozen, chopped river of land threaded through the hills. The same treeless dumpish hills. Hills which seen from the road, rear stark-edged discordantly against the unbelievably blue and hollow sky. Hills whose edges hold no promise of world beyond. Their ochreish scorched bodies stretched in never ending length. And all quite bald.

And out back homes! Cheerless scattered sheds. Rigid raiment cast on the face of the land higgldy-piggldy by the weary pioneer in utter exhaustion. Tired – utterly jaded – wilting houses of cards. Bare necessities – the sullen bitter exacting earth sucking all human substance – leaving him no surcease in which to adorn his body’s shell. Succubus!

Gave lift to a fellow at Bredbo. Wanted transport to Cooma, hating wait for train until 6a.m. following morning. Turned out to be licensee of Cooma Hotel.  Well! Well! Had rums on the house. Called on George Longmuir at Com. B. of Sydney. Had more rums & dinner at Dodd’s – more rum. Went with him and cos. Small a local chemist & erstwhile Kosciusko contemporary & John co-bank worker, to church bop. Met Vicar’s daughter. She was only the Vicar’s daughter but —! Repaired again to Dodd’s, thence to Greek or what have you café & supped. Left, 2:30am & slept on top of hill. Scrapped about a foot of frost off next morning. A bleeding cold morning. Left after thawing out.

Road something terrible. Like riding on one continuous strip of corrugated iron. Shook everything to bits. Wireless hasn’t worked since. The bloody …….!

Surveying a possible campsite

Arrived Jindabyne about 12. Have never realised what a cheerless place it was. Have always seen it through the roseate eyes of holiday merry making. Couldn’t find a blade of grass within a mile of the official centre. Finally wedged way onto only square of grass in district. Alongside Snowy River and amidst countless wild briars, all red-berried and leafless. Designated parking ground seems to be the local football area bordered with shallow creeks full of tins and broken crockery. No grass, colour key of this place is grey, endless and monotonous.

Houses scattered willy nilly on both sides of the river, fenceless, innocent of all grass. Briar strewn and poultry infested. Rubbish, garbage, broken fences, all manner of diverse junk, all however having one thing in common. Cheerless grey, not even gloomy, just a tired dirt tone – dust to dust.

And the romance of Man from Snowy River! Just grey and grey and grey. I’ve gone and made myself god-damned grey. Tired. Long past bed-time. Now 8:45 P.M.  Oho!