River deep, moun­tain high: On a road trip through the NSW Rive­rina



A WHILE AGO, I saw a pic­ture of the spring-fed ther­mal pool at Yar­ran­go­b­illy Caves in NSW. It struck me, a sea-green pool among the gum trees, as bizarre. A folly. A won­der­ful in­con­gruity. I was filled with an enor­mous de­sire to see it. Yar­ran­go­b­illy is in Kosciuszko Na­tional Park, south-east of Tu­mut and south-west of Can­berra, ACT. It’s about a four-hour de­tour off the Hume High­way, mid­way be­tween Syd­ney and Mel­bourne. It’s not some­where, or some­thing, that you stum­ble across. You need a plan. Ours was to fly into the most con­ve­nient city with an air­port, Wagga Wagga, and en­joy a three-day road trip that would take us to Gunda­gai wine coun­try, along alpine roads that wound through wind-swept high coun­try where brumbies roam and the dense forests around Tum­barumba, past ap­ple or­chards in Bat­low and, fi­nally, to the wide open farm­ing coun­try of Uran­quinty. In Wagga, a city full of re­gional charm — large cor­ner pubs, wide streets and man­i­cured mu­nic­i­pal gardens — we pre­pare for the trip with some pam­per­ing, a night at The Hous­ton and morn­ing cof­fee at Trail Street Cof­fee Shop. We quiz ev­ery­one we come across about Yar­ran­go­b­illy. Sure, they’ve heard of it, but no-one — nei­ther Mar­cia who feeds us break­fast at Mates Gully or Stephanie at art gallery Paper Pear — had ever vis­ited the ther­mal pool. If we were look­ing for an en­thu­si­as­tic en­dorse­ment of the plan, we needed a caver or a trout-fish­ing en­thu­si­ast. As we would come to dis­cover, Yar­ran­go­b­illy was crawl­ing with them. We took our time get­ting to the des­ti­na­tion, col­lect­ing ex­pe­ri­ences like you do shells on the beach. At Kimo Es­tate near Gunda­gai, we build a late-night fire in the kitchen of the shear­ers’ quar­ters and stare into the flames as we drink the sin­gle vine­yard J Block shi­raz, a gift from Tum­b­long Hills’ op­er­a­tions man­ager Glenda Har­ris, who had shown us around the vine­yard ear­lier in the day. With 200 hectares un­der vine, Tum­b­long Hills is in for the long haul. Other Gunda­gai wine la­bels to look out for are Pater­son’s and Bo­ram­bola, which op­er­ates a cel­lar door. The next day, on an early morn­ing river walk at Nimbo Fork Lodge, a trout-fish­ing lodge at Kil­lim­i­cat near Tu­mut, black cat­tle wear­ing a light dust­ing of snow emerge from the mist and take a mo­ment to con­sider us tak­ing them in. A les­son on fly-fish­ing and the colour­ful flies used to lure trout is de­liv­ered along with pre-din­ner drinks. Then at dusk, on a windswept plain of low-ly­ing grass in the high coun­try, we can just make out a herd of wild brumbies in the gloom, their coats blend­ing into the rust-toned land­scape. Cat­tle was once brought onto the moun­tain to graze for months at a time, and the slab huts built by the stock­men still re­main. Later, we’d meet Tim O’brien, a stock­man who has spent most of his life mus­ter­ing cat­tle in the wild. He and his wife Jo, also a fine rider, now run horse­man­ship clin­ics and a horse show on their farm at Boggy Creek, near Tum­barumba. “It was the best job I’ve ever had,” Tim says. “And very re­ward­ing. It was just you, your horse and your dogs, and ev­ery day was a per­sonal chal­lenge.” >

On an early morn­ing river walk at Nimbo Fork Lodge, black cat­tle wear­ing a light dust­ing of snow emerge from the mist and take a mo­ment to con­sider us tak­ing them in.

CLOCK­WISE, FROM TOP LEFT A trio of premium Courabyra wines; Tum­barumba wine­maker Adrian Brayne; the charm­ing rooms up­stairs from the café at Mates Gully in Wagga Wagga; lo­cal trout served at Nest in Tum­barumba; dawn break­ing at Nimbo Fork Lodge in Kil­lim­i­cat; Laura Frau­meni, owner of Nest, with a plate of fluffy pan­cakes, served with lo­cal berries; cows at Nimbo Fork Lodge; Trail Street Cof­fee Shop, a top spot for cof­fee in Wagga Wagga. FAC­ING PAGE, FROM TOP An­other res­i­dent of Nimbo Fork Lodge takes an early morn­ing walk; find your­self dwarfed by the sugar pines at Lau­rel Hill.

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