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We are having a relax after a moderately strenuous morning walking our way down the mountain on the Merritts Nature Track. This walk leads from the top of the Kosciuszko Express chairlift all the way back down the mountain the Thredbo village. After eating breakfast and getting ready for the morning's expedition, we headed over to the chairlift terminal a bit before 09:00. The weather looked grey and gloomier than the past two days. The road outside was wet with overnight rain, but it wasn't raining any more and it didn't look imminent.
The printed weather forecast at the ticket counter said that some showers were expected today. We'd packed rain ponchos in case. Our walk today would be downhill. Although the track officially starts at the top of the Kosciuszko Express lift, we'd already walked the steep section between there and the top of Snowgums lift on Monday (once uphill and once down!), so we weren't worried if we only got to the top of Snowgums today. But lo, the chairlift operating today was the Express.
With our one-way tickets, we rode the new quad-chair rapidly up the mountain to Eagle's Nest. At least the ride was faster than the old Snowgums lift. About two-thirds of the way up, it began to rain lightly. We toughed it out, getting slightly damp and quite cold, until hopping off at the top station.
Snowgum in the rain
The Eagle's Nest restaurant was open, unlike on Monday, and a few older people behind us on the lift got off and went straight inside, probably for a sensible hot drink before venturing out into the biting cold. A family with a couple of young kids were suiting up in wet weather gear and we shared the sheltered space in front of the restaurant with them as we followed suit. Everyone else headed up along the Kosciuszko walking track, but we took the plunge downhill over the ledge and on to the steep track section leading down to Snowgums top station.
Having done this bit of the walk already, we covered the ground pretty quickly. The rain hadn't had time to make the ground really wet, so our footing was still secure. At Snowgums, we crossed the grassy area around the lift station and headed back into the mossy slope dotted with wildflowers to continue along the track. It led downhill in stepped switchbacks, across the ridge until we were looking out over the rocky tumble of Merritts Creek, where it crashed down off the mountain in a fall of car-sized boulders before running more gently through sphagnum moss encroached channels.
Olearia sp. daisies
The flowers here gave way to dominance by snowgums, with their distinctive stripy peeling bark. Seen in the light of a clear day on Monday, they looked somewhat dull, but now the rain slicked their smooth trunks and brought out the beautiful colours: green, yellow, red, orange. The track crossed over a service road a couple of times as the road took large switchbacks around our steeper walking track. We stopped at a picnic table perched high on a granite boulder, with a panoramic view out above Merritts creek far below and across the valley to the Alpine Way and the mountains on the other side.
Snowgum in the rain
The white flowers of the mountain daisy which dominated the higher slopes had given way to the round starbursts of the tall rice flowers and the bright purple of Tasman flax-lilies (Dianella tasmanica), as well as some yellow flowers that I can't identify from the guide in front of me. At Bunnywalk Station on the Snowgums lift we passed the half way mark, although we'd covered more than half the vertical descent already. A short steep section led us down even further, to the banks of the Merritts Creek and a bridge over it to the far side and the lower reached of Merritts Spur.
Tasman flax-lilies (Dianella tasmanica)
The walk along the left bank of the creek was flat and gentle, and we made good time despite the intermittent rain getting heavier. We were both starting to get hungry, so were eager to get back to the village for lunch. Returning across the creek on another bridge dumped is in the back lanes of Woodridge, the residential extension of Thredbo. It wasn't clear where the nature track continued, so we asked a couple of guys busy loading their car, and they said we could just cut across through the houses to the bobsled track, and from there back to the main village.
Rusty old winch, Merritts Creek
So we did that, tromping through the yards of a few houses, none of which had any fences at all to demarcate the properties. We ended up in a random field covered with tussock grass and large brown rabbits leaping and fleeing in all directions from our approach. Down the slope was a paved track, so we headed there and followed it along the river bank until we passed the bobsled track, tennis courts, and ended up back at the chairlift bottom terminal.
On the way back to our apartment, we stopped in at the supermarket to get some lunch supplies, consisting of a loaf of rye bread, some ham for me to go with the cheese still in the fridge, a half-dozen eggs to cook up for dinner tonight, a jar of Vegemite for Michelle to make sandwiches with, and some date and coconut snacky things for Michelle. Then we headed home and made ourselves a well-deserved lunch after shedding our wet weather gear and laying it out to dry.
Michelle is washing off the grime of the day in the shower, while I fill in the events of the afternoon. After eating a lunch of sandwiches in our room, we headed out into the rain to try to find a sheltered place where we could connect to the wireless network so Michelle could do a bit more work. The very cosy lounge of the Alpine Hotel unfortunately turned out to be a shadow zone, so we moved to the Altitude 1380 Cafe, right across the square from the Christmas Shop, where we found the signal strength adequate. Michelle ordered a hot chocolate while I had a sparkling grape juice. I quickly returned to the room to grab the newspaper and a pen so I could work on the crosswords and sudokus while Michelle worked. I also took a detour to take some photos in the rain with my small camera.
The rain became quite heavy while we sat in our warm, dry nook in the cafe, but after a while it slowed, then stopped, and a little sunlight even peeked through. Work done, we switched off and dropped the computer back in the apartment before setting out for another short walk.
The Riverside Walk boasted that it was suitable for people of low fitness level, and featured flat, easy terrain. Perfect for our last afternoon after the much more adventurous walk of the morning. The track followed the Thredbo River upstream, between the bank and the golf course. On our left as we walked was a wild looking mountain stream, flanked by snowgums and wildflowers, while just a few paces to our right was a manicured fairway and people in plus-fours stalking with bags of clubs. Insects buzzed all around us, very persistent flies and some other sorts that looked a bit mosquito-like, but didn't do any biting, thankfully.
At the end of the golf course, the track was supposed to fork to the right, off the straight track which led all the way up to Dead Horse Gap. We were meant to take a circuit around the other side of the golf course, but couldn't find an appropriate turnoff anywhere, despite exploring a hundred metres or so past the last green. So we took a turn across a bridge over a small creek and on to the golf course itself. We avoided the greens and fairways with our heavy walking boots and tromped across the rough, scaring up passels of large brown rabbits and watching enormous crows digging nasty looking holes in the middle of the fairways in search of worms.
A few golfers gave us quizzical looks, and when we approached a trio near a tee they said hello in a Canadian accent. We explained that we'd been walking the Riverside track and had gotten a bit waylaid. They pointed us straight back to the clubhouse as the quickest way out and back to the village. We took their advice and walked smartly back to get in just before 18:00, in time to catch the evening news on the TV.
The plan for the remainder of the evening is to cook ourselves some dinner with the supplies bought earlier, then prepare and pack for an early departure tomorrow.
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