Aussie Road Trip: Family in the Mountains

What a special day it’s been.

Excuse me if I get prose-ey, but what I’ve seen and experienced in the past twelve hours could not be accurately articulated without some flowery language.

It started on the road from Sydney on the Hume Highway. There is a point where urban motorway sheds its barriers and pines and makes way for wide open spaces as far as the eye can see. England has its fair share of hilly countryside and scenic landscapes, but this approach provided me with an entirely new appreciation for just how huge Australia really is.

The mountains provide a backdrop on the horizon that in overcast weather is little more than shadows in the distance, but what they loom over is a glistening ocean of wetlands and flood plains. The road is modern, with untouched straight white lines and very few bends, but roadkill on every turn- a sobering reminder of the human impact on wildlife, even this far out into the mountains.

Once you pass this iconic backdrop, you eventually reach a small town called Cooma-35km away from my Uncle Garry and Auntie Cath’s cottage in Nimmitabel- which is a bastardised form of Nimitybelle, the aboriginal word for dividing waters. The small village of 250 people is located to the south of the Great Dividing Range in the Easern Australian Highlands and is the third-longest land-based range in the world, whilst Nimmitabel has the distinction of being the 2nd highest town in New South Wales.
The lack of people means that fauna thrive here, however the extreme winter conditions means that very few flora do, only the most resilient trees make it. One of these trees is called the Snowgum, a tree I’ve mentioned in a previous post that has a lovely natural pattern and an extremely odd growth pattern.

Back to the fauna, my mountainous relatives have been looking after wildlife in the town for almost a quarter-century, and have become almost local legends with passers by finding injured wildlife. They have become extremely important and active members of the local wildlife groups and having been here for a day, I can tell you that the care of these animals is a full-time job.
Today we had an injured Kookaburra and a Joey separated from its mother. The Joey was a joy to behold as witnessing one of these baby Kangaroos is a rare sight as the mothers are fiercely protective and you don’t want to get near a full-grown Kanga on a good day, let alone when its protecting its child. The Joey is kept in an artificial woolen pouch and kept in temperatures similar to that of its mother’s, removed only for feeding  with a special formula a few times a day.

Garry and Cath don’t get many Kangaroos, but the last one they had stayed with them for months before they slowly prepared it for release back into the wild. They have achieved the same feat for various other animals including lambs, cockatoos (and many other birds) and especially wombats, which is how they began their journey as unofficial (and unadvertised) carers of sick animals. They have helped out passers by, vets and various other animal lovers in dedicating their lives to nursing sick and injured wildlife back to health with the aim always being to prepare them for life back in the wild. They have never charges and do not advertise what they do, they are known through word of mouth and see what they do as their duty, but a duty they find great joy in.

They have apologised on too many occasions for how simply they live, but I am utterly in awe of the work they do and the location they’ve settled. It is idyllic and a perfect retreat from the bustling city-life I just left from Sydney. I’ve always been a bit of a chameleon so adapting from one to the other is easy for me, and it really has made me appreciate the beauty of different lifestyles and how much choice we have in where we go and what we do.
Spending this time with them has been wonderful so far, and I can’t wait to see more of the area tomorrow, where I’m sure I’ll post a few more pictures. Today I have been spoiled with delicious food, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, stories and pictures of my Dad and his brothers, and even got my Uncle Garry on his first video call with my Mum and Dad- a really special moment that I’m so proud to have been a part of.

On a side note, I’d also like to congratulate Kim and Ben on what I heard was a very successful naming day for my gorgeous niece, Mollie. I miss my UK family dearly, but I’m so lucky to live in a time where we have access to the technology we do. My dad and uncle still contact mainly over letters, and while it lacks in speed, it more than makes up for in creating special memories and keepsakes. Garry gave me one today that was sent when I was just two months old, with my Dad predicting (correctly) that I would grow up to be “a stocky bugger”. He always did have a way with words, must be where I get it from.

Tomorrow I will be exploring more of the mountain towns and hopefully get a few more pictures up for you to enjoy, but in the meantime, thank you for reading and ask your parents if they have any old photos of letters you can look at- it really is a special experience.

Goodbye, and remember that cleanliness is next to Godliness.

IG: malzjames

SC: jamesinaus

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