COVID-19 and Thredbo
I don’t think I’ve mentioned COVID-19 since we’ve arrived here, as Thredbo has no cases, and I’m not sure it ever has. However, COVID-normal, as it applies to most of Australia, is also evident here. This means that while there’s no mask-wearing, other things are mandated: QR-code (Service NSW) check-ins are required and mostly checked by staff; social distancing signs abound, including distance markers on floors wherever you queue; and most venues display that “We’re COVID safe” signs. Our favourite daytime cafe is takeaway only (though you can eat your takeaway at their outside tables), and the Black Bear Inn’s bar is not operating as the lively bar it usually is. Instead, patrons must order their drinks and drink at tables. I’m guessing all the bars in town are operating the same way. We tend not to stand at bars anyhow, but just saw the Black Bear Inn’s sign from our table.
Krampus in the Southern Alps
We noticed some strange new carvings in the village this year, outside Candlelight Lodge. Built in 1957, the Candlelight was apparently the village’s first commercial lodge and, says its website, “continues to embrace the Tyrolean spirit of the mountains first brought here by our post-war migrants working on the Snowy Hydro Scheme”. These migrants were heavily involved in establishing the resort’s “infrastructure and accommodation”, and their influence is still evident in the cuisine here, and in the names of some lodges and venues.
Anyhow, outside the lodge was what they called their “Tree of Knowledge”, so named I gather because “passers-by” relied on all sorts of information was posted on the tree. (Probably more in winter than summer, I guess). Anyhow, this tree died recently – drought-related – so what to do? Well, apparently, they decided that “a little bit of Austria and southern Germany could be intertwined into this magical but unfortunately dying tree” and looked to invoke the European Krampus tradition. This was “originally a pre-Christian pagan and devilish celebration of the winter solstice that morphed via Christianity into a European Alpine pre-Xmas festival, a kind of pagan evil twist on Santa”. The tree, as you can see, has had Krampus style images carved into its multiple trunks and, says the website, “now nods to the devilish bad Santa, Krampus.” The carver was woodworker Pablo El Torro who, due to COVID, was locked in Australia last year. A very good solution because the carvings are both cheeky and charming, and not too scary!
Day 5 dawned clear so it was up, up, up the chairlift, so we could walk down, down, down one of the tracks (after the obligatory coffee at Eagle’s Nest to fortify us!)
We’ve done this 6km route many times before over the years, but the ever-increasing mountain bike paths together with the construction over 2019/20 of Merritts Gondola resulted in some signage going missing and/or being needed where it wasn’t once, tricking us and others at one or two points. This track is mostly down, but it has a strenuous up-section which pushed Len further than he’d like. That and the final 2km section down the service road has convinced us that we’ve done this particular walk for the last time. The 2km service road section has never been a lot of fun, as you (or we, anyhow) have to watch your feet carefully to ensure you don’t slip on the gravel. This means there’s little bushwalking enjoyment to be obtained from it. The 4-5km Merritt’s Nature Track down is shorter, albeit steeper and harder on the knees, but is a more enjoyable walk overall, as is the much longer 10km Dead Horse Gap Walk.
Still, we made it down and feel fitter, and virtuous, for having done so!
The rest of the day
The afternoon, as usual, was spent resting, reading, and going out for our afternoon cuppa. While having our cuppa, I eavesdropped, I’m afraid, on the table next to us where the discussion was languages. One of the couples was French, and they were all talking about languages they speak, languages to come etc. One Aussie was suggesting Arabic as a future language to learn, while the French wife was pushing Hindi.
For our evening meal, we went to the mostly-German inspired Black Bear Inn, where Len had their traditional Schnitzel Trio. It was a more subdued Black Bear than we’ve seen before, because of COVID I think. Their bar area is usually a popular haunt with locals but … well you’ve read my opening paragraph so you’ll know!
Porcupine Rocks Walk
We usually take the car out once during our stay here in order to do a walk in another part of the park. For this trip, that walk was to be one of our very favourites, Porcupine Rocks, which is a nearly 6km return track out of Perisher – that is, nearly 3kms up, up, up and then the same back down, down, down. However, the ascent is gradual and it goes through really lovely alpine landscape with plants like mint bush (prostanthera), billy buttons (craspedia), candle heath (Richea continentis), heaths, and various daisies, in addition to dwarf gums, to delight our eyes. And, of course, the rocks and the spectacular view at the end make it all worthwhile!
Ending Day 6
Was, well, the usual … but we did stop at the buzzing Wildbrumby for lunch where we talked to a father and daughter who drive there from Cooma on a semi-regular basis for the schnitzel. The father had an accent – Italian as it turned out – and he said he loves their schnitzel because it’s proper Wiener (veal) schnitzel. However, he told us that there is some question about the origin – like our pavlova?, we offered – with some arguing that the original dish was the cotoletta alla milanese! Our tables at Wild Brumby were idiosyncratic, weirdly-shaped, handcrafted tables, and our Italian neighbour commented on the beautiful Huon pine that had been been used for their table and ours. (Turns out he’s in the furniture business!)
Anyhow, we ended the night at the Denman’s Terrace restaurant, where the fare is more modern Australian food. It was Wagyu Flank Steak with Salsa Verde for Len, and Salmon with Broad and other Beans for moi!