Tracking Down the Man from Snowy River

‘He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko’s side, where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough, where a horse’s hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride, the man that holds his own is good enough.’

Patterson, A.B. (1890). The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses

Our Snowy River adventure began at Marlo in the Gippsland region of Victoria, after we left Paynesville which we wrote about in ‘Taking a Smoko’. Just outside of Marlo, the Snowy flows into the Bass Strait. We had a picnic on its banks before taking off our shoes and having a paddle in the famous river.

Gillard’s Beach (Not that one)

We continued north, over the New South Wales border, to a stretch of coastline just east of Bega. We set up camp at Gillard’s Beach, which we don’t think was named after Julia Gillard, Australia’s first woman Prime Minister. It was an amazing spot, right on the beach surrounded by cockatoos, wallabies and kangaroos.

Rangers were supposed to come and collect fees of $15 a night, so it wasn’t technically a free camp. However, no one turned up while we were there so it was a free camp for us. It was also nearly empty when we were there mid-week. We were told that had we been there at the weekend it would have been packed. Instead, we were able to enjoy the solitude and as it was December, we even got the Christmas lights out on OTIS. Sitting by the fire, looking at the sparkling lights, we began to feel quite festive.

We’ve been to the tip, now we visited the top

One of the first destinations on our travels was the tip of Cape York, mainland Australia’s most northerly point. You can read about that journey here. Our Snowy River journey continued up and over mountains, through the Snowy River and Kosciuszko regions. This took us to Cooma and on to Cabramurra. Cabramurra claims to be the highest town in Australia, although there are a couple of ski villages at a higher altitude. Until early 2018 it housed the workers on the Snowy hydro electric plants and their families. As a result, it had a primary school, shops and a pub. However, the plant no longer has a permanent population as it is staffed by fly in – fly out workers. Nonetheless we got a picture next to the sign proclaiming it to be the highest town in Australia, we’d made it to the top.

Us at Cabramurra, which claims to be the highest town in Australia
Cabramurra: Highest Town in Australia

The Home of the Man from Snowy River

Descending from Cabramurra was a steep and winding drive which brought us to just outside of Corryong, Victoria. Corryong is the home of The Man from Snowy River Bush Festival which attracts thousands of visitors every April. This is due to Jack Riley, buried at Corryong cemetery, being the inspiration for the iconic Australian poem. The author of the poem, Andrew (Banjo) Patterson, visited Jack when he was head stockman at Tom Groggin station near Coryyong. You will recognise Banjo as also being the author of Waltzing Matilda, which we learnt a lot about in Winton, as we wrote in; Trains, Planes, Automobiles…… and Dinosaurs.

Appropriately enough, we’d found a campsite called Poet’s Paradise. We left a message with Maurie Foun, the owner, that we were coming. However, on arrival, no-one seemed to be at home. We had a wander around the property which had spectacular views across the valley, and eventually Maurie appeared. We found out that he’d built the campsite and his house himself. This included an auditorium and stage as Maurie is an award winning bush poet.

After pitching up, we took advantage of the quirky bush showers which involved filling a bucket with piping hot water and adding cold to get the desired temperature. The water had to be poured into a funnel contraption with a shower head at the bottom. The funnel was hoisted above head height and you turned the shower head for the water to flow. It was a surprisingly good shower and we had plenty of water to wash away the dust from the road.

Our tent and the view across the Valley at Poet's Paradise campground
Poet’s Paradise campsite

Maurie had also built a camp kitchen with open fire and oven, so it was there that we started fixing up our dinner. Maurie came over to join us and began to recite some of his poems. Looking over the valley, with the sun setting, being serenaded by bush poetry made for a pretty magical evening. Maurie’s recitation skills were remarkable. He told us he had about 50 poems to hand that he could recite with ease and that he has won prizes for his bush poetry and recitation across Australia. Funnily enough, he’d won first prize in a poetry competition in Bundaberg, our home for eight years.

The next morning we drove 5 minutes into the centre of Corryong where there is a statue of the  Man from Snowy River. Next to it, you can press a button to hear a recitation of the poem by, guess who……… Maurie Foun. We left Corryong following another famous river and Australia’s longest, the Murray. It acts as part of the boundary between Victoria and New South Wales and we drove alongside it towards our next destination of Rutherglen.

We’d recommend you pay Corryong and Maurie a visit. However, in the meantime, you can watch the video at the beginning of this post which features Maurie reciting The Man from Snowy River.

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