Posted by: EPIC | September 5, 2011

ANUMC Mid Winter Feast 2011

by Clare Paynter

In the pursuit of good food, good snow and good company, a party of 16 set of for Gooandra Hut and the annual ANUMC Mid Winter Feast on the last weekend on July. After driving through Namadgi National Park and along the Snowy Mountains Highway for three hours, we left the cars about 15km north of Kiandra and continued on foot, snow shoes and (somewhat optimistically given the patchy snow cover) skis for the Gooandra homestead. The old miners hut adjacent to the homestead was built in the 1860s and consequently, remains the oldest standing structure in Kosciusko National Park.  

Mika’s photos from a trip two weeks earlier detailed incredible snow cover. Alas, with the warm clear weather, we were welcomed with clear blue skies and a somewhat diminished snow cover. This allowed for easy walking and an opportunity to utilise the snow shoes and skis in brief intervals. About a kilometre from the cars, we intercepted the Eucumbene River. In previous years, it was necessary to wade through its freezing, lead-filled waters. However, the relatively new bridge made for less adventure, but a slightly warmer passage to the other side. Once across the Eucumbene, our party of 16 decided to split – one group would follow the 5km fire trail to the hut; the other, led by Mika (who could have walked with his eyes closed along the track, he’d done it so many times) decided to head over to the right, onto the other side of the ridge and come at the homestead from behind. Having never taken any route to Gooandra Homestead, I decided to follow Mika, knowing that I could do a round trip and follow the track back to the cars.

Any passage into Gooandra Homestead would be a beautiful one. Plenty of snow cover on the higher ranges, incredible snow gums, and the image that encapsulates the Snowys: brumbies running wild (and in plentiful numbers). Along the way, we encountered a snow bridge across a small watercourse that at least one person managed to fall through (captured on camera) and the beastly vegetation of the area, watercourses covered over by vegetation and the challenge of not falling through to the icy water below.

Finally, the hut! Having never been to a hut before, I’m not sure if I realised just how good this one was – the epitome of the Australian bush legend. Three decent sized rooms, including one with a magnificent fireplace. The snow had largely melted from around the hut, with small patches on the tufty grass upon which we were to camp. Following the erection of tents, afternoon activities began: skiing for a few, firewood collection and chopping and the drying of socks by the fireplace. Somehow the afternoon managed to pass in a second! That wasn’t a problem at all, it meant dinner time and really, the feast was everyone’s reason for being there.

Rarely have I had such an amazing meal at home yet alone in a hut in the Snowy Mountains. Emma’s salt and pepper squid, cooked on the fire began the feast, accompanied by a series of delicious dips, some potato pancakes, herb bread, Frankfurt sausages and salad. For the numerous main courses, we were treated to pasta with a mussel sauce, Thai green chicken curry, a series of spinach and cheese pastries, chicken kebabs, a coconut curry and homemade pea and ham soup. And stopping at that point wasn’t likely, dessert was still to come! And a delicious one at that: chocolate polenta cake, a Dutch Christmas cake and lemon delicious pudding. All of this was washed down by an interesting concoction from Mika (some sort of mulled wine), and of course, the obligatory vino.

After attempting to eat our body weight in food, we all vied for a spot around the crackling fire. Bliss. To overcome the chance of any awkward conversation, the “Can I ask you a personal question?” book was brought out and cheerful conversation ensued. For future note, it serves to meet Mika’s gaze – if you attempt to avoid it, he picks on you more!

Sunday brought with it an incredibly long and relaxing sleep in, having only an hour to walk back to the vehicles. Woken by the rain, it seemed the little snow wouldn’t last much longer. Having only to clean up the homestead, restock the firewood and write in the log book (enlightening and enthusiastic debate on the brumby problem), we set off for the cars late morning. Sarah and Dave found opportunities to further practice their ski technique and I managed to fall through the snow into a creek below – it wasn’t very far, but it highlighted the challenges of walking on snow! Once at the Eucumbene, Sarah (because she’s Tasmanian), Ben (who knows what reason) and Harry (because he was dared to), stripped off and took a dip in the snow melt. The rest of us agreed it was sufficiently cold with all of our layers on, without stripping them off and immersing ourselves in icy water. There followed a brief walk back to the vehicles where warmth and clean clothes awaited.

This marked the end of an incredible weekend in the Snowys, with great food and lovely company. Many thanks to Mika for his leadership and incredible knowledge of the area. Until next year!

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