Winter wanderings in Braidwood, NSW
We headed west and left the crowded coast behind.
Our destination? A beautiful farm near historic Braidwood, NSW.
It is a magical place, and feels a thousand miles away from anywhere.
There is always good food, good company, a warm fire- and the chance to wander! We headed out to Deua National Park, to see if we could find Braidwood's famous Big Hole, a roofless cave over 100 metres deep. There's a walking track from Berlang Campground, about a half hour drive from Braidwood on Cooma Road.
We knew that we would have to wade the Shoalhaven River- we just didn't realise how cold the water would be! Our shrieks of shock (and pain- cold water hurts!) and our crazed laughter must have floated back to the campground- who knows what the campers enjoying a peaceful breakfast beneath the gum trees would have thought...
The track wound steadily upwards, through the forest and up to the high open heathland.
And then we were at the top, and heading for the Big Hole.
It was quite impressive, a sudden yawning chasm in the midst of an otherwise normal forested slope. I had visions of sheep being driven overland and plunging, unawares, over the edge, a cascade of bleats and fleece, and of bushrangers hurtling through the trees on lathered horses, in a deathly pursuit ending in a slow motion, Man From Snowy River-esque free fall. Apart from the sound of our voices it was absolutely quiet and still, the breath of the breeze in the gum trees the only sound, and it was easy to imagine the great spaces of the bush, its silences and shadows, and it's timelessness- all manner of things may have happened at this place, but the landscape continues, unchanging, holding onto its whispers and secrets.
As you can see, it doesn't take much for me to go all Picnic at Hanging Rock when out in the bush. There is certainly a deep and profound energy there, and I can't help but feel like an outsider in a stolen land. Two hundred years is surely a mere blink to a land as old as Australia- I feel insubstantial, small and new, my blood thrumming with the histories and memories of distant, colder shores. And I feel that, somehow, the bush knows this.
A spot of lunch and watching the hobbits marvel at the size and depth of the hole (by throwing rocks and timing how long it took them to hit the bottom) soon dispelled such musings, and we headed back to civilisation.
On the way back to the farm we stopped at the historic Braidwood Cemetery, too. It's an oddly beautiful, fascinating place.
If you've never been, a trip to Braidwood is well worth it- as well as the historic and natural attractions it offers, it is also a charming little town with some lovely shops. Braidwood also has a gold mining and bush ranging history, historical gardens, amazing heritage buildings and a ruined gaol, which bush ranger Tom Clarke escaped from in 1865. Check out this article for a nice list of things to do and see in Braidwood- we will definitely be ticking off a few more next time we visit!
What are your favourite country towns?