We had another rainy day as we drove from Bombala up to Cooma, and then on to Merimbula where we will spend the next three nights.
For most of the day, we drove cross the rolling Monaro Plains. This area of NSW is prime grazing land, mostly for sheep and wool. The topography reminded me a little of my bushwalking days across the high alpine plains near Mt Bogong and the southern area of the Kosciusko Range.
We stopped in the little town of Nimmitibel on the Snowy Mountains Highway for a morning coffee. By then, the rain had reduced to a very light drizzle and we could stand outside the car and stretch our legs without getting too wet. Nimmitabel is a charming historic village. It was once an important stopover for miners and prospectors making their way from the coast to the goldfields at Kiandra. Today it is a sleepy town with a small number of historic buildings.
Located beside the local bakery is a life-size Indian elephant. It is one of those quirky attractions designed to catch the attention of the passing traveller, and it seems to work.
I walked along the Main Street in the drizzle photographing some of the outstanding buildings in the town.
We could see how prosperous this area was for wool growing with the number of shearing sheds that we drove past, along with their requisite shearer’s accommodation sheds. This style of farm buildings can be found all over southern Australia where sheep are grown.
In Cooma, we stopped by the jail and searched around for locations where Jill’s Grandfather may have served in his time that he was a police officer there. We found the obvious jail with the law court building just along the road.
Cooma is the largest town in the Snowy Mountain region and consequently is seen as the gateway to the Snowy Mountains ski fields, the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electricity Scheme and the Kosciuszko National Park. In recent times tourism and the snowfields have ensured that it is more than just a rural service centre. It is the base for exploring the entire area and a prosperous tourist town. Central to the town’s attractions are the Snowy Hydro Information Centre; the Centennial Park which celebrates the town’s historic multiculturalism; the excellent historic walk and the fascinating Correctional Services Gaol Museum; and the area’s excellent horse riding and fishing facilities. The town has a reputation for being bitterly cold in winter when the winds come off the Snowy Mountains and the Antarctic to whip across the flat, treeless Monaro Plains.
I eventually found the police station and called in to see if they could tell me anything =about the building’s history. A young constable who looked to be about 25, and far too young g to know anything about history was kind enough to show me through some rooms of the police station. It was clear that it was very old and is most likely the place where Frederick Ruffels, Jill’s Grandfather worked. I took a photo of an image that was on the Sergeants office wall that showed the town around 1880.
We found the very nice ‘Lott’ cafe for lunch end enjoyed some good service and fine food.
Driving on towards Merimbula, we had to retrace our steps for about 40 kilometres through Nimmitibel and descended down Brown Mountain. At an elevation of 1,243 metres, it is the highest mountain in the Monaro region, Jill’s mother wrote about her father driving down this road, that today was covered in fog and cloud. I could imagine that in the 1920s this road would have been perhaps half as wide as it is today and the cars of that day would probably boil on the way up the hill and run out of brakes while going down the hill and its sharp curves.
We passed Piper’s Lookout but the view was completely clouded in.
After the descent, we passed through the little town of Bemboka. There isn’t much to see there other than a few old buildings along the main road. The town’s economy is based on dairying. Looking at it now, it is hard to believe that in the late 1890s there were six butter and cheese factories in the area. These were superseded by co-operatives, with the Bemboka Co-operative Factory at the east end of town remaining in business until 1980.
Bemboka is notable for retaining most of its older timber buildings. These include the stores which once lined the main street, some of which are now used as private homes. The original Bemboka Pie Shop built in 1930 still operates as a bakery and pie shop with a reputation built from a long history of providing refreshment to motorists coming down to the coast from the Monaro and ACT.
Overall, we again managed to fill in our entire day with interesting places to explore. We arrived in Merimbula in the late afternoon. Our first stop was to the supermarket to buy some food for dinners over the next three nights. We are getting tired of pub food and we need have some supplies in hand because of the impending weather tomorrow. The weather forecast is for the strong rain system that I wrote about yesterday delivering up to 90 mm of rain (nearly 4”) and we don’t know just how much we will be able to get out and about.