Connecting to nature and a slower pace

Last week, we escaped to the Pines Cottage up in the high plains area of remote Kosciuszko National Park. We were untapped, out in nature and removed from the conveniences of modern life. It was soul nourishing and answered a long-uttered call for slowing down.

The Pines Cottage was a former stockmen’s quarters at the historic Currango homestead. It sits on the edge of a slight elevation overlooking bushland and the flat, shrub covered plains of the Snowy’s. The plains are home to countless brumbies that kept us, especially my youngest horse-loving daughter, captivated. They were not timid, but remained aloof seemingly bemused by our intense interest in their goings-on. The plains were also home to many (quite possibly millions) of rabbits, and plovers. The hills behind the homestead are home to dingos, which we were fortunate to see a number of times during our stay.

Leading up to our trip, we had some very real fears of the temperature gauge plummeting and us being ill-equipped for a mountain adventure. A sudden change in the forecast intensified those fears. A snowstorm was expected on our first night and an old hut with zero insulation and more gaps than a colander was no protection against a polar blast. But the prospect of getting out in nature and being removed from devices and the endless commitments of home life was by this stage essential. Our call for adventure and escape was already long overdue. Snowstorm or not, we were determined to go.

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We arrived on a sunny afternoon and unpacked our gear. The kids brought in their ‘essentials’ while I laid out the bunks with sleeping bags and blankets, Pete lit the fires and wood was stored close to the back door. The pantry was stocked with our provisions, fresh produce kept in a cool box, the Cluedo and Uno ready to grab for a family game. I brought books and knitting projects but the preceding months of feeling rundown had taken their toll. My days were reduced to the essentials. I kept things organised and tidy, kept us well-fed, the fire roaring, and we walked long, slow walks through the snow, across trickling streams and past mobs of brumbies. Each night the snow fell and thickened on the ground. We could see the movement of animals during the night from the tracks left behind, a mother kangaroo and her joey, a pack of dingoes moving in formation through the camp. The snow brought a sense of magic and serene quiet to the place.

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We have not had much exposure to snowy landscapes, with both Pete and I growing up in hot, dry climates. Feeling the need to reconnect to what is familiar, what we have grown accustomed to, we have concentrated the few family holidays we have had on coastal and outback locations. This trip was to be the same, until it snowed! The conditions challenged us in the most basic of ways – how to keep warm. Leading up to the trip, knowing that the mountains in June would be cold, even in the absence of snow, I was on the search for warm weather gear. Our children had grown and most needed new jackets, longer thermals, and bigger gloves.

I decided the best place to start was at the core – thermals. I had bought cheap brand merino thermals and those polyester versions before, which proved to be pretty disappointing at keeping the body warm. So I did some searching on Esther’s now discontinued but still viewable blog mylittletreasuresoflife and at #ourlifeinthealps on Instagram. Over a couple of posts (such as this one here), Esther runs through the brands and materials that she has used and recommends as outdoor clothing. Hocosa baselayers were one of her suggestions. I managed to find Hocosa thermals for myself and all the children online at Lila Lammchen, a German-based store. The price was reasonable considering the silk/wool content of the material, even when factoring in shipping costs, and the quality is amazing.

To source outerwear, like jackets, I wanted to scour the op shops and secondhand stores before resorting to buying brand new. Often jackets and outerwear have more longevity than items worn close to the skin, so it makes sense, financially and from a sustainability standpoint, to find these items secondhand. However, I was quite taken aback by the prices asked by many of the op shops and wondered how people who rely on these charity stores for the majority of their clothing and household needs can even afford these prices. But that issue is for another conversation. Fortunately, I found Recycled Recreation, a secondhand store specialising in outdoor clothing and equipment. I was able to pick up a dense down-filled jacket for my eldest daughter and a warmer mid-layer for me.

While we were equipped for the cold, the snow presented a new challenge of keeping things dry. As the forecast for a snowstorm caught us by surprise, I did not have enough time to get snow boots for everyone. In hindsight, I should have simply bought gumboots for all to save the endless rotation of wet socks and shoes in front of the fire. But even given this minor inconvenience, playing in the snow, feeling it crunch underfoot as we walked through the trees and across the plains, was an unexpected gift that the whole family enjoyed.

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Our trip to Currango was like stepping back in time. Our days were simple, we ensured our needs were met, we were together, we breathed in the mountain air, and we felt the quiet of the trees, the snow, of the vast empty plains, fill our bodies, nourish our souls. We bring this feeling back with us to our days at home, amidst the hurriedness, to remember the quiet, the slowness, and the beauty of nature.

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