The high country, charm and climate change

As anyone following me on social media may have noticed, we are spending a week at Mt Hotham in Victoria’s high country. I’m not sure it is actually called that, but I like the term.

Anyway, my brother Marshall (who has some knowledge in this field!) tells me it is Australia’s best ski field, well at least when it has snow. It currently has very little, with only three small runs open courtesy of some snow making, even though the season started on the Queens Birthday weekend a few weeks ago. That’s okay with us, because we didn’t plan to ski here anyway, with my wife still recovering from a skiing injury in Canada over Christmas. We aim to spend the time basically soaking up the vibe and relaxing, with a few walks and other outings too.

And the vibe has got me in. I have never been here before and have fallen for its rugged and stark charm. The snow gums and ever changing moods of the landscape are beguiling. And by and large the buildings sit nicely in the landscape.

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We are fortunate to be staying here with friends David and Clare Pullar, who have been coming here most of their life, so they know a lot about the rich history and many colourful characters that remote places like these often have. Their intimate knowledge of the region and the people has certainly added much to our experience of the area.

Among other outings, we have headed down to Dinner Plain, an interesting experiment where the whole place is developed within a particular architectural style range, very successfully I thought, and went looking unsuccessfully for the plane wreck in which Queensland developer Brian Ray and his wife and pilot died. Recent, sad and evocative history to add to the tapestry of the past. We also drove off the high country to Omeo, a great little town which, as one of my planning friends Nick Byrne observed on Twitter, has “the right preconditions – relief, fine grain and a great bakery”!

Anyway, on the drive up here from Harrietville, we were astounded at the destruction wreaked by the bush fires last year, to add to those of 2003. Our friends had never seen its like.

And so, even though this is a wonderful place, the thought occurs to me: are we seeing climate change in action? We have certainly seen the devastation of the apparent increasing trend to more regular severe events (bushfire) fanned on by extreme temperatures, and the long term trend towards reduced snow.

I’m not putting this forward as evidence, just that in such a special environment the question seems too big to ignore. In the meantime, it is a great place to spend some time chilling out (pun intended) and getting in touch with the wild and fascinating moods of nature.

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