The best thing about 4 day long weekend? It’s a 4 day long weekend. No need to worry about work on Friday or Monday. It’s long enough to forget about your responsibilities and day to day life, but short enough not to allow you to go completely off the grid – physically and metaphorically. You can unwind, be active, relax, or seek adventure. Whatever it is that you want to spend the next four days doing is completely up to you.

On this particular weekend, we chose to hike Mt. Kosciuszko: Australia’s highest peak. It was a leisurely 6 hour afternoon drive to reach the mountain, during which I finally got to see an afternoon sunset through the mainland of Dangelong Nature Reserve. Watching the sun slowly disappear on the horizon, surrounded by the warmth of the last few minutes of orange and yellow light for the day brought on a sense of calm and nostalgia. As if everything you did that day was passing in that exact moment, from present life, to past memory. It felt like going to your nana’s house, welcomed with open arms, a delicious heartwarming dish waiting for you in the kitchen. The vineyards, the pasture’s, the vast landscape; this part of Australia is very flat and seems to go for miles. As we drove we saw National Reserves after National Reserve – there are a handful of them along the way in the ACT region.

The next morning we were greeted with a 5am wakeup call – an hour later than we had intended. Most of us had never seen the Snowy Mountain during off season so we decided to stop and see the difference. Without all the snow you can actually see the distance from one mountain to another. It was an incredible sight to see the mountain that I was so familiar with during ski season, now bare, beautiful, and a lot larger than I had remembered. Like seeing an old friend after some time apart; that same sense of vague familiarity, yet a newness to it that was intriguing. It was clear to us that this region was bigger than we thought.

The Australians amongst us would remember that famous poem that was read to us in primary school: And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges rise/ Their torn and rugged battlements on high/ Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze/ At midnight in the cold and frosty sky.

“The Man from Snowy River” was written by a famous Australian poet, Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson. The poem recounts a story about a group of horseback riders’ journey to reclaim a prize winning horse back into their paddock. We had reached the landmark described in that familiar poem: the famous Snowy River. Running roughly 352km in South Eastern Australia, the Snowy River originates from Mount Kosciuszko and drains through the eastern slopes in New South Wales before reaching the alpines of Victoria and emptying out into Bass Strait. We spent some time that day, sitting by the calm river, and telling tales we had heard of ‘Banjo Paterson’, but had to cut it short as we had Australia’s tallest mountain to climb. I made a mental note that day to put the Snowy River back on the ‘to do’ list as there are so many parts I’d like to explore, as ‘Banjo’ did.

We took to Mount Kosciuszko with awe and enthusiasm. The mountain was named by the Polish explorer Paul Edmund Strzelecki in 1840, in honour of the Polish national hero and hero of the American Revolutionary War General Tadeusz Kościuszko. It was included in the 7 Summits list, first completed by Dick Bass in 1985,  yet there has been a lot of debate since as to whether it should in fact, be included. It all comes down to whether you consider Australia to be a continent in its own right, or whether it is part of the more encompassing ‘Oceania’.

Debates aside, we continued to ascend steeper. Just over the half way mark, we felt we were at the top of Australia. We came across Seaman’s Hut built in 1929 by the Seaman family. The hut existed to provide shelter for travelers in the 30’s. It’s now a stopping point for hikers who travel to this part of Australia, to tick Mt. Kosciuszko off their list of peaks. It also makes an incredible landscape photo during winter for those who are daring enough to explore during the confronting negative temperatures of winter. In saying that, it is on my bucket list to explore this area during winter and camp out under night skies. One day I will return to photograph the contrast of the hut, snow, and vast Australian night skies.

Two and half hours passed and we were passing through the highest lake in Australia (and the highest public toilet in the country). We made it to the very top of Australia safe and sound. Mount Kosciuszko is standing at 2228 metres above sea level. Astonishingly, and unknown to many Australians, this is a quarter of the height of Mount Everest. The group was excited to reach the top; this was my third time conquering the height of Mount Kosciuszko and the first time for rest of the group. As an adventurer there’s nothing quite like that uplifting, yet exhausted feeling of being on top of mountain. The accomplishment, the thrill, the excitement; it’s rewarding and inspires me to return. There is so much more to explore in this world heritage site.

Mount Kosciuszko was named by the Polish explorer Paul Edmund Strzelecki in 1840, in honour of the Polish national hero and hero of the American Revolutionary War General Tadeusz Kościuszko, because of its perceived resemblance to the Kościuszko Mound in Kraków.


Arvin Ilaya Matutina