It was half past nine on a late autumn morning that had a golden haze in the air. I drove up out of the valley and into the main street that ran along the top of a ridge. Out of town, the ridge turned north and I was looking at dark blue shadowy hills in the distance. The ridge drops away on each side here. Down below you can see well-balanced cattle grazing on the steep green hills. Friesians. I drank their milk on my cereal this morning. Thanks, cows. Most of Victoria’s milk comes out of these hills.
Farther along, the spine of the hill dropped into a chasm. You couldn’t see into it because it was covered in a white sheet that was cloud, and the road was so steep it felt like we were descending in a plane. Suddenly we were in the cloud, and all you could see was white mist flying past at a hundred miles an hour, or so it seemed. Want to eat cloud, boys? I called over my shoulder. I pressed the button and the window rolled down and the blast that came in the car was cold and clean and smelled of mountains and wet pine trees. The boys had toddler hysterics (laughing ones) in the back seat and I rolled the window up again.
Then we were under the cloud, and the road fell to the valley floor and we came to a fork. Left, Melbourne via Powelltown; right, the mountain. We turned right and soon we were rising again but no rolling green hills here, just dense forest. The road narrowed. There were no white marks in the middle so you had to keep hard left when the logging trucks loaded with felled mountain ash barreled around hairpin bends and past you. It was another forty-five minutes of twists and turns and giant treeferns to the peak, past the logging coupe and a couple of towns that were closed. I couldn’t work out whether they opened in summer for the cool air or winter for the snow trade. A sign outside a shop read: No Petrol.
Up past the snow line and into bright sun now. I drove right into the village Welcome to Mt Baw Baw. There was no-one here, of course, except workers preparing for the snow season. There was little snow but just enough, piled up under the eaves of the buildings scattered about the village, for the boys to toss about. Never seen snow before; but they didn’t take long to be throwing it at each other. I took out our lunch and we sat at a picnic table that was still cold enough, despite the sun, to require sitting on a blanket. I opened the flask and made coffee and unwrapped a package of sandwiches and took out the newspaper. You can see Gippsland from up here, far away, where the cows are. Bass Strait is beyond that. Coffee tastes good in this situation. In a little while I had another one. I didn’t read the newspaper.