20 May, 2005

three hours from sundown, jeremy flies

For those of you who don't know, the munkey family is lucky enough to own a 5 acre block of land in a lovely quiet valley at a place called Jamieson. Jamieson is a tiny town in the Victorian Highlands, near Mansfield and Mt Buller. We have a little house there with no electircity or phone, but the creature-comforts of hot water, wood fire, gas lights and even a gas refridgerator. This is a sacred place to me: the setting of countless formative experiences throughout my life, from the traumatic to the triumphant, from the tiny to the tremendous; this place is a part of who I am. Last weekend, munkey had the pleasure of sharing this holy sanctum with Mr Ryan for a three-day getaway.

We loaded Oli up with our stuff, and headed to Victoria Gardens to buy supplies - predictably spending more money on booze than we did on food *alco munkeys* - before driving off on a three-hour trek through the cold, dark evening. Arriving finally at our chilly destination, Ryan was instantly smitten with the place, even in the blind, silent darkness of the foggy night.
Saturday morning greeted us with a perfect Autumn day, as the morning mist evaporated to reveal the sun-soaked valley, cradled between the surrounding mountains under a clear boundless sky. After a breakfast of bacon and eggs, we wandered about the surroundings, visiting the murky dam and towering gum trees in our back paddock. Then we walked down below the road to the river, which is running very low in its bed at the moment, but still beautiful, as always. I love rivers, in case you didn't know. After that, we drove into town, where the Japanese Maples have on their deep crimson coats, and then headed out along the Kevington Road to explore a compulsory Jamieson attraction: the abandonned gold mine.

In the mid 1800s, the upper-Goulburn River was rich with gold, and Jamieson was a thriving mining community. Although those days are long gone, there are still many hidden remnants of the mines. Parking at a certain picnic ground, if you cross the road and scramble into the forest at an unmarked but well-known point, you find yourself walking in the narrow space between two moss-covered vertical walls of earth. It's hard to imagine that the ground you now walk on is the collapsed roof of a claustrophobic tunnel, where over a hundred years ago, men scrambled through darkeness and danger with the hope of finding a fortune. Mr Ryan was, of course, very snap-happy... and rightly so: keen photographer + beautiful place = photographic bliss! Further into the site, there are still intact caves and tunnels which continue on for unknown, invisible distances in the dark, but as both of us have a phobia of physical restriction, we didn't venture too far inside, even though we had a torch. We did clamber inside one of the larger caves, where the light falls in puddles through the open ventilation holes and shafts, which were the only way in or out when the mine was intact. It is a strange and beautiful feeling to stand beneath the ground and gaze up at the sky through a fern-lined earthen frame... although I can't say I'm enthusiastic about being buried alive.

That evening, Mr Ryan used his well-known fire-lighting skills (teehee, sorry Rye *in-joke munkey*) to start a roaring camp-fire outside, building up a mass of red-hot coals in which to cook our dinner - a delicious corned silverside, boiled/roasted to perfection. My! it's nice to have a boyfriend who can cook! After dinner, the telescope was brought out into the night, and we got up-close and personal with the Moon, the planet Jupiter and its four Gallilean moons, the Orion nebula, as well as various stars. Mr Ryan also indulged a somewhat obsessive enthusiasm for sticking the old star-picket we use as a fire-poker into the coals, heating it to a softened red hot, and then bashing it flat with the back of the block-splitter. Fun for the whole family!
On Sunday, we tumbled out of bed bright and early (well, by our standards anyway) and went horse-riding! Yes, lovers and dreamers, Ryan has not managed to convince me of the joys of bungee-jumping, and i'm still maintaining that it is impossible to teach mindlessmunkey to ride a bike... but his love of horse-riding is one I was more than willing to try out. I had only been once before, a distant decade ago when I was on a highschool camp. But that was a tame walk around some padocks, while this was a proper 2 hour trail-ride through Man From Snowy River country. Ryan was placed on a lovely (but unfortunately somewhat lazy) white horse named Merlin, while I was given Chief... I may be biased but Chief was the most beautiful horse there: a rich brown with thick black mane and tail (I'm sure there is a specific name for that horse-colouring. i think it's "bay" but i'm not certain). Most of the ride was just walking, but there were a few chances to trot for us beginners, while Ryan headed up with the lead group to canter. Trotting, I have discovered, is quite easy and not too bumpy once you find the rhythm. I was quite chuffed when one of the ride-leaders said I was doing it perfectly and that I was a natural! She even asked if i wanted to join the advanced group for cantering, but I thought i'd get a bit more practice at trotting before i tried that. At any rate, it was a great ride through spectacular scenery, although nasssty Merlin got spooked and nearly threw Mr Ryan while we were ascending a huge hill, and some other cranky horse decided to try and bite Chief's head on the way down. But all in all, lo and behold, horse-riding is fun! and something I can't wait to do more of.

After having dinner at the local Courthouse Hotel, we again relaxed by the warmth of an open camp-fire, drinking and listening to music (and further mangling the poor innocent fire-poker) and talking long into the night. We slept nice and late on Monday morning, slightly reluctant to get up and face the inevitable pack-up and drive home. But eventually, we loaded our things back into Oli, struggled with the Daemon Machine From Hell (a.k.a. the notoriously unco-operative water-pump), locked up our lovely little house, and made the long drive home.

Every time I go to our place at Jamieson, it feels like a cleansing, enlightening experience; I don't think I'm ever quite the same person who left, when I return. Here in the daily routine of city-life, the days seem to blend into one-another. There, in the quiet valley and clear air, even when you spend a day doing virtually nothing, every moment is something precious and important. It was wonderful to share that with you, Ryan. xo

mindlessmunkey and Mr Ryan, atop Chief and Merlin, respectively:




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