For the thrill of land or air outdoors adventures, Victoria’s picturesque Mt. Beauty region in southern Australia is unbeatable.
I hardly believed Grandma would want to shoot herself into the air, however the elder generation never fails to surprise. I had been trying to work out how to best warn the venerable lady about the heart-stopping flight she was about to take in a glider over a stunningly beautifully mountain valley in southeastern Australia.
I was having the first turn and almost lost my breath.
Climbing into the flimsy looking plane, I saw no motor, no hostess, no liquor trolley and had no idea. How was this thing to get up into the sky?
Suddenly the plane moved.
On its own, with no motor?
Gliding Above the Beauty
There was a winch pulling a cable attached to our glider. My head slammed back into the seat as we shot into the sky, flung into the air like a pebble from a slingshot. Eyeballs rotating, teeth vibrating, I almost threw my breakfast onto the town passing below us, until a calm and slightly amused voice next to my ear told me to relax.
Aaaah… that’s better.
As the little tin can soared into the great expanse of sky above Mt. Beauty, I looked around me and realized why Mt. Beauty had been called such a name. Beneath us, a long valley stretched out, bordered by rearing mountains which plunged wild, green feet into the valley’s soft meadows and pastures. It was a stark contrast between a promise of comfort on the flatlands and wild adventure on the rugged slopes and ridges.
Range upon range of startling blue mountains slashed with brilliant white snow herringboned the horizons. My volunteer pilot, one of several at the Mt. Beauty Gliding Club who take visitors flying, soared our plane above it all, catching thermals and floating in that big blue expanse.
It’s a mind-blowing experience; with no engine noise or vibrations and a mere patch of Perspex screening you from the wind, it’s like riding a huge eagle. I realized why people who fly without engines are addicted… and they are.
After touch down, I presumed I would take Grandma’s flight; too much for her surely.
Nope. With a cry of glee, Gran handed the children over to me and hopped into the cockpit faster than you could say, “knitting needles.” After the flight, she burst out of the cockpit. I ran over anxiously, accompanied by children chattering in excitement at seeing people disappear into the sky. “Oh what a great flight,” Gran cried, “Let’s go again!”
At the end of the afternoon and still on a high, we headed back to our accommodation.
Riding Across the Beauty
My goal the next day was to taste the wind again. I rode out from an old tobacco shed converted into atmospheric stables with folk from the Bogong Horseback Adventures to explore the slopes and forests of the valley.
The ride was exhilarating as we trotted up slopes to look at the layers of mountains, made our way along tracks overhung by gum trees and cantered on long flat runs.
Mt. Beauty is the home of mountain biking and many people also head here for bushwalking in the summer and skiing in the winter. Four-wheel driving, fishing and boating also takes families deep into the mountains along, into or on top of icy, fresh rivers and lakes.
Bounty of Kiewa Valley
All this activity had created an appetite and it was time to immerse ourselves in the good life and indulge in the local specialties.
Mt. Beauty is part of the great northeastern Victorian expanse of fertile ground called the Kiewa Valley and the local producers are churning out exceptionally good food and wine, beckoning visitors with too many choices.
Firstly, we had drinks at the iconic Bogong Hotel (email for reservations: [email protected]) where we swapped stories with other family adventurers in front of the open fireplace, much like polar explorers at an Antarctic Base, while mists descended into the valley. Next door is Roi’s Diner, a misleading title for an exceptional restaurant we had not expected to find ‘out in the sticks’. Roi is a sumptuously skilled and talented chef who, after a heart attack in the big smoke, came out to the slow tranquility of Mt. Beauty, bringing his 35 years of culinary skill with him.
Roi holds classes at the local college where, he told me, he teaches “old farmers who used to live on baked beans. They now all have pasta machines.” From the melt-in-the-mouth smoked salmon and fresh polenta bread entrée to the Berry and Cointreau ice cream dessert, I could understand those farmers.
In a contented celebratory mood we continued our gourmet trail the next day at the Annapurna Estate (03/5754 4517), with a locally produced antipasto platter for morning tea washed down by a light, white Pinot Gris. There was enough room for lunch further down the road at the Ceccanti Winery where a picturesque lunch under shady trees took succulent mustard chicken and real chocolate pie to new heights of personal appreciation.
Passionate Italians who live and breathe their food and wine in beautiful environments run both estates. I found out later that Annapurna means the The Goddess of Bountiful Harvest and Fertility. Let me add: Goddess of Good Times. Bellissimo!
The house had a dedicated and very useful area to store equipment such as skis, hang up dirty outdoor clothing, then spread out to stretch and relax. The lounge and yard, and nearby lake and playgrounds, meant a great family-friendly base from which to explore this area.
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