52 Journeys, Australia: No 1, Brumbies | Snowy Mountains, Part 3

by | Nov 28, 2018 | 52 Journeys, Beautiful beasts

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Yes, I went back, again. Couldn’t help myself. And yes, I realise this new project is clearly going to take some time if I keep going back to the same location but who says we have to rush it? We’re on country time now after all.

But I did debate it. About three weeks after my second visit to the high country, I asked Coco if she was willing to go again, fully expecting her to say, ‘nah, can’t mum, I’m busy – plus, isn’t that a little obsessive?’ Instead she had a think and then agreed, which I took as a sign – this wasn’t as nuts as it seemed.

What I wasn’t going to repeat, however, was driving there and back in just one weekend, so we headed up on a Friday for two nights.

We arrived late so the next morning I left Coco sleeping in our room at Yarrangobilly Caves House and headed out early to try and find some brumbies. I say try because brumbies aren’t all over the joint, as you might imagine. You really have to be in the right place at the right time to see them. Although I will admit, it doesn’t help that I’m also looking for a certain type of brumby – there are some that look magnificent and some that appear to be not far removed from ancient horses, and runty ancient horses at that. Plus not only am I after the beauties, I’m also fussy about the landscape in the background and of course the light – if the sun’s out, like it was this particular morning, and you can’t manoeuvre yourself into the right angle to shoot bright early morning light, you’re forced to photograph the horses with full sun hitting them. I photographed this guy at 7am and already it’s just too bright.

7am in the high country

too bright already

Aside from the light issue, I had no luck spotting any brumbies all morning (well, none that fitted my criteria) so I decided to go and annoy some humans instead. I met Rob, a fly fisherman from the Southern Highlands, down by one of the creeks. “It’s like a meditation”, he said when I asked him why he liked the sport so much. “It’s three hours of thinking of nothing else.”


flies to lure the fish

Rob in full swing

Leaving Rob to continue his meditation, I drove up the highway in search of more humanity. Noticing the camp ground at Bullocks Hill Trail was busy, I headed over there and met a lovely family of four from Tumblong, near Gundagai. They’d brought their horses up with them in an old horse float which cleverly converted into beds for sleeping – and a playground for kids Indy and Andrew.


the family’s horse float/campervan

Indy riding with her dad, Danny


happy campers – who needs wifi?

another camping family (and yes, he’s wearing the same green shirt and jeans as Andrew)

At around 5pm I resumed my brumby talent scouting. I’d been told late afternoon was the ideal time to see brumbies because they were out to find dinner and it wasn’t long before I spotted some beauties.

early dinner

raw beauty

I like this stallion so much I’ve cloned him.

double take

A large part of the appeal of being in the high country is the landscape itself, with its rich palette of colours and textures.

ragged edges


black beauty

As you’ve probably gathered, some mobs of brumbies are docile and others more reactive. One of my favourite encounters was with the latter. I found them down near Powerline Creek and for once, they were exactly where I wanted them in terms of light and background. When I got close, they studied me for a second and then took off. The stallion and his two foals in flight took my breath away.

one look and they were off

on the move


That last image, ‘flight’, is my absolute favourite. Everything aligned in that moment – the light, the background, the foreground and even the brumbies’ legs. I managed to keep snapping before the mob disappeared over the horizon.

one last look and they disappeared

Encouraged by finding that dynamic mob, I continued the highway patrol until around 7pm when I noticed two stallions in a field in some lovely late light. They were too chilled so I did a crazy dance and sang out to them. One of them reacted by launching up onto his hind legs and boxing the other stallion! And do you think I caught the action? Yes and no – I was so blown away that I got the wobbles and the shots are blurry. Still it was pretty fantastic to witness a bit of brumby biffo in such close proximity.

stallion No 1


late light

stallion No 2

brumby biffo

As soon as the tiff was over, the stallions resumed their grazing and acted as if nothing had ever happened.

the boxer

back to chilled

very chilled

And there endeth our journey to see the brumbies of the Snowy Mountains. I’ve loved it so much and I hope you have too.

So what, where and when next? I’m not sure yet, I’m working on a wish list so we’ll see – and I’m always open to suggestions, so fire away if you have any. Wherever we go, I hope it’s just as extraordinary.