‘Monaro’ (Aboriginal – ‘High Plain’)
The Monaro Plain is an ancient high-plateau area in New South Wales that extends from the valley of the Murrumbidgee River in the north to the Errinundra Plateau in the south. Located east of the Snowy Mountains, and at a height of roughly 1000m above sea level, much of the area is in a ‘rain shadow’ due to the moist westerly winds depositing rains in the mountains. This lack of rain, coupled with extreme temperatures, means the Monaro Plain is characterized by dry, undulating hills, with thin, infertile soils and sparse tree coverage. During my visit, the harsh, desolate beauty of the plains was on full display. The sky was clear and the intense, burning sun beat down on the bleached yellow ground. The land seemed virtually lifeless with cattle station watering ponds, telegraph poles and dirt roads the only hints of human intervention. It was a magnificent, but eerie beauty. But this type of dry, harsh weather has been a more regular occurrence over recent decades, particularly due to the Millennium Drought that ran from 2003-2009. And despite the drought being declared over in 2012, a new El Nino weather pattern is predicted for 2016 meaning the hostile environment of the Monaro may continue to remain that way for the foreseeable future.