Regular readers will be all too aware of your Akubra-clad columnist's fascination (or should that be obsession?) with Lake George. Full, empty, day, night, parched, covered in snow. There's something about this ancient lake that just gets under your skin. And I know I'm not the only one.
Often when driving past, I pull up the yowie mobile at one of the roadside rest areas and gaze longingly out onto the lake bed, wanting to experience the lake in all her moods. But let's face it, there's only so many hours you can hang out in a rest area before looking suspicious. But I no longer have to loiter lakeside, for Sarah and Anthony McDougall, the enterprising new(ish) owners of Lake George Winery, have just listed a tiny house on Airbnb which overlooks the lake.
When I first heard a rumour that 'Little George', the 7.5 metres long by 2.5 metres wide tiny house, was going to open, I began pestering the McDougalls, hounding them to be their first booking. Earlier this week with the paint barely dry, I finally got the chance.
Sure, for many Canberrans the benefits of bunking down at a winery will be not having to drive home after an over-indulgent wine tasting session, but for me it's all about observing, up close and personal, the ever-changing vibes of the lake.
I arrive late afternoon. It's one of those warm and calm late spring evenings. Even the giant wind turbines, backed by a long cloud bank on the eastern side of the lake, are strangely still. South, towards Bungendore, partially obscured by heat haze, sheep grazing on the dry lake bed appear to be the size of camels.
Then on dusk the distant cloud bank starts to glow and flicker like a series of giant candles. I check the radar - it's a storm off Ulladulla. You forget just how close you are to the coast. As the crow flies, it's less than 100 kilometres to the sea.
I'm torn between stepping back inside Little George to top up my glass of wine, and not wanting to miss a moment of the distant storm. I choose the latter and wiggle deeper into the cane chair on Little George's small deck, some cheese and bickies my only company.
Only when I'm damp with dew and the traffic on Federal Highway, snaking through the Collector floodplains below, starts to subside for the night, do I finally head back inside for that nightcap.
This column has road-tested a couple of tiny houses in recent years and the best part of this design is the large comfy bed which folds down out of the side wall. Plenty of space. And comfy.
Leaving the blind open to enjoy that vista, I drift off to sleep to the sound of distant thunder. However, about midnight, I'm suddenly awoken by a strange wailing sound. The animalistic tones of the cry more than pique my interest because just a few days earlier a resident of nearby Collector spotted a koala waddling across the street.
"When I came around the corner [on Church St], this koala was plonked in the middle of the road sitting up, and toddled off as I drove towards it," recalls Collector resident and Braddon veterinarian Emma Lee, adding "I'm 100 per cent sure it was a koala."
Emma's sighting was further collaborated by local Gary Poile who claims he heard "three louds 'cries' of a koala the same evening of Emma's sighting.
What makes Emma's sighting extraordinary is that since hunters in the late 1800s and early 1900s shot (for their pelts) most of the koalas on the Lake George area, the cute marsupial was thought to be localised extinct.
"Who knows, maybe it's the same one," I think to myself, throwing off my doona, grabbing my torch and creeping outside. The chances are so slim it can't be, can it?
I search in vain, my torch light lancing through the mist. Soon I find the culprit - two branches on a tree grinding together in the wind. Argh, back to bed.
Morning breaks early (perhaps I should have closed that blind after all) and Sarah encourages me to take a trek up the escarpment. What a heart starter.
What you don't notice driving along the Federal Highway and looking up to the escarpment are several ravines, deep gashes in the side of the range, virtually impassable unless you are a mountain goat.
Somehow, I eventually clamber all the way to the top of the escarpment. Wow. What a view. Little wonder after reaching an equally lofty spot on October 28, 1820, Governor Lachlan Macquarie named the (then) full lake after the reigning monarch of the time - King George III.
Sure, I love Little George's current home, nestled on the hillside just above the vines and overlooking the lake, but imagine if a tiny house was perched up here. Talk about being on top of the world.
Back down at the winery, I mention my idea to Sarah and Anthony, but they have (of course) already thought of it, "Our long-term plans are to have a couple of tiny houses atop the escarpment," says Sarah, adding "it's great up there, not only for the views but also the stars at night."
The only catch would be I wouldn't fancy the scramble all the way to the top after a few drinks.
Even if I did find a koala.
Little George: Bunk down at Lake George Winery. Suitable for 2 people. $130 per night, book via Airbnb. Looking for your own tiny house? Check-out 'Little George' for yourself with its creator, Canberra carpenter Daniel Tscherry, at two upcoming open days. Noon - 3pm, Sunday November 24 and Sunday December 1.
Koalas in the Canberra region
Are there koalas in the ACT? An extensive 2017-18 koala survey undertaken for the ACT government revealed that no koalas or signs of koala habitation (such as scats or characteristic scratch marks) were found in the ACT. However Rod Speirs, ecologist with Capital Ecology, who undertook the survey, doesn't entirely discount their potential presence in the ACT. "Namadgi National Park encompasses over 100,000 hectares, much of which is characteristically suitable habitat for the koala," he says.
Across the border: While there may not be any koalas (Tidbinbilla of course has an enclosure) in the wild in ACT, there is an increasing population across the border on the ranges to the east of the Monaro Highway between Canberra and Cooma. James Fitzgerald, Wildcare NSW Koala Coordinator and Trustee of Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust, reports that on his property near Jerangle, "the numbers have definitely expanded in the past 15 years", adding "on eight recent short walks around my property, I saw koalas six times". Great news indeed.
Call of the wild: According to James, "male and female koalas can make similar sounds, but the male call goes for much longer". Both sexes make a range of high-pitch screams and also a pleading cry.
Spot a koala? If you spot a koala, James says you should first call either Wildcare (6299 1966) or LAOKO (6456 1313) and lodge your sighting, and secondly if you have a smartphone, record your sighting with the recently released free "I spy koala' app.
Did You Know? If you pick up a sick or injured koala, be sure to note the exact location because rehabilitated koalas aren't allowed to be returned to the wild unless it is within 30km of where they are found. "This is because they need to be returned to the same habitat and also to stop the spread of disease", explains James.
Recent sightings: Collector isn't the only village abuzz with koala sightings, there was also a recent sighting of a koala at Wamboin and several others have been spotted on the Kings Highway about 5km east of Queanbeyan.
CONTACT TIM: Email: email@example.com or Twitter: @TimYowie or write c/- The Canberra Times, 9 Pirie St, Fyshwick.
Where in the region?
Clue: Miles was here
Degree of difficulty: Easy - Medium
Last week: Congratulations to Gail Neuss of Googong who was the first reader to correctly identify last week's photo, sent in by Peter Harrington, as housing for a traffic counter on the Laurel Camp Road in Pierces Creek near Tidbinbilla. (I did warn you it was hard). Gail beat a number of readers to the prize including Jezza Nator who actually crafted the ingenious housing from an old LPG gas bottle, to help the ACT Parks and Conservation Service to monitor park use.
How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org. The first email sent after 10am, Saturday 16 November, 2019, will win a double pass to Dendy - The Home of Quality Cinema.
You wouldn't want to come across this tree stump on a full moon. "It looks just like a Scream Mask," says Brett Byron who, despite its scary appearance, often hides trinkets in it for his grandchildren to find when they visit his property at Lucky Pass, which is located between Collector and Tarago.
While recently bushwalking near the site of the former Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station in Namadgi National Park, David Wardle stumbled upon this rusting old contraption hidden amongst thick scrub. Does anyone know its original purpose?