As the yowie-mobile slowly rattles over the century-old one-lane wooden bridge that spans the Mongarlowe River, I stop.
I flick the hazard lights on and unwind the windows.
When I drove out of Braidwood just 13 kilometres earlier, it was hot and sunny, but now the cool mizzle, for which the top of the Clyde is famous for, has rolled in. I can feel it gently blowing on my face. Ahh, so refreshing.
Upstream, through the descending mist, I can just make out the reflection of the long dangling branches of the trees that stand sentinel over a deep waterhole. They resemble giant arms shielding what lays beyond.
It's as if I've entered another world. A mystical world of fairies, goblins, and bunyips.
Oh, and I needn't have put my hazard lights on, for its quiet. Eerily so.
In fact, but for the lone trail of smoke rising from the chimney of a log cabin, you could easily be excused for thinking I've entered the twilight zone. Either that or a ghost town.
However, Mongarlowe hasn't always been a tranquil backwater. During the height of the goldrush in the 1860s-70s, the village and surrounds boasted nine stores and 10 pubs.
Today, only one of these historic watering holes - The Rising Sun - still stands. When it opened in 1866, it was the hub of the town, the first hotel weary travellers and miners would arrive at after crossing the old ford across the river.
Clad in blue overalls and sporting a welcoming grin, current owner Graeme Rossiter greets me on the front veranda and invites me inside.
"I can only offer you a cup of tea, for it hasn't operated as a pub for over a hundred years," he muses.
Knowing your akubra-clad columnist's penchant for hidden (and spooky) stories, Graeme has invited me for a peek around the former 11-room hotel which he and his wife bought in 2008.
"I'd always wanted to do up an old pub," explains Graeme, who admits that shortly after purchasing the Mongarlowe landmark, he "began to have second thoughts".
"I'd heard stories of it being haunted, some people even suggested we place religious symbols around the building to ward off the evil spirits," he remarks. "At first, I didn't think much of it."
Ushering me into the loungeroom, Graeme then vividly recalls his first night in the former pub. "A few minutes after I lit the open fire, a bat flew out of the chimney, it gave me more than a fright," he remembers.
The more he researched the building's history, the more stories of unexplained happenings Graeme uncovered.
"In the 1970s, a séance, advertised on [radio station] 2CA, was held in this room," he says. "Audio recordings of the event suggest paranormal investigators encountered a ghostly hand come out of the wall," exclaims Graeme, raising an eyebrow.
"I've since heard of multiple reports of visions of a lady in a light blue long dress," says Graeme as we creep out of the loungeroom and into the dimly lit hallway. These reports date back to the early-mid 1900s.
Paranormal aficionados suspect the apparitions may be spectres of Mr and Mrs Hogan who leased the hotel in the early 1900s until it was razed in the dead of the night on July 16, 1907.
Mr Hogan raced barefooted from the building to escape the flames and then, according to The Braidwood Review, "endeavoured to re-enter the building to save his account books, but after having his hat and hair singed was compelled to beat a hasty retreat".
"The subsequent inquest concluded the fire was deliberately lit," explains Graeme, adding a final tragic twist to the tale, "and just a week after the inquest, Mr Hogan shot himself dead." Oh dear.
While restoring The Rising Sun, Graeme has discovered a treasure trove of more tangible reminders of the building's rich past, from both the gold rush days to the years soon after the hotel was rebuilt in 1908 to its original specifications.
"I found lots of old artefacts including trinkets under the floorboards and also in a large circular hole under one of the rooms," he reveals.
"It was full of crockery and porcelain from the 1907 fire," says Graeme who speculates the hole was previously a Chinese mine shaft dug prior to the hotel's construction. "The Chinese miners were very superstitious and ensured their mines were circular so 'demons' couldn't hide in the corners," he explains.
Graeme also unearthed some coins - most genuine, including a sixpence and a half-penny, but others fake, like an imitation shilling. "Some Chinese miners made counterfeit coins using a metal rod template to stamp into soft metal with a home-made dye."
However, the pièce de resistance are several hidey holes Graeme (re)discovered in the floor of several bedrooms. He leads me into one of the front bedrooms where he removes a wood box and with an old fork prises open the floorboard beneath it.
"During the 1920s, gangster Squizzy Taylor's sisters hid out at Mongarlowe and entertained men at The Rising Sun," he reports. "According to local folklore, this is where they'd hide their takings," Graeme says, pointing to the tiny trap door.
"Oh, and in case you're wondering, when I first opened them up, they were all empty," he laughs.
Of course, the real treasure here is the history Graeme is keeping alive by lovingly restoring The Rising Sun to its former glory.
I'll drink to that. Even if it is just a cup of tea.
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