Victorian High Country – January 2019

Monday 14th January

Deciding to leave early for our trip down to the High Country we were on our way by 4.10am with a zero km count. We ducked across the road to the 7 Eleven to pump up the camper trailer tyres as they had been sitting for quite some time. At this time of morning, we flew onto the M2, M7 then the Hume Highway, making our way to our first stop of Cooma.

Arriving in Cooma at 9.30am, having done 425kms, everyone was looking forward to stretch their legs and Jase and I for that much needed morning coffee. Jase and I had stopped at this bakery once before in Cooma, so we headed straight there, all having pies and drinks, us taking our coffees to go, as it would have been too much of a long stop otherwise, leaving at just after 9.40am.

The Murray River, our first stop.
Our lunch stop as well as a swim for everyone.

Back on the road, this time heading for Tom Groggin, where were going to have lunch and a swim in the Murray before heading up to Davies High Plain. It was only another 116kms on from Cooma, so it only took an hour, first having a quick stop with the ranger at the gates of the National Park, just double checking that Davies High Plain track was actually open. She said it was, that her daughter had just been up there, but it isn’t recommended for trailers, she did say, we had all the gear and were well set up, so off we went.

The water was fresh, but as it was hot, was much needed.
The other side of the Murray.

There were only a few campers at Tom Groggin, way less than we thought there would be, when we arrived at 11am. We drove down to the Murray, where everyone had a swim, the water clear, but cold, still refreshing though as it was over 30degs. After our swim, we deflated the tyres ready for the next leg of our trek to Davies High Plain.

And here we go, our two week trip in the High Country.

Back in the truck and leaving by 12.15pm, we crossed the Murray River, into Victoria, then up we went, a very long, slow and extremely rutted track, making our climb very slow and steady. Unfortunately we slipped into a deep rut, which not only made a loud noise, but did scratch the sidestep on the passenger side, we continued on, making very slow time. It was an hour into the drive and after our rut slip, that Jase was noticing that the truck was struggling to make it over erosion mounds, even with his foot flat to the floor. We stopped on one section of track, just over an erosion mound to let the engine cool slightly, when Jase got out for a look and came back to let me know that we had a flat tyre on the trailer…hence the truck struggling, it was pulling dead weight, glad we had an answer to that!

And up we go, Davies Plain Track.
The start of our first adventure.
Bugger…really?
Totally gone.
Took us over an hour to change, luckily there wasn’t any other trucks around.
The new tyre on and we were nearly ready to go.

The tyre was an absolute rightoff, completely destroyed in more places than one and of course it had to be on the same side as the accident we had with it the year before. So, truck off, we got to work to change it, which was a big job. We were lucky that it wasn’t terribly busy, although there was one truck coming down the track, just as we had the new one on, but still having to tighten it, take away the high jack lift and clean up the tools. It took us a while to put the trailer down as we had the stabiliser legs down too, one of which was taking the weight of the trailer, so it took a bit to get back up. Finally on our way again after an hour, which wasn’t really that long, considering the angle we were on.

And we’re off again.

It was another hour to get to Davies High Plain Hut, where we thought we would camp near the river and as there was no one else there, we had the pick of the spots. It wasn’t to be though, there was nearly next to no water in the creek, so we pushed on to Charlies Creek Campground, where there wasn’t any more water than Davies High Plain, there was also no other campers around either, so we had the pick of the spots again, deciding to finally camp in the main campground, near the creek.

Arriving at Charlie’s Creek campground.
Such beautiful countryside.

When we arrived and parked the trailer to get ready to set up was when we noticed we had lost the back drivers stabiliser leg, another one gone, and we also damaged the front passenger side stabiliser leg as well!! The trailer never the less went up minus the back one, then it was down to the creek for a cool down dip, which did cool us down as the water was very, very cold, nothing like Blue Water Holes though, it also wasn’t very deep, so a dip turned out to be a flick of water!

Not quite deep enough to swim, way too cold anyhow.
Mother/daughter time over the kitchen.

Megan spotted the first Brumbies of the trip, which were slowly making their way around the campground, slowing eating their way towards our campsite. Dinner was prepared tacos, which weren’t that bad, although the soft tacos shells didn’t really work out too well. We got a fire going , which wasn’t going to be a big one as we were all going to have a fairly early night, due to the long day we had had in the truck and our early morning start. After washing up, it wasn’t before we were all in bed, it was a beautiful evening, although you could feel a very slight coolness in the air.

Some of the Brumbies around our campsite.

 

Tuesday 15th January

The Brumbies were rather noisey during the night, chomping their way around the campsite, also bolting through it! The kids all work up saying they were cold, with Jason even mentioning that he was cold, the kids got sorted out, as did we, then back to sleep for all of us before the sun came up.

I was up first, deciding to go for a walk up the main track, which lead out of the campground. Back at camp, I put the kettle on to make myself a cup of tea, then sat down and started to write this, it was going to be another beautiful clear, hot day. After everyone finally rose, we had breakfasts and coffee, then packed a fridge in the truck, with lunch and headed off to Poplars Campsite for a look and swim, which is the highest vehicle access to the Murray River.

Poplars campsite.

It was quite a hike up then down into Poplars, actually very, very steep in sections, but a great track and it was good to do such a track without the trailer. There was no one at Poplars, so we found a great spot, near the River then settled in for a few hours, putting the truck awning up for some much needed shelter.

Someone had already created a dam in the river.

The River wasn’t very deep, but it was still nice to cool down as it was yet again over 30degs. Lunch was served, which was the camping staple of biscuits with assorted toppings, something we all enjoy. We headed off about 2pm, and we were at a height of 835m, then we started the slow climb out, which was extremely slow going and in 10kms, we climbed to 1510m, so that says just how steep and sharp the climb was.

Lunchtime.

At the intersection of Misery Trail, McCarthys Track and Buckwong Track, we headed to down the Buckwong Track to have a look at the Hut and campground, this also was a very steep descent! There was, yet again, no one there, we had a quick look at the hut, which was locked, then headed back to our campsite at Charlies Creek.

They are beautiful to see in the wild.
Quite healthy looking Brumbies.

Back at camp we didn’t do much, but organise the next leg of our journey, which has since been changed as we always grossly underestimate the time it takes to get from A to B, something we do every time we are here. We decided not to do one big push to Wonnangatta, instead breaking the trip up into two, staying at Beverages Station. Jase had put the water bags for showers on the truck, then in the sun, so we could have lovely hot showers hopefully.

It was a lovely relaxing afternoon, with drinks, showers and Jase even kind of fixed the Drone, so we could get some footage of the area, with Keira and I organising dinner, which for the first time was going to be quiche, something we have never tried in the camp oven, or over coals before. Fingers crossed!! Sitting near the fire, with the quiche cooking, the air is starting to feel ever so cool, watching Brumbies start to slowly make their way into the campground. We still think it’s quite strange that in the High Country there are no kangaroos at all.

Before cooking.
During cooking.
After cooking…was a treat.

Dinner turned out a treat, only after we actually put it in the coals of the fire and not to the side, it did take longer than we expected as well, but it was delicious! The kids all had sparklers and then marshmallows before we headed to bed for an early start.

Wednesday 16th January

Up earlier than the day before, after listening to Brumbies all night, either chomping near the tent, galloping through the forest or the two that were having a lovely game of cat and mouse for hours. We were finally on the way by 10.40am, only 10 mins behind schedule. We took the track out of Charlie’s Creek, heading to the junction of Misery Trail, Buckwong Track and McCarthy’s Track, at a height of 1510m, we then headed down Misery Track.

Ready for the next leg.

It was a fairly flat track at first, as we skirted our way across the top of the ridge line, the track winding it’s way between large stunning snow gums, which looked like it had been cleared for fire reduction. After 6kms of the flat, slightly undulating track, we started our descent, making our way down a very steep and extremely rocky 1.3km to the bottom. This section Jase took in first gear, low 4WD with the rear diff locker on for that extra traction, still making it a very slow drive for this part of the track, taking us over an hour to go just 7.8kms in total.

The stunning trees making up the Victorian High Country.

Making it to the next junction of Dapples Ck Road and the continuing of Misery Trail, we turned left down Dapples Ck Road, which eventually turned into a gravel road, and even had cows wandering near it in the bush. It was a very pretty road, as it snaked through large forest parts, with ferns popping up in the undergrowth, this road eventually turned into Misery Road, finally ending at the T-intersection with Limestone Road.

Turning right, travelling through Benambra, then finally arriving at Omeo at 12.40pm and a temperature of 41degs, having done a total of 76km in 2.20 hours. We did a quick shop of the essentials we needed for the next few days, then went down to the local lake for lunch and the kids to have a swim, before trying our luck at finding a news agency in Omeo, to no avail, there was one there, incorporated with the local post office, it just didn’t do lotto.

In the truck ready for the final push to our next stop of Beveridges Station at 2pm, with a route planned out. We headed straight out of Omeo up the Great Alpine Road, which, even though we have done many times, still takes us by surprise as to the steepness of the climb, straight up, winding our way up to Mt Hotham at an altitude of 1860m. It is a stunning drive, with beautiful gums lining the road and amazing views looking over the mountains. We followed the Great Alpine Road, and after Mt Hotham we started to look for Twins Jeep Track that would take us to Beveridges Station, however when we saw it, and noticed it went straight up the side of the mountain, we decided against taking that track.

Great Alpine Road, haven’t seen it covered in snow yet.

We headed back down the Great Alpine Road looking for Sugarloaf Track, missing it, so having to turn around, heading back up the road until we found the turn off. I walked up it first, as there was a house right at the junction, so we weren’t sure if it was a driveway or track, but it was a track, that at first didn’t look so bad. Up we went, travelling well, until Jase looked up and said, ‘ohh’, I looked up to see the track go directly up, another one we weren’t going to attempt as it was getting late in the day and we wanted to get there without many dramas!!

Turning around, we headed back down the Great Alpine Road to Bright, where we hopefully bought the winning $100 million Powerball ticket and also purchased a new camping shower that hopefully works better than the ones we have, then onto Porepunkah, where we finally turned down Buckland Valley Road, which was going to take us straight into Beveridges Station.

The dust that become part of our adventure as well.
Somewhere on our travels, working out which track to take.

This road was an easy track, starting with tar, which then turned into dirt 13km in. We passed numerous campgrounds, including one that we rather busy, then the more we headed down the track, the quieter the campgrounds became. We finally made it to Beveridges Station, although it wasn’t quite what we thought, so after a drive around the campground we decided to head back to one we had passed, ending up at a campground called The Bend.

The section of river that became our home for 3 nights.

Found a spot by the river then set up the tent then went for a swim to cool down as it was still incredibly hot, so the water was a welcome relief. Dinner was gnocchi with pesto, bacon and cream, it was enjoyed with everyone wanting seconds, however there wasn’t any left, so bad luck!! As it had been a long day in the truck, we headed to bed after washing up the dinner things, we were tired, so I was looking forward to a good sleep.

Thursday 17th January

As we weren’t heading off anywhere today, no one was in a rush to get out of bed this morning, but eventually we all did, having breakfast, teas and coffees and now with Megan and Keira both enjoying a coffee, we had to purchase a larger pot before we left on this trip.

Unfortunately it was again, fix it morning as we had cleanly snapped the Anderson plug which went from the trailer to the truck sometime during our travels the day before, hence there was no charge all day to the trailer, which sucked. We mended those, while the kids played in the creek, building a dam wall, which they all enjoyed, as they couldn’t really swim as the water was rather shallow. A lazy day for everyone, with books read, games played, lunch had and the only time in the truck was to go and fetch some firewood as there was none around the campsite at all.

The Bend campsite for the 3 days.

We headed back to Beveridges Station to find some wood there, but even that had slim pickings, something we have never really struggled with before was turning out to be rather difficult. Back on the main track we pulled into a campground just before Beveridges and finally found a felled tree and cut that up, hopefully it will last us the night as we were having roast lamb and veg, so we needed some good coals.

The fire was started and the coals were created so our lamb went in the camp oven for dinner, then the veg eventually. It was a delicious dinner, the only thing that ruined it, were the flies, which ruin every camping trip really, morning, noon and early night, dam things.

We were packing up and heading to Wonnangatta tomorrow, so an earlier night was had by all as we had an early departure and as there were no stars, due to cloud cover there wasn’t any night viewing to be done, which was yet again rather disappointing.

Friday 18th January

Up earlier than normal for the pack up and departure for Wonnangatta Station, the next leg of our journey. We were ready to leave after breakfasts, teas and coffees, by 9.45am, a first for us to be leaving before 10.30am. It was only 200m up the Mt Selwyn Road when we had to stop, cut and move a tree which had fallen across the track, our first of many trees.

Leaving Beveridges Station, ready for Wonnangatta.
The first of many trees we would encounter.

We had been following this track for some time, when we came across another tree, only 10.7km from the turn off, we needed the chainsaw for this one though. At the junction of Mt Selwyn Road, Twin Creeks Track and Walshs Track, we checked the maps to make sure we were headed down the right track, Jase spotting a deer on the track we were going to head down, it took off just after I managed to take a pic of it and just before we headed down the track ourselves.

Another tree blocking the track.
There is a deer in this pic, running off just after I took it.

Walshs Track was pleasant to begin with, but before long it turned out to be a very steep descent, straight down, rear diff on, 4WD low 1st gear, making it a very long, slow drive to the bottom, with also many tight turns, with the track travelling back on itself many times.

Walshs Track eventually turned into East Buffalo Road where we turned right onto East West Divide Track, then turning left onto Penny Track. We came across another tree across the track, which actually turned out to be two trees of rather large thickness, so the chainsaw was definitely needed this time. After cutting and moving the trees, the track descended steeply for about 1.5km, which was straight down, again Jase using 4WD low, Jase and I both spotting a Lyre Bird flying across the track, which was a beautiful sight. At the bottom of Penny Track we crossed the West Buffalo River, turning left onto West Buffalo Road, the track, we thought had been recently graded as it was a fairly good track, eventually this track turning into Harry Shepards Track, which at first was, again well graded and not too bad. About one km in though, we struck a bit of an issue with an exceptionally steep section of the track that was slightly greasy, due to the light rain that was falling, making us struggle to the top.

There are actually two trees side by side here.
These trees were rather thick, taking a bit of time to cut through.
The view of the valley the track overlooked.

Jase was doing a great job, until we got stuck on the second erosion mound, we were so close to the top of the mound, but just couldn’t get over it. Everyone, bar Jase, got out and I assessed the situation, which didn’t look too good, lucky it for us, it wasn’t raining at this point and the sun we just starting to come out. We got the winch out, the tree protector and attached it to a tree just over the mound and Jase gave it all, but to no avail, as he was digging deeper ruts in the soft, greasy track.

Bugger, we just didn’t make it over.
The kids at the top of the track we were trying to get up.
Took us quite a while to get up.

Next, we got the maxtrax out, used the winch and tried again, still, just digging deeper ruts. We dug out the dirt, maxtrax, winched to another tree and tried again, we were just so close to the top of the erosion mound, but still just far enough away that we just couldn’t get over. We attached the winch to another tree, re-dug the tyres out of the deep ruts, replaced the maxtrax and tried again, this attempt didn’t work either. Jase decided to reverse down the track, with the winch attached for safe measure and try again from another spot, halfway down, he gave it his all, with all lockers on, every 4WD button turned on in the truck but still it just wasn’t enough for us to get over the erosion mound.

Our last attempt and well over an hour later, Jase reversed right to the bottom of the track and gave it everything, we got out of the way as finally punched it up and over the erosion mound, continuing up the the other part of the steep track…we all cheered and clapped as it was getting very warm and Jase and I were extremely hot, having to walk up and down the track, dig holes, dig out maxtrax and attach the winch to assorted trees along the track.

After the kids and I brought all the maxtrax, shovels and tree protector up the next steep section of the track to meet Jase in the truck we re-packed it all again and headed off for the next junction of Harry Shepard, Van Dammes and East Riley Road at 2.05pm, hopefully leading us closer to Wonnangatta Station. We stopped at this junction for lunch, leaving again at 2.50pm, however, he took the wrong track as the National Park signage was pretty vague, finally getting on the right track at 3pm, heading down Wonnangatta Track. This track was extremely steep, using 4WD low again and descending 400m in just under 6kms and when we got to the bottom, the track was filled with pot holes, which surprised us as it had been well graded towards the top and midway down.

Stopping at Harry Shepard, Van Dammes and East Riley Road junction for lunch.
The view from the other side of the junction.

The tracks we took into Wonnangatta Station were quite difficult towing the trailer, with a fair few steep climbs and descents, but we made it finally, arriving at 4pm after yet again a long and adventurous trip. We drove around the valley and even though there weren’t a lot of campers around, there was still more than we thought, so after a bit of an explore, we decided on a spot near the river that had a deeper area to swim in. The campsite must have been recently vacated as there was plenty of firewood pre-cut, with larger pieces and a bundle of smaller stuff to start a fire.

Finally arriving in Wonnangatta Valley after another hard day behind the wheel.
The view from the loo, not bad at all!!

The kids all went straight for a swim, we set the trailer up, then went for a swim to cool down as it was over 30 degs, before starting dinner, which was toasted sandwiches, something we all love. Unfortunately the wind had picked up ever so slightly, making it the wildest night on this trip so far and with the cloud still hanging around there were no stars and the very light rain falling.

The skies looked dark, but there was no rain, just wind.

Yet again, we were both looking forward to bed as we had had a long day, so it was great to finally get there while listening to the rain fall gently on the tent. We had driven a total of 69.7kms in 6 hours, minus 1.20 hours when we got stuck on the erosion mound and also we think an hour lost on cutting trees and a wrong turn, which took us down a mountain and back up, making our travel time roughly 20km an hour!!

Saturday 19th January

What a slow morning we all had after a great nights sleep, which at some point, early in the morning did get slightly cool, so having to put the blanket on, we came out to find a beautiful, clear and stunning day.

Breakfasts were had, with cups of tea and while having our coffee, Jase and I got to work on a few things that had broken during this leg of the trip, such as our broken off back stabiliser leg, another Anderson plug needed re-wiring and a front stabiliser leg needed fixing. We are both getting fairly good at doing bush repairs as we seem to be doing them on every trip now.

I re-wired the Anderson plug that went from the trailer to the solar panels, as we weren’t getting any charge from it and Jase took the front passenger stabiliser leg and put it on the back drivers side missing one. The kids all happily either swam or played games, or sat around been bored as they weren’t allowed on their electronic devices!!

The used rope to skip with, the things that happen without technology.

The kids all decided to have noodles and cup of soups for lunch, so that was easy as we were still in repair mood, we had a left over roast lamb wrap when we had finished. After we had washed up the breakfast and lunch things we headed off on a tour of the valley, showing the kids the cemetery and the old homestead, which although burnt down in 1957, there are rocks to show where the home was and a rough guide to the rooms. The kids are always amazed at how young people die so early in these old town cemeteries, as there are 12 day old twins in the Wonnangatta one, as the mother died from childbirth and her twins not long after. We try and explain how hard it would have been in those days, with no vehicles and maybe a 2 day horseback ride each way to the nearest doctor and care, we find it hard to imagine, so they would too.

The Cemetery at the Wonnangatta Homestead.
The kids still get amazed at how young children are when they died.
We have the same pic, but with the Navara from a previous trip.
Such beautiful countryside.
A bit of wildlife photography.

We drove for a fair way along the track, finding a great little spot that had a bar, called ‘Gatta Bar & Grill’, which had a bar, and two chairs/stools made out of huge pieces of tree, it was very random and we all had lots of fun with it. On the way back to camp, we came across a great watering hole, with had a few people already swimming, so we will visit tomorrow.

Stopping at Gatta Bar & Grill, if only there was a bar fridge handy!!
Such a funny place in the middle of nowhere.
Waiting for our drinks to be served.

Back at camp we all went for a swim, with the fire getting ready to light for dinner, which was pre-made butter chicken, warmed in the camp oven on the tripod over the coals. Jase also got the kids, with himself to take the tonneau down to the creek to try and get some of the dust off, it worked a treat, until we put it back on the trailer and go 100m up the road!!

Giving the tonneau cover a much needed clean.

Jase, Megan, Zarah and myself all had team games of sequence, one of my favourites, it was a close match, with Megan and I just pipping them at the crease. Jase them played chess with Kye while the girls used the rope and skipped, something I don’t think any of them had done in years. Love life without technology!!!

Getting the fire ready to start heating dinner.
Our butter chicken warming up.

Dinner was had, which yet again went down very well, Keira even hovering over my bowl, as there were no left overs. It was turning out to be a beautiful evening, with the stars starting to show, something we had yet to see. While sitting in front of the fire I turned around and looked up over the small hill, towards the valley and said to Jase there are heaps of cars coming because of the light that was been shed, it was a surprise to find out that it was actually the moon coming up over the mountains, a very beautiful sight.

Sunday 20th January

Jase and I were up by 8.15am, with the kids all still sleeping, until 9.30am, the fresh country air knocks them about! We have had coffee and watch a group of campers down the valley pack away their campsite, actually taking great pleasure in watching them pack away their toilet and shower tents as we thought we were the only ones that struggled with those pop up tents. They did it quicker than what we would have though, as ours would have ended up in the bush by now!!

Wildlife photography practice again.

It was going to be a slow day around camp, then a drive to the swimming hole we saw earlier the day before. We packed up the lunch things, then headed off for a few hours of swimming, although it did take us a bit to find, we actually went back and forth along the same track a few times, crossing the same river numerous times. We finally found the track that took us into the swimming hole campsite, so set up the awning and settled in for a while.

The swimming hole we had found the day before.
Some wild orchids we found.
Was deep enough to jump in and get totally wet.

The swimming hole was deep enough to totally immerse yourself and get wet, actually we couldn’t touch the bottom, so it was a great find. We had lunch and then another swim before heading back to the campsite, via the swing bridge we saw last time we were in Wonnangatta Valley, this also took us a bit of time to find, only going off what we remembered and the landscape, but together we found it and the kids all walked along it, with Jase and Megan swinging it, causing the Zarah, Keira and Kye to slightly panic.

The swing bridge, which hunters use to cross the creek.
Jase and Megan swinging the bridge, causing the other three to panic.
We were looking at the bush as we had all heard a large animal noise.
No idea!!
Heading back to camp.

Back at camp, we got the fire going as we needed fire for our dinner, which tonight was pork chops, baby beets and alfredo packet pasta stuff, which the kids continually said was mac and cheese. Jase, Megan, Zarah and I continued our Sequence battle, with Megan and I getting beaten this time around.

Dinner was had with the flies again, then it was nearly bed time as we were heading to Dargo tomorrow and needed an earlier start. Jase and I sat around the camp fire for a bit longer and had a cup of tea before heading to bed ourselves. Yet again it was a beautiful night, with the stars starting to make an appearance.

Monday 21st January

Was a later start to the morning than we hoped, as Jase and I weren’t out of bed until after 8.30am, which then makes the kids even later. We both set about our normal tasks of packing up the trailer, finally ready to leave by 10.10am, with a total of 975km on the clock, but leaving Wonnangatta Valley with a clean slate on the clock.

Ready to go on such a beautiful day.
The drop loo that the kids refused to use with the door open.

We travelled along Wonnangatta Track, crossing the river numerous times, at one crossing in particular you could see that the river was very low, with the rocks protruding out of what little water was in there. The track wound it’s way between the valley, following the river before we climbed slightly, making our way over very large erosion mounds, finally getting to the junction of Wombat Spur Track, taking us 45mins to travel 11kms.

And here we go, the trip to Dargo, up so many steep tracks.
The start of Wombat Spur Track.

Wombat Spur Track was very steep, very rocky and very dusty but up we went, at times, I didn’t think we were going to make it, especially when just trying to climb over the top of very large erosion mounds. The dust we threw up was incredible, but we still climbed, higher and higher, straight up the side of the mountain, making for some very tough, hairy 4WDrivig.

The dust in the air that we threw up, while driving up Wombat Spur Track.
Looking back down the track, which doesn’t look as steep as it was.
At the junction.
At the top we were, after a long and steady climb.

There were numerous sections of very steep climbing with lockers on, climbing assist, 4WD low, but still, up we seemed to go, finally reaching the top at the junction of where Herne Spur joined the track we were on, we had heard at times that Herne Spur was one of the steepest tracks in Victoria, but after looking down that, then looking down what we had just climbed and to us, there were very similar, either way, there were some stunning views from the top of both tracks, looking back over the valley we had just climbed from.

After we finally got to the top, we travelled along the ridge line, spotting tracks on the opposite mountain ranges, saying to ourselves we can’t imagine what it would be like in a busy period with other trucks around, when yep, we were slowly going down with a truck making it’s way up. He saw we had a trailer and as there was no room to pull over for either of us, he reversed quite some distance until it was safe enough for him to pull over. We had a quick chat, he was travelling with his son and had camped in Wonnangatta Station the night before and was just going for a drive before heading back to the valley, we continued on our way, finally making it to the junction of Wombat Range Track, Cynthia Range Track and EaglevaleTrack at 12.10pm, having done only 16.6km in and hour and ten minutes!!

It says on one of the maps we were following that Eaglevale was very steep with a level of difficult, and yep, we thought Wombat Range Track was steep, but travelling up is different, this track was extremely steep, only we were travelling downhill not up. We left the junction of Wombat Range Track and Eaglevale Track at 12.15pm and arrived at the Eaglevale Campground at 12.40pm, having only done 4km!!!

Looking over Eaglevale Valley.
You can actually kind of see the steepness of the track in this pic, with the broken stabiliser legs.

We stopped at the bottom for the kids to swim and for lunch when we noticed that we had lost not one rear stabiliser leg, but two rear ones…great! Jase was in the process of trying to take them both off so they wouldn’t cause anymore issues when a truck came past wanting to chat to us about some missing campers and if we had seen anyone on our trip down Eaglevale. We had only passed the one dad and his son, but apparently a family with young children hadn’t returned to their camper trailer after a drive the day before, their camper trailer left overnight. We passed the trailer on our way out of Eaglevale Valley.

Really…two back ones now busted!
Um, yep and off they both come.
Looking back up the valley, it was an extremely hot day.
Heading back out of the valley, looking back over the track we had just come down.

A quick swim was had, then lunches were made before we headed of for the last leg of our trip to Dargo, where we were going to stay for the next 4 days, this part of the drive was very easy,  winding back and forth, following the river all the way into town. We past two trucks on the track but that was all, pulling into town at 2.50pm to a very hot afternoon and with hardly anyone around, we fuelled up the truck, not fully at $1.90 per litre, filled the small petrol jerry can then went and grabbed some milk, toilet paper and bread rolls as well.

And we made it to one of our favourite outback pubs.

The guy behind the counter asked where we were headed and I said, here, then it was where had we come from, I said Wonnangatta Valley, then he enquired as to whether we knew anything about the missing campers as apparently they were all now quite worried. Jase had come in by now and together we showed him on a map where we had come from and what we knew and saw, he mentioned he would pass that info onto the local police and they may get in touch with us.

At the Dargo Hotel, we had to have a beer and the kids a soft drink, enjoying this outside, in the very hot conditions, chatting a guy and his daughter on where they had come from and were headed next. Back in the truck, we travelled along the Dargo High Plain Road, then turning off onto Dargo River Road, looking for a campsite for the next 4 nights and after driving through Italian Flats, Jimmy Iversons, Ollies Jump Up and a few others we finally headed back to Italian Flats and settled on a great spot, towards the end of the campground near a lovely stretch of the river, which was waist deep, suiting us all.

Our campsite just outside of Dargo.

Dinner was pre-cooked spaghetti, so we got that going after the trailer was put up and we had gone for a swim as it was still very warm, we were even too tired to collect firewood to get a fire going. After dinner it was pretty much straight to bed for us as it had yet again been a long and hard day concentrating in the truck, for us anyhow, still a warm evening.

Tuesday 22nd January

As most nights previously, it got slightly cool just before the sun came up about 5am, so we needed to put the other blanket on, the kids also needed their sleeping bags at this time. Today we just relaxed and did nothing, swam, read, played games and took it easy. Late in the arvo we headed out to grab some firewood, to last us teh whole time in this camp. Tonight we cooked a roast pork roll and did basic pulled pork bread rolls with gravy. It was a nice evening and we managed to catch a few stars through the canopy of trees. It wasn’t a late night, but we still turned in early to cap a lazy day. 

The steps that were carved out, leading to the river.
The river at the base of our campsite.

Wednesday 23rd January

Yet again, the cockatoos woke us, the second morning in a row, screeching, squawking and making a huge racket in general, the other birds all have their lovely songs in the mornings, but not cockatoos, they are their own entity.

Jase cooked pancakes for breakfast which was a welcome relief from nutri grain, which can get rather boring, so the pancakes were delicious. The kids washed up after coffees, the truck was packed for our days trip up to Billy Goats Bluff Track, surrounding tracks then into Dargo Hotel for dinner, with hopefully a swim in there somewhere!

We had a rough idea of the tracks we were going to take, then off we went, leaving at 10.30am, travelling along Dargo High Plain Road until the junction of Grady’s Creek Road where we turned left, the first section of the track was rather steep, but it was very pretty, with eucalyptus trees lining both sides of the track. At the next junction, we veered right onto Link Road, taking this short track to Hibernia Road, where we turned left, at an altitude of 1096m, making our to Conway Track, Hibernia wasn’t steep, instead snaking it’s way along the ridge line before we turned left onto Conway Track. We were travelling along slowly, when down we started to head, this track we had seen from Wonnangatta Road, straight up the side of the mountain.

The start of Grady’s Creek Road.
The junction of Link Road and Grady’s Creek Road.
Heading down Conway Track, looking over towards Billy Goats Bluff Track.
Looking back up Conway Track.
Heading down Conway Track.

Leaving Conway Track at 11.15am at 1006m, an incredibly steep track straight down the side of the mountain, as we had seen, with sections that were very rocky, making for a very slow descent, a 180 as Megan named them! We finally arrived at the bottom at 11.35am and 239m in only 4km, Jase and I love it, although I don’t do any of the really steep driving he says the truck handles beautifully without the added deadweight of the trailer.

Arrived at the junction of Billy Goat Bluff Track ready for what we had set out to do, not knowing what was ahead of us, with the track climbing 1200 vertical meters in 8kms. And up we went, the climb starting pretty much straight away, there were some very step rock sections, the truck just slowly making it’s way up, chucking up huge amounts of dust in it’s wake. There was a lot of solid rock sections, which went straight up, the truck climbing at the steady pace of just 11kms an hour, we made it to the helipad clearing where there were already stunning views over the valley below.

And here we go, one of Australia’s iconic 4WD tracks.
Looking down the track after driving up it for quite a while.
Looking across at the section of track that was to come!!!

Continuing to go up, with the longest unbroken climb of 750m making it an even more interesting track, there were a few dips, taking the relief off the truck for a short time, before heading up again, finally reaching the top of 1340m at 12.25pm. It lived up to all of the hype that we had heard about it, marking another Victorian High Country track off our list.

Getting towards the top, stopping to check out ‘that’ view.
We love looking back over the mountains and spotting tracks in the distance.
Finally at the top, after an epic climb.

We continued on, making our way to The Pinnacles, with an altitude of 1450m, parking in the carpark before trekking the short distance to the lookout tower, the fire watch tower, where there was a watcher, who came out for a chat. He said it hadn’t been busy and although we knew there were fires in the area, we couldn’t see smoke anywhere in the distance, he said occasionally there were little puffs of smoke on the horizon, but nothing major. There were spectacular views from the tower, in every direction and despite it been a beautiful, sunny day it wasn’t clear, with a slight haze over the mountain ranges, the watcher did say you could see the ocean on exceptionally clear days, also being able to see the oil rigs lights offshore at night.

The view from the Fire Tower.
Spotting tracks in the distance.
It was stunning views whichever way you looked.
Even the kids all took a good pic!
Our turn for a pic with a stunning view.
Walking back towards the truck.
Looking back towards the fire tower.
Such amazing views.

We had lunch in the carpark, with another vehicle arriving not long after, and while eating lunch were surprised that there weren’t many flies around to spoil it, making for a pleasant change. After lunch we headed back down, not taking the same track but travelling along Castlehill Track instead, it snaked it’s way along the ridge line, with slight hills, but nothing major until 2kms in, when it started to get very steep, straight down, with rather large rock steps and a lot of bends. We then turned right onto the Trails Track, which wound it’s way up and down, over slight hills, a very pleasant drive, through beautiful forests, with a lot eucalyptus trees.

The Pinnacles, where we had lunch.
The track leading out of the Pinnacles.
Heading down Castlehill Track.
There was quite a steep, rocky section on this track.
Still crawling down.

Trails Track eventually brought us out onto Dargo Road, about 25kms south of Dargo. We headed back to Dargo, then decided we would go for a swim before making our way to the pub for dinner. This we did, heading to Collins Hut, which was on the Wonnangatta River, the track taking us down to the river was a lot rockier and seemed a lot less used than we expected.

Overlooking the countryside from Wonnangatta Road,
Having a cool off in the Wonnangatta River, before our dinner at the Dargo Pub.
Crossing the Wonnangatta River.
Just drip drying.
Following some locals up the road, we were impressed that those on horseback were all Jillaroos.

After our cool off, including the truck even having a dip, we all got changed then headed back to Dargo, where we had a beer and drink outside, while talking to the couple that we saw up at the Pinnacles lookout, eventually having dinner together, each discussing this trip, previous ones and ones we all had planned for the future. We mentioned where we were camping, along the river and they joined us there as well. They set up their rooftop tent while we got the fire going, then around it we all sat, continuing our stories well into the night. They were from WA, so had done a fair bit more in their truck than we had in ours!!

Thursday 24th January

Kind of slept in, although we were all woken by the bloody cockatoos that were again screeching all morning, there was also the gun shots that have been happening every morning since we arrived as well, regular shots fired each morning at the same time.

Jase and I got up before the kids and had a cup of tea, before the kids all rose, making themselves breakfasts then finally I made coffees for those having one. While sitting at the table with our cups of tea and breakfast the local Fire Management Victoria came down in his massive Unimog Fire truck to let us know that there was a total fire ban in Victoria tomorrow, due to the high winds and 45degs. Jase and I asked about his awesome truck and how it was to drive and the tracks it would go up, we were jealous. We also asked him how the tracks were graded and he said with a bulldozer and that he actually does them in the season, between October to November, to us, he was a fascinating person to chat to!!

Oh yeah, the Unimog we want!

We had decided to go to Harrisons Cut for lunch and a swim on recommendation of the guy at the Dargo General Store, so after we had packed the truck with lunch stuff, chairs and towels and the kids had washed up, we said goodbye to Sophie and Liam, thanked Liam for his work on our trailer then headed off for our day by the river.

It was a great short trip to Harrisons Cut, we were the only ones there, so set up in the corner and got the annex set up ready for a few hours by the river. Harrison’s Cut was an awesome man-made cut in the rocks to create water flow for the gold miners, causing a great waterfall, but not really one you could slid down. It was slightly deep in a few places, so all the kids had a great time, especially with their tubes.

Harrison’s Cut, where we spent a fair amount of time on a very hot summers day.
We were the only ones there for quite some time.
Looking back up the river.

We had lunch of the staple of biscuits and assorted toppings, then after the second group of people arrived, we headed back to our campsite, it was actually 3.15pm, via Matheson’s Track which eventually took us to Dargo High Plains Road. The track went straight up after a short time of travelling beside the river, making for yet again another great track we have added to our map of tracks in the Victorian High Country. It was a very steep climb, as steep as many of the others we had done previously, but not as long, still with large erosion mounds where you loose the track quickly on the downside of the mound.

All packed and ready to head back to camp.
Matheson’s Track, the way out of Harrison’s Cut.

After roughly 10kms, we finally made it to the main road and started the long slow steep trek to our campsite, stopping only once to fix the tubes that had been falling off the top of the truck. As Jase said we actually took the long cut as it seemed to take quite a while to get back to camp. Zarah, Keira and Kye wanted to float down the river, so we dropped them off a few campgrounds before our campsite with their tubes, Megan deciding to stay with us.

Zarah, Keira and Kye floating back to our campsite.

The kids dropped off, we headed back to camp quickly to swap the fridge out with our empty jerry cans and go into Dargo to fill them, as our camper trailer water was showing as empty. We filled up just behind the tennis courts as a local farmer was filling his massive pallet sized water trailer, he mentioned that we were filling with creek water and to boil it before consumption, which we would do anyhow. Back at camp we just managed to beat the kids back, as they were still floating down the creek, get a fire going as we needed the coals for dinner, filled the water tank of the trailer, got the showers for the kids going, then finally settled down for the evening, eventually!

Dinner was teriyaki chicken legs with rice, (Megan calling it, rice with chicken in the camp oven with marinated stuff) which yet again went down a treat, everyone wanting seconds, but there was nothing left!! We watched the stars come out, spotting the occasional satellite, before sending the kids to bed as we were going to head off early tomorrow for our trip to Willis campground. Jase and I finally had showers and tidied up slightly before heading to bed ourselves.

Friday 25th January

Last early morning of the cockatoos waking us and also the person who fires his gun at the same time at the same intervals each morning. It was up for all of us, as the packing of the trailer had to start for the second last time, dam it!!

Breakfasts were had, coffees, then everyone set about organising what they had to do for the packup of the trailer. We were getting slightly quicker, so were ready to go after a quick swim for us as it was warming up already.

Ready for the last leg of our trip, with one last stop before heading home.

On the road by 9.40am, at 240m, heading to Birregun Road, which would lead us to Omeo. The Fire Management guy at our campsite near Dargo mentioned that the start of Birregun Road was rather rough and rutted, but nothing compared to what we had been on before, so all was good, up we went, ever so slowly. The road wasn’t straight up the side of the mountain like other tracks, but wound it’s way around the mountain, still making for a steep climb. 

Looking back towards Matheson’s Track.

At the first junction where we turned left at Rudolf Gap and we were at 866m, having done 11km, we then followed the ridge line along the top of Birregun Road reaching a height of 1460m, it was a fair bit slower doing it in the truck, then doing it on the bike. It was still a stunning track, through forest type vegetation, very pretty wild yellow flowers, with amazing views over the valley.

 

The very pretty wild flowers.
The Dog’s Grave.

We stopped at Dog’s Grave to show the kids. We reached the bottom of the road at 11.30am, having done 55km having dropped over 700m with a very quick descent, finally reaching Omeo at 12pm with yet again another stinking hot day, somewhere around the mid forties. We put $100 worth of fuel in the tank, not filling it until we got to Jindabyne as it will be cheaper, hopefully! Jase and I also dropped into the Info Centre to check on the road conditions as you could see a bushfire in the distance, the same direction we were heading for the next two nights. They mentioned that we wouldn’t be able to get through on Limestone Creek Track to Black Mountain, so would have to come up with other plans.

Headed off from Omeo at 12.50pm, after dumping our rubbish, doing some shopping and deciding to head the way we were going to go originally, straight into the flames, kind of, making me ever so nervous!!

The bushfires in the distance.
Was looking rather ominous.

We headed back out to Benambra on Limestone Road, eventually linking us on to the Snowy River Road, the fires were to the right of us, then ahead, but I felt completely safe and relaxed, especially after chatting to a ranger that said that where we were headed was safe and not in danger.

This is the way we wanted to go the whole time as we wanted to show the kids the Old School House (as we call it, the Old Shool House from the movie Megamind!), so on to Suggan Buggan it was, only passing one or two cars on our travels. It was extremely hot when we got out at Suggan Buggan to visit the Old School House, but it is well worth the heat to stop and look at such an historic little building, even the kids thought so, although the air-conditioning of the truck is still a welcome relief. On to Willis, the next stop for our last two nights, finally making it back into New South Wales, heading for a campsite and hopefully a welcome swim in the Snowy River.

Suggan Buggan and the Old Shool House!!
Getting ready for a lesson!!
The Old Shool House, on a day that was well over 40 degs.
We have now seen it more than once, but we still love it.

Unfortunately Willis wasn’t all that great, there wasn’t anyone around, but the campsites were a fair way away from the river, it was very big, with a lot of space, but just not what we were after. We headed on to the next campgrounds of Pinch River, Halfway Flat and Jacobs River, finally we turned around as Jason said the road started to head up the mountain away from the river and in the heat that we were having, we needed to be by the water.

The great Snowy River with bushfires in the distance.

Back along The Barry Way, we finally settled on a campsite at Running Waters, which although wasn’t the greatest, it was an alright spot for the next two nights anyhow, the river was only a one minute walk down a ‘garden path’, this was going to have to do, we arrived at 5pm, still hellishly hot and unpleasant.

We set the trailer up, finally finishing that just after 6pm before Jase and I joined the kids for a swim in the river, which, after we got to the river bank, noticed just how muddy and murky the water was, you couldn’t see the bottom. It was a lovely temperature to swim in, cooling you off, but just not the clear, crystal waters we were expecting, none-the-less, the kids enjoyed it and as I mentioned, it did cool us down.

Our campsite for the next two nights.

Dinner was toasted sandwiches in the jaffle makers, so a small fire was started so we could cook them, before we put the fire out completely then heading to bed and how anyone was going to sleep in the heat was another thing. There were not many animal noises, although a small bush mouse was making it’s way across the top of the tent and the kids all said they heard something somewhere outside near the kitchen. During the night, the wind picked up, then a slight sprinkle of rain, but no relief from the stifling heat, it felt like ages before I finally slept, if at all.

Australia Day

As today was going to be a nothing day, everyone slept in, also because the night before had been so hellishly hot, not getting under 30degs all evening. I hadn’t slept well at all, due to the heat, then the bushfire, then the wind, then the small storm that came, albeit, only one clap of thunder, one strike of lightening and 5 drops of rain.

Breakfast and coffees were had, then it was a swim to cool down. Then it was board games, then a swim, reading magazines or doing puzzles, then a swim, lunch, then a swim, the day continuing like that for most of it, not even when evening fell did it cool down. We didn’t have a fire for dinner, we were too tired, it was too hot and the dinner we were having could also be cooked over the stove and that it was.

The day was spent swimming, reading, swimming, eating and so on.
The campsite we were staying in, not many cars passed at all.
It took them a while, but finally they swam over to a large rock in the middle of the river.
The path leading to the river.
The dark clouds mixed with smoke, that lead to no rain.
The calm, but muddy dark waters of the Snowy River.

More swimming, more games, then dinner, then we packed up the back of the trailer to save time in the morning, also as we had nothing else for breakfast, so there was no point keeping the kitchen open, so all packed away before we went to bed, which was about 9.45pm, with another hot evening of 32degs.

During the night it seemed to get hotter and hotter and not unlike the night before, there was light sprinkles of rain, with finally the reprieve of some windy conditions that also brought with it some cooler temperatures, so cool in fact, that we needed a sheet over us!

Sunday 27th January

As we weren’t having breakfast, the pack up of the trailer is so much quicker, actually saving about 40mins, as we had packed up the kitchen, tubs, chairs and camp oven the night before. It only took us less than an hour and luckily the tent was dry despite some rain we had during the night. After the pack up we went for a quick swim to cool off, even though the temperature was only 22degs, then back in the truck, we started to make our way back to Sydney, via Jindabyne and Cooma, up the Barry Way.

Our last pack up, on our way back to Sydney.

We stopped at the first lookout for photos of the great Snowy River, and from the height we were, the water didn’t look murky or muddy at all. It was a cloudy day, which made it a little bit more pleasant to be sitting in the truck, winding our way around The Barry Way, which although isn’t straight up the side of the mountain, is still a very, long, slow, steep climb out and we had passed some guys riding to Jindabyne on their pushies…a long ride ahead.

The smoke haze that lingered over the Snowy River.
The end of another great trip.
Yet again, another stunning view behind the kids!!
We love how the river snakes it’s way through the valley.
The smoke haze created an amazing sight over the mountains.
Already feeling blue about heading back to Sydney.

After only 61km, we finally arrived in Jindabyne at 11am, re-filling the tyres, then finding a bakery for a late breakfast and coffee at Nuggets Crossing, our hands full of our goodies we were back in the truck, then quickly stopping at a water station to fill our bottles as we were all out, leaving at 11.40am.

Arriving at Cooma, we swapped drivers as Jason had done pretty much all of it during the trip, so it was high time I took over, we were right on schedule for getting home for 6pm. Driving around Canberra the petrol light came on so we stopped on the other side of Canberra at a road side station and filled the tank full.

Jason hates the drive between Canberra and home, thinks it’s incredibly boring, hence I often take the wheel here and he fiddles with every gadget he can find in the truck, whether it be reading a magazine, finding new maps on the Hema or even cleaning the centre console or glovebox, anything to pass the time of this part of the trip.

It was getting towards Mittagong that the skies looked very menacing, dark and yes, very stormy, so Jason took out the phone to check the weather radar and bang, we were going to drive straight through some very heavy stuff. The traffic was still flowing, lightening was happening in the foreground, then light sprinkles of rain started, getting heavier and heavier, before traffic slowed, cars pulled off on the side of the road and large pools of water were creating havoc on the roads.

I continued, with the slow traffic, surprised that other cars and trucks still sped past at quite a fast pace, before we were out of the worst of it, there was some very heavy rain, no hail, lots of lightening and probably some thunder, that we couldn’t hear through the rain. We were through it in about 10-15mins, then our trip continued on as normal, with the traffic slowly dispersing the closer we got to Sydney.

By the time we reached the M7, then the M2, there was hardly any traffic, so the trip to the Narrabeen was very easy, with no more storms, although some lightening to the right of us for some time. We were home by 5.30pm after an extremely easy trip, with only the storm slowing us, now the fun begins, washing, cleaning, washing, truck washing, washing and more washing.

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