All posts by chris smith


Alpine Adventure – Diary of a Tumut Tri-State Traveller

Harry Richards reports:

Tumut at the end of April! Brr. Just thinking about it made me want to get another jumper. Poor N.S.W. found Easter falling at this time when it was their turn to arrange the annual Easter Tri-State Gathering. But one should not let pre-conceptions cloud ones actions. And so it proved.

Sure, it got cold at night, but the days were lovely – calm and fine and the Tumut Showgrounds proved a more than adequate venue. Victoria’s numbers were down, 13 vehicles compared with (from memory) 19 from South Australia and 24 from the host state.

I had just taken delivery of a new camper trailer the Friday before, so it was with some apprehension we set off for Tumut. Could we put it up without breaking anything? Would we be warm enough? What would we leave behind?

As I said, pre-conceptions should not … We decided to take our time to get to Tumut, hence we left on the Wednesday and stayed overnight in Wangaratta.

Being a well known wimp from way back, we stayed in a cabin that night, with the camper parked out the front! I don’t know what our neighbours thought, but what the heck. Statue in Corryong

From Wangaratta, we took the scenic route around Lake Hume, through Corryong, Tumbarumba and on to Tumut. Twelve months ago, I believe Lake Hume was down to something like 8% full. I was astounded then, to drive past and find that I doubt whether one more drop could be put in it. There was certainly no tell tale brown line between the water level and the grass. My mind was left to ponder how much water it took to fill the dam, given its area and depth. My brain hurts when I think about it.

Corryong is a pleasant country town, dining out on the Man From Snowy River legend. Nevertheless, a great lunch spot. Walking around town, we came upon a plaque dedicated to some local who swam the length of the Murray River from nearby to Lake Alexandrina in South Australia. Not a bad effort, given I’m flat walking to the front to get the paper!

clip_image002[8]Beyond Corryong, the road starts to climb and some of the gradients are a bit steep. The Pathie knew it was pulling something. Just past the little town of Tooma is a lookout and a memorial to the lives lost in the crash of the Southern Cloud. This was an episode of Australian aviation history I was only vaguely aware of. It is a most interesting story and worth a separate article.

The next town of substance is Tumbarumba and Jill was most interested to visit the Pioneer Womens Museum, which is some 8kms out of Tumbarumba on theMain st - Tumbarumba road to Wagga Wagga. So, being a caring, obedient husband, we did a leftie off the main road and headed out for the museum, which we found with no difficulty. The day was Wednesday and the museum is not open on … Wednesdays! Oh Well. So back to Tumbarumba and continue our journey to Tumut through the apple town of Batlow.

The entrance gates to the Tumut Showgrounds welcomed us, as did the N.S.W. organisers. Complete with “show bag” and directions, we pulled up at our allotted site. “Ten minutes”, the camper trailer salesman said when asked how long it takes to put the outfit up. Ninety minutes later we were settled in our camp chairs, under our annex, enjoying a freshly brewed coffee. Next time we’ll be quicker… won’t we?

At five o’clock the word was passed around that Happy Hour would get away unless we all gathered around. So we did.

It was great to catch up with the interstate faces we’d met at Tolmie, as well as the faces we’d met at our monthly meetings. The inevitable raffle was conducted and the trip sheets for the next day displayed. That night, our new camper got tested for “waterproofness”, as we had some extended periods of rain. It came through with flying colours, although in the morning, we found that one of the annex poles was a little higher than it should have been and a large pool had formed in the annex roof. Warning. Don’t stand outside your annex when you empty this pool. The water does not care that you have just put on some dry, warm clothes. Oops. Still, that’s the fun of camping … isn’t it?

There were several trips on offer today (Good Friday), most to different parts of the surrounding ranges. The one that interested Jill and I though, was a guided tour of Gundagai and its history. Gundagai is one of those towns you bypass without a second thought. Most people would only associate it with The Dog Sitting on the Tuckerbox. Our guide was Marie, who grew up locally and her family are well recorded in Gundagai’s annals. She certainly knew her stuff.

Old railway bridge GundagaiThe original settlement of Gundagai was built on the river flats of the Murrumbidgee River, despite the warnings of the local aborigines of big floods. What would they know said the Europeans. Sure enough, in June 1852 came the flood of which the locals natives had warned. Except for a flour mill, the entire town was swept away with 83 lives lost, including one of Marie’s antecedents. A lesson learned, the town was rebuilt further up the hill and flourished due firstly to gold, then to the wool boom of the 1920s. Gundagai from the lookout

Floods though, are still part of Gundagai’s psyche Talking to one of the locals, I heard of the latest flood in February, which came up to the steps of his front porch. “Just part of life here,” he said, as he told me of a friend of his who had cut 180 bales of hay a week before the inundation. “All but 14 were swept away and you can see the remains of some of them over there,” as he pointed out some scraps of blue plastic hanging from the lower branches of some trees.

Marie took us out onto the river flats to show us a plaque highlighting the centre of the original township and the layout of the streets. From here, we could also get an appreciation of the work which went into two surviving trestle bridges – one for the railway and the other for the road. The road bridge has been closed due to its condition, but one can still walk across the other. We left the river flats and climbed to a lookout on top of a hill overlooking Gundagai and the surrounding countryside. The Murrumbidgee and its flats could be easily identified snaking through its broad valley.

Frank Rusconi - Marble MasterpieceAlso prominent were the aforementioned trestle bridges and the new concrete bridge which allows the Hume Highway to bypass Gundagai. Returning to ground level, we parked behind the Visitor Centre and Marie arranged for us to see the Marble Masterpiece. I must be honest, I had never heard of this, but, having now seen it, I would recommend it if you are in the area. Detail of the Marble MasterpieceThe Marble Masterpiece is the work of a local stone mason, Frank Rusconi and took 28 painstaking years to complete. It is an imaginary Baroque Italian palace, comprised of nearly 21 thousand intricately carved pieces of local marble. It is 1.2 metres high Each piece was meticulously chosen for its colour and veining so that it complemented the whole. Twenty different varieties of N.S.W. marble were used by Rusconi. So particular was he that it is said he discarded more than 9,000 pieces as not of the required standard. Within the same room is a scale model of an altar the man had made for St. Marie’s cathedral outside Paris. Again the same patient, painstaking workmanship was evident. You leave the room with admiration for the spirit and devotion of skilled tradesmen like Rusconi and their work. Marie then left us to explore the town on our own and have lunch.

Armed with a map of a walking tour we obtained from the Visitor Centre, we wandered through the streets of Gundagai. Although there were a number of pre 1900 buildings such as the school, town hall and churches, the overall impression of the town was Art Deco. Marie said this would have come about from the prosperity brought to the town by the booming wool industry in the 1920s. We gathered again at 2.00pm to continue our tour. The next part I was particularly interested in.

Those of you who were on my first Bacchus Marsh trip might remember me talking about Andrew Scott, one of the earliest preachers at the Presbyterian Church there, who went on to become the bushranger, Captain Moonlite. After his escapades in Victoria, including a spell in Pentridge prison, Scott migrated to the Gundagai district and found himself in serious trouble. In true Kelly style, in 1879 Scott and his cronies took hostages on a farm and following a shootout with police, was captured, tried and subsequently hanged. He requested that he be buried with his friends who had died in the shootout and his request was granted. Marie took us to the cemetery and his grave, which, surprisingly, is well maintained and in a prime position high up the hill.

clip_image001The icon of Gundagai of course, is the Dog on the Tuckerbox sculpture, so a visit to the area could not miss it. And we didn’t. At first we could not enter the reserve due to the queue of cars stretching back out on to the highway. What on earth! Marie then took us past the entrance and further on to a later road which brought us back in from the other way. From this aspect we could see the cause of the queue – petrol! Marie informed us that there is no petrol in Gundagai and that this is the only outlet in the area. Hence the number of customers. Fuel was not on our agenda and, luckily, nor was food because that wasn’t available here. But we did see and photograph “the dog”. From the information boards, it appears the dog in the original story may not have SAT on the tuckerbox but done something sounding close to that!

We returned to Tumut via the back roads that follow the Tumut River valley. A scenic drive made interesting by coming across a pony club gathering with young riders and their horses around each corner. A very satisfying trip and we all thanked Marie for providing such an interesting tour.

Another Happy Hour, another raffle, a cold night and then it was Saturday. Looking through the trips on offer, I noticed one to Paddy’s River Falls which went through Tumbarumba. The return leg was a forest drive. Some members who had done the trip the day before said the forest drive was … well a forest drive. So Jill and I joined the trip and told the trip leader we would leave the trip after the falls and try again to visit the Pioneer Womens Museum at Tumbarumba We lined up for the trip in the morning, signed ourselves in and waited for the pre-trip meeting. A familiar face appeared wearing a N.S.W. official’s vest and told us he would be the navigator for the trip. Our erstwhile Past President, John Dudley, had “defected” and was going to ride with the trip leader and show us the way. Apparently Nancy and the trip leader’s wife wanted to go shopping, so John stepped in to become “wife” for a day and thereby got the navigator’s gig. The apple orchards stretched away

We set off on a lovely sunny morning and soon found ourselves on a scenic road running along a ridge with views on either side. Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves among the extensive apple orchards of the Batlow district. The climate and soil obviously are ideal for apples around here, for the orchards stretched away on both sides of the road. Our “trusty” navigator soon had us at a camping ground for morning tea and a toilet break. We did not stay long as the camp was very popular and parking was at a premium. The trip notes said “time has passed Tumbarumba by and so will we.”

So we drove through Tumbarumba and continued on to the falls. Although we could not see them, as we parked the vehicles we could hear the falls loud and clear. A short walk took us to a lookout over the falls. There is something about waterfalls that I find mesmerising and so it was here. Our trip leader told us that when they first pre-tripped this site, there was only a trickle going over the drop. clip_image002[22]The volume of water going over on this day backed up the volume of sound we’d heard emanating from the falls. A grand sight. There was a steep path down to the base of the falls and, if one was game and had good grip on their shoes, you could go behind the falls into a shallow cave and look out through the water. Although a few of our group ventured down the path, no-one tried to get behind. clip_image002[24]

From the falls, Paddy’s River continues on down through a scenic forested gorge and apparently there is a good walk along the river through this area. Lunch however, was more important to our troup. After lunch, we returned to Tumbarumba while the rest went off for their drive through the Bago Forest.

The museum Jill was seeking was open and, while I caught up with the newspapers sitting in the sun, she perused the exhibits. After an hour, she came out enthused and after our return to camp, recommended it to anybody who would listen.

From there we returned via our outward bound tracks to the junction with the Tumut road. It never ceases to amaze me how a track can look so different when you traverse it in the reverse way. And so it was with this road. As we travelled along this road, we could hear the rest of our convoy on the UHF as they traversed the forest. Obviously, they weren’t too far away from us. clip_image002[26]At the intersection, instead of turning right to Tumut, we turned left to Adelong, an old gold mining town and cruised into a little town which has seen better days. clip_image002[28]The museum though, was interesting and highlighted its gold mining history. But also of interest was photos and some amateur film of a flood which hit the town late last year. Bridges and streets many, many metres above the piddling little creek were inundated. Just mind boggling to think how we cannot control Mother Nature.

The volunteers at the museum gave us a screed on the mine about a kilometre out of town and recommended we visit the site. So we did and, from a lofty lookout, were able to see over the site and what remains of the buildings and the equipment. The recent flood had washed away some of the ruins. The very good information boards filled in the gaps of our knowledge. We caught up with some of our original convoy here. They had completed the journey through the forest and come out to look at the old mine. They took the walk down to the creek bed, but we decided to go back to camp.

The overlook of the Adelong mineHappy Hour that night had two surprises. Firstly, a local winery had a wine tasting on offer and most partook. The wines were pretty good and good sales were made. At the end of Happy Hour and the seemingly interminable raffle, the organisers had arranged for a local identity and author to give a little talk. Harry Hill, an octogenarian who had lived in the area all his life and been a bushwalker for most of that, kept us enthralled with his tales. He proved to be a real raconteur with his tales and humour. His knowledge of local events and incidents was unsurpassed. He was the sort of fellow you could ask a question of and he would entertain you for the next ten minutes. The hour, or so, he spoke went far too quickly and the supply of some of the books he had written went very quickly.

It was back to camp for a bite to eat before returning for the evening’s entertainment. NSW had booked a band as I understand it and they rang at the last minute to say they had been doubly booked. A quick phone call and an experienced fellow with his daughter filled in at the last minute. He did a good job, had a well trained voice and spent most of the night fielding requests. I thought he would have done better to sing his own songs, but that is a minor criticism. All in all, a very satisfying day.

Next morning, I went out to the Pathie to find the Easter Bunny had found us with a couple of Easter eggs on the wipers. They were gratefully accepted and consumed. The entrance to our caveA couple of short morning trips were listed so that everybody could be back in time for the afternoon games on the oval. Jill and I decided that, as we had never been to Yarrangobilly Caves and no trips were listed to go there, we would take the opportunity, while we were in the area, to visit same. The caves are a little under one hour’s drive from Tumut and the road skirts the Blowering Dam. The N.S.W. people told me that, like Lake Hume, this dam had dropped to around 10% capacity. Not now. It looked pretty full to me and was a great sight as we drove on. This drive had some steep, winding climbs and according to the GPS, at times we were over 1400 metres above sea level.

Yarrangobilly Caves The caves, as you would expect for Easter, were very popular. You have to book cave tours and we were concerned whether there would be any spots left for the cave we wished to see. But, as luck would have it, we scored the last two spots. The cave we signed up for is the largest in the group, but is only open for certain days at Christmas and Easter. The reason given is that the lighting is old and not up to contemporary standards. It is about to undergo a complete lighting upgrade. I love caves and this one was no exception. The tour was about an hour and a quarter long and took us through many chambers and tunnels. Again, one can only wonder about Mother Nature’s ability to outdo anything homo sapiens can come up with. The stalactites (they come down from the roof), the stalagmites (they rise from the floor), shawls, straws and other intricate creations from the limestone impregnated water seeping into the cave, are a marvel to be appreciated. Lookout above the Ranger StationSoon enough, the tour was over and we found a quiet picnic spot to have lunch.

Despite the crowds around the lower reserve, we only had a bird orchestra for company. The drive in the Reserve is one way only and on the way out passes a number of lookouts, each of which was worth pausing at. Soon it was time to return to camp and get ready for the traditional Sunday evening dinner.

The dress up theme for the dinner was the letter “A” and the creativity and imagination of the participants was amazing. All sorts of “A”s walked through the door. The one that caught my eye was a lady with a basket of model planes and she came as an “aircraft carrier”. I liked that. Because of our lack of numbers, Victoria had not scored well in the various categories for the perpetual trophy, or ‘block of wood’ as it was called. But we did take out the best dressed prize at the dinner. The Warburton trio, Les, Norma and Ray, came as Alice in Wonderland. Les was dressed as the White Rabbit, Norma as Alice and Ray was a convincing Mad Hatter. They looked truly amazing and were worthy winners. Not content with winning that prize, they were constantly going forward to collect raffle prizes. They had a great night.

The dinner was catered for by a local ladies auxiliary and they did a fine job providing a three course meal. Simon Smith from South Australia announced that the venue for next Easter’s Tri-State would be Whyalla. Huh! We all thought. But as Simon went through the things planned and in the pipeline, it sounds exciting. We’ll be there. The “Block of Wood” was once again won by South Australia, although there was some discussion as to whether they should have points deducted because the trophy was not brought to Tumut. It had been “mislaid” apparently.

Long Plain HomesteadNext day was Anzac Day and a number of early risers went off to the local Dawn Service. A little later, a small convoy headed into town for the march. It had been our intention to do the trip to Blue Water Holes, but that was cancelled and so we signed up for the Goobarragandra trip, which was going through a similar area. The first part of the trip covered the same roads as yesterday’s visit to the Yarrangobilly Caves. But where we turned right for the caves, this trip turned left on to Long Plains Road. Soon after turning, we aired down, then proceeded on to the Long Plain Hut for morning tea. This “hut” used to be the homestead of one of the earlier settlers and is a popular camping spot, particularly for horse riders. In fact, we were intrigued to read a notice reporting the “loss” of two horses, both saddled and equipped for riding. Hoon damageOne suspects the “loss” may not have been accidental. The corner of the building had suffered severe damage and was fenced off. The repairs were being done by the Canberra Land Rover Club. We found out later that the damage was done by some drunken hoons, who had attached their winches to the corner and tried to tear the building down. It’s instances like this where you think abortion should be made retrospective!

Coolamine homestead and outbuildingsAfter our rest, we continued along Long Plains Road and shortly thereafter, crossed a tiny rivulet with the sign “Murrumbidgee River” proudly standing above it. Hard to fathom that further downstream, this little waterway wiped out Gundagai so long ago. We then turned off to view the well preserved Coolamine Homestead and its outbuildings. This is the home of an early settler and the information boards scatter about the property tell the tale of the struggles to make a living in this alpine wilderness. Blue WaterholesAs this road led to the Blue Waterholes, the trip leader asked if anyone wanted to go there. Naturally I put my hand up, but so too did most of the group. It was only a couple of kms further long the road. The waterholes get their distinctive blue colour from the natural copper which seeps into the creek. The colour was striking and a number of decent size fish could be seen in its waters.

This was another popular camping spot, but we found enough room to park the vehicles and have lunch. Following lunch, we headed back to Long Plains Road and continued our journey north. With the group’s consent, our trip leader said he would throw away the trip notes and take us on a bit of an adventure. And so we headed off into the scrub and the tracks became a little more adventurous.  few fallen trees that needed clearing, but nothing serious. A few fallen trees that needed clearing, but nothing serious.

Soon we arrived at the crossing of the Emu Flat Creek. Now this did look serious. A small weir had been built across the creek and the river stones had piled up against this. The track here was only centimetres deep. But a metre or so, to the right of this was a deep hole. One of the South Australians, stripped down to his underpants and waded in to check its depth. His underpants got wet. Hmm! Now had I been on my own, I would have done a quick ten point turn and skedaddled out of there. However, our intrepid trip leader decided to give it a go and pushed on into the water. The creek level was at door sill level on the right hand side, but he motored through with no difficulty. One of the South Australians, stripped down to his underpants and waded in to check its depth

So one by one, we attacked the crossing. Then it was my turn. I don’t have a snorkel, but at least my air intake was on the left hand, or shallow side. So with heart in my mouth, I engaged Low 2 and pressed forward. Since buying my Pathie and getting involved in this four wheel drive lark, I continue to be confounded by the capabilities of these machines. The crossing was completed without missing a heartbeat and upon checking on the other side, not one drop of water had penetrated my door seals. I was glad I did it, because it just gives me that little bit more confidence for future occasions. One by one we made the crossing and were able to continue our adventures through the forest tracks. Soon enough, we reached the blacktop and found a little area where we could reinflate the tyres.

The road back to Tumut proved to be very scenic as we descended from the mountains and could look down the Tumut River valley and to the Alps beyond. At Happy Hour that night, we were informed that Harry Hill had agreed to come back after dinner and give us an illustrated talk of his bushwalking exploits over the years. Needless to say, there were no empty seats that night, although by now a number of campers had packed and returned home. Next day was our turn to pack and head back to Melbourne. We said our good byes and to our interstate friends, promised to meet them at Whyalla next year.

Quite a few of the Victorians were staying on for a day or two, or heading off for an extended holiday to other localities. But we had to go.

The highlights of the Gathering? Too many to mention, but without doubt the thing that thrilled me most was to see Rocky Tompkins there and making the most of it, despite his difficulties. And similarly, my disappointment was learning that Craig and Sue Findlay could not join us due to his hospitalisation. Hang in there you guys. Our thoughts are always with you.

A final view of TumutThe N.S.W. organising committee did a fantastic job and deserve our heartfelt congratulations. Given that last January they were seriously thinking of calling it off, they really came through with flying colours. Well done to all involved.

Now we look forward to Whyalla next year. Knowing the South Aussies, I reckon they will up with the goods too.

Mark the dates in your diary.


Representing us were:

  • Ian & Anne Blainey
  • John & Nancy Dudley
  • Mark & Maddie
  • Eames Robert & Helen Hume
  • Ray & Gillian Jones
  • Jan & Michael Martin
  • Graeme & Gayle Mitchell
  • Wayne & Christine Scholes
  • Chris & Lyn Smith
  • Rod & Bonnie Tamblyn
  • Helen & Rocky Tompkins
  • Les Warburton with Norma & Ray
  • And Jill and I

Toolangi Traverse Saturday 2nd April


Rick Farlow reports:

The group met at the McKenzie Reserve, Yarra Glen at 10.00 am and after the normal heart starters, headed off up the Melba Highway. It wasn’t long before we turned right off the highway on to the Old Toolangi Road. A few years ago, this was quite a rough and rocky road. It is now an easy gravel road which climbs up to meet the Healesville/Kinglake Road. It did however, provide excellent views of the mountain ranges and their recovery from the bush fires. I travelled through this area a few weeks after the fires and everything was burnt out. It was just grey ash. It’s amazing how different it is now, although because of the fierceness of the fire, there are many trees which will not recover.

Upon reaching the Healesville Road, I took the group up to the Forest Discovery Centre (not open on weekends) and pointed out  C.J. Dennis the Yea River walk. This is a very pleasant walk along the river and through the forest. Along this route was the home of C.J. Dennis of Sentimental Bloke fame, from 1908 until his death in 1938. The house burned down in the 1960s, but his “Singing Gardens” remain and now feature tearooms.

We headed back to Spraggs Road, which leads into the Toolangi Forest and stopped at the turnoff to Victoria Range Road to lower tyre pressures. Continuing on, we passed Rocky Track, which, from experience a few years ago, was fairly hairy. I was tempted to go down and check while doing the pre-trip, however we were pressed for time. I think it’s a track which would be handy to have another vehicle present in case you needed assistance. A right turn took us up Wee Creek Track and its large “whoopsi dos”. A left turn took us on to Flat Rock Track (a new orange posted sign named it Flat Track) for numerous bog holes and lots of new growth of young gums and “Dusty Miller” plants.

All of this lush growth provided just enough room for one vehicle for over five kilometres. I did wonder what would happen if we met vehicles coming from the opposite direction. Fortunately, we didn’t. The only obstruction was branches from a large tree, which we had managed to clear enough to get through on the pre-trip. On leaving Flat Rock Track, we were back on Victoria Range Road and heading towards an intersection of a few tracks when we were flagged down by a chap in a Patrol. He wanted to know how to get out of the forest! After providing him with directions, we headed down Downies Road, Starlight Flats Track, Blowhard Road to the Mt. Tanglefoot car park.

Towards Mt. Tanglefoot Here we had lunch and were entertained by a pair of Flame Robins. There are walking tracks from this car park right up to Mt. St. Leonard, from memory, a six hour return walk. But we didn’t do it and, after cleaning up from lunch, headed off through Siberia Junction and on to the Murrundindi Road. At Xylophone Bridge, we crossed the Murrundindi River and continued up to the Cascades car park. This car park was destroyed in the bush fires but has since been reconstructed. A benefit of the fires is that you can now see the Cascades from the road. A new steel bridge is nearing construction across the Cascades. Murrundindi River Cascades

Heading north past the camping sites, we turned into Falls Creek Road, then Black Range Road. Then it was time to engage low range and descend McClure Break.

McClure Break is a very steep and rocky descent, with great views of the Black Range. It drops 330 metres in a very short distance to the SEC Track with its high tension lines. It was then on to Ginten Road, past the old Stanley Homestead site, which had a large group of campers.

Cheviot tunnelWe were heading for Limestone and the historic Cheviot Railway tunnel when we came across a group of young people in four small hatchbacks who were unsuccessfully trying to find their way to a party using a Melways. They were amazed to find they had nearly driven to Yea. I pointed them in the right direction, although I was kind enough not to tell them to take the McClure Break.

Entrance to Cheviot tunnelWe arrived at the Cheviot Tunnel, read about its history and then proceeded to travel through this 201 metre beautifully constructed brick tunnel. After airing up tyres and enjoying afternoon tea, we headed up Frogponds Road and back onto the Melba Highway.

The group then turned right into Kinglake Road and then travelled 14kms down the winding gravel Mt. Slide Road with its beautiful views.

Brickwork in tunnelThis brought us to Jan and Michael’s newly refurbished home where we were given a cook’s tour before indulging in a BBQ dinner. Jan and Michael’s property has great views of the Yarra Ranges and Jan pointed out Mt. Tanglefoot and Mt. St. Leonard. I and I’m sure all of our party, were amazed at the transformation of the forty year old house into a modern day home. Jan and Michael could not be anything but extremely pleased at the outcome.

Harry and Jill, who could not come on the trip, arrived, determined not to miss a BBQ, a house inspection and some vino. The evening settled into a companionable chat and proved a great way to finish the day.

Thank you to Jan and Michael for opening up their home and providing an excellent way to finish our day out.


  • Jan & Michael Martin – Jackaroo
  • Gayle & Graeme Mitchell – Prado
  • Gillian & Ray Jones – Hilux
  • Glenda & Rick Farlow – Pathfinder

Gold ‘n’ Talbot Market Trip

Linda McElhenny reports:

Harry and Jill thought they would come up to Maryborough on Friday to check on a couple of things for the weekend. Ian, Anne, Brenda, Phillip, John, Greg, Noelene, Barry and I thought it was a good idea as well. Someone suggested “fish and chips” would be a simple evening meal and most agreed. A nice way to start the weekend.

Saturday saw the early birds meet the rest of the group in Creswick, where, lo and behold, a market was in progress. Harry allowed us some time to look around the market before we headed off on an historical walk around Creswick.

Streetscape of Clunes - just as it was in the 1870s (maybe more Automobiles)

Alluvial gold was found in Creswick in 1852 and the town flourished. The population soared to around 30,000 and, of course, boasted some 37 pubs to quench the thirst of the miners. Creswick was luckier than most “gold towns” due to the discovery of a rich lead at what is now Bloomfield, some 5kms north of the town. Further shafts were sunk and the Berry Deep Leads were found. But getting the gold was hazardous. For the reason why, we need to go back many thousands of years to when the area was evolving.

A streetscape in Creswick. Apart from the power pole, as it was in the 1850sInitially, the area was flat plains crossed by a number of rivers and creeks. The area then experienced volcanic eruptions which sent lava over the plains and covered the waterways with successive layers of basalt. These subterranean rivers held the gold and to get the gold, shafts had to be dug through the basalt into the river beds. As these rivers were still flowing, flooding was a continual hazard faced by the miners. A union movement grew to protect the miners. Eventually, after several deaths in the mines, limits were set on working hours, the standard of ventilation of the shafts was improved and the use of ladder ways in these shafts was implemented. These were won by the unions.

Gold certainly played a big part in the prosperity of Creswick and this can be seen today in the many beautiful buildings still standing and the grandness of its streetscape. The town had its own gasworks until electricity came in 1932. The Cosy Corner shop (1856)

Some well known people were born and raised in Creswick over the years. Artist/writer Norman Lindsay, John Curtin, Prime Minister of Australia during World War II and Sir Alexander Peacock, a parliamentarian for 44 years, just to name a few.

As we walked around, we saw where the old gasworks was located, a stone cairn marking the home of the Lindsay family, the former Wesleyan Church and the Creswick Hospital, built in 1912 and now a nursing home.  In our walk of some 2.5 hours we saw more notable public buildings, churches, old homes and business establishments.  Two of the more notable were the Cosy Corner shop, the oldest surviving building in Creswick, dating from 1852 and Pasco’s Store, built in 1864 and operated continuously until 2008 by four generations of ownership.

The Creswick Hospital

Anderson’s Mill at SmeatonAfter our walk, we headed off to Anderson’s Mill at Smeaton. This mill was owned and operated by the Anderson family for almost one hundred years through the boom time, the Great Depression and two world wars. It is a huge five storey bluestone building, complete with a massive waterwheel, outhouses and stables. Sited on the banks of the Birch Creek, it still looks rather impressive today, thanks to the restoration work done by the State Government. The mill closed in 1959 due to a number of reasons. The railway line bypassed Smeaton and the centre of the wheat growing area gradually shifted to the north and west. This made it harder for a small local miller to obtain regular supplies. The annual variation of conditions and weather played havoc with the local grain harvests. Without grain, the mill could not function fully. The buildings, now owned by the State, are now on the Historic Buildings Register.

From the mill, we returned to the Creswick – Clunes road past many old mining sites. These can only be noted these days by their large mullock heaps, although there are remnants of buildings at some sites. Back on the main road we took a short detour to the site of the New Australasian Mine and learned of the disaster there.

In 1882, over 1200 men were employed in the Creswick area mining the Deep Lead. But the work was dangerous. As mentioned previously, the lead was in underground rivers covered by basalt. Consequently, flooding from these rivers was a constant problem. The New Australasian Mine began in 1867 but struggled to make a profit and the mine and its plant was seized by the Bank of Australasia. In 1877, under the auspices of a new company, the mine began operating again and in 1878 sank a new shaft down into the lead. In 1882, a drive (a tunnel horizontal to the main shaft) was begun and was 2,000 feet long by December. On 12th December, two miners digging into the top of the drive, struck water. This water gushed into the drive trapping 27 miners. Feverish rescue efforts to save the trapped miners only managed to save 5 of them. The other 22 lost their lives. But the disaster lead to greatly improved working conditions and safety requirements for the workers after agitation from the unions and a subsequent inquest into the accident. Today, the mullock heaps and evidence of the main shaft can be seen, along with a number of information boards outlining the background and causes of the disaster.

As we continued on to Clunes, it was pointed out that the seven hills we could see on both sides of the road, were the remnants of the volcanoes which covered the area in lava so many years ago. Who would have thought we had volcanic eruptions in Oz?

A long awaited lunch was enjoyed at the Clunes Gardens, right in the centre of town.

Clunes was established as Victoria’s first “gold” town after gold was discovered in the Creswick Creek in July 1851. Interestingly enough, the gold was found by one James Esmond who later The London Chartered Bank Majorca (1870)went on to become Peter Lalor’s lieutenant at the Eureka Stockade. Clunes grew to become, at one stage, the fifth largest town in Victoria. But by the turn of the century, the gold had run out and so had most of the population.  The town lacks the splendour of Creswick. The shops are very old and dreary (circa 1870s). Some are still operating as the original businesses. The colour scheme is beige everywhere and seems to dominate the streetscape. Clunes, though, is one of the most original and intact gold towns in Australia. Most of the magnificent public buildings erected during the boom times have been preserved. We had a walk around the town and noted the old Post Office, police station, Methodist Church, St Andrew’s Church, Masonic Hall and Town Hall as examples of these old preserved buildings. The streetscape is still very much as it was in the 1870s and as such has been used as the background to a number of films and television programs. Ned Kelly and Mad Max are two well known productions which used the town.

Majorca General Store (1866)During the period between 1880 and 1930, the bare hills from the gold mining were subjected to a tree planting programme by both public and private sectors. Within a generation, the ravages of mining gave way to the treed surroundings we see today.

On the way back to Maryborough, we detoured through the ghost town of Majorca, where gold was discovered in February 1863. A flourishing township developed and by 1866 had 250 clip_image002[22]general stores, billiard rooms, hotels and timber yards. However, it was very like an American Wild West town with lawlessness prevalent. Unfortunately, many of the buildings in Majorca were destroyed by bushfires in 1985 and only a couple of original buildings remain. Back at camp, we enjoyed a Happy Hour, then many of us adjourned to one of the local pubs for dinner. The evening was quite nice and ended a perfect day.

Sunday morning saw us set off to the Talbot market to find a bargain. The market is reputed to be the “best farmers market in Victoria”. I haven’t been to them all, but Talbot’s would certainly take beating. Half the market is farm produce and the balance is crafts and clip_image002[24]odds and ends. By 11.30 am, the group met and decided we’d had enough of the market and would head off to our lunch spot. A head count found we had a couple missing. A search party went out in different directions equipped with hand held CBs, all to no avail. We then tried Telstra’s facilities and found the missing couple stranded at the “Vintage Steam Rally” on the other side of town. They had caught a shuttle bus out there and were awaiting one to return. It was decided we would head off to lunch and the couple would follow when they could.

Lunch was at the site of the old Stony Creek Elementary school. The rock bed as a map of AustraliaThe school began in 1865 and is notable for the interest the teacher, a Miss James, engendered in the children for gardening. She laid out rock gardens and flower beds and encouraged the children to tend them. One of the beds was laid out as a map of Australia and was used to educate the children about the fledgling nation. By 1902, the enrolments had dropped to ten and the school was closed in 1916. Nothing remains of the buildings except for a few bricks lying around, but the rock gardens, including the map of Australia, can still be seen. It was a lovely spot for our lunch break and a most suitable place to say our goodbyes. Some of the group headed back to Maryborough to look at a quilt exhibition, others head off for further exploration of the area, while the rest returned home.

We all had a great weekend. Thanks to Harry and Jill and, of course, the beautiful weather.


Harry & Jill Richards – Trip Leaders
Anne & Ian Blainey Sue & Craig Findlay
Brenda & Phillip Johnstone Linda & Barry McElhenny
Noelene & Greg Moore Helen & Chris Rogers
Christine & Wayne Scholes Bonnie & Rod Tamblyn
John Smith Les Warburton

Mallacoota Meander

Harry & Jill Richards – Pathfinder
Rick & Glenda Farlow – Pathfinder
Ray & Lynne Bridger – Patrol
Les Warburton – Discovery

Victoria is an amazingly diverse state. We have deserts in the north-west, the world’s largest lava plains to the south-west and the High Country and associated forests and National Parks.

The extensive lakes systems of the Gippsland Lakes and Mallacoota Inlet (and the inlets between) just add to this geographic tapestry.

This diversity was brought home in another way as I was driving to   Mallacoota for the club trip.

The car radio was giving out graphic details of towns inundated by floods in the northern part of the state, less than one hour’s crow flight from where we were.

Where we were was just east of Nowa Nowa. And here, SES and CFA units were mopping up after an extensive bushfire.

Wisps of smoke were still drifting through the blackened forest as the crews cut down burnt trees and poured water on smouldering stumps.
It was an eerie image to begin our week away.

Mallacoota though, was very welcoming. The weather was comfortable and benign as we booked into our cabin in the Beachcomber Caravan Park.

The Farlows and Les Warburton were    already there, so after settling in, we sat down to Happy Hour and to plan the week ahead.

Ray and Lynne were due in next morning, While waiting for them, it was agreed we would pass the time with a visit to the   local museum.

I anticipated a quick “in and out” and on to something else. But what a surprise. Our quick “in and out” lasted nearly two hours.

Before us was a history I knew nothing about. How the area was an important  station in our World War II coastal    surveillance was revealed, along with the part it played in detecting and watching Japanese submarines. Most interesting.

Back to base for lunch and, as there was still no sign of the Bridgers, we took a short drive up to Gypsy Point, some 15kms from Mallacoota.

Gypsy Point is a lovely, quiet, scenic spot on the Inlet and obviously popular with tourists.

Needless to say, with such a wonderful expanse of placid water, fishing was the most popular activity. Little jetties poked out into the Inlet around every corner.

While at Gypsy Point, two D.S.E. rangers were launching an ugly looking boat. Upon enquiry, they told us they were doing a survey of the fish in the Inlet.

The bulky structure on the boat was a  generator which, when a two pronged     attachment was placed in the water,    produced an electric charge which stunned all the fish in the immediate vicinity.

These fish would then be collected off the surface, measured, recorded, tagged and released. Apparently, the fish were not harmed by the experience.

The rangers took off to continue their work further up the Inlet. Another example of our D.S.E. friends working for our benefit.

Upon our return to camp, the Bridgers had arrived and set up. They were ready for a Happy Hour, so we could not disappoint them.

Next day, the group gathered for a trip through the Croajingolong N.P. to Wingan Inlet, via Shipwreck Creek.

In the main, the track was easy although there were plenty of water filled potholes to be wary of.

Shipwreck Creek is a lovely isolated beach between a couple of rugged headlands. There is a small camping facility here, with composting toilets.

After a bit of beachcombing, it was back to the vehicles and off to Wingan Inlet.

The tracks through the Park were anything but boring, as we traversed various track conditions and forest flora.

Unfortunately, one track took a dislike to Ray’s vehicle and slashed one of his tyres.

While our convoy was parked by the side of the track effecting the tyre change, we got word a “B Double” was on its way and to be careful.

This was a concern, as the track was not that wide, although I did think “What on earth would a B Double be doing here”.

The tyre change was completed and Wingan Inlet beckoned. No sign of a B Double, or any other vehicle for that  matter.

Wingan Inlet is a lovely, picturesque, large inlet where the Wingan River meets the sea. There is a good camping ground here with toilets.

From the car park, a boardwalk takes you through the coastal scrub to the ocean beach.

The wind had risen by the time we reached the beach, making it a little    uncomfortable. Offshore were “The Skerries”, a number of islands well known as a home for seals.

With the aid of binoculars and a long camera lens, one could see them lying back in the sun.

From Wingan Inlet, we returned to camp via Cann River and the bitumen.

After another lengthy Happy Hour, we retired to our respective abodes for dinner and a rest.

Thursday we headed into N.S.W. and the seaside town of Eden, about an hour from Mallacoota.

The day was spent meandering around the town, starting at the lookout over Twofold Bay.

Nearby is a memorial wall erected to honour mariners who had died at sea in the area. It was built in 1978, after the sinking of the fishing trawler Shiralee that year with the loss of all hands.

The plaques on the wall detail the names of seamen from the port of Eden, who were lost at sea and their bodies never recovered.

The earliest plaque is for a young crewman on a whaler lost in September 1881.
The story goes that his boat had harpooned a whale and was towing it back to base, when it suddenly turned and smashed the boat with a flick of its tail flukes. The other crew were rescued but the young fellow’s body was never found.

(One for the whales!)

The memorial wall is within a park and proved a perfect lunch spot. Some of our group drove into town to procure some fish and chips from a recommended    purveyor of such goodies.

The recommendation was well founded. So much so, that before we left Eden, we returned to buy some fresh fish to have for dinner back at camp.

(Surprisingly for a fishing village, Mallacoota does not have a shop selling fresh fish. The supermarket has frozen fish in stock)

After lunch, we strolled along the pathway by the extensive Aslings beach. This concrete pathway depicts the maritime history of Eden in large stencils applied to the concrete while wet.

The walk demanded a reward upon its completion, so it was back into the town centre for ice creams.

On the way back to camp, we stopped off at the historic Seahorse Inn.

A significant early settler of the area was Benjamin Boyd, who arrived from England in 1842. He quickly established a shipping service between Eden and Sydney, a bank and purchased large landholdings where he ran sheep and cattle.

Shore whaling and the related oil    extraction process was soon added to his business empire.

With his growing wealth, Boyd’s ideas became grandiose. One of his displays of grand style was the building of the Seahorse Inn in 1843, using convict  labour.

It had ten guestrooms, hand carved doors, lots of stained glass, a winding staircase and a sense of luxury throughout.

It looked out over landscaped gardens and sprawling lawns to Twofold Bay.

The Depression of the late 1840s hit Boyd hard and many of his forays went  bust. Boyd left Australia and, after a short stint at the Californian goldfields, immigrated to the Solomon    Islands. He disappeared while hunting there.

With Boyd’s departure, the Seahorse Inn became vacant. Vandals caused significant damage and it the lack of upkeep added to its deterioration.

In 1936, it was purchased by the Whiter brothers, who renovated the Inn and     restored it to its former glory. They added a second storey which blends in very well with the original design.

The Inn now operates as a luxury hotel with an emphasis on relaxation and local seafood.

On the coast, is one of Boyd’s follies known as Boyd’s Tower. A replica of the tower is found in the grounds of the Inn.

After our taste of luxury, it was back to camp for Happy Hour and to enjoy our fish from Eden.

Overnight, the sound of rain could be heard, but come morning, it had gone and we were greeted by a fine, albeit cloudy, day.

Today we headed off to the Maramingo State Forest in the Genoa Wilderness Area, where I had read tremendous views of the surrounding hills could be had.

Our first destination was the fire tower on Maramingo Hill. The track wasn’t too bad and eventually we arrived at the fire tower.

Alas, the alleged views could not be seen because the trees had grown and hidden the scene. Looking through the tree branches, we could see what could have been a good view, but …

Consulting our references and the maps, we decided to press on to an interesting grave site and what appeared to be camp sites along the headwaters of the Genoa River. One of these we thought would be suitable for a lunch stop.

To get back to the main road meant going down Bridle Track, which the map suggested was a formed track.

Well, it may have been at some point, but it proved a bit a challenge to our convoy. It was overgrown and the    recent heavy rain had caused a few washaways which required a bit of care.

No matter to us. The traverse was  accomplished without incident and soon we were travelling on the main track looking for the turnoff to the grave site.

Well, it should have been there somewhere, but it eluded us. Just as the mythical camp sites on the river hid as we approached.

Soon we found we had left the river and were climbing steadily uphill. A stop for a map reading and consultation was needed.

The map showed us that if we continued on, we would come to the Waalimma campsite. In brackets it noted “pretty spot”.

Sounded good, so we went on, up a track which deteriorated the further we went.

Eventually we arrived at the camp site, a quiet secluded spot in a heavily treed  forest. I’d like to say we had the place to ourselves, but forty million mosquitoes would disagree.

Jill went to use the drop toilet and as she raised the lid, a cloud of mossies arose and threatened to carry her off.

Needless to say, we had our lunch with a minimum of fuss and jumped back into the vehicles to descend back to the township of Genoa.

Just out of Genoa is supposedly the Genoa Creek Falls. Alas,   I can’t confirm this. We spent some time driving around its reputed location, but to no avail.

Before heading back to Mallacoota, we agreed to climb Genoa Peak and take in the views from there over the Genoa River valley to the sea.

From the car park, it is a 1.7km walk to the Peak. It was warm when we set off and got progressively hotter as we climbed.

The track is not for the unfit, nor the infirmed. In parts it is quite steep and requires some scrambling over rocks and ledges.

About three-quarters of the way up, you come to an outcrop which looks back towards Genoa and the hills    beyond. It was a good resting place before tackling the last stanza.

In the final 100 metres, one climbs up two ladders, a final killer to the hot, tired hikers.

The view though was great for those who made it to the top.

Not everybody, including your scribe, got beyond the earlier outcrop. So I am relying on the comments of others who reported on the great views.

After giving the cameras a workout, we returned to the car park. A much easier task than climbing up.

Word had reached us that on Friday nights the local Bowling Club had a $10 per head Roast Night. That sounding appealing, so we walked around after making a booking.

Somebody’s wires got crossed because the Roast Night was not on and it was a limited a-la-carte menu. No matter, we ordered and sat down to chat and have a quiet drink.

By coincidence, everybody ordered fish and chips and I think this put their kitchen  under a bit of a strain. The meals, while nourishing and good value, came out in dribs and drabs.
As is the wont of many country pubs and clubs, after we’d finished our meals, our hosts announced the “Meat Raffle”.

Dutifully, we all bought some tickets and, lo and behold, Jill won a tray of sausages.

As Ray and Lynne were leaving the next morning to head home, it was agreed we would have a BBQ breakfast on the beach to consume the snags.

Saturday morning was perfect for our BBQ on the beach. Betka Beach was the selected venue, only ten minutes out of town with BBQ, tables, toilets and a nice quiet sandy beach.

What a life. Sausages, eggs, bacon all on toast done on the BBQ, listening to the gentle lap of the water and the birdsong in the surrounding scrub. And it was all ours!

With the nourishment of the troops done, it was time for Ray and Lynne to leave and wend their way home.

After our goodbyes, they headed back to town, while we went on to investigate a couple of beaches we had passed on the first day.

The first of these was Quarry Beach, named because in bygone days, some stone was extracted from here for local use.

For the amateur geologist, this beach and its coast was a wonderland. As we looked around, we could see rocks twisted and contorted by actions of probably millions of years ago.

The subsequent erosion by wind, rain and tide, had created amazing shapes and sculptures. The layers of soil, sand, limestone, pebbles and in one section, a soft, yellow layer which we assumed was sulphur in some form, were easy to see and dissect.
For the beachcombers, they too found much of interest. Baby fish, anemones and the like were skulking in the rock pools. Large, purple/red crabs scuttled across the sand until disturbed. Then they backed themselves into rock crevices with just their large claws visible, a threat to  any unwanted approaches.

The other beach, Secret Beach, was again another lovely, quiet, secluded beach away from the mainstream. Again, the beachcombers found much to interest them.

After lunch back at camp, it was into the vehicles again to travel to the other side of the Inlet and into N.S.W. to walk through the Maxwells Road Flora Reserve.

From the Princes Highway, we turned down Maxwells Road and travelled through the Nadgee State Forest to the Nature Walk.

The walk is only 1.2kms around, but it  takes you through a lush Lillypilly and Pinkwood forest, with a thick understory of tree ferns, lichens and mosses.  Signboards along the way highlight the various species you come across.

It is one of the very few areas where Pinkwood (eucryphia moorei) survives and as we walked around, we came across many of its large white flowers carelessly dropped on the path.

A lovely, easy walk and thoroughly   recommended if you are in the area. On a hot summer day, it would be a great refuge.

A little further along Maxwells Road and not very prominently signed, is a turnoff to a small picnic area.

Here there is a magnificent vista over Mallacoota Inlet and Bass Strait. I am told by those who did both, that it was a better view than from Genoa Peak. And nowhere near as strenuous to get to.

This was a perfect quiet spot to have afternoon tea. We didn’t let the opportunity pass.
The return home was via Duncans Road and New Binns Road to Wallagaraugh Road. “Road” is a significant misnomer. They were very much tracks, which, at times,       disappeared into overgrowth.

It was obvious there had not been any traffic along them for quite some time.

The old wooden bridge over the Wallgaruagh River proved worth a look. While there, we disturbed a metre long goanna, which showed its disdain for us by scooting up a tree.

That evening we had our last Happy Hour and next morning packed up and made our respective ways home.

All in all, it was a great week, with lots of new discoveries and plenty of scenic travels.

The trip basically covered the far eastern section of the Croajigalong National Park. There is plenty of the middle and western sections of this wilderness still to see. Look for a trip later in the year.

To those on the trip, thanks for your   company and great spirit. I think everyone enjoyed themselves.

Report: Harry Richards
Photos: Jill Richards, Rick & Glenda Farlow


A Trip to Sea

Paul Trouse reports:

This trip had been under planning since our Tolmie trip at Easter last year. So much to organise and so little time to do it!

In reality, all we had to do was book the campsite and get our gear together. The South Australians did the rest. We were, in fact freeloaders, enjoying their annual trip to Beachport for fun in the sand.

The way it all came about was due to discussions Brendan and Gillian had with Simon from the South Australian club at Tolmie. This led to an invitation to join them on the Australia Day weekend.  The only difficulty was that the holiday was celebrated this year on a Wednesday. A decision had to be made as to whether we add the first, or the last, working days to the trip. We chose the latter, thereby making our trip from the Wednesday to the Sunday. This proved to be a great choice as the number of other vehicles on the tracks over the period was negligible.

The S.A. club arranged the Happy Hours, the trips run and the weather, which was a delightful 22° every day with cloudless skies most days. The only thing I could have done without was the March flies. But there weren’t too many of them.  I had just returned to work on 17th January after a three week break (if you can call mowing, whipper snipping and other maintenance tasks a break), so there was the usual catch up to cope with. But after seven whole days of work, I felt I had earned another bit of time off. Brendan rang and we made plans. They would call in to my place and we would travel together to Beachport. The only concern was the state of the roads after the floods which had covered a fair bit if Victoria the previous week. The Vic Roads site indicated the roads we wanted to use were unaffected and this proved to be true. We did encounter some potholes and road damage, but nothing major.

Come Wednesday, Brendan and Gillian arrived at my place about 8.00 am and, after I completed my packing, we set off about 8.30 am. As it was going to take most of the day to get to our destination, we took a leisurely approach to the drive and stuck to the speed limits, just in case Mr. Plod was lurking. As it was, we saw no police vehicles at all in the entire trip.

Our first stop was at a little country café where we stopped for a cappuccino and a white chocolate and raspberry muffin. It was definitely worth the time to stop. On then to a wayside park called Wallan Falls, located a short distance from Hamilton. I had been there many times on the way to the South Australian beaches over the years, but my companions had not. It is a comfortable native bushland park with a waterfall (or more precisely, a drop-off). There have been times when there has been no water flowing at all, but after recent rains, the volume of water was tremendous. The roar of the water as it hit the rocks below was deafening. We took photographs, walked around a bit, then set off for Mount Gambier where we were to refuel. A casual question informed me that Brendan and Gillian had not seen the Blue Lake, so I took them up to the viewing area.I had suggested to them that the famous blue tinge may not be present, as the normal period for this phenomenon is around November each year. We were pleasantly surprised therefore, to find it looking quite blue.So we followed onto the beach

Simon did a recce on footOne of the parks proved a great place for lunch, as we were able to find a shady spot out of the sun.  We continued on to Beachport, finally arriving about 3.30 pm. After booking in, we drove to our sites and erected our tents after some discussion on where the sun would rise in the morning. After we had set up, we were told about the Happy Hour which had been in progress for some time. One of their members, Kevin, had been out to his craypots and brought back three crayfish for the group. The remains were offered to us, not that there was much left. However, the spread of other nibbles was extensive, so much so, we hardly felt like dinner later.

After dinner, the Happy Hour continued with drinks and conversation until I pulled the pin about 9.00 pm and went to bed. The next morning, after we had decided the previous night which trip we would join, we fronted up for Simon’s trip to Robe. The weather was a little cool to start with, but improved during the day.

We headed for the first beach, which we understood was probably too soft too traverse. However, Simon did a part recce on foot and declared it to be all right. So we followed him out on to the beach and the convoy proceeded without incident. The rain the previous Tuesday had made the sand fairly firm and it was only at the Robe end of the trip we encountered any really challenging sand.

Morning Tea on the BeachThis was my first venture with the Prado on sand and I was suitably impressed with its performance. It seemed that some of the more challenging tracks had become far less daunting in the intervening years since my last trip in 2006. Morning tea was had in beautiful conditions on the beach and lunch on a rocky point. The water was crystal clear and the light breeze kept the temperature down.This stretch was as picturesque as always.

After lunch, we continued along the beach/inland tracks to Nora Kreen, then took the road out and travelled along a dirt road to the next beach access. This stretch was as picturesque as always.  When we reached the last beach before Robe, we came across a Prado stuck to the axles in the sand and a family awaiting a tow truck from Robe. Of course, we offered our assistance in the recovery and it was a perfect opportunity to try out the Club’s new Max Trax. Fortunately, Simon also had a pair and we put one under each wheel. After dropping his tyre pressures (he had been on 40 psi), we got the driver to attempt the escape. This he did, but only travelled a car length before getting bogged again.  We repeated the procedure and got him to use 2nd low instead of 1st low. This time he extracted himself cleanly and did not stop until he had cleared the beach, leaving his family to walk up to him. He did offer us some money, but we refused this on moral grounds.

clip_image002[8]After we completed the final part of the journey into Robe, we stopped at a lovely bistro for coffee, cakes and a rest. The group then split up, each to make their own way back to camp. Brendan, Gillian and I did a slow walk up and down the street to see what changes had occurred in the township since my last visit. Not much I decided.After a couple of purchases, like an extension cord, we pumped up our tyres at the local service station then headed back.

On this return journey, I had the privilege of driving Brendan’s 4.2l diesel Patrol, while he drove my 4.0l petrol Prado. Back at camp, we found we were once again late for Happy Hour and had to hasten to catch up. This night was quite cold and we were very grateful to have a wood heater, brought along by Kevin, to stand around. Another pleasant night was had by all and, apart from some diehards, most drifted off to bed by 10.00 pm.


clip_image002[6]The next day, Friday, a trip with a difference was organised.clip_image002[10] Today we were to take two trailers on to the beach and conduct a cleanup of the rubbish. Most of the refuse was washed in by the tide, but much was discarded by some of the users of the beach. One group started from the Robe end, while the other started from Beachport. The intention was to meet in the middle. After about three hours, both trailers were full, so we made our way independently back to camp. We never did get to meet up. The rest of the day was spent relaxing around the camp, then the inevitable Happy Hour.

On Saturday, our final day, I went on the relatively short trip to South End. I enjoyed a number of very pretty views, a quiet lunch on the beach and an easy drive back along a solid beach to camp. This left me a couple of hours to sit and read, before heading to the local pub to celebrate Simon’s wife Sue’s birthday and another on the previous day. While I was doing my thing, Brendan and Gillian were kilometres away on a trip to Carpenters Rocks and beyond. They ended up doing a long drive that day and had to cut it short to return for the pub dinner. They said they enjoyed it. Unfortunately, we had to vacate the pub by 7.30pm because the room was booked for a 21st. But we made up for it with another Happy Hour and two birthday cakes.

The next day was Sunday and reluctantly, we had to head home. But not before a minor complication. The park we were in had a boom gate system controlled by computer. The system recorded every vehicle entry and exit and would not let you out after the compulsory exit time of 10.00 am. Unfortunately, Brendan had entered too soon the night before and so was not recognised as being in the park. This meant he could not get out. He had to wait until I exited so that he could sneak out with me.

As a penance for going on a trip on our wedding anniversary, I went in to town to get a crayfish for Vonnie. After one last cappuccino, we set off for home, again taking it easy as we knew it clip_image002[4]would take the best part of six hours to get to my place. Along the way, we made a detour to Nigretta Falls, on the other side to Wallan Falls. Again we were greeted with a spectacular vista and sound display. Well worth the time to stop.

On then through Hamilton and a lunch stop at the same café where we had had morning tea four days earlier. It is very strange, but the journey home seemed to be much longer than the trip to Beachport, probably because we were a little tired after our enjoyable time away. The weather had also changed and we had a range of temperatures from 37° to 40° all the way home. It probably would not have been so pleasant on the beach that day.

I would like to express my thanks to the South Australia club who made us so welcome and allowed us to share a wonderful four days on their great beaches.


  • Paul Trouse – Prado
  • Brendan Jones & Gillian Adams – Patrol
  • Holden 4WD Club of South Australia

Images of Robe – SA


Licola to Dargo

Licola to Dargo

It had been years since I had undertaken a trip to the Mt. Wellington area near Licola in the East Gippsland high country.

Rugged valleys and spectacular 360° views from the mountain tops, are just a few of the highlights for the traveller to this area.

I carried out a bit of a pre-trip on the Melbourne Cup weekend a few weeks prior to the trip, but, typical of the changeable weather in the high country, the conditions were some of the worst I have ever     encountered.

It had poured with rain and was trying to snow on Mt. Wellington.

Due to fog, visibility was virtually only three to four car lengths, so I was not able to check some of the planned route, such as Billy Goat Bluff Track.

I don’t like surprises when running trips, especially on steep and potentially challenging tracks. So not being able to drive the whole route was a nuisance to me.

The plan was to meet at Licola and travel to Mt. Wellington and surrounds on the Saturday.

Saturday night we were to camp at Horseyard Flat on the Moroka Road

On Sunday, we would visit The Pinnacles fire tower and head down Billy Goat Bluff Track.

The trip was to end on Sunday afternoon in Dargo. The route would take in some medium to harder tracks and provide some challenge for the drivers and vehicles.

I was able to arrange the Friday    afternoon off, so planned to get to  Licola mid to late afternoon and stay at the Licola Caravan Park for the night.

Helen Tompkins was to come along as my passenger and she was also able to get Friday afternoon off.

I met up with her around lunchtime and we packed the Defender.

Helen prepared the food for the weekend, which meant we were going to eat extremely well. Her reputation for producing great food is well known and I was not to be disappointed.

After reassuring Rocky that Helen would not be mentally scarred by travelling in a Defender, we headed off.

The weather forecast for the weekend could not have been better with mid 20s predicted.

We arrived at Licola about 3.30pm and booked into the caravan park. The Licola store owners were as helpful as ever and directed us to our site.

The Pajero Club had booked all of the    unpowered area (they were undertaking fence rebuilding in the area) so we stayed in the caravan section.

This worked out well, as it was quiet with a pleasant shaded area for us to camp.

Greg and Noelene arrived a little later, followed by Paul. We enjoyed a pleasant evening, chatting and checking out Greg’s newly acquired 100 series and Paul’s Prado.

Saturday morning we were greeted with a perfect day, not a cloud in the sky and a cosy temperature. One could not ask for better.

Brendan and Gillian arrived just   before 9.00am and our contingent was filled.

Around 9.30am, we headed off up the Tamboritha Road. The road follows the Wellington River and we a number of pleasant camp sites was noted along the first 10 kms of this section of the road.

The surrounding mountains tower over the winding road, with spectacular rocky outcrops jutting out from the hills above.

The initial stretch is bitumen, but changes to good quality dirt just after the Wellington River bridge.
It was here we stopped to reduce tyre pressures.
The road climbs steadily up the hills to the Tamboritha Saddle and the Bennison Lookout.

As we climb, there are fabulous views looking back into the valley to the south. You could see the devastation caused by the fires which have ravaged the area in recent years. Fortunately, the bush is slowly recovering.

At Bennison Lookout, we stopped to take in the view and put the cameras into    action. Across the way, we could see Mt. Wellington and The Sentinels, which we were to visit later on.

From here, we travelled on to Arbuckle Junction, where we turned right on to Moroka Road. Shortly after, we stopped at McFarlane Saddle for morning tea.

Splashes of purple wildflowers dotted the area as we turned on to the Mt. Wellington Track. Like many in this area, this track is subject to seasonal closure. So always check to make sure access is  available.

The track to Mt. Wellington in not     particularly long, but is a little rocky and steep in places. It is in good condition and has obviously been improved since  I last travelled it some years ago.

Low range is required in some sections, as the track winds its way to the summit. Along the way, you are rewarded with expansive views.

The track crosses a flat plain, which is devoid of trees, before the final short, steep climb to the trig point on top of Mt. Wellington.

Here we stopped to take photographs of the 360° views of Gippsland to the south and east and the mountains to the west and north.

The sky was clear and with  not too much haze. I think everyone found the view worth the drive.

On the Melbourne Cup weekend, it was two degrees, fog bound and trying to snow, and the track more like a river. Don’t you just love the High Country?

From Mt. Wellington, we  headed off to Miller’s Hut, around thirty minutes further along the road, for lunch.

It is nestled in a protected, tree lined gully and would be a welcome relief on a hot summer’s day. Alas, it does not have toilets.

You can camp here, but it can be boggy if wet and space is a little limited.

My plan after lunch was to head further south to The Sentinels at the edge of the Mt. Wellington Plain. This rocky outcrop overlooks Lake Tarli Karng many hundreds of metres below.

I was not able to pre-trip this section prior, but the last time I travelled this track, it presented no problems, although it was rough in sections.

A vehicle passed through and on down the track while we were enjoying lunch. It had not returned, so that meant the track was probably clear (or he was stuck!).

The convoy headed off and cleared the first water obstacle of the trip, a short section of boggy mud. It was after this, things started to go a little pear shaped for me.

The track started to close in on the vehicles. Given the tracks had only been open for a few weeks, the track still had all of the winter and spring growth. Added to this, the track is probably not heavily used at the best of times.

My major concern was that Greg’s paintwork on his ‘Cruiser (he calls it pink) was in very good condition and Paul had a black Prado which is not very old and very, very shiny.

Their vehicles, as well as Brendan and Gillian’s, were wider than the Defender. Unfortunately, I thought the track would open out, but it didn’t.

I thought we might be able to turn around, but we couldn’t. To make matters worse, the track became quite rocky in sections, which I thought might create problems for Paul’s rather low slung Prado.

But we got to the end of the track. I noted a bit of unplanned bush pinstriping and all the brush marks in the dusty paintwork of the cars. Paul’s Prado especially, which was not a good feeing. He was very good about it.

The 600 metre walk to the lookout over Lake Tarli Karng also proved to be more of a challenge than I had anticipated.

In the past, the walking track was visible, but the fires of recent times had resulted in new growth saplings growing everywhere. The old walking track was totally obscured.

Eventually, we reached the lookout   after much backtracking and scrambling over rocks.

While the view was good, I’m not sure it  was worth the effort involved.

As it had warmed up during the     afternoon, the extra effort meant a cool drink was mandatory when we got back to the vehicles.

We then had to face driving out along the same section of track. I would not recommend this track if you are fond of your paintwork. You could spend many hours with the scratch remover getting the scratches out.

Either that, or buy a Suzuki.

After heading back to the Moroka Road, we turned right and headed towards    Horseyard Flat, our campsite for the night.

Although a little overgrown in parts, there is plenty of space for groups and a single drop toilet is available.

We enjoyed a pleasant evening camped next to the Moroka River, recounting the adventures of the day and pondering which wife was going to dispatch her husband when she found the black paintwork had been pinstriped!

On Sunday, we woke to a dry, but slightly overcast morning. Some fog began to roll in, which I feared would block the view from The Pinnacles fire tower, our first destination a few kilometres up the road.

Fortunately, while there was fog about, the fire tower was clear. Unfortunately, the Wonnangatta Valley below was hidden by a fog/cloud layer.

We could see mountains above the cloud, but there was a fluffy white glowing cloud below the tower. The whole scene was quite spectacular, even though we could not see the   valley below.

The tower was a slightly challenging walk away. The short, steep track  follows a thin ridge with spectacular drop-offs either side.

The new tower, built after the fires, looked impressive against this backdrop. Plenty of photographs were taken.

The next part of the trip was to descend Billy Goat Bluff Track to the Wonnangatta Valley. It looked as though this could be a challenge. The track to be negotiated, disappeared into the cloud layer.
Billy Goat Bluff Track descends 1200 metres in 7 kilometres and, by its nature, is steep.

It provides sensational views on the drive down, but is barely two vehicles wide. Passing other vehicles coming up can be a real problem.

I hoped the views would not be obscured by the low clouds.

The turnoff to the track is only a few kilometres from The Pinnacles car park.    I had not driven it for at least five years and had not been able to pre-trip it due to the extremely poor weather a few weeks prior.

I knew some improvements to the track had been made in recent years, but I also know conditions change from year to year.

After a briefing of what to expect, we started down the track.

Five hundred metres down the track we encountered our first obstacle – a washed out rock shelf.

While all vehicles could have got past this, I was not sure if there was worse to come.

Paul was understandably concerned about the underbody clearance of the Prado. If there was more of this type of obstacle, he would be lucky to get down without doing damage.

Further, if the track deteriorated, we might not be able to turn the Prado around and get it back up.

The trip had been listed as Medium to Hard, so Paul was prepared for the fact that he might not be able to  complete the track.

After discussion, it was decided that Paul would reverse the way he came and meet us in Dargo, while we continued down the track.

I did not like the idea of splitting up the group, as this presents problems in itself. I gave Paul a spare map of the area I had and we exchanged mobile numbers so we could leave messages when reception was available.

The rest of the group built up the shelf with rocks and we carefully negotiated it  without incident.

Unfortunately for Paul, this was the only major obstacle for the entire track. The rest was in the best condition I have  encountered on this track.He could have made it without any problems.

The Defender performed extremely well in this type of country. However, traversing the rock shelf was difficult.

It has what is termed an “anti-stall” feature. I was aware of it and prepared for what the vehicle was likely to do.

The problem was I wanted to step down the rock shelf very slowly. This meant a gentle application of the brakes at times.

The problem is that, in this situation, what the Defender does is extremely  unsettling. The vehicle tries to resist the application of brakes by driving “harder”. It thinks it is going to stall.

The harder one brakes, the harder the car drives. A little scary to say the least.

If you don’t brake, the vehicle wants to accelerate if the revs drop too low. If you brake, the vehicle drives harder again.

The Land Rover does not need this feature and, while others like it, I think it is too dangerous in steep  country.
Having said that, it is probably good for going up steep hills.

We squeezed past a number of other    vehicles on their way up the track. Some had low clearance and some had nearly bald tyres. I don’t know how they were going to get over the rock shelf.

Fortunately, the cloud had lifted and we had clear views all the way down the track.

A morning tea stop at the helipad was welcomed as a chance to rest the vehicles and take some more photographs.

Without further incident, we completed Billy Goat Bluff Track. It is definitely low range first/second territory.

Turning right, we followed the valley into Dargo for a late lunch. Paul arrived later after adding a few more bush pinstripes from the back tracks to Dargo.

Greg, Noelene and Paul were to stay the night at the Waterford caravan park. The rest of us had to return to Melbourne. So after lunch, we said our goodbyes and set off for home.

Overall, the weekend went fairly well. The weather was exceptional and could not have been better for such a trip and the mountain views were fantastic.

The tracks provided some challenge, although it was unfortunate that The Sentinels end of the Mt. Wellington Track was a little overgrown and caused some grief.

Paul was disappointed he was not able to drive down Billy Goat Bluff Track, a track he has always wanted to traverse.

Next time you see Greg, Noelene, or Paul, ask them about gas decanting procedures for leaking 100 series gas tank valves   after filling up. They have an interesting story to tell about their trip home the next day.

Thanks to all for coming along and providing great company.

Oh, by the way, Helen was not mentally scarred by travelling in a Land Rover. In fact, she assisted with driving duties on the way home.

I don’t think she will rush out and buy one though.

Report: Adrian Morris
Photos: Adrian, Gillian and Greg
Adrian Morris & Helen Tompkins – Land Rover Defender
Greg & Noelene Moore – 100 series Landcruiser
Paul Trouse – Prado
Brendan Jones & Gillian Adams – Patrol