Category Archives: Camping


South Gippsland Wander

13- 14 Nov 2010


  • John and Margaret Jackaroo
  • Les and Ros Patrol
  • Barry and Lynda Prado
  • Mark Pathfinder
  • Philip and Brenda Jackaroo

On Saturday 13 November dawn broke with heavy rain. As trip leaders, we were aiming to get to KooWeeRup before the rest of the group but the continuing rain required caution and we found two vehicles already there by 8.50 am.
The trip briefing was conducted in the bus shelter at the KooWeeRup bus interchange. We planned to follow the route of the abandoned KooWeeRup – Strzelecki Railway line so some history on the railway was in order to set the scene. Local farmers in the district had campaigned for many years for a railway to access the area around McDonalds track south of Warragul to enable farmers to receive stores and send produce to market. However over the years from the late 1870s the succession of petitions and plans were all somewhat different and it was not until 1914 that the KooWeeRup to McDonalds Track Railway Bill was passed by the state government. This was hardly a propitious time to commence construction (due to the commencement of WW1) and it was not until 1919 that work actually commenced. Light construction techniques were used with horse drawn buckets and bullock drays. The line was placed on the ground without much ballast. The line was finally opened at Strzelecki on 29 June 1922. Before leaving the KooWeeRup car park we noted the area where the engine shed and turntable were located at the end of the car park.

We travelled to Bayles where the only remaining evidence of the station was the weighbridge (right). Bayles was named after the first member of the construction team to have been killed at Gallipoli. The KooWeeRup district was famous for its potatoes, and the notice board adjacent to the weighbridge tells the story.


It was then onto the next station on the route – Catani, which was named after Carlo Catani, the engineer responsible for the major drainage works that made the hitherto swamps in the KooWeeRup district into productive fields for dairy and crops. There was little to identify the next station at Herne Hill on the Western Port Rd just west of the Lang Lang River.

The Railway continued up the river valley to Athlone station which was the site of a saw mill for the local Blackwood timber. We travelled along Clifton Road that for a km or so actually followed the railway bed through a cutting.

With light rain falling our convoy turned south and then east on Lang Lang Park Rd to the Main South Rd where we continued south with the railway route a km or so to the west. The roadbed was clearly visible at the site of Triholm station that is now marked with a farmer’s shed on the raised embankment with a simulated Victorian Railways sign on its side. (Triholm was a Danish settlement with roads named after local Danish families). The railway formation crossed our road route heading east a couple of km further on. We headed east along Waterfall Gully Rd while the railway made two crossings of the road.

The railway was out of sight from the road for this last section of about 5 km as it followed the contour of the adjacent steep hills. Through the rain showers we could barely see much of the lush green paddocks filled with contented cows.
We travelled north on the Warragul Korumburra Rd and turned east into Wild Dog Valley Rd. The farm shed and buildings now mark the site of the old Strzelecki Station. A 100 m or so further east, the pit of the turntable was discernible in the scrub. We had now completed travelling the 48 km route and were about 200 m elevation above KooWeeRup. In viewing the site today we can wonder at the wisdom in placing a station and sidings in such a location on a steep side slope on a hill that apparently required extensive earth works to construct. The farmers would have had to cart all their produce uphill to Strzelecki station but in compensation it was all downhill getting their stores back home!

Due to declining rail traffic, increasing road traffic and dubious accounting practices in recording revenue attributed to this branch, the railway was closed in stages. Strzelecki – Triholm closed in 1931 a mere 9 years after opening. Athlone to Triholm closed 10 years later in 1941. The last remaining section to Bayles station closed in 1959. We are left with the thought that perhaps if the railway was constructed 20 years earlier when the residents demanded it, then maybe it might have had a more profitable existence and illustrious history.
From the Strzelecki station site we travelled north and east in mist to Moonlight Picnic Ground in Mt Worth State Park for lunch. Lunch was taken under the picnic shelter with the heavy mist (drizzle) falling around us. A lone member of our group, having finished his lunch, decided to stride off on a walking track to see the giant trees saying that this wouldn’t take long. He took a map of walking tracks in the park area but found that he was going in the wrong direction and returned a few minutes later taking another path while the rest of us finished our luncheon. The rest of us then took the loop track to see the giant trees, ferns and the remains of the many timber mills with their rusting boilers that filled the valleys here.

So with 8 members back at the vehicles at the appointed departure time we were still missing our lone walker who was well past his announced return time. Fearing the worst, the 8 members decided to mount 2 search parties of 2 males each with a CB radio. The ladies remained at the vehicles keeping radio contact with each search party. Unfortunately due to the mountainous terrain radio communication dropped off after about 500 m. It was sobering to note that shouting and the vehicle horns were lost in the bush after about 400 m. The classic Coo-Eees were equally smothered by the wet trees and ferns. The group had asked a few other people in the area whether they had sighted our lone walker but no more information was available. We had set a time of 3 pm before we would start to call for outside assistance. Fortunately, while the two search parties were still out, our lone walker finally returned to the vehicles and admitted to losing his way after searching for his misplaced camera. With the return of the search parties it was time to check for leeches. This required a strip down search to get those little suckers out from remote personal areas!

Now running a couple of hours later than scheduled, we headed off in the mist to Mirboo North from where we then took the Grand Ridge Rd east. The first 15 km was on smooth bitumen along the aptly named route. The views either side of the road would have been magnificent if the weather was more favourable as we had noted on the pre-trip. So here is a view of the Alpacas in the sunshine a week before.

The Mountain Ash Springboard tree was found on the north side of the road. Its height of 163 ft was climbed by J.Pattinson in 1927 using 54 springboards. The remains of the holes for the springboards can still be seen.

Reaching Balook and the Tarra Valley Bulga National Park we took the narrow winding C484 south to the Fernholme Tarra Valley Tourist Park. With the forecast poor weather in the days leading up to the trip, the group had wisely chosen to take the option of sharing a couple of cabins. We gathered in one cabin for drinks and nibbles while we solved the world’s problems. These cabins proved to be snug and comfy particularly during the heavy rain overnight. Thank goodness we hadn’t decided to brave it in tents!!

Note the origin of these two parks. In 1903 the Alberton Shire Council asked State Government to reserve an area of forest with fern gullies near Balook as a public park. Twenty hectares were reserved in 1904 and given the Aboriginal name Bulga, meaning “mountain”. Five years later, 303 hectares of forest within the Tarra Valley were temporarily reserved. This park was named after Charlie Tarra, Count Strzelecki’s Aboriginal guide. In 1986 the two area were joined and enlarged through a land exchange with private industry.

The Sunday morning dawned reasonably fine and we travelled back up the winding road pausing at the Tarra Falls which were more a slide than falls and were somewhat disappointing when seen from the viewing area. Up in the Bulga Park Information Centre we saw examples of the local flora (ferns) and fauna. Also displayed were period photographs of the sawmilling in the area. A 10 minute slideshow showcased some interesting local scenes through various weathers. Then it was on to cross the famed Corrigan suspension bridge across the valley of giant ferns. We then walked down through the valley marvelling at the tree ferns reaching up to the sky while at our feet on the damp valley floor there were many types of fungi. In leaving the Tarra – Bulga National Parks we reflected on the foresight of the local residents and shire councillors who petitioned the government in the early 1900s to retain this natural area as a park for all people to enjoy.
Then we travelled north to Mount Tassie. At 750 m this is the highest point in the Strzelecki ranges and commands a splendid view of the Latrobe valley. Unfortunately the bushfires in the surrounding area, and the subsequent clearing up of the fallen trees, had reduced the magnificent green forest area in some directions to bulldozed rows of downed fire blackened trees. Nevertheless the sky was blue with little wind while we had lunch here beneath the radio towers (with no flies around). After lunch we descended the mountain and drove east through the marked area of giant trees and old sawmill site and then through Calignee – the site of recent horrific bush fires. It was then agreed that rather than visit some other historic sites we would make our way directly back to Melbourne in the fine weather and so we wound up our convoy and entered the Princes Hwy to make our way home.


Philip Johnstone


Murray River Beaches Pre-trip Report

[cetsEmbedGmap src= width=350 height=425 marginwidth=0 marginheight=0 frameborder=0 scrolling=no]Jan Martin reports:
After the wettest spring and summer for many years, the Murray River was flooded along all of the Victorian and New South Wales border. The worst of the floods were downstream of the Goulburn and Loddon Rivers. Some areas near Swan Hill are still under water. The area where we usually go for the Club’s annual Murray River beach camp is further upstream, between Barooga and Mulwala.
In October, we had a first hand report from Greg and Noelene Moore about Backhouse Beach, our favourite camping spot. They reported that the river had completely covered our camping area and the water over the access track was more than two metres deep. Greg said the water would have been over the top of his Landcruiser, if he had tried to get through. And that was before the summer rains!
On 9th April, we went on a pre-trip drive to see what was left of the beautiful beaches along the Barooga-Mulwala stretch of the river and, more importantly, whether they still had access tracks through the forests. We started with the access track through the Cottadidda State Forest to Backhouse Beach.
At first it looked pretty good. A grader had been through and fixed the worst parts. A deep bog hole had been graded and improved with a topping of crushed rock. At the lagoon, which had been dry for many years, there was plenty of water. Some three metre high young red gums growing in the lagoon bed had fallen sideways, pushed over by the strong water flow. There were some deep ruts in places, where people had forced their way through boggy areas, but nothing really bad. By the time we arrived at the Thong Tree above the levee bank, we were quite optimistic.
The track down the levee had also been graded and we drove down to the river level easily. But about twenty metres along the low level track, the grading ran out abruptly. A large river gum had fallen straight across the track. Not just the limb of a tree, but the whole tree had been uprooted.
On one side of the track was the river, with the tree partly submerged in it. On the other side, just beyond the tree roots, there was a deep, impassable swamp. No way to cut a side track around the tree. The tree was too big for a conventional chain saw to tackle – it needed something of industrial size to cut it up and a winch to shift it off the track.
We scrambled over the trunk and walked into Backhouse Beach. Another big red gum had fallen over at the end closest to the access track. A bit too close to the camping area for comfort.
The beach area had obviously been flooded, but had recovered well. It would still have been a good, safe camping spot, if not for that fallen tree across the access track. Given the widespread nature of the flooding in the NSW forests along the Murray, we thought there was little point in contacting the authorities and asking when the tree would be moved from the track. It’s a big job. No doubt they will get around to it eventually. Maybe, it might even happen before Easter, which is a popular time for camping on the Murray River beaches, but we have no guarantee on that.
So we managed to turn the Jackaroo around on the narrow track with use of 4WD and headed upstream to check out some other beaches.
The next two beaches on the NSW side were no good – a combination of access tracks in bad condition and beaches too small for more than three or four camp sites. One of them also had a large fallen red gum right across what might have seemed like a good camp site. After wandering around the forest tracks for a while, sometimes temporarily unsure of our position, we picked up a follower – a family in a Holden sedan.
As we were using 4WD on the worst parts of the track, we were a bit concerned about them following us. After we backed out of one bog, they finally got the message and retreated. We eventually found our way back to Stock Route Road, a graded, gravel road which runs a little inland, but roughly parallel to the river. We decided what we needed was a big beach, not too far into the forest and consulted our “Murray River Beach Access” map. One, near the end of the road we were on, looked like a possibility.
We turned off the graded road towards the river into the Boomanoomana State Forest (and you thought Cottadidda was hard to pronounce). A short, repaired access track, suitable for caravans, led to a large, sandy beach. Most of the trees behind the beach were young red gums, with no danger of falling limbs. There was plenty of sand to dig trenches for camp oven cooking and flat areas for a larger group of campers. Just back on the access track was an excellent supply of firewood.
The school holidays had started, but no-one was camping there. We had it to ourselves.
This place is called One Tree Beach. It had one large deciduous tree, in full autumn colour, right in the middle of a wide sandy beach. It is roughly halfway between Mulwala and Barooga, easy to find and quicker to get into than Backhouse Beach. The fastest way to get there would probably be to travel on the Hume to Benalla, then take the Yarrawonga road and cross into NSW at Mulwala. It would probably take about the same driving time from Melbourne as Backhouse Beach. But going back to the nearest town for bread or milk would take a little longer. 14.5 kms from Backhouse to Cobram; 19.5kms from One Tree to Mulwala. However, it seems very suited to our purposes, so we have decided to use it for the May trip this year and will send details of how to get there to everyone who is coming. Hope to see you there.
Final note: In July 2010, the previous N.S.W. government proclaimed large areas of forest along the Murray as part of a new Murray Valley National Park.
This was mainly to protect the degraded river red gum forests from commercial logging, but has future implications for the unstructured free camping we have been able to enjoy. At present, nothing seems to have changed, but it may not be too long before the Murray River beaches have designated camp spots with pine poles around them and sky high camping fees.
Enjoy it now before it changes!

Boomanoomana State Forest – One Tree Beach

  • Starting from the Yarrawonga Mulwala Visitor Information Centre, cross the main traffic bridge into Mulwala and drive through Mulwala (on Melbourne Street) until you cross the Mulwala Canal Bridge (approx. 3½km from Visitor Information Centre).
  • Turn left immediately after Canal Bridge – there is a sign post on right “Industrial Estate and one on the left “Tocumwal, Berrigan, Savernake”.
  • Stay on bitumen road until come to cross-roads (1.4km) with sign post in centre of road, one points to Tocumwal to the left. Turn left.
  • Travel about 10km along this road. You come to a cross-road. On the left is a road sign “Yarrawonga 17km” (pointing back in the direction from which you came), “Barooga 23” (pointing straight ahead), “Berrigan 36” (pointing to the right). KEEP GOING STRAIGHT AHEAD for approx. 5km until you get to “Ruwolts Road” on the right. TURN LEFT.

  • View Larger Map

  • On the left is the third entrance to the forest. Enter the gates and there is a sign “One Tree Beach 3.5km”.
  • Follow the green arrows on trees. “One Tree Beach” is aptly named – there is a large “elm-like” tree in the middle of the beach!

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

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