High Country / Gippsland – 22nd to 28th Feb

Talbotville – Sun 22nd Feb

Part of the plan for this trip, with certain exceptions, was not to spend more than 2 nights in one place.  So Sunday morning saw a pack up with designs on the Dargo High Plains road. However the start was delayed by a simple lesson in camp planning – canvas takes longer to dry if camping where shaded from the morning sun; something to remember.

Fortunately we made Omeo before the garage shut early, being a Sunday.  Expensive but they also let us fill the water tank, so perhaps a fair trade.  Then on to Hotham up the Great Alpine Road; it felt odd driving up this road having only ever cycled down it during the  3 Peaks Challenge.

The Great Alpine Road stretches from Wangaratta in the north down to Bairnsdale.  At Hotham it reaches 1,840m and is apparently the highest continuously open road in Australia.  In any case that is what the sign at lunch claimed.

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Mt Hotham – looking north

Lunch over it was time for some fun, to let the tyres down and hit Dargo High Plains road.  We were having so much fun we missed the turn for Blue Rag (its on the right as you pass a small pond) and had to backtrack.  Now I’d had my doubts about making the final stretch of this to the Trig point, given we are fairly heavily laden.  Seems I should have been more concerned about the nerves of a couple of passengers.  A few km in came the calls to turn around, ironically as we reached the bottom of a steep descent – the 110 handled the climb out with ease, not a hint of struggle.  This track is definitely on the list for a boys week in the future.

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Blue Rag

Back on the main track the scenery changes from forest, to high plains grass back to forest descending the other side.  Stunning, but very very dusty.

A turn right onto Macmillans Road, north of Dargo, heads into the historic mining area of Grant and Talbotville.  Springing up in the 1860s, first with alluvial then reef gold, the last settler left Talbotville in 1916. The road down to Talbotville is supposedly 2wd and with some care it probably is; but its long, rough, has a drop to one side and a bit of rain could make it very interesting.  Its worth the drive though as Talbotville is a lovely open grassed area with the Crooked River running along its edge – this is the site of the old settlement, now gone but with traces left like fruit trees, markings in the ground and the old cemetery.

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Talbotville

Bairnsdale – Mon 23rd / Tue 24th Feb

Although the morning was bright and sunny the forecast was storms with rain the next day, so plans to stay another night were shelved.  But first there was some exploring to be done.  The Crooked River Track comes through the campsite, having cross the Crooked River 24 times; it needed looking at.  Suffice to say although we didn’t drive it all the way, it is also on the list for that boy’s week.

Leaving via the Crooked River Road rather than climb back out via Grant was an excellent decision, a wonderful scenic drive alongside the river with a few crossings thrown in for good measure – nothing too deep and all with a stony bottom.

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Crooked River south of Talbotville

With tarmac regained via the Wonangatta Road and lunch dealt with at Dargo it was on to Bairnsdale, chased by a storm pretty much all the way.  At least it had the decency to let us pitch camp before bucketing down.  According to the radar Dargo was pounded, so perhaps it was the right decision to leave.

We’ve covered Bairnsdale before, so nothing much to write about, just a day sorting out the admin.

Wilsons Promontory – Wed 25th / Fri 27th

Firstly a shout for Landwide Satellite Solutions, from whom we had purchased an Inmarsat Isat Pro, which unfortunately would not connect to the network.  After various calls to sort it out a new phone and SIM was sent, picked up from Sale, and all good.  Great service.

Onward from Sale and its clear Gippsland is a dairy area, from the aroma in the air.  Country, but in a pleasant way; very flat and in places rather bleak, with windswept grassy expanses. The bakery at Yarram is well worth a stop, the kids were in heaven.

It is also interesting to see the historical links with the UK, as we passed through Stratford and then Welshpool.

Wilsons Promontory is beautiful, sticking out as the most southerly point of mainland Australia.  Unfortunately its also very very popular, with school groups during the week and with everyone at the weekend.  Tidal River has a wonderful beach, almost Cornish in its wide gently shelving sand and great for the kids.  However as the only drive in camping area it is extremely commercialised, don’t expect to get a secluded spot away from your neighbour.  Perhaps the experience is different with the walk in camps.

Its still definitely worth staying a few days though, and expecting a few wildlife visitors – we had a very inquisitive wombat, crimson rosellas, some lovely little fairy wrens, a cheeky little lizard and more than a few seagulls

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Looking north to the mainland
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Cheeky lizard

 

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Tidal River
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Picnic Beach
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Night visitor
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Come into camp and hoover the crumbs
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Surf at Tidal River

Cape Paterson – Sat 28th Feb

 

Time to move on again, this time just a short hop for an overnighter before the Mornington Peninsular.  Not much to say about this one, except its fun typing this in the tent as a storm blows through……

 

 

 

Dumb things to do with a Axe

Ah the irony.  Having spent all week telling the kids not to play with the axe as ”its sharp and you’ll hurt yourself”, they got a direct demonstration from Dad

The axe in question is a Gransfors Bruks small forest axe.  Amongst the best available these are indeed rather sharp.  So when cutting a branch it is sensible to make sure your legs are well clear

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Crossing the Border / Vic High Country – 15th to 21st Feb

Picnic Point – Sun 15th / Mon 16th Feb

Delightful as Coolendel was, it was time to move on

With a short stop to visit friends near Nowra (and happily coming away with a jar of top notch marmalade, thanks Louise) Sunday night saw us at Picnic Point.  This is a lovely little camp in Mimosa Rocks National Park just south of Bermagui.  Located down an easy track on a point between 2 beaches it only has a few sites, with a long drop the only facilities; but the views are great. Apparently the fishing is also excellent

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Monday morning at the office
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Sunrise
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Evening visitor

Jindabyne – Tue 17th Feb

Time to head towards the hills.  The original aim was to make it onto the Barry Way, but time and some pretty poor weather conspired against.  Leaving Picnic Point towards Bega there are 2 options, tarmac via Tathra or dirt via Dr George Mountain – dirt the order of the day and rewarded with some fine views.

A short stop at Bega Cheese Heritage Centre, as the girls for their schoolwork needed to learn about a food item that is now mass produced.  Whilst it has some interesting dairy items from the old days it does seem more an excuse for a cafe / shop.

Again choosing dirt over tarmac saw a cross country run from Nimmitabel to Dalgety, an easy hard packed highway but through some great open space and right under one of the wind farms usually seen only in the distance.

The heavens then opened, sealing the deal to stop.  Despite being in the middle of town the holiday park has a lovely location by the lake, with all facilities.

Crossing the Border Wed 18th Feb

Finally!  A leisurely start, with a fine morning, saw us onto the Barry Way (Snowy River Road in VIC).  This is simply stunning, as it twists its way along the side of the hills, with views across the valleys beneath.  Not a difficult drive, just need to keep your speed under control.

Given the relaxed start camp time came just over the border at Willis.  For all of 5 minutes it was ours alone, with the rain; then the sound of an engine as another traveller pulled in.  No matter, plenty of spots available without being in view.

Despite its location on the Snowy River its not the best camping spot.  Dirt and a sloping site, obligatory long drop, probably better in the dry.  Memories of this spot also not enhanced by my tussle with an axe (posted separately).

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Crossing the border
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Willis Camp

Bairnsdale – Thu 19th Feb

Not originally on the route, but a quick chat with the lovely nurse at Buchan Bush Clinic sent me on the way to A&E, and Bairnsdale was it.  The largest city in East Gippsland, with about 12000 people, it also has a very comfortable holiday park on the river, so a chance to get the washing done.  The town itself has all the usual suspects, but pleasingly also seems to have retained its smaller local shops rather than bleed to death to an out of town shopping mall

Davies Plain Hut (Almost..) – Fri 20th / Sat 21st Feb

All patched up and back into the high country.  However first a delightfully scenic drive up the Great Àlpine Road to Omeo. We’d been told how pretty this road is, and in the flesh it lives up to the promise.  However its more of a Sunday drive with Aunty Maude than an adventure.

Leaving the tarmac at Benambra the aim was to make Davies Plain Hut via Macs Creek, then stop for the night.  Local knowledge can be invaluable;  a chance meeting with a local farmer revealed Macs was closed, and he pointed us up Misery Trail with a worrying ”it will test you”.

Never was a trail named better, bumpy in a fun way to start and winding up through the forest, the pinch at the top was steep, narrow and had rocky steps with soft dirt / small rocks between. Despite being aired down, trail building and pulling out the Treds we were defeated and handed an awkward 20 point turn to reverse direction.

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Misery Trail – the fun bit at the start
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Never was a trail named better – the scene of our defeat

Somewhat humbled the question was where to camp that night.  A quick consult of the map and the options were Limestone Creek or Native Dog Flat.  Discretion won out at Limestone, aided by the “not recommended for trailers”sign at the start and the ever steepening descents – we gave the first 2 a try then decided to play it safe.

So Native Dog Flat it was to be, and a more scenic site would be hard to find.  Grassed, with a stream running through it, the only downside would be the horse flies.  But on the flipside these are only there because of the wild horses, which we could hear nightly munching on the grass outside the tent.

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Breakfast over the fire

Off and Away – the first few days

So the day arrived, time to leave Sydney and cast ourselves into the trip

After several months of prep you wold imagine the final transition would be easy.  Not so. Behind every cupboard door lurked yet more stuff demanding space in either the car or the trailer.

However finally the show was on the road.

Ready to go
Ready to go

The eagle eyed may spot the 2 bikes on the roof.  Suffice to say there was a quick trip back to storage to get rid of those the next morning; the straw that broke the camel’s back springs to mind.

Bonnie Vale – Thu 12th Feb

This is a lovely little campsite, in the Royal National Park, near Bundeena.  But watch out for the hairy caterpillars, which made an entrance from the tree above us once it was too late to move.

Did I mention the bikes?  A slight snag with Bonnie Vale is Audley Weir.  A hint of rain, the water level rises and the boys in blue sit at either end closing the road.  Never mind the 11o has decent clearance, its one size fits all.  So be prepared to go via Waterfall, that short trip just got longer…

No pics from here, too busy working out how to fit everything back in

Coolendel – Sat 13th / Sun 14th Feb

If you love a bush type camp, but cant do without amenities this place is great.  Wide open spaces, fire pits provided, and a high chance of wombats, kangaroos, lace monitors and any number of birds.

The kids especially enjoy the rapids / jumping from the rocks in the river,

Hils toasting the trip
Hils toasting the trip
The girls enjoying the rapids
The girls enjoying the rapids
Early morning peace
Early morning peace