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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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……