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Previous Trips

The “Dead Set Bull#& Tour was a combination of historical sites and stories told of certain points of my life in my younger days.

The idea was for us to visit old cemeteries and certain places dotted around the old towns between Castlemaine and Creswick and for me to spin yarns for the participants to guess if the yarn was true or false. Could I bullshit my way around with believable stories?

Meeting in the eye of a (hopefully) extinct volcano at Mt Franklin was Greg, Jason and Jo,  and Don. Oh! and myself with Merlin.

We decided on a spot and set up camp building that most would say was a relatively smallish fire as we had wood but not a huge amount so couldn’t over do it.

Most were surprisingly happy when I said it was a 10 o’clock AM start. The night was cold and the morning wasn’t much different. But the sun was rising and was looking like being a glorious day.

Packed and loaded, we were ready to rock by 9:40 ish but a frozen iPad meant a ten minute wait, then away we did!

First stop: Guildford to see the ruins of footy legend Ron Barrassi's place where he was born and returned to, for a few years after his dad died. Then on to Vaughan Springs. (Jo did say that she believes Jason’s family came from here), where we stopped at the water spring, the Chinese cemetery and local cemetery to which my masterly manipulation began….

Then we visited Campbell’s Creek to look at the football ground and the local cemetery then quick bite to eat at what was the “Five Flags General Store“ in my day but it’s now a cafe. Surprisingly my cousin was in there as well so I managed to get a quick hello in there too.

Next, we were off to Castlemaine to visit the Cricket Ground where England lost to an Aboriginal 22 in the mid 1800s, briefly driving past the old Castlemaine jail and other buildings with some significance such as Castlemaine Oval where AC/DC once played in the 1970s.

Then it was off to Fryerston to visit two more burial sites and other buildings from the 1800s in that part of town. From there we visited Glenlyon to which was the last cemetery for the trip (thank the stars as I don’t know how many graves could tolerate Jo standing all over them… some would say JUMPING muttering words “take that“. Greg did say that this would cause the Zombies to hunt her down).

Then off the Creswick to set up camp, a quick working bee to cut wood around the camp and pile it around the fire place was soon done and dusted and with Jo making an awesome fire, it was time to sit back and relax with a froth or two.

Night was cold but luckily Don has a sleeping blanket and Jason and Jo struggled the night with having a diesel heater to warm their tent (Greg and I felt sorry for them and would have gladly swapped accomodation).

Morning was damn cold and Greg was the first to waken and set upon getting the fire going .. I got up, and it was not long before the site was humming with the sounds of a jet (Jason and Jo’s diesel heater ,,, poor bastards) then like a seal climbing the rocks coming out of the water arose Don.

Quick breakfast then we went through the results.

But alas, a frozen iPad! So we had to wait while I warmed it up on the demister of the car … so, we started to get our gear in order while waiting.

Ten mins later we sat down to go through the results. First 3 true or false , they were all wrong , and by question 8 with one to go, Jo, Jason and Don were on 3 with Greg on 2, and Don were on 3 with Greg on 2, (my bullshitting worked well )! So, the last question Don and Greg got right and next it was Don first with the other 3 equal second (last really).

A quick detect around the creek then back for lunch where Jason and Jo made camp donuts, I must say that these where absolutely delicious..

Another quick search for allusive gold then back to camp to start that journey home ..

Hopefully everyone had a good time as it was a different sort of trip but everyone did tell me ( maybe they where “bullshitting” me ) that it was great to see places that they haven’t ever been to.

Cheers all! / Adrian.

For those that have completed the training course, there is one practical element can be hard to remember the sequence of steps, so I thought I would provide a little reminder:

MANUAL TRANSMISSIONS

STOP / START Ascent : Manuals

 Stopping

 1. Apply footbrake progressively til on hard, stalling in gear.
 2. Apply brake firmly.
 3. Turn off ignition.

 While Stopped
 1. Check direction of wheels.
 2. Depress clutch, select reverse, release clutch.
 3. Check direction & clear behind.
 
 Restart
 1. Release park break cautiously.
 2. Release footbreake cautiously.
 3. Check behind, start the engine and reverse downhill.
 

STOP / START Descent : Manuals

 Stopping
 1. Apply footbrake progessively til on hard, stalling in gear.
 2. Apply brake firmly.
 3. Turn off ignition.
 
 While Stopped
 1. Check direction of wheels.
 2. Depress clutch, select reverse, release clutch.
 3. Check direction & clear behind.
 
 Restart
 1. Release park brake cautiously.
 2. Release footbrake cautiously.
 3. Check behind, start engine and reverse downhill.
 

 

AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSIONS

STOP / START Ascent : Autos

 Stopping
 1. Apply footbrake progressively with left foot.                     
 2. Then held hard on.
 3. Apply park brake firmly, leave gear as is.
 
 While Stopped
 1. Check direction of wheels.
 2. Select reverse, keeping foot on the brake.
 3. Check direction & clear behind.
 
 Restart

 1. Release park brake (maintain foot brake).
 2. Release footbrake pressure until about to move.
 3. Increase revs until vehicle moves slowly.

STOP / START Descent : Autos

 Stopping     

 1. Take foot off accelerator.
 2. Vehicle will stop if it is being correctly driven through the 
     brakes (left foot on brake).
 3. Apply brakes firmly.

 

 While Stopped

 1. Left foot on brake to hold vehicle
 2. Put transmission in first geear.
 3. Check clear ahead & direction of wheels
 Restart

 1. Release park brake.
 2. Release footbrake pressure until about to move.
 3. Increase revs until vehicle moves slowly.

 

The Skills Share weekend was held over the last weekend in March, on private property located at East Warburton. Friday afternoon / night saw many arrive and settle into camp, with a few drinks around the fire.

Saturday morning greeted us with perfect weather, and after a coffee or two we got stuck into the “sharing of skills”, with Don showing us how not to tackle a well placed mound of dirt. It didn’t help that he forgot to engage 4WD, so in the end he actually needed to be recovered from the top of the dirt pile.

Given Don’s perfect example of what not to do, the group spent time discussing snatch based recoveries and the types of gear used:

  • Rated recovery points (and those that are not).
  • Snatch strap V's Kinetic rope.
  • Winch extension straps.
  • Ratings of various straps and ropes.
  • Equalizer straps.
  • Steel V's soft shackles, and associated working load limits.
  • Dampeners - whee, when and how to use them.
  • Impacts of being lightly or badly bogged.
  • Water recovery - why you should prepare before plunging into the water.
  • Safety, safety, and more safety

Everyone then got a chance to trial a snatch recovery on a flat section of ground, to familiarise themselves the gear, their cars and the process. This proved to be a little tame and didn’t simulate a proper ‘recovery scenario’, so Graeme kindly found a suitable place on the property to provide a more realistic training moment.

Thanks to Graeme and Jack for volunteering to be ‘recovered’ a number of times by the group.

The property has some very steep sections of clay track, which we made good use of for our next lesson. As the majority of us were still running highway tyre pressures, many attempted the steep incline without airing down at first, but were soon reaching for their tyre deflaters. It was clear to all of the benefits of choosing the appropriate tyre pressure for the condition in which you are driving. It would have been even more educational had the weather not been so dry.

After a quick lunch feed, we were back into the sessions, this time it was about all things winching, including:

  • Line of Pull - Straight V’s angled.
  • Secure anchoring points.
  • Power of the winch - current draw on battery life.
  • How long to run the winch - 30seconds on, 30 seconds off.
  • Ensuring you run your winch regularly fr maintenance.
  • Use of extension straps.
  • Snatch blocks V’s Slip rings.
  • Multiple line pulls / change angles.
  • Safety, safety and of course safety!

After a day of learning we were treated to a perfect night’s weather for sitting around and having a chat.

Sunday dawned another fine day. After a later start to the day, we kicked off the day with tyre plugging. Rob brought up a great tyre for us to inflate, attack with a drill and attempt to repair the hole with a plug. Many took the opportunity chance to practice this key skill.

It was then time to discuss and demonstrate ways to reseat a tyre on a rim. First, we had to show how to break the bead of the tyre and rim, which proved to be easier to say than do at first.

Discussion then turned to how best to re-inflate tyres that have come off the bead. Once cleaned, checked for damage and ensuring the valve is removed a demonstration on what to do as a very last resort was successfully (eventually – after a lot of deodorant was used) performed using a can of lnyx and a lighter. Things went off with a bang, or more of a whooomph, and we had a tyre reseated on its bead and smelling very fresh.

After lunch and a final explore of some of the tracks around the property, we were packed up and headed home.

This trip is a great introduction to the Victorian High Country for new members and old alike who have ideally completed our Driver Training Course and it included a variety of tracks - mostly easy - with some verging on Medium. There were also a few river crossings. This is a touring event (no caravans or campers) stopping overnight at different locations to visit a number of iconic locations in the High Country where we learnt about the places and the amazing people that were among the early explorers and settlers. Plus: we discovered some intriguing connections with the Mornington Peninsula.

With COVID restrictions at almost pre pandemic level, the driver training course was run over the first weekend in March.

Based at the Erica Caravan park the course started with theory being delivered on the Friday night in the purpose built ‘Rec Hub’ to our 7 eager and engaged students. A new presentation pack for the trainers, lots of great questions from the students and many a past experience recounted saw the course run until just after 10.30pm. Most opted for some shut eye in preparation for the early morning start, but some continued with the story sharing over a quiet drink.

Saturday morning dawned and the temperature had dropped, and the rain had settled in, as we commenced the practical part of the course. First off, we completed the pre-trip check lists, with some under bonnet reviews and inspections, driver medical forms and then it was time to head to the tracks!

We ventured to the river crossing at the lower end of Beardmore’s track, at the base of the dam wall, to discuss river crossings and how they should be tackled. Tait offered to demonstrate crossing and to see how slippery the clay tracks were going to be. The remainder of the group headed back up to cross the dam wall on the sealed roads, where there are usually some impressive views, however this time the cloud base was so low, the water wasn’t even visible. A short dash up the hill to find the dirt Walhalla Road and air down.

With tyre pressures down, a right turn onto Walhalla road for half a kilometre then another right onto Low Saddle track where we first engaged 4WD and students were presented with their first wet clay ascent, before stopping at the top of where Low Saddle and Beardmores tracks meet. We broke the students into groups, one instructor to each car, talking the students through the top section of Beardmores track, putting into practice some of the theory discussed the night before. There was a chance to demonstrate and practice the correct ‘snatch’ recovery methods for those waiting their turn to tackle Beardsmores with an instructor.

After a brief stop for lunch, we continued on down Low Saddle track and came across a suitable washout that presented the opportunity to demonstrate the effect of open differentials. With Nigel Smith’s 79 series straddling a washout, the front left and right rear tyres had no grip at all. The result, as we saw, is a vehicle with no forward momentum. The differential will always transfer all energy to the wheels with the least resistance (the ones hanging in the air). The resolution to the predicament can be remedied by numerous means, ranging from choosing a better line when approaching the washout, or to allowing the modern wonders of traction control to assist or to engage diff ‘lockers’ (front or rear) if equipped. Each student took their cars up and over the washout to experience the situation for themselves and understand how their cars handle. If you want to understand more about how to tackle washout in your car, put your name down for the next driver training course.

We continued down Low Saddle track and encountered a short steep section of greasy clay. Pulses were raised and the theory on how to navigate slippery clay slopes were put into practice, as we all made our way down. Not far down the track, we turned around and prepared to tackle the hill in the opposite direction. Kyle, in an unlocked Isuzu with highway terrain tyres, made several spirited attempts, before a further reduction in tyre pressures saw him successfully reach the top. Thankfully the rain had stopped some time ago, and the track was drying out after each car made its way over the crest. Cassie driving on L-Plates, with a great deal of right foot, steered her Pajero to the top on the first attempt! Arriving back at the top of Beardsmores Track. This time each student negotiated their own way down the tracks and found themselves preparing to navigate their way across the Thomson River.

After a short drive back to the caravan park, the written assessments were completed and questions answered. After a couple of well-earned drinks, we then went onto the Eric pub for a feed. Once fed and watered we meandered back to the communal fire and to settle in for the evening.

Sunday morning the weather continued to be damp and the tracks were still wet and greasy. We started the day by the direction of the way Saturday’s session ended, by crossing the Thompson river and heading up Beardsmores Track. There were sections that were tricky and provided little traction, but nothing that proved too challenging for the group. At the top of Beardsmores Track we turned right on Walhalla Road, and then left down a steep slippery Fultons track (nerves were further put to the test) and so to was the temptation to touch the brakes! A Left turn onto One Speck Track, where we drove through some low clouds, then and right onto Williamson Spur Track and a left down onto Army Track.

A new challenge was offered to all on a particularly rocky and steep downhill section, that tested the drivers resolve and also their ground clearances. At the bottom of Army N track, we veered left onto Donnelly Creek Road towards O’Tooles Campground for lunch. O’Tooles is currently closed for works, so we continued on to Jorgensens Hut.

After lunch some decided to head home, and some decided to head home via Beardmores track for one last bit of wheeling. We then all aired up to highway pressures, before heading back to the caravan park, packing up and hitting the black top home.

This is an annual event where manage a major Aid Station for the Oscars Foundation 100km run raising money for Autism Services in the Mansfield and Regional Victoria areas. Our Aid Station is located at Lovick’s Hut which one of the iconic High Country Cattlemen’s Huts. We provide food and water and other requirements to the runners as required. We have a full medical team with us so it is mainly a “refueling” and monitoring/reporting exercise. We are also an overnight camp for runners who cannot manage the run in a single day. Last time it was held, we hosted about 110 people overnight. This entailed making sure their tents were up, providing snacks, dinner and breakfast the next morning. Our involvement is done by midday Saturday leaving the rest of the day and Sunday free to drive the many 4x4 tracks, other huts and river crossings.

It’s a 6.5+ hour trip out to Native Dog Flat which is just over 50km east of Benambra in far East Gippsland, but so worth the trip when you get there.

I didn’t get away from Toot until 5.30 on Thursday night and while the traffic was moderate, I had a really good run and with a fuel top up at Bairnsdale and quick coffee and dinner (pies!!) at the Driver Reviver at Bruthen, I called it quits at 12.30 am just where Limestone Rd turns to dirt – not a bad spot to turn in for the night.

Up at 7.30 on Good Friday and finished the last 30 odd kilometres into Native Dog to meet up with the others, set up the van, have breakky, put up the Camp Host banner and meet up with the local NP Ranger to discuss all things Camp Host, tracks etc.

The rest of the day was a fairly lazy one around the campfire before going out in search of wood and the odd trip to visit other campers and perform our Camp Host duties.  Come about 4.00pm Christine and Ian suggested that as it was such a glorious day, we should go and watch the sunset from the top of a mountain peak they had been shown by Amanda Lloyd who knows the area well.  Sounds like a plan.  As it was an hour’s drive along a 4x4 (easy) track, we decided to take our “happy hour” nibbles and drinks as well.

It was well worth the drive as Christine’s pictures on Fb show.  We arrived back at camp in the dark, made up the fire, had dinner and opened a bottle, or can depending on your preference!  The usual great night around the campfire was had by all!

Leaving Mt. Murphy, we headed along Buckwong Track to the Davies Plain Track where we were travelling on the rooftop of Victoria – at times around the 1600m mark - and stopped for lunch at Charlies Creek – a beautiful Alpine meadow with a creek and a number of great camping areas.  We continued along Davies Plain Track with more magnificent views, this time over to Mt. Kosciuszko, until we made it to Davies Plan Hut.

This was a spot I had wanted to get to for years and it did not disappoint.  A well preserved hut in a magnificent alpine meadow surrounded by forests of gum trees with a creek and horse yards .  We spent some time walking around, taking photo’s and reluctantly headed off on the return journey although we all agreed it would be nice to return and camp overnight.

There’s an idea for a great trip next year!

We returned along Davies Plain Track until we hit Limestone Creek Track which is a good 4x4 track with some steep descents and a number of river crossings.  Would be great fun in the reverse direction.  We got back to camp just before dark having driven around 115km for the day – a long way in 4x4 on those tracks.  Another great evening was enjoyed around the fire.

Sunday dawned another perfect day and after such a big day yesterday, we opted for a shorter easier day.  Jason C had a trip in mind so he took the lead and I went tail end Charlie for a change.  We followed the main road back to Benambra and some fuelled up and others got coffee from the general store before heading out across Lake Omeo, over a steep climb affording beautiful views finally leading us onto the Mitta Mitta River.

We then followed the Mitta back into the Alpine National Park heading for Kennedy Hut and Taylors Crossing.  What was meant to be an easy drive turned into quite a long 4x4 track with long steep climbs and descents often with very deep ruts that required spotters to assist drivers through safely – thanks Julie, Jan and Tait for doing such a great job.

Along the way we marked a large number of wonderful camping spots on the banks of the Mitta that really need to be explored more closely.  They are relatively accessible so a mid-week trip would be best.

We made it into Kennedy Hut beside the Mitta for lunch at about 1.00ish or so and it was decided that the afternoon run would be cancelled and we would head straight back to camp to get the fire going as we needed coals for damper!!

Saturday dawned fine beautifully clear so after a quick breakfast we headed out on a day drive that took us along the historic “Misery Trail”, a route followed by the old goldminers to the Mt. Murphy historic gold mining area.  The tracks there provided the most magnificent views over the ranges but also showed the extent of the devastation from the bush fires.  It is coming back but very slowly.

Lunch was consumed, but there were so many wasps that we didn’t hang around too long before making our way to Taylors Crossing.  This would be a great camp spot other than all the people but the river crossing is quite wide and has a enough depth to make it interesting.  Jason took some good video that hopefully can be posted on the Fb page.

From Taylor’s Crossing it was back to 2x4, out to the bitumen and back to camp via Benambra and Limestone Road. It was still well after 4.00pm that we arrived at camp and I was surprised to see that it had been another 100+km day. The fire was enjoyed as was the damper.

Monday we had to head home and we were dreading the traffic.  The day dawned another beautiful day allowing tents and campers to dry before packing and most of us were on the road by 11.30am.  Air-up, a quick stop at Benambra General Store – pretty good hamburger for lunch – and home via Omeo and Bairnsdale.  The traffic was constant but no problem thankfully.

Thanks to everyone who came along, it was a great trip and we all enjoyed ourselves and most saw new country leaving us hungry to return and explore further.  I think the next trip will start at the NSW end of the Davies Plain Track, work its way to Native Dog and onto McKillops Bridge exiting the bush at Orbost.  Watch this space!!

The MMHT came about after reading a book titled The History of Wonnangatta Station by Wallace Malcolm Mortimer. The book got me in and I wanted to learn as much as I could and to see if a trip to Wonnangatta and finishing up at Lovicks was something that could be done over a long weekend. I asked Ken W. if he would join me on a planning trip where we would check the condition of the tracks and the timings for each day. It all worked out very easily and we passed the baton on to VP Nigel to be the Trip Leader. Not only was I interested in the tracks, but also the history of the people that had made their mark in this part of Victoria. The key people included Jim Barclay who was the station manager until he was murdered some time between 21st Dec. 1917 and 22nd Jan. 1918. In addition, two other prominent figures arose being Angus McMillan and Alfred William Howitt, both of whom played a major role win the history of Victoria. But, that’s another story.

The date was confirmed for the March long weekend and the starting location was the Dargo River Inn Camp Ground. 

Most arrived at the Dargo River Inn in the Friday afternoon & evening while a few arrived in the early hours of Saturday. Nevertheless, by around 9:00am we were on our way. First stop was Grant, just off the McMillans Road. Here we explored the many notices and land lots that would have been there many years after the gold had petered out.

The group was introduced to Alfred Howitt and Angus McMillan, both notable explorers of the 1800’s. Angus McMillan was responsible for the opening up of Gippsland in the 1840’s. In 1860 with the gold mining in and around Ballarat and Bendigo in decline, a Prospecting Board was established by the government of the day to search for other gold bearing locations. Angus McMillan recommended  exploration of the Macalister, Mitchell, Nicholson and Dargo areas. Alfred Howitt was selected as leader for the Mitchell River expedition. Howitt’s party travelled to McMillan’s Bushy Park Station then up to the Dargo.

From Grant we moved on directly to Talbotville where we crossed the Crooked River, named by Alfred Howitt due to the crooked nature of the river. Howitt reported to the Minister of Mines that the Crooked River and Good Luck Creek fields fields were a payable proposition and as a result in 1861 there were 800 miners on these fields. With the crossing complete, we travelled along Crooked River Track to Racecourse Track where we crossed the Wongungarra River, passed Howittville Hut then turned on to Station Track for the seemingly long haul with some heart stopping steep climbs and spectacular views to where we joined the Cynthia Range Track. Here we travelled on along the Cynthia towards the junction with Eaglevale Track - that’s one for the bucket list in the future.

From that junction we continued along Cynthia Range Track up to and onto the partially hidden Sugarloaf Creek Track to the helicopter landing area on Mount Von Guerard. Here we found that another group had got there a little before us, and had pinched the best view and parking spot!  Nigel B. took a great photo of our vehicles set opposite where the others had been. See the photos in the Photo Gallery.

Mount von Guerard was named by Alfred Howitt for his good friend, travelling companion and noted artist, Eugene von Guerard who had been with Howitt on a trip to the Baw Baws area and had also spent time on the diggings in the Bendigo and Ballarat areas.

This location on the tour turns out to be a good place to stop for a lunch break before continuing on to the junction of Wombat Range Track and Hernes Spur Track, the latter being only for the brave who are prepared to tackle the steep decline down on to the Wonnangatta River where it becomes the Wonnangatta Track.  So for some of us, Herne Spur Track will have to remain on our bucket list. Nevertheless, one only goes a short few metres before becoming to the not so steep decline down Wombat Range Track and on to where we turn onto Hart Spur Track for probably less than 100 metres to the beginning of Humffrey River Track. On this track, you only have to cross the Wonnangatta River once compared to six crossings if you went down Herne Spur.

The Humffrey River Track joins the Wonnangatta Track, and that track runs close along side the Wonnangatta River for quite a way up to Conglomerate Creek and onto Wonnangatta Station. Now at the Station some of us stretched our legs while others went in search of a suitable campsite. Ultimately a spot was chosen right beside the Wonnangatta River that was close by the Station Hut and soon a fire wood detail was formed and before long a good collection had been made and the campsite fire was on the go.

The first non-aboriginal to enter the the valley flats of the Wonnangatta was probably Angus McMillan who in 1859 occupied the original Eagle Vale Run which then included the Wonnangatta Valley. In Wallace Mortimer’s book The History of Wonnangatta Station he tells us that an American who had been prospecting  around Dargo, growing tobacco at Mathieson’s Flat and also share farmed at Crooked River. On one of his “prospecting rides he came upon the Wonnangatta Valley”. Oliver Smith soon set to work building an American style log cabin for his entourage which included his three sons and his de facto wife Ellen Hayes and her son Harry. Ellen and Oliver never married however, Ellen soon used Smith as her surname.  Sadly, in 1872 Ellen died giving birth to twins Malinda and Mary on the 5th of March, and Mary died on the 11th of March while Malinda also died the following day. Oliver, who could neither read or write crafted a slab of slate like rock he collected from the river and inscribed Ellen’s name.  Unfortunately he inscribed the letter N in her name in reverse and her date of death as 5th March 1873. Ellen and her babies were the first recorded deaths at Wonnangatta and were the first to be buried at Wonnangatta Station. See the trip photos in the Gallery for Ellen and her daughters. (NOTE: since the trip, the Friends of Wonnangatta have been succesful in the creation of a new tombstone with the correct dates for Ellen, Mary and Matilda. See new photo on Keith Leydon's Facebook page here (scroll down to 6th April 2021)

The other family to inhabit Wonnangatta around that time was the Bryce family, but that’s another story for another time.

Fast forward to 1914 when Arthur Phillips and Geoff Ritchie, both from around Delatite, purchased Wonnangatta Station from the Bryce family. Their first priority was to engage a manager of the property. Jim Barclay was duly employed.  Jim was born on 18th Feb. 1869 to James, a Scot who had emigrated from London in 1849, and Mary Fiddler in  who had emigrated from London in 1852. They were married in St. Enochs Presbyterian Church, on 14th Feb. 1853  and eventually built a home named Heroville which was located on Barclay Crescent in what was then known as Tyabb, but was later renamed Hastings after some rezoning in that part of the Peninsula.

By 1917 the work on Wonnangatta Station had gotten to the stage that he needed another hand to assist with the workload. So on the 14th of December that year he hired John Bamford as cook and odd-jobs man.  On the 20th of December there as a Referendum that Jim and John Bamford rode in to Albert Stout’s Post Office and Store in Talbotville to cast their votes. They stayed with Albert and his wife overnight and by 10 o’clock in the morning of the 21st of December, the pair rode back to Wonnangatta never to be seen again.

On the 22nd of January 1918, Harry Smith (son of Ellen Smith) rode up from his home in Eaglevale to deliver Jim’s mail. There was no sight of Jim or Bamford, but there was a note on the kitchen door with the words “Home Tonight”. Harry decided to stay at the homestead overnight. With no arrivals from Jim or Bamford for two days, Harry decided to return to his work at Eagevale. Harry’s next visit to the homestead was the 14th of February, and once there he found the mail from his previous visit was still where he left it and the “Home Tonight” sign still remained untouched. Harry decided to pass on the news of the disappearance of Jim and Bamford on to Jim’s employer, Arthur Phillips who arrived at the Eaglevale on the 23rd. Feb. After another day of searching around the river flats they eventually came to the conclusion that Jim and Bamford must have met with foul play. On the 25th of Feb, Harry and Phillips decided to conduct a search of the Conglomerate Creek valley where they eventually discovered the remains of Jim Barclay partially buried beside the Conglomerate Creek.

With this discovery, the Police were notified and when they arrived Harry led them to the grave which was just 425 paces from the homestead. Further search found no sign of John Bamford, consequently he was being seriously considered as a person of interest and so, a new search was to follow around the Wonnangatta Station area.

But more of this further on……

Back to the trip….

During the afternoon new members Daren and Julie joined us with their children and before sunset we gathered for our evening meal along with some selected wines, beers, chips n cheeses we all sat back to chat and yarn. :)

Next morning after a quick breakfast we did some more exploring of the cemetery, the large Hut and some of us collected fruit from the trees beside the area marked out with stones where the homestead once stood. And soon, we were off to tackle Zeka Spur Track which in places it is quite narrow and on a number of occasions we were forced to stop, move to the left and allow the oncoming traffic to pass by. In places there are seemingly dark tunnels through the heavy canopy of the trees, in other areas we were in more open ground until finally there was the decent down to the junction with Howitt Road. Here we turned left and travelled on to Howitt Hut where we stopped for a quick lunch break.

But, what about John Bamford…..

When the Police arrived at the Station they had travelled there from Mansfield and on the way, the group included amongst others William Hearne and Jim Fry who had been a very close friend and mentor to Jim. Both Hearne and Jim Fry were experienced stockmen who knew the country well in and around Wonnangatta. Harry Smith took them to the shallow grave and confirmed to the Police that the body was Jim Barclay. They then returned to the Station and carried out a search in and around the house and noticed that not only two dogs, blankets, a saddle and bridle were missing as was Bamford’s horse Thelma.

When the search for Bamford started there was much discussion on where he may have travelled to. He still could have been on the Station somewhere. Maybe he had gone up to Dry River and followed that up to the Howitt Plains, or disappeared up Riley Creek to escape being captured.

So the search for Bamford was started and eventually William Hearne and Jim Fry were searching on the Howitt Plain. Bamford’s horse Thelma was found wondering around without a saddle or bridle.

Bamford’s body was soon discovered not far from Howitt Hut under a pile of logs. Who killed John Bamford? We may never know.

The mysterious murders of Jim Barclay and John Bamford remain just that: A Mystery.

Back to the trip…

With lunch break finished we headed off again. This time back up Howitt Road, past the intersection with Zeka Spur Track, passed the Car Park which is a starting point for the hike up to the top of Mt. Howitt, and eventually onto King Billy Track. This is a very picturesque track with everything you could ask for on a 4WD Trip. A mix of open bush country, to thick trees and bushes. Along the way we passed a few Rivers of Rock, made the odd creek crossing and a number of very tight corners as we climbed up to eventually join onto Bluff Track. On the way up Bluff Track we stopped for the photo opportunity at the King Billy Tree, stopped for another photo op at Picture Point and finally stopping beside the Lovick’s Hut campground, which by this time was quite crowded.

We all had to find spots to park our vehicles, then start on setting up a fireplace, collected firewood then at last settling down to a good evening meal followed by cheese and crackers all of which were taken with good measures of fine red and white wines…

Next morning we broke camp and travelled down to Bluff Hut for a look see at what is a fine “establishment”. After that the next stop was on Mt. Lovick for more photo opportunities. Eventually after what always seems like a very long slow trip back down to the main road we eventually stopped to air-up the tyres then headed on to Mansfield for lunch and then home.

On – off!

On again – off again!

Wednesday lunch- time with less than 48 hours to the start ….. we are ON!!!! ….. but……

…. a modified course so go to Pikes Flat instead of Lovicks Hut!  All good – we are nothing if not flexible!

Lead by Lorraine and Ian, most of the team arrived at Pikes Flat by late Thursday afternoon and by the time I arrived at about 10.30pm, the fire was roaring (Ian had been busy constructing his master piece of a fire) and we had a plan of where we were setting up the food and hydration tent.  The first-aid team had also arrived and were good to go.   About 45 minutes later, Alex and Ava rocked up in the Ironman truck and shortly after Amy and the girls arrived in the new D-Max.

Great that’s the whole team arrived safe and sound (other than Darren and Julie who were arriving Friday night) and ready to greet the first runners at about 8.00am-ish on Saturday morning.

As usual, Alex twisted my arm – you can’t leave a man alone with a drink around a camp fire – and so with a mighty effort we sat fire firewatch until …… quite late!!

Friday dawned (way too early) and we were up with the sun to erect gazebos and tables, mix hydrolytes, cut fruit, make sandwiches and set up the “Check-In” tent ready for the first runners to arrive.

These guys are nuts – awesome but nuts.  The morning slowly heated up and by 10.00am about 190 runners had come through our aid station having run about 27km from the summit of Mt. Buller, across Stirling, to Craig’s Hut and then down to Howqua Gap and another downward 800 vertical meters to us!  From our Aid Station it was a “leisurely” 23km mainly flat – ignoring the killer climb up 4 mile - back to the summit of Mt. Buller.

All done by about 11.00 am, so back to camp for a quick lunch and then head out by 12.30 for a drive to enjoy the local scenery.  It was a great drive.  The route took us across to Bindaree Hut, ford the Howqua River, up Monument Track – a nice little climb – to Craig’s Hut.

From Craig’s we followed Clear Hills Track to Circuit Road and then around to King Basin Road and down to Pineapple Flat.  There we crossed the King River and had a brief afternoon tea with most saying they just had to come back to Pineapple Flat for a weekend’s camping.

I had forgotten what a wonderful camp site it is!

From Pineapple Flat we continued along King Basin Track, crossing the King River several times and noting another 6 or so magnificent river side camping sites along the way.  Even better, we found plenty of pre-cut firewood to throw in the tray for the nights fire!  Finally we came to King Hut and from there to Speculation Road, Circuit Rd and back to Pikes Flat. All in all, a very pleasant drive that allowed to some to cross off Craig’s from the “bucket list”, give all of us a few more camp sites in the memory bank and for Amy, her first real taste of 4x4 driving in the new D-Max.  Watch out Terry, I think you lost driving rights to the new fourbie!!

Back at camp, the situation had changed.  Due to the “on again/off again” and forced course change, Pikes Flat was “double booked”.  While we had been enjoying an afternoon’s drive, 25 horse riders plus support crew and vehicles had arrived and there wasn’t room for all!  It turned out they had priority so while our Aid Station could remain, we had to move camp.  It was only about 100 meters and truth be known, while pretty small, it was closer to the river and had its own beach for swimming!

Darren and Julie rocked up early Friday evening and were found a spot and soon had made themselves at home around the fire.

Saturday dawned fine and threatening to be hot! Today we had about 170 runners doing it for a second time (but in the opposite direction) plus another 230 (or so) runners doing the Archie 50km run for a total of nearly 400 runners to be checked in, feed, watered, tended to and got back on the track.  The temperature just got hotter and we encouragingly told them…

“…You’ve done the easy part, it’s all up hill to Buller!”  or perhaps

“… got plenty of water?  It’s 13 km and 900 vertical metres to the next Aid Station!”

Did I mention these people were crazy?

You do realise they called it “fun?”

It was all hands on deck as the runners came in thick and fast and I think we lost count of the number of sandwiches that were made, the number of pieces of fruit that were handed out and the number of water bottles and bladders that were filled.  Suffice to say there was not an awful lot of the 1000 litre water tank remaining by the end of the day.  And those 2 and half trays of loaves of bread – gone!!!

Just to make it interesting, the days heat culminated in a thunderstorm that halted the race for an hour or so until it was determined it was safe to continue.  By 5.00pm or so, we were all done and started the packing up before finally throwing ourselves in the river with a cold beveridge or two … or three!

Jason and Julie made an unexpected arrival late on Saturday arvo taking the new Ranger and camper out for a maiden voyage – great effort guys and always pleased see around the camp fire.

Saturday night around the fire was a bit more relaxed as our work for the weekend was done.  One of the Race Directors made the journey down to say thank you for our efforts and sorry for the camping stuff up – eh these things happen in a Covid Year, here, have a seat and beer! Apparently even with all the uncertainty, the race had raised a bit over $40,000 for Autism in the High Country – a great effort by the team and we are certainly proud of the role we play in this event.

The evening was capped off with a magnificent damper made by Julie – it literally evaporated!  I think it was Julie’s way of making sure their membership application got approved – and I think it may have worked!!

Sunday dawned another beautiful day and we packed up and by 9.30amish (very ish) we were heading up 16 Mile Jeep Track – another nice little climb – and then up Bluff track for a quick stop at and “morning tea” – left over bags of lollies – at Bluff Hut.  From there over Mt. Lovick for a quick photo opportunity ….

Once again, we found some magnificent high altitude camp sites with the most spectacular views that I must return to for a nights camping.  It would be cold but absolutely stunning!  We stopped for a brief lunch under the snow gums at Lovicks Hut, and then Jason took the lead further along Bluff Track to take us to what is reckoned to be the oldest snow gum in the Alps. The pictures show a gnarled and twisted specimen … and then there was tree itself!!!!

From the old snow gum we continued along Bluff Track until it met Brocks Road and from there we headed back to Sheepyard and out to Mansfield for a final stop (and iced coffee for me) before heading home after another very successful weekend trip.

Finally, a huge, huge thank you to all the members that turned up and worked so hard through the heat to help raise $40,000 for Autism in the High Country and make sure that those “bat #@%! crazy” runners get to have a safe and enjoyable (??!!) run through our spectacular high country.

It’s great that we participate in such a wonderful and local charity that really makes a hands on difference in the lives of children in the local area.  At the same time, we have built a great bridge between the “greenie” oriented runners and trekkers and the 4x4 community and had a good time doing it!

Hut2Hut or Oscars 100 is a charity event that the Club supports.  It seeks to raise awareness and money to support families in the Mansfield area and Victorian High Country living with autism.  It is a small, dedicated and very hands on group that makes a direct and positive impact on the local community.

It is described as one of the most extreme trail running and treking challenges in the event calendar. This year there were two treks/challenges - the regular 100km run/trek from the summit of Mt. Buller through the spectacular High Country, bagging 4 or 5 of the main peaks before ending back a Mt. Buller.  The second was a similar course but limited to a “mere” 50km!!!  These people are seriously fit athletes as they face some of the steepest climbs and descents and river crossing often in high temperatures and extreme weather conditions.

We are tasked with managing the main remote first aid station, check point with water and food and, overnight camp site for those taking more than one day to complete the course.  Usually we are based at Lovick’s Hut, but this year, due to the bushfires, it was an alternative course and we were based at Pikes Flat on the Howqua River with Yarra Valley 4x4 Club, and tasked to track and report progress, water and feed and attend to the needs  a total of 500 runners over the course of two days.  We had in excess of 100 trekkers staying over each of two nights for which we had to cook dinner and breakfast and get them back on the track the following morning.

We had 8 vehicles involved arriving from the Wednesday afternoon to the Thursday night so as to be ready to receive the elite runners first thing Friday morning.  It was a great drive in as after topping up with fuel, we headed out through Sheepyard Flat, Brocks Rd to 8 Mile Gap and then Bluff Link Rd over Refrigerator Gap to 16 Mile Jeep Track and down to Pikes Flat.  It’s a lovely drive with some easy 4x4 tracks through spectacular country.

Yarra Valley 4x4 were already set up and by the time I arrived on Thursday evening, they were well setop to run the catering side of things (dinner and breakfast) and us to deal with the checking in and out, and the food, fruit and water requirements of the runners coming through.  We had a great functioning team and the comments and praise from the runners showed that between the 2 Clubs, the runners were well looked after.

Our days generally started at about 3.00am to ensure that everything was organized by 4.00am for breakfast and check out times as competitors were keen to be back on the track by 5.00am.  Our team checked runners in and out noting the times and reporting to HQ so that they could keep track of where the competitors were on the track.  The rest of us filled water bottles, made sandwiches, cut up fruit and generally assisted the runners in and out of the check point.  This was complicated by the weather that went from just plain HOT, to thunderstorms and torrential down pours with high humidity! Great running conditions considering they had done 14 river crossing to get to us and as they left, crossed river number 15 with an 800 m climb to reach the next water point 15km away!!!  And they call this fun!

By 5.30am Sunday morning the last of the runners from the 2nd night had departed on the last leg of their trek and we then packed up all the gear before breaking camp and heading off ourselves by about 10.30ish.  

Our route home was a little indirect as we took the opportunity to head to Bindaree Hut and then a short walk to Bindaree Falls.  The falls are absolutely beautiful and well worth the 400m or so uphill walk to the viewing platform.  From here we followed the 2x4 roads to Craig’s Hut, one of the iconic Cattleman Huts on most peoples “must do list”.  For those who haven’t been there, it’s worth a visit just for the magnificent views over the High Country.  In reality, the hut itself was built as a movie set for the original “Man from Snowy River” film and as such is not a true cattleman’s hut, but it’s a great spot to visit.

From Craig’s, we returned to Mansfield and had lunch at The Bakery before heading back down the black top to the big smoke!  Overall, it was another very successful community volunteer event that continues to build strong bridges between the “greener” side of the bush users and the 4x4 community.   A huge thank you to all the members who attended and worked so hard – the feedback is that it was wholeheartedly appreciated.  Of course, this means that we will need to plan to be involved again next year, but hopefully, we will be back at Lovick’s!!

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Australia Day 2020 – Goughs Bay

Participants – HEAPS!!!!!!

With all the uncertainty that the bushfires bought in January, I was really quite worried about our ability to run a trip over the Australia Day weekend.  Fortunately, Rob came to the rescue and he was able to get us access to a 15 acre property with a frontage onto the Delatite River.  Better still, we could camp in a lovely shaded area right on the river bank.  Given how crowded places like Grannys Flat and the other local camping areas were, this was absolute gold!!!

The owners Chris and Lea - are related to Rob’s family and made us – all 22 vehicles, campers, caravans and dogs – very welcome.  Also there was their father George and brother in law Simon. They have even asked back!!!

By chance, I meet up with Glenn and Maggie and Geoff and family at Mansfield BP and we headed off to Goughs Bay arriving just before dark.  We found ourselves a spot by the river and were soon up at the shed fire pit area for the first of a few drinks and chats around the fire.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny and by 9.30 I was trying get trip convoys organised as we had 17 or 18 vehicles all waiting to roll.  Graeme & Jen offered to lead a trip for the more experienced drivers and 6 or 7 vehicles headed off to Mt Terrible and beyond.  That left 11 in my party for the easy trip.

We headed into Jamieson and onto Grannys Flat were we aired down.  Driving through the camp and I heard my yelled out only to find Bear and Jen (previous members now moved up to the Benella area) camped with a few family friends.  We had a good catch up while we all aired down and then headed up Gallows Track – a nice little climb to start with – before looping over around Jamieson Lookout and Sappers Tracks and back into Jamieson for a latish lunch.  By 2.30 I had rounded them all up – bit like herding cats as there was coffee on offer at the café!! – and headed up Polletti Track to Mt. Terrible Track and up to the lookout.  It’s an interesting track because there is an easy 2WD track that heads up but also a more challenging 4x4 track virtually running alongside.  Most followed me up the 4x4 route which again provided some fun for the less experienced with steep loose climbs and a couple of small rocky steps.

The views from the lookout are simply magnificent and well worth the drive.  A walk, a few pictures and quick drink and we returned to Jamieson, but this time via the Mt. Terrible Track, which led us almost into main street Jamieson.

By 5.00 we were home, had a quick dip in the river and set up an Australiana themed  “happy hour” outside one of the vans prior to having dinner – which none of us could really fit in after the sumptuous happy hour snacks – before heading up for another terrific night around the fire.

Sunday dawned another perfect day and again by 10.00am we had 2 trips heading out – a more experienced one with Ian and Lorraine in the lead heading for Mt. Torbeck and surrounds, while I lead a moderate 4x4 run up to the slate mine area returning via Running Creek camping area.

Our route led us back to Granny’s Flat, but this time, we crossed the river onto Masters Track and then Mitchells Track which has quite a number of steep climbs and descents on its way to the Slate Mine.  We made the Slate Mine for lunch and were again rewarded with magnificent views over the high country. We had a quick lunch trackside and the kids – big and small – climbed all over the mine area, broke up rocks looking for “treasure” before we headed down Steiners Rd back to Howqua via Running Creek camping area.  Running Creek is a lovely camp area on the Howqua river except on a long weekend – it was packed.  People, cars, loud music, crowded river – and so after letting the kids have a quick swim, we scurried back to our little piece of paradise at Goughs Bay.

Sunday’s happy hour got into full swing, complete with party pies, sausage roles, iced Vo Vo’s, cheeses and dips and …….. Graeme in his “happy pants and shirt”.  I’m sure you all saw the picture!!!!  What you didn’t see was that Graeme gave an impassioned speech about how lucky we were to have access to not only the camp site but the bush generally and that he wanted to do a “whip around” to raise some money to donate directly to the local CFA Station to show our appreciation of their efforts in fighting fires and preserving the bush on our behalf.

He obviously did a great job because we raised well over $400 on the night and it has been suggested, and, supported by the members (40+) and Committee members there on the night (5/8) that the Club should round that up to $1,000.  Chris, Lea and Simon said their neighbour was actually the local Goughs Bay CFA Captain and that that would be hugely appreciated.  We will put that to vote at the next meeting, but I would hope that it will get support from the general membership.  The following day, the CFA Captain and Treasurer came for a visit and photo opportunity.

Just to spice up the night, Aaron suggested that he would donate the princely sum of $50 if Graeme would ………. Ah well, you had to be there and, what happens on camp stays on camp!!  Suffice to say, Glenn finally came out from behind the electric fence!!!!!

Monday dawned another perfect day and while most had a leisurely morning and packed up, Simon (from the property) led 5 of us on a short trip into Eildon National Park and onto some very steep and rutted tracks.  On the map, one track descended over 300 vertical metres in about a 1km or less!  All these tracks were only a 10 minute drive from the property so we will definitely have to go back and explore the area further.

A quick lunch, a longer soak in the river and last of us were heading home about 3.30ish having had a really excellent weekend and Australia Day and made some great contacts for future trips.

A huge thank you to Chris, Lea and their family for their hospitality and welcoming attitude.  Everyone had a great time and loved the property and your company.  We have arranged to go back to participate in a “working bee” to clean up the camping area and particularly improve the river access.  This should be in early May so I’ll keep you informed.

Thanks to all who attended, - it was a great trip and showed that with a little bit of patience and organisation, even 20+ vehicles and 50+ people and kids can have a great time. Finally, I just have to say that I loved Isabel’s outfit and she really was our own little Miss Australia!  I would also be very re-miss not to also say that Hanka looked awesome in her Australia Day dress and sunnies – well done ladies!!

The recent trip to the Grampians was real change of pace and showed that we could really enjoy a weekend of camping, touring and walking with no 4x4ing at all!  For those who attended, it was a great weekend and there were multiple requests to “do it again” as there were so many other places to explore in the Grampians region and it is really is a special place for walking and photography.

A total of 12 vehicles made their way to our base camp at Cavendish Recreation Reserve which is about 25Km north of Hamilton and 30km west of Dunkeld, on the Thursday and I arrived with a small party of three vehicles about 10.30 that night to a lovely flat grassed camp beside the Wannon River with camp fire  blazing away to keep us warm.  Lower the legs and pop the roof, get a chair and a drink and join the fire – gotta love a caravan!!

Friday dawned grey and cool and threatening rain.  The plan for the day was a run south of Cavendish to visit Mt. Rouse (the largest of the extinct volcanoes) lookout, then traverse south west to Mt. Eccles National Park and Lake Surprise and its lava cave /tube, then head north to Mt. Napier National Park to see more/ bigger lava caves and to return to Cavendish via Wannon and Nigretta Waterfalls – a round trip of about 200+km.

Our timing at Mt. Rouse was not good as a major cold and rain front hit us just as we walked to the top of the lookout.  The view was confined by cloud, rain and mist and we scurried back to the vehicles with many of us looking like drowned rats!!  As we were already wet, we stopped at the crater and did a short walk to take more misty pictures.  From there back to town (Penshurst) and a quick stop at the Volcano Discovery Centre.  This was awesome and $7.00 well spent.  They have a huge amount of information and great audio-visual displays.  The rain had stopped and coffee was calling so a few made their way over to the local shop to top up the caffeine levels.

From there, were did about a 40 minute run, with the heaters and a/c cranked to dry ourselves, to Mt. Eccles National Park.  This was a real surprise – a great lunch stop and information centre, with camping available and lots to see.  We drove up to the lookout over the crater lake (Lake Surprise) and then a short walk to a lava cave that had easy access for lots more pictures.  From there we made our way to the day parking area for a quick lunch in vastly improved weather – there was actually some sun!!

Mt. Napier was next on the list, via Harmon Valley which is one of the largest lava flows in Australia.  While it’s all a lush green valley now, you could easily see the course of the lava flow as it made it’s way down to Port Fairy.

The Byaduk lava caves were next and we spent an hour or so walking between 3 large collapsed lava caves.  Tyron managed to scramble down into one – oh to be that young and agile!!  These are caves that have been created when a lava tube roof has collapsed.  Essentially, the lava flows in a river and the outside skin cools to form a crust.  As this thickens, it creates a tube and the allows the rest of the lava inside to keep flowing.  As the lava flow ends, the result is a hollow lava tube.  The Byaduk caves have been created where sections of the roof of the tube have collapsed.  While they were very interesting and are of international renown, personally I found the lava cave at Lake Surprise  to be of more interest as it actually gave you access and you could see the interior walls and colours that have been created.

By now it was mid-late afternoon but at least there was blue sky and sunshine for our cross country drive to the water falls.  These too were spectacular probably as a result the recent rains.  There was certainly plenty of water roaring over the falls making for excellent photography.  There was also good camping at Wannon Falls albeit that there were a few people there – call me unsociable!  Another short drive bought us to Nigretta Falls which were equally as spectacular with the advantage that you could walk down to river at the foot of the falls.  However, that meant a walk up a lot of stairs to regain the carpark but it was certainly worth it.

Time to return to camp at Cavendish (40ishkm) with some going straight there and others via Hamilton to top up with fuel.  The normal PP4WDC evening followed with nibbles, drinks and dinner around the fire.  We actually introduced a “new” concept – it was fairly “chilly” so we lite two fires allowing all to get close and keep warm!

Saturday dawned chilly but with the promise of a warmer day.  The plan was a round trip to Halls Gap via Dunkeld and the main road through the Grampians, an hour and half break in Halls Gap before following the Mt. Zero Road to Hollow Mountain and an indigenous art sight. 

The drive via Dunkeld to Halls Gap is just magnificent.  The views of Grampians rock ramparts just keep opening before you.  Being spring, there were plenty of wild flowers too.  Knowing Halls Gap would be busy, we went our separate ways in town agreeing to meet at the Mt. Zero Road at midday. A number of us spent the time at the Brambuk Cultural Centre learning about the indigenous and geological history of the area.

From there we headed up to Hollow Mountain to find the carpark very busy but as luck would have it, we all got a park and met at Gary’s vehicle for a quick lunch before heading out on the walks. The sun was out and it was suddenly “hot”!  A number of us headed up Hollow Mountain which we had been told involved a bit of “scrabbling” over rocks to get to the peak.  Someone needs to re-define “scrambling”!!  I reached that particular point and decided discretion was the better part of valour and climbing that rock face without assistance was not going to happen.  A few of the party agreed, while the younger (or more agile) carried on and made the peak.  They said it was a great walk/climb and had wonderful views.  The rest of us, returned to the carpark and then went to view the rock art site.  It’s a lovely walk and leads you to an elevated rock platform where the art shelters are found.  The views to the north are magnificent too.

Once everyone was done walking and climbing, we headed back to camp for another night around the fire.  It’s a pleasant drive down the western side of the Grampians – not as spectacular as the morning but very pleasant anyway.  

While there were no 4x4 tracks, it was nonetheless a great weekend of camping and exploring a new and very interesting part of Victoria. The Grampians are a fascinating area that are quite unique and equally as spectacular.  As well as many more walks to explore, waterfalls and lookouts to see, we also noticed a number of sandy tracks that may need exploring.  It’s definitely worth organizing another trip to explore this area further.  Also, Cavendish recreation reserve was a great place to base ourselves.  The camping is excellent and while the facilities are old, they are clean with lots of hot water.  They are also about to be renovated and updated so that will be a definite bonus.  Steve, the Manager, could not have been more helpful.  He stopped by several times when he saw we had some issues and was able to provide some tools and stood ready to help out in any way he could.  Great thanks to an awesome guy!

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In what has become an annual event, about 16 vehicles met and camped at O’Tooles Flat (on Donnelly Track in the Walhalla area) to participate in a snow drive to the summit of Mt. Selma.

The format of the weekend was as a base camp with a day drive on the Saturday to find and drive through snow and to spend Sunday morning exploring some the historic gold mining sites of which there are many in this area.

Many arrived during the Friday afternoon and set up a camp so when I arrived with four other vehicles following, we were welcomed with a warm fire to sit around and enjoy a wine or two – great job guys, it is nice to arrive to a cheery fire!

The forecast had been good with snow falls predicted from the preceding Monday to Thursday, but in fact very little fresh snow had fallen so I expected it would be a mixture of mud and snow rather than the more pristine snow we had last year.  On the positive side, it was not raining, and the camp area was not too muddy under foot!

Given the size of the group and the various levels of driving experience, we divided the group into 3 – Clive leading the more experienced group who went off seeking more challenging tracks, Matt and Greg who led a “medium” rated course to Mt. Selma, and me who took a more scenic route with an emphasis on finding snow on the way to Selma.

We left O’Tooles and immediately headed up Flats Track.  For those who know Flats Track, it is anything but flat!  It is a really steep climb immediately out of O’Tooles straight to top of Williamsons Spur.  The track is in good condition so it’s easy enough, but it certainly got the blood pumping for a few of the less experienced!

We were joined at the top by Graeme and Jen and Boston and we followed Williamson Spur track and turned left on Springs Rd heading for Mt. Useful Fire Tower.  No snow at this point but still a beautiful drive through the Victorian High Country. 

We finally came across snow on the final climb to the Mt. Useful fire tower and the final section of track to the tower actually needed 4x4 - snow under the tyres at last!!!  We took a short break at the fire tower to admire the views, take photo’s and throw a few snowballs before heading back out to the main road to Mt. Selma.

The track from Mt. Useful to Mt. Selma is quite spectacular as you are on the rooftop of Victoria and whilst there was not much snow on the road, there was plenty on the roadside and covering the surrounding country, so it was great for the photography enthusiasts.

The final climb to the summit of Mt. Selma again gave us the opportunity to actually drive in snowy slush and snow, with only one vehicle having to take 2 attempts to negotiate one section of slippery track.  The summit provided more magnificent views but there was a very cold wind, so it was decided to continue to find a more sheltered lunch stop.

Given that it was all 2WD from this point, Graeme took two vehicles – Serge and Jaddon – and followed a number of what should have been intermediate grade 4x4 tracks as a more adventurous route to camp.  The rest of us followed the main road and soon found a helipad that provided not only shelter from the wind for lunch, but also a good supply of firewood to load into my tray for that nights fire – bonus!

The rest of our trip became a touring style drive with stops at Andersons camp site, Smoko Point and the Toombom mine site.  All in all, it was a good day’s drive with great views, some 4x4ing, a look at the history of the area all without too much stress or strain.

We arrived back at camp at about 4.00ish expecting to find Graeme and his party already home. As we were first home, we got the fire going, drinks out etc and over the next hour, Clive’s and Matt’s group arrived at camp all having had an enjoyable days driving.  By 6.00ish, Graeme’s party still hadn’t arrived, and we were getting concerned.  I had spoken to them by radio at about 3.15ish and they should have been back by now.  Obviously, something had happened.  As it was now getting dark, we took 2 vehicles to again climb Flats Track to get some height and hopefully get them on radio.  Thankfully, we were able to pick them up to be told that final climb up to the main Aberfeldy Rd had involved 3+ hours of winching!!

Didn’t see that coming at lunchtime!  Anyway, they were all well, there was no damage to vehicles and Serge and Jaddon now have some great campfire stories!  The rest of the evening was the normal PP4WDC thing – fire, food, a few drinks and lots of story and good company.

Sunday dawned grey and threatening rain.  Some decided to pack up before the rain and head home.  The rest of us, headed further along Donnelly Creek Track to the historic site of Store Point.  As the name implies, this was the main “township” servicing the gold miners in the Donnelly Creek area.  There was a school, hotel, church and two houses of “ill repute” – I think at its height, there were about 400 people there.  We spent an hour+ following the walking trail and historic markers around the ruins of the old buildings, a Cemetery, and old gold workings.  We were very lucky to have a friend of Greg’s with us who is very knowledgeable about this area and its history and he was able to really bring the place alive for us – thanks Tony, much appreciated. The rain started as we concluded the walk, so it was straight back to camp, finish packing, have a quick lunch and head home.

All in all, it was another successful trip with a good mix of driving, walking and camping with good friends.  Thanks to all who came along and especially to those who stepped up to be trip leaders on the day – again, much appreciated.

A small but dedicated group of members met at the Blazeaid Workcamp based at Bunyip Recreation Reserve on Friday night to donate a weekend labour to help rebuild after the devastating bushfires in the Bunyip area earlier this year. It was quite a moving experience but also an extremely rewarding experience too.

We found it to be very well organized, our time was used effectively and we were able to achieve quite a lot. I know others have not always found this, but, we had very little standing around to nothing type moments.

We arrived Friday night about 9.00ish to meet up with Neil and Eric & Nancye on what was a pretty miserable night – cold and wet. The camping area was grassy but the accesses were getting very boggy. One group had a fire going but as they went off to bed early, we were forced to adjourn to Neil's camper (with a very effective diesel heater) for a couple of red wines and some nibbles. Fearing a similar problem on Saturday, I rang Lorraine and she was able to organize to bring down a fire pot with her the next morning – onya Lorraine! Anyway, we called stumps about 11.00ish as breakfast was at 7.00am aiming to leaving camp for the farms at 8.00am.

The format of the days was very well structured and effective. All the catering is provided by donations from the local community. Breakfast was a huge choice of eggs and bacon, cereal, fruit, juices, porridge, toast – just help yourself! Then there was the lunch table. Again, a large range of breads, rolls, meats, salads, dressing etc – make up your own lunch wrap it up in a bag with your name, go over to the morning tea table and select from a huge range of cakes, chocolates and juices, and put them in the large esky to be transported to the work site by the team leader.

Next, you signed in to be covered by their insurance, picked up a Hi-Viz shirt, gloves and safety glasses ready for the day. There was a compulsory safety briefing and shortly after 8.00 we were assigned to a Team Leader and on the road in convoy to the nominated farm.

We spent the day stringing new barbed wire fencing and by the end of the day, we were pretty good at measuring strand heights and knocking staples to hold it in place. If you were near the business end – tying and straining – the experienced fencers were really keen to pass on their knowledge.

There was a break for morning tea – selected cakes and plenty of tea and coffee – a lunch break all held out in the field to minimize down time. It was tools down around 4.00, tidy up and repack the work trailers and back to camp where afternoon tea was waiting – tea, coffee, juices, cheesecakes, party pies. You signed off and put your name down for dinner and the next days work party as was applicable to you. Dinner was served at 6.00 pm either at the camp common room or at the local hall. In our case, Saturday was a selection of soups followed by spag bol and range of desserts. Then back to camp, light the fire and finish with a few wines! The next day was pretty much a repeat.

It's a real “feel good” exercise. On the first day, we had an elderly farmer couple who had basically lost everything on the farm – house, shedding and all the fencing. Being their 80’s I have no idea how they would recover without this assistance. The second day was a younger guy, but was working by himself and as he said, we had saved between 3 and 5 days of his own labour. The appreciation and gratitude these people shown and expressed by these people is both moving and touching. The camaraderie working in the team, having dinner etc is also very strong.

Thanks to our Hon. Secretary for organizing it and I for one would like to do it again as soon as practicable.

I am pleased to say our skill share weekend was a great success with it being a true skill sharing event with lots of people contributing.  It was a very relaxed atmosphere which allowed everyone to share their knowledge on practical issues we are likely to come across in the bush.  It was very heartening to hear a new member say how valuable it was to have so much knowledge and experience available to learn from. 

Saturday morning started out with tyre plugging - it’s interesting to note how everyone has just a little bit of the destructive side in them and love drilling holes in the tyre!  It was good to practice on an old tyre and many members, both new and “older” came forward to have a go.  Although it’s not recommended, we did drill and plug a side wall noting that while not safe for high speed highway travelling, it would get you back to civilization at low speed.  We finished the session with an exercise using the weight of a 4bee and timber to break the tyre bead on the rim and then reseating the bead using a ratchet strap to provide the initial pressure.

It was then on to welding with car batteries. Ian and Rob had perfected the technique this year with three batteries wired in series - 36 volts with lots of amperage worked a treat.  Quite a number practiced their skills gaining confidence that it is possible to do minor repairs on the track to get yourself out of trouble.

Next, the 80 series and the BT 50 were then driven so that their “legs” were cocked up on large logs and it was time to discuss suspension differences, wheel travel, differentials, traction control and the like. To finish the morning, we moved down the back of the property to a slippery slope to see how different tyres and pressures performed. The Nissan unfortunately threw a power steering belt proving the point that no amount of engine revs would get it up the slope on road pressures of course the 80 on aggressive tyre's and lower pressures made short work of it. 

A bit of lunch provided time for Graeme's mate to help us with radio checks and repairs. This was of great value to a number of us with one of my radios pronounced dead another resuscitated, and my aerial collection sorted into junk and usable. He was also able to answer many questions and provided really practical and understandable information on a subject many of us find complicated.

The afternoon saw us doing all sorts of recovery from snatching through several winching scenarios then back for drinks and wonderful community dinner thank you all.

During the evening, the heavens decided to open up for a few hours, but this didn't stop the warm fires and good conversation although it did slow my drinking as the beers were in the car and I had to suffer a drenching to get them.

Sunday morning was a slow start with a nice casual breakfast. We had a great talk on first aid which allowed us to look and better understand our new defib and EPIRB and provided some great instruction on how and when to use them.  We finished off the practical exercises with a general discussion and hands on comparison of various electronic mapping options which was very valuable.

A big thank you to all that attended and contributed. I won’t attempt to name you but thank you all a great weekend and so generously sharing your knowledge. 

Cheers  /  Don

We arrived at Lovicks hut on Thursday afternoon. Set up our tent on the camp site and proceeded to ready Lovicks for the 100 or so runners expected by mid morning Friday.  We spent some hours preparing what would be needed for the next mornings rush and then retired to a nicely lit camp fire.

Crawling out of bed at around 7am we breakfasted and got ourselves ready for the plethora of runners we expected by mid morn. We each had our respective jobs to do and waited patiently until about 10am or so when the first of many of the runners arrived. After a while others ran, or walked into camp to be fed and rested before moving on to the next check point.

By around 12 noon it was beginning to get rather busy as they kept streaming in. Runners who arrived from 2pm onwards, were fed and readied to be bedded down for the night as they would not have made it to the next checkpoint in time.

These runners (approximately 102) were then given dinner by us, shown to their respective tents where they stayed resting until morning.

4am Saurday morning and Lorraine made sure we were all up and about, getting breakfast ready for the 100 or so runners, some of whom went on from Lovicks and some remained to be taken back to Mount Buller unfit or hurt and not able to go on.

We then cleaned up the camp, pulled down our camp site and were all chanting at the bit to do some 4WDriving for the rest of the weekend. The two days spent at Lovicks was a huge success.

Saturday afternoon we proceeded through the mountains along some great tracks, and camped Saturday night at Running River camp site. This camp site was very, very nice with a lovely river running through, in which some of us took a dip.

Sunday saw us having a nice little sleep in followed by a hot breakfast and then off again through some of the nicest areas I have experienced in the high country. We stopped at Granny’s Flat, again a perfect camping ground, for lunch and then off to Jamieson for a coffee before heading for home.

A great weekend enjoyed by all and we can’t wait for Hut 2 Hut next year.

We all arrived at Graham's property at various times on Friday night.

Then on Saturday morning we left about 10 o'clock and went for a drive along  the Old Carlisle track.  We went on to Dandos Camping Ground to have a look. Great camping spots. Plenty of places to camp, fire pits, long drop, a river and walking tracks.

We left there and went down Sayers track. Then we spent the next four hours, winchng and negotiating ruts for approximately half a kilometre, hoping we wouldn't get any rain, as there were alot of rain clouds about and it would have made our situation a lot more difficult.  The drive of the day belonged to Jack and his trusty Pajero as he was one of two vehicles thatmanaged to make it through one section without the aid of a winch. We them traveled through the Otways and came back by the Mount McKenzie track, then got back to the farm about 6pm and sat around the campfire going over the events of the day.

Sunday morning we had a pleasant and easy drive to Levers Hill  where we had coffee and cake before returning back to camp to pack up and head off for home.

The weekend started for me with a 6.00am departure on Friday morning leaving the house in 30 degree heat with an expected daytime top temperature forecast of 45 degrees. Great!.

Arriving at the Bairnsdale Vic Parks office around 9.15am, I had  a quick chat with the staff, collected the gate key for the property and was on my way.

After a final fill of the diesel tank and a couple of 20l jerry cans of unleaded I met up with George on route and we headed off to the property, airing down once we hit the dirt. By this time it was getting uncomfortably hot but I still had to clear the track into the property so George could get his poptop van in. Being a day of total fire ban, a chainsaw was out of the question so it meant clearing all overhanging branches and scrub with a hand saw. Needless to say this was pretty hot work and by the time I had cleared the obstructions from the 4km track into the property, we arrived at the river camp spot pouring sweat. Not only was I hot but bloodied as well, after standing firmly on a sapling that broke off and pierced a deep hole in the arch of my left foot. Note to self: don’t wear thongs when clearing tracks.

After having a bit of a breather, George and I both set up camp while drinking ridiculous amounts of fluid to keep hydrated. As it was so uncomfortably hot late afternoon, I suggested to George that we go for a drive to try and get some relief from the heat. We decided to go to the Dargo pub, a 120km round trip, but at least we would have the breeze through the car and some cold drinks awaiting us at the pub. The Pub was not much cooler but the drinks were cold and we stayed for a couple of hours under the ceiling fans, until the sun started to drop and temperature eased a little.

On arriving back at the camp we were greeted by a couple of members who had arrived during the afternoon. Then steadily during the evening more arrived with the last group coming in about 11.00pm. Unfortunately they had encountered severe storm and wind conditions on their way down and bought the rain with them, which meant some of them had to sit in their cars before pitching tents/campers between bouts of rain. As everyone was worn out from the heat of the day and the drive down. Most were in bed by midnight.

Saturday was agreed as a day of rest with humid conditions and perfect weather for lounging in the river. The river water was very pleasant, with the river rocks from the 45 degree heat the day before making for very comfortable swimming conditions. In the arvo a group of us decided to visit a popular local attraction, the Den Of Nargun and the Amphitheatre, a spectacular rocky gorge section on the Mitchell River.  Unfortunately after driving about 25km on an overgrown back track we came across a “ROAD CLOSED” sign. This was very disappointing as the only option was to turn around and make our way back to the main road. As it was already 4.00pm we decided to head back to camp, as it would have taken us another 3 hours via the main road to visit these sites and then return to camp. Maybe next time?

Saturday night bought some light rain which made things a little sticky but was perfect to keep the dust down for our Sunday drive. On Sunday morning a couple of vehicles from the group had to head home and by about 11.00am the rest of the group headed out for the day. We crossed the Mitchell River at Horton’s crossing (notorious for the loss of vehicles when the river is flowing harder), through a group of campers taking up the bank on the opposite side of the river, literally right through their camp dodging guy ropes and fishing rods, stopping only for some photos and then up Horton’s Track. This was the first test for all vehicles on steep rough terrain with some rock steps. Everyone made it through without too much issue, apart from Christine demanding from Ian, the fitment of a “Jesus Bar” on their new Ranger on its first 4wd outing. This hill climb also reaffirmed Ian’s plans to fit a rear locker to his new toy.

After about 70km of bush tracks we found ourselves at the Dargo Pub for drinks and a few photo’s. It was then a 60km run back on the main road to our river campsite.

The day’s  tracks went very smoothly with some cruising along ridge tops, with nice views of the mountainous Dargo area, including a number of steep downhill and uphill sections thrown in for a bit of variety. A bit of trivia from Nigel’s GPS suggested we travelled in an upward direction for about 5km and downward by about 5.3km over the duration of the day’s drive.

Monday meant most of the group had to head home but before leaving we put in about 20 person hours of volunteer work clearing fallen timber from around the camp area and homestead. Then in the afternoon Don and I filled my trailer with general rubbish and scrap roofing and other steel from the homestead site to be taken offsite to the Bairnsdale Recycle centre on my way home on Tuesday.

A big thank you for all the volunteer work as I am sure this will put us in good stead for future application to use the property. I am yet to get feedback from the Ranger but understandably they have been tied up with fire control in the region over the past couple of weeks.

This is a great venue not too far from home and suitable for any size group our club could wish for.

Cheers, and thanks again to all who attended,  /  Clive

The story begins with a BT50, Ranger and Navara meeting up at Longwarry for lunch, fuelling up the humans in preparation for an exciting weekend. The Ranger, it's door getting caught-up in the blustery conditions, decided to get up close and personal with a Mazda CX5, leaving an imprint in its door – not quite the way to make new friends. The convoy towards Muttonwood camp ground just outside of Licola was relatively uneventful, however the air conditioning in the Navara was determined to blow out only hot air in 480 temperatures.

The vehicles arrived at Muttonwood around 4pm, meeting up with the Patrol that had set up and saved a nice area for the group.  A quick check around the campsite saw us make friends with a few of the locals before a nice dip in the Wellington River to cool off. The change of weather saw a spectacular lightning show overhead but with minimal rain… We may need to check for fire updates.  Our 5th member of the trip snuck into camp around 1am after a long day at work.

Saturday saw a respectable morning wake up with all parties ready to set off at 9:30am.  The party set off, taking a last minute detour to the Pinnacles to chat to the Fire Spotter in the tower. Thankfully no fires had sprung up near our planned route so after a few pictures of the beautiful view we set off.

The route took us along Billy Goat Bluff – a bit like Bourke St and with some trick passing manoeuvres at the actual Bluff. Continuing along the dry dusty track we took a left and headed towards Eaglevale campsite for a spot of lunch. After crossing a very low Wonnangatta River, we headed up Eaglevale track to Cynthia Spur track, which saw us pass many more groups also enjoying the wonderful countryside. Finally down Herne Spur track and along Wonnangatta track to set up camp for night 2 in the Wonnangatta Valley.  Whilst the Total Fire ban had been lifted for the day the strong, hot wind had us debriefing the drive with some refreshing ales whilst sitting in the Wonnangatta River, unfortunately no fire again.  Later in the evening Norm chose to play his old time Rock and Roll to help Jacek fall asleep.

The overnight rain continued into the morning making for a soggy pack-up, but could not dampen our spirits for the tracks ahead. After taking a stroll and history lesson around Wonnangatta station we began our drive – up Zeka spur. The rain, which had now stopped, kept dust to a minimum but making parts of the track slippery.

Turning right into Howitt Road we stopped for lunch at the Car Park before heading down King Billy road where we stopped to check out the Rock Scree. Luckily the Navara tightened his side-steps because the rough nature of the track might have seen them get bounced off.

Turning right into Bluff track had us wind our way up to Lovick’s Hut where we set up camp for the final night. Beautiful clear skies had us viewing the lights of Buller Village across the mountain range with our first campfire for the trip setting some nice ambience.