It’s been over a year since we were last able to do a High Country Cruise, all because of COVID and the endless lockdowns and restrictions throughout Melbourne and/or the state. There is no denying that 2020 was an Annus Horribilis, especially for anyone who has been out of work and/or locked down for extended periods of time. Necessary or not, the lockdown and restrictions have caused much suffering. I have less reason to complain, as being out in a rural area we’ve had greater flexibility of movement overall, but when your friends are locked away in Melbourne, there’s not much that you can really do. Additionally, even though we’ve had more movement flexibility, with just about everything closed on a regular basis you might as well be locked inside your home.
I don’t really know what happened to 2019 as we simply didn’t have a Cruise, with our last one being in Nov 2018. Summer (for what it was) flashed past and then at the end of 2019 when the tracks re-opened, the bushfires started, burning into the New Year and causing us to defer things once again. Things have settled down now, other than flooding rains, but travelling to the East is out of the question as all the tracks are still likely to be closed and will likely be so for some time to come. I’d be very surprised if the majority of tracks will be open by 2021. But once again we were itching to get out and our only option was to go closer to home, which meant around the Thomson Dam and Licola area. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as COVID-19 and the statewide shutdown may or may not have impacted on crowd numbers, despite there still being a surprising number about on the first day,
It’s been a long time between drinks or, in this case, High Country Cruises. Various unforeseen events have meant that we weren’t able to do another Cruise since Feb this year, so everyone was itching to go out somewhere, anywhere. While I’ve noted previously that we prefer to avoid long weekends because of the crowds, the longer we left things the greater the chance of another obstacle coming in our way before Christmas, so the Melbourne Cup long weekend it was. And to make sure that we could have a bit of a head start on the crowds, we decided to leave on a Friday so that we could be out in the bush before most others. Though no doubt there would be others with much the same idea and, if the weather was looking good, probably earlier as well. Regardless, all that really mattered was that we were able to get out and enjoy the bush after a long break and to make it even more enjoyable, we made it a five day Cruise.
For our first High Country Cruise of the year, we decided to wait out the school holiday period hoping that things would be a little quieter in the High Country and so decided to go out at the beginning of February, but things were delayed and we didn’t get out until the middle of February. But even then it’s never a given that the place won’t be full of people, as we’ve found out many a time. Given that our Nov 2017 Cruise was only attended by two travellers and we found some pretty good places on that Cruise, I thought we’d let the additional two travellers on this Cruise enjoy what we’d experienced last year, while trying out some different tracks. Hopefully we’d also be able to travel the Davies Plains Track, which was going to be closed post the opening season due to track repairs.
This Cruise started out as one where we were thinking about staying in some cabins that we’d passed on an earlier trip but, for various reasons, a number of fellow travellers had to pull out and that just left two of us once again. After a lot of pondering, we decided to go to the Far East to the Davies Plains instead and, as we were doing this Cruise the week after the Melbourne Cup long weekend, we thought it should also be fairly peaceful. However, that can never be guaranteed as you can’t predict how many foreigners are doing a border crossing to Victoria to experience the good life that is denied them in the land of the cockroaches. Those north of our borders can laugh all they want about Victoria, but it still has the best and most accessible 4WDrving and camping in Australia. As it turned out, there were plenty of others about.
Since we missed doing a Cruise on this year’s Queen’s Birthday Weekend, we decided to do a short-notice trip to revisit a couple of places that we covered on our Apr 2017 Cruise. We weren’t sure what we’d be up against on this Cruise, especially the potential snow conditions, but weather reports indicated that there would only be light snow and generally sunny conditions around the Aberfeldy and northern area, where roads and tracks were still open. We weren’t planning on any serious off-roading this time as the area can become quite treacherous, noting how slippery some of the tracks were on our last Cruise and, with the rain that has fallen recently, the tracks were likely to be much worse. The plan was to do a loop from the Thomson Dam up and around to Licola for the first night, staying in one of the cabins and then down and around to Rawson for a night in one of their cabins (luxury for a change).
After what was a relatively mild April, leading up to and including Easter, the latter half has been quite wet and cold; so it was with some trepidation that I started planning for this latest Cruise. My intent was to do a trip to the north of the Thomson Dam on the first day, travel towards Licola and east for the second day, then just wing it from there. But with the rain that we’ve had, there was no certainty as to the condition of the tracks planned for the first day and there had even been reports of snow at the higher levels. I certainly didn’t want a repeat of our Mar 2016 Cruise, where we encountered plenty of rain and mud, and I was beginning to wonder whether we’d have a repeat of our Oct 2016 Cruise, where there was plenty of snow. Anyway, with now four vehicles on this Cruise, I felt a bit more confident than with what may have been a seven vehicle Cruise.
Our first Cruise for 2017 closely mirrored the one that I posted a few weeks ago, but with some variations as we sought a few new places to camp and tracks to explore. On this Cruise we had five travellers, four of our old crew and a new member from 4WD Trip, from whence we hope to introduce new travellers to our Cruises and counter the diminishing numbers that we’ve experienced over the last few years. We met at Tyers and then travelled on to Bairnsdale for a fuel stop, and then headed north towards Buchan. We were warned that there was a Cattleman’s event happening at Buchan that weekend and to expect a lot of traffic, but the road turned out to be very quiet. Just before Buchan, we took the Timbarra Road to head north and then shortly after turned into Sunny Point Track which was the beginning of our Cruise.
Given that the last time we were in the High Country was Mar this year (unbelievable how time flies), we were really hanging out to go somewhere, anywhere. But finding a suitable date was one major issue, especially since we couldn’t go out on the Melbourne Cup Weekend nor any time in November, so we decided on the weekend prior. We were hoping for three travellers, but circumstances arose that left the Cruise to just two hardy souls. My fellow traveller was especially keen to go out, as he had finally sorted his new Jeep Rubicon into High Country order and was busting his chops to try it out in some less than mundane terrain. So we decided to do a loop, more or less, from Licola to Dargo, poking around in-between where possible. However, the weather forecasts for the weekend indicated heavy rain at the start, so we reversed our plans and went from Dargo to Licola instead.
We decided to do a four day Cruise between the Labor Day and Easter weekends, in the hope that things would be fairly quiet on the tracks. As it was, it wasn’t too bad, but there were still a surprising number of vehicles about, especially as the Friday and Saturday were supposed to be wet, very wet as it turned out. Our aim was to head east from the Thomson Dam and make our way to Licola after exploring the area in-between, which we hadn’t done extensively for some time. I think we were given a warning of what to expect as the rain pelted down while I waited at the Moe BP station for our Melbourne travellers to arrive.