Our June 2006 Cruise took us from Mansfield, down to Jamieson and then east along the Jamieson-Licola Road to Wren’s Flat, with the intent of passing through Mt Sunday and then down to Licola, but along the way we took a wrong turn and ended up heading north. In some ways, that was possibly a blessing in disguise, as the weather was turning foul, wet and cold, and the Mt Sunday Track that we were looking for would have been atrocious that weekend, as we found out on a subsequent, more benign, trip. As it was, the start was looking fairly ordinary from the outset.
This cruise began at Heyfield and worked its way north to Dargo, Talbotville, Wonnangatta Station, Lake Cobbler and then Mansfield, in a sort of roundabout way. It was one of those cruises where we wanted to mix tracks that were familiar to us, with those that weren’t, hoping to find something new and interesting along the way. We certainly hadn’t been to Lake Cobbler before and we’d heard varying stories about the lake, so it was a good excuse for an eventual destination. I’m not sure why there was such a gap between 2005 and 2006, as I can’t recollect the bushfires being as severe in 2005, but we certainly hadn’t done anything for a year.
Summer is the ideal time to visit the High Country, as the tracks are far more manageable, the weather is obviously much better (usually, but not always, as we found out on this trip) and there’s a chance to cool off in some of the rivers after a long day of dusty driving. On this cruise, our plan was to undertake the Haunted Stream Track, which starts just after Tambo Crossing on the Alpine Way, and then progress to the Dargo High Plains, view some of the scenery and eventually work our way back down to Stratford, way down south on the Princes Highway. The Haunted Stream Track begins at an innocuous farm house near Tambo Crossing and travels through mixed farmland before entering the valley through which Haunted Stream flows.
After the first of my High Country posts, I revisited my photography archives and thought I might create a series on the trips that we’ve done over the last decade or so since 2002, which we call High Country Cruises (unfortunately, so far, I haven’t found any photos/negatives from before 2004). Each of these trips is quite unique and ostensibly a three to four day cruise somewhere around the High Country.
I also must thank Grahame, one of our fellow travellers, for keeping a formal log of our cruises and compiling an excellent map book that has recorded all of our cruises from 2002 until 2011. This book has and will help immensely down the track in getting the locations and chronology right when I compile these posts.
When venturing into the High Country, appropriate preparation, knowledge and experience is essential. As I posted earlier about Maps and GPS, knowing where you’re going and how to make alternate plans if the original goes asunder is vital. However, there are other things that are also vital when venturing into the High Country, regardless of the time of year, and that’s having some important and basic equipment with you pretty much all the time. This equipment constitutes not just a reliable and capable vehicle, but also tools, recovery aids, safety gear, first aid gear, personal equipment and supplies that will allow you to survive in the worst of conditions. You often don’t need a lot, but if you leave out even a seemingly minor item, it could be the difference between pleasure and pain on a High Country trip. The thing is, conditions in the High Country can change dramatically in a matter of hours, from warm and dry to freezing cold and wet without any notice, any time of the year.
Having travelled the Victorian High Country extensively for over 40 years (by foot, ski, 4WD and even once by horse), I simply love and appreciate everything that it offers and, for me, there is no better place in the world. Given the option of say two weeks in the High Country or two weeks travelling the world, I’ll take the High Country every time. I also appreciate and try to understand the history of the High Country, especially the huts which have provided shelter, comfort and enjoyment over so many years. So it’s with some surprise to read what one organisation thinks are the ‘rules of engagement’ when it comes to using the High Country Huts.
When it comes to our High Country Cruises, meals are naturally an important part of any journey. However, when I first started going bush in the mid-70s, my meals mainly consisted of cans of baked beans and/or braised steak and onions, high cuisine it was not. As time and taste buds progressed, I began experimenting with various pre-cooked meals that could be heated up simply by boiling them in a billy. I was always looking for the easiest means by which to have meals that didn’t need too much effort or require a lot of cleaning up afterwards (and with no portable fridges available, fresh food was always an issue). There were many failures in those early days and basically it was the food back then that was usually the point of failure (we may have moved on, but the memories of bad tastes linger).
While pondering our next High Country Cruise, it struck me that over the years we’ve probably enjoyed more of our own backyard than most people could ever dream of doing and perhaps even wanting to do. While many do go out and about visiting Australia to experience that 4WD adventure, far more just prefer to hop on a plane and find a different sort of ‘adventure’. In a similar vein to my story about The Last Photography Frontier, for many people adventure is found somewhere else in the world, such as those ‘little known’ places that I mentioned in that story. For others, the likes of an Alaska, Rhine River or South Pacific cruise is the adventure of a lifetime. Adventure does mean different things to different people.
One of the things we’ve always enjoyed on our High Country Cruises is the ability to stay in one of the many High Country Huts, especially when the weather turns foul. However, as I wrote in my most recent High Country story, after bushfires in 2013 and earlier, many of the old High Country huts have been destroyed and some have recently been replaced with what are ostensibly metal garages. On seeing the first of these, Jorgensons Hut and then Junction Hut (we haven’t been to Goonans Hut), I mentioned that I felt that the new style lacked the bush character of the older, rustic (rusty?), and mainly timber huts that we’ve visited over the years. That was my initial reaction and I may have been somewhat unfair in my assessment, so I took the opportunity to gain a better idea when my wife and I decided to do a short camping trip to Donnelly Creek.
One of the greatest things about living in Victoria is that we still have access to some of the most wondrous country and scenery in Australia, places that reflect the long history of our first settlers and the arduous task that lay before them as they proceeded to explore and develop this state. While the difficulties and deprivations of the explorers and settlers of the outback shouldn’t be dismissed by any means, the effort required by the people doing the same in Victoria can barely be imagined by today’s populace. It’s only when you venture into the High Country using modern transportation, do you realise that these early settlers were made of very stern stuff indeed.