As with our boy’s trips during off long weekends and weekdays, which we call High Country Cruises, we like to do family camping trips in much the same way. We used to do Christmas camping trips over the Christmas holiday periods, but that’s become difficult as many of our favourite camping places have been closed and campers are now pushed into large open areas where there’s no peace or privacy for anyone. So over the last few years we’ve been doing a sort of pre-Christmas week of camping during a time when it’s more likely to be relatively quiet and with campsites free. So we did this again this year, this time travelling to the Dargo region which is slightly closer and easier to get to than our previous forays to the Nunniong Plains area and offers much better river options.
There’s always the risk when travelling to a popular and reasonably accessible area that, regardless of the time of week or year, there’s a chance that you’re not going to be alone. Thankfully it wasn’t all that bad, with just the odd passerby dropping in and one group staying overnight, and another group coming in when we were leaving. All of the other campers stayed at the other end of the camping ground, so we had our privacy. The camping ground itself was much larger than what we thought, which was based on our recent Cruise where we spotted the area as we passed by on our second day. On that day it looked like it was only suitable for maybe half a dozen campers; however, the camp ground extended much further, which wasn’t evident from the road. It was a good campsite overall but the results of the floods of around 2009, as we’d experienced in a January 2009 Cruise, had changed the river systems dramatically throughout the High Country and subsequent heavy rainfalls haven’t helped. That meant that river access in many places was non-existent, or difficult at best, and that was the case for our campsite. This area was substantially different from our January 2006 Cruise.
As with our Cruises, after setting up camp, the first order of business is to find firewood. But being where we were, that could be a treasure hunt indeed, knowing that the area would be scoured with a fine toothed comb by earlier campers. So we trundled up one of the closest 4WD tracks to see what lay about and our first day’s efforts gave enough for the remainder of the day and the next day, but we certainly needed more for the following days. On the second day we decided to travel a little further and found a veritable firewood El Dorado. A firebreak made along one 4WD track contained enough firewood to keep us going for weeks, so we filled up our vehicles and got back to camp hot and sweaty, but quite pleased with our find. We now had enough wood to last the entire week.
Weather wise things were looking good, other than the end of the week when it was supposed to rise to 35C+; however, that changed early on and the temperatures began to rise by mid week. Wednesday was OK, but Thursday was a scorcher, with even higher temperatures expected on Friday and Saturday (our planned departure date). With no real shade available, the heat built up very quickly under our awnings and so it turned into a case of musical chairs finding shade amongst the trees bordering the camping ground. It was for this reason that we decided to call it a week on Friday morning, as we knew it wasn’t going to be much fun if we stayed for the extra two days. We also avoided having to pack wet camping gear, as Saturday was also promising rain (not unusual after several hot days in a row). Had river access been better and some sort of flat area near the water available, then maybe we might have stayed. In the end, we thought better not to suffer and made our way home while things were still relatively mild, though packing up still created enough sweat.
The location itself is part of the gold mining history that encompasses an area from Talbotville in the north to areas south of Snake Creek and others east and west. The campsite has a hut that may well be a remnant from the latter years of the gold mining endeavours. Other relics are the gold mines of yesteryear via a (relatively) short walk from the campsite and includes the Black Snake Creek Battery and Cyanide Works. This is accessible via a narrow and twisting path through the hot and dry gum forest that starts with a short and wide track that was very pleasant before the heat that followed further on. On a coolish day the walk is fine but on a hot day like we experienced, it can be tiring. It’s especially frustrating that there are no signs indicating the distance that you’ve travelled or how much further you have to go to get to the mine. And the Kong Meng Mine was a complete bust, as it was no where to be found.
While on a wood hunting expedition, we decided to have a look at the Collins Hut area to see how it had fared over the years. The track from the direction that we followed in 2006 was now completely obliterated due to the floods, so we backtracked to the other end which took us directly to Collins Hut. Collins Hut was in a less than salubrious state of repair and certainly wasn’t what we remembered, and the campsite that we’d used the last time had grown in with trees and scrub, so was much smaller than back in 2006. The spot where we’d dropped into the Wonnagatta River in 2006 was identifiable, but in no way accessible. We also came across a mine at Collins Hut, which we don’t remember seeing last time, but then it was an even hotter day back then and all we could think of at the time was to set up camp and cool off in the river. We didn’t even have a campfire that day or night.
And that was pretty much it. The idea of the camping trip was to relax and that’s what we did. Getting away when the crowds are minimal is far better than trying to fight for a spot, as well as peace and quiet, at the peak of a holiday season. As I said, you can’t always guarantee complete solitude, but it’s by far better than what you’d get some weeks later. It’s just unfortunate that so many of the places where we could go in the past are now national parks and furry kids are banned. I reckon the furry kids do less damage to campsites and wildlife than many adults and their kids, so it’s a shame things have become what they are.
Anyway, whatever you do and wherever you go over the Christmas break,
have a safe and enjoyable time.