Our April 2014 Cruise was another two traveller journey which started at Morwell and took us on a long circuit to Nunniong Plains, across the High Country almost due west along tracks that eventually brought us out at Licola. From my track record, it was nearly an 800km trip, with virtually half that on dirt roads or off-road. The weather was generally very good, except at the Sentinels, with some very cold nights throughout that weekend, especially in the higher regions. On the Nunniong Plains, it was almost snow conditions, with heavy frosts in the mornings, but because of the clear skies, rain wasn’t about so neither was the snow.
This was one of those Cruises that started off with very pleasant weather but, as the days wore on, things became worse and worse. This was a four day trip that would take us from Bairnsdale to Mansfield on an often zigzag route as we went in search of places we hadn’t visited previously or for some time. I can’t remember whether that was our original pan, but that’s how it ended up. All told, the Cruise took us from Bairnsdale to Pioneer Racecourse near Talbotville and then eventually to the Buffalo River, so it was quite a long journey and a very varied one at that.
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).
The huts of the High Country are many and varied, and are very much a part of Australian folklore, being so integral to the story of the Australian stockman. This was highlighted in the movie The Man From Snowy River that featured a hut located in the Victorian High Country (a totally mythical hut and built purely for the film) which, after the film crew had departed, became an icon and it’s mandated removal was challenged by an determined group of people from nearby Mansfield who wanted to preserve the hut and all that it represented. They succeeded and the hut subsequently became a major tourist venue. Unfortunately, Australian bushfires had more say in the hut’s survival than the Department of Environment and the original, as well as further rebuilt huts, were totally destroyed. The latest version is somewhat more fireproof and still draws the crowds.