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.
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.
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.
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.
Our Cruise this weekend became a short, one-night, venture and started at the Moe BP service station, with just two happy travellers. This Cruise was going to be a simple overnight trip to reconnoitre some tracks around the Walhalla area, so we weren’t working to any set plan. However, we did want to check out a hut that we’d never been to before, was marked on one paper map only and which appeared to be somewhat unknown. I’ve written about this hut previously, but this Cruise was the first time that we’d been there and it took a bit of hunting to find, being well off the track and the entry (or entries) very poorly defined at the time.