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.
The Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend in June is not only the start of the official ski season, it’s also the last weekend until November (nominally the Melbourne Cup Weekend) when you can go to the most popular locations in the Victorian High Country. This year the snow had come early and the long weekend was going to be an ideal time to get in some snow driving and bush camping before the closure of the High Country.
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.
Another Australia Day weekend in the mountains came about, with our group starting off from Tambo Crossing to once again drive the Haunted Stream Track. We weren’t quite certain what this weekend’s weather would deliver, as there were mixed messages about what to expect; however, as always, that never deterred us from venturing out into the mountains. Once again our plan was to start in the east and work our way back west to end up closer to Melbourne. I don’t think we had really set any hard and fast plans for the weekend, but simply chose a starting point and would work things out as we progressed. As I’ve mentioned before, planning too far ahead is always followed by inevitable change.
Australia Day in 2009 saw us travelling from Mansfield to Mt Stirling, Lake Cobbler, into the Wonnangatta, back up to the Howitt High Plains and then to the Macalister River. It was a fine-weather weekend, rising to one of fairly extreme temperatures during the last days when along the Macalister River. The trip covered quite a bit of the High Country, with various twists and turns as we explored the northern part of the national park. We were expecting hordes out this weekend but, surprisingly as it sometimes happens, that turned out not to be the case. This was especially unusual considering how close to ‘civilisation’ we were most of the trip.
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.
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.