For our first High Country Cruise of the year, we decided to wait out the school holiday period hoping that things would be a little quieter in the High Country and so decided to go out at the beginning of February, but things were delayed and we didn’t get out until the middle of February. But even then it’s never a given that the place won’t be full of people, as we’ve found out many a time. Given that our Nov 2017 Cruise was only attended by two travellers and we found some pretty good places on that Cruise, I thought we’d let the additional two travellers on this Cruise enjoy what we’d experienced last year, while trying out some different tracks. Hopefully we’d also be able to travel the Davies Plains Track, which was going to be closed post the opening season due to track repairs.
Our first stop along the way was the Little River Inn for a quick break and a couple of cold beers before heading off to Benambra for our final fuel stop. We were going to have a lunch stop at Benambra, but decided to go further on and find a slightly shadier and less populated place for lunch. Not far along the Benambra-Corryong Rd, we found a good spot for a break from the dusty road and where we could also deflate our tyres to make the corrugations somewhat more bearable. It was a bit of a long and windy road to Sassafras Gap where we took a turnoff that would lead us down to Wheelers Creek for our first night’s camp. We were hoping for some interesting driving, given the map indications of a steep track down, but due to fairly recent track gradings, the journey was pretty much a non-event.
Wheelers Creek Hut was unoccupied and it was the first time that we’d been able to camp here, as every previous trip the place had been swarming with trail bike riders. Wheelers Creek Hut isn’t much to talk about, being fairly small, with a pot belly at one end and some bunks at the other, but it was otherwise in good condition. Since one of our travellers decided to sleep outside, the remainder took up residence inside, as the ground around the hut wasn’t that great for tents.
As always, the first order of the day was firewood and while there were some small piles left over from previous campers, it wasn’t enough for the night. After looking around, we found some logs on the side of the road that appeared to be dry and brought one down to the campsite to be cut up. While on first inspection the wood appeared to be dry, it was far from that and gave us grief all night with our attempts to get it burning properly. After dinner, and when night fell, we sat close to the fire, watched the stars and listened to the bush noises around us. We could have sat inside the hut and used the pot belly, but the space inside the hut was really too small to accommodate everyone, especially after stretchers had been laid out (the bunks were rather short to say the least).
So we sat outside, vigorously fanning the fire and doing our best to dry out the wet wood. At one point, we heard a noise and a torch was shone into the grass nearby, where a Wallaby was crouching and which suddenly pounced onto something in the grass. Some were convinced that the Wallaby had caught a mouse and that we’d seen the first carnivorous Wallaby (maybe like the carnivorous Lorikeets). Anyway, I took some photos but didn’t have my long lens and the Wallaby was gone before I could get it, so when I got home I was able to have a better look at the Wallaby’s prey. It turns out that the ‘prey’ looked very much like a banana peel; we safe afterall.
The next morning we headed north to Gibsons Hut, a camping area that had seen significant change since our last visit. It was now surrounded by large rocks, with new trees planted all around. Access to the hut was via a single road and the grassed areas were now more or less protected from unnecessary wheel tracks and provided more camping area. From Gibsons Hut we carried on to Mt Baldy Track, Tin Creek Track and finally onto Mt Pinnibar Track. All of these turned out to be very mild and we were at Mt Pinnibar in no time at all. We were also the only ones at the summit this time around, so managed to get some good views and have a quiet lunch break.
After the break, we descended down Mt Pinnibar Track toward the Murray, where we hoped to camp at Dogmans Hut. On the way down, we came across the first vehicles for the weekend, travelling in the opposite direction. The journey down to Dogmans Hut was uneventful and the campsite was vacant, but not long after we set up camp, another group arrived and travelled on to camp further along the track next to the Murray River. The evening was settling down and we thankfully had a good fire this night, compared to the previous night. It’s quite interesting sitting at Dogmans Hut and listening to the continuous rumble and roar of cars, trucks and motorbikes travelling along the Alpine Way. You wouldn’t think it, but the Alpine Way is almost a stone’s throw from Dogmans Hut.
Next morning we headed towards Davies Plains Track to see if it had opened. The gates were open and clearly a lot of traffic had preceded us this weekend. It appears as if it had just opened and so the bog holes the ranger had spoken of on the last trip had obviously been fixed. It was an uneventful drive to Davies Plains, but as we entered the plains, there was a plastic fence halfway across the track at Davies Plains Creek, where we stopped and wondered what this was about and took a closer look. A sign said the road was closed, which was odd, as two sets of gates were open at the Tom Groggin end of the track, which should have been closed and locked if this was the case. The sign warned of a difficult track, but it was not really much at all, except maybe if you were driving a low-set 4WD with road tyres. When I checked the Parks site before the trip, there was no mention of road closures. As there was nothing new at Davies Plains, we headed on to Limestone Creek Track where we had some very interesting driving on the steep, loose and very rutted track.
From Limestone Creek Track we headed south towards Nunniong Plains for our final stop. It was only after setting up camp and well into the afternoon did it register that we could have continued on to Moscow Villa Hut and better accommodation. Nunniong Plains was OK, but we kind of regretted our decision when the rains came overnight and we’d have to bring home wet tents once again. Anyway, we had plenty of firewood and a good fire to boot, with some interesting things to ponder (was the rectangle a grave or what?). The wild horses came and we listened to the disturbing howling of wild dogs. I was pretty tired as night set in and was in bed around 9:30pm, and I think I heard the others doing much the same not long after. If nothing else, the rain had completely extinguished the fire by the morning.
With the overnight rains settling down the dusty track from Nunniong Plains, we had an uneventful though very foggy run back to Buchan, Bruthen and then Bairnsdale. It was a good weekend, especially weather wise apart from the last day, but the tracks were kind of disappointing. If it hadn’t been for Limestone Creek Track, there wouldn’t have been much excitement at all. But that’s just the way it is sometimes, the time of year and weather makes all the difference, and choice of tracks can help.