January 2008 saw us doing a rather distant Cruise to the far east of Victoria, starting at Omeo, going to the Murray River, then back again to Omeo and onwards to Cobungra and finally to Dargo. Being an Australia Day Weekend, we expected plenty of traffic but, surprisingly, it wasn’t anywhere near as busy as anticipated. We were one traveller short, who couldn’t make it until the next morning, so we potted about the area, looking for anything interesting and then eventually found ourselves a campsite on the Gibbo River, where we could be located fairly easily the next morning.
Our camp beside the Gibbo River was surprisingly good, especially as it looked like we could be in for some rain. At times like this, it’s always great to have a grassed area to set up camp (if you don’t have a hut), for if it does rain, there’s nothing worse than breaking camp with mud everywhere. But as it turned out, we were spared the rain and the worst that we encountered were damp tents from the morning dew. It wasn’t all that long after we were awake and packing things away that our fellow traveller arrived.
Day two saw us leaving the Benambra-Corryong Road and heading up Pheasant Creek Track towards Mt Gibbo. The weather turned out to be absolutely magnificent, with brilliant blue skies broken up by horse tails and puffy white clouds. The weather was warm and calm, and we simply couldn’t ask for better. It’s days like this when the High Country really shines and you cannot think of a better place to be, and that includes the outback or any tourist trap on the north-east coast. Mt Gibbo was a mandatory stop for viewing and photographs, and why not, it’s not all about driving. And one of our fellow travellers had a camera that was converted to produce infrared photos for something different.
From Mt Gibbo we travelled on towards our next destination, Mt Pinnibar. Mt Pinnibar is apparently the highest (around 1770m) driveable location in Victoria (or it could be Australia), where the summit overlooks Mt Kosciusko and the mountains to the east in New South Wales. The drive to Mt Pinnibar was once again full of great scenery and provided plenty of evidence of the bush fires that had raged through here not so long ago. And, as always, while the bushfires do cause much destruction, the regrowth is fast a furious not long after. If tracks such as these aren’t maintained or trafficked, they very quickly become fully overgrown.
Mt Pinnibar offered awe inspiring views, as well as lots of flies, and everyone had cameras out to record what very few people will ever get to see. And while Mt Kosciusko is visible, it’s anyone’s guess as to which peak it is amongst many others. There’s really not much at Mt Pinnibar, as it’s mainly a small, more or less barren knoll from which tracks lead off in various directions to the north, east, south and west. We were heading east towards the Murray River, Tom Groggin and then Davies Plains and, with the flies increasing their annoyance factor, we were somewhat relieved to be on the move once again.
From Mt Pinnibar, we descended down to the Murray River, followed it for a few kilometres and then climbed once again to the Davies Plains. The Davies Plains is a marvellous area that affords numerous camping spots along its entire length of some 15 plus kilometres. At peak periods, Christmas and Easter, it’s packed with campers from both Victoria and New South Wales, and likely further afield. Those poor New South Welshmen don’t have much available to them nowadays, as more and more of their bush is closed off every year, so they sneak across the border to enjoy a life now denied to them in their homeland.
While we could have camped near Davies Plains Hut, the weather was forgiving and we found a beautiful spot on a raised knoll, surrounded by gums and isolated from anyone else, which we simply couldn’t refuse. There was a creek close by, so we even had access to water from the camp and you never knock back a campsite with water nearby. Our campsite overlooked fire ravaged hills towards the east and, as the sun began to set, it gave us a tangible reminder of what it must have looked like at the height of the fires as they spread across the mountains. And while the ominous clouds moved about, once again the weather gods were smiling upon us and the worst that we experienced was a cold night that made the fire even more enjoyable. I vaguely remember tall tales being told.
The next day we headed back to Omeo where we fuelled up and then we were off towards Cobungra Station and the Victoria Plain Track, which would take us to Birregun Road and Dog’s Grave. Along the way we said farewell to two of our travellers, who had to leave the trip early. Dog’s Grave is an often visited site along the Birregun Road and provides a reasonable camping site for travelers. There’s also now a fairly lavish long drop at the site, which indicates that it must be visited fairly frequently, though this night we were on our own. Our first foray here in the early 80s had nothing more than a bare campsite. The bushfires came through here as well and the reminders were nothing but to the point.
And while our previous camps were most pleasant indeed, the wind picked up for a while making it a tad awkward to set up tents. Once that was done, we needed a fire going, as already the temperature was dropping and no amount of pretending was going to convince anyone that our current fire would keep away the oncoming cold, not yet anyway.
As evening fell, it started to turn quite cold and misty, and I guess it was most apt camping where we did, as it brought about a most interesting night indeed. As night fell, heavy fog rolled in, a warming fire was finally on the boil, and our resident story teller brought out his book of High Country murders and began to regale us with another story of mystery and mayhem in the High Country of years gone by. And as the night wore on, the moon was ominous, spirits were about and apparitions appeared around the gravestone.
The next day was quite uneventful as we travelled down from the mountains to Dargo, along a very foggy road to the valley, and then back home. This was one of those very memorable Cruises, covering quite a significant area, where we simply had a ball every day (and night). We’ve returned years later, but things are vastly different as they always are, as you can never repeat an experience.