Another Australia Day long-weekend came about and so once again we decided to head to the far east of Victoria, well aware that the High Country could be busy but, as I’ve mentioned in previous stories, there’s a greater chance of things being quiet the further you go from Melbourne. This is another one of those trips where a few memory gaps occur; however, it’s not as bad as one of the others. We started off from Benambra and headed for the Davies Plains, then Mt Pinnibar, before turning westwards and ending up south of Dargo in the Mitchell River National Park. I remember sweltering during those days but, fortunately, welcoming shade was available whenever we pulled up to camp and we managed a good fire for when the sun went down and it became cold.
Our camp for the first night was on the Murray River at The Poplars, which is a campsite located at the highest point on the Murray River that allows for vehicle access. At this point on the Murray, the water is crystal clear, shallow and quite narrow. There’s a path that leads you to the very start of the Murray River, but we’ve never ventured there because you need to spend extra time camped, as I understand that it’s a fair walk there and back. I’ve mentioned previously that there are a couple of spots where you can camp here and further along the track there’s quite a salubrious toilet block which usually attracts a few campers. On this trip, the campsite by the toilet block was fully occupied, but that was fine as we prefer to be away from crowds.
The next morning we went back up McCarthy’s Track and onto Davies Plains Track and, as we suspected, the Davies Plains campsites were fairly well taken, with lots of visitors from across the border. We followed the track down to Tom Groggin, past Dogmans Hut (also occupied) and then (from memory) ascended a track that’s now closed, which quickly brought us to Mt Pinnibar. The track to Mt Pinnibar is now much longer if you come via Tom Groggin, as you have to effectively backtrack to roughly the same latitude as where you started at McCarthy’s Track, before you hit the Mt Pinnibar Track. But you don’t really have a lot of choice, as all the other tracks are also very roundabout when coming from near the border. As always, the views from Mt Pinnibar are fantastic when the weather is good and you simply have to stop and take things in, no matter how many times you’ve done this previously. The scorched remains, stretching to the horizon, were a sombre reminder of the recent bushfires.
From Mt Pinnibar, we decided to take Shady Creek Upper Track, as we’d never travelled this one before and, from Mt Pinnibar, it looked interesting. However, as it turned out, Shady Creek Upper Track was fairly mundane and we were at Cattlemans Creek in no time at all. From there we took Paddy Joy Track to Wild Boar Track and then Pheasant Creek Track back onto the Benambra-Corryong Road and found a campsite along the Gibbo River.
The next day we took the shortest route to Omeo where we fuelled up and then headed up the great Alpine Road to Mt Hotham. After Hotham Heights we turn down the Dargo High Plains Road with a diversion along the way to Blue Rag and then followed Basalt Knob Track down to Talbotville. From Talbotville we took McMillans Road back up to the Dargo High Plains Road and then down to Dargo. After a brief stop at Dargo, we continued down the Bairnsdale Dargo Road until we reached the Mitchell River National Park turnoff, at which point one of our travellers had to leave us and return to Melbourne. We continued on and, after a fairly short but very dusty road, it wasn’t long before we reached the campground at Angusvale. All the campsites along the river were taken, but fortunately we we able to score a camp right under a grove of Elm trees, which provided shade on a blistering hot day.
The next morning was a fine day with a cool start, but clearly it was going to be another hot day. We could have just taken the main road back to the Princes Highway, but decided to take a different route. So we took Davey Knob Track, Bullant Ridge Track, Left Hand Branch Track to Scrubby Creek Road and then on to Moroka Road. Davey Knob and Bullant Ridge Tracks had been recently graded and the bull dust was incredible, almost like driving on clay at times, and we wondered what these tracks would be like once it did rain. We were glad that it was dry, as I don’t think we would have been able to go far if the tracks had been wet.
From Maffra it was the usual path back to civilisation and the end of another long weekend. It was one of those odd Cruises where you remember many parts, but there are these small gaps that you can’t fill; even photographs don’t always jog the memory cells. Mitchell River National Park was certainly the most memorable for me, especially as that’s where I picked up a sprouting Elm tree seed, wrapped it in damp paper towel and a plastic bag and, nearly five years later, is doing wonders in its new location in our garden.