Our first Cruise for 2017 closely mirrored the one that I posted a few weeks ago, but with some variations as we sought a few new places to camp and tracks to explore. On this Cruise we had five travellers, four of our old crew and a new member from 4WD Trip, from whence we hope to introduce new travellers to our Cruises and counter the diminishing numbers that we’ve experienced over the last few years. We met at Tyers and then travelled on to Bairnsdale for a fuel stop, and then headed north towards Buchan. We were warned that there was a Cattleman’s event happening at Buchan that weekend and to expect a lot of traffic, but the road turned out to be very quiet. Just before Buchan, we took the Timbarra Road to head north and then shortly after turned into Sunny Point Track which was the beginning of our Cruise.
Sunny Point Track runs more or less parallel to the Gelantipy Road, which you can see from time to time across the valley as you’re driving along the track. Sunny Point Track also has some offshoots that once upon a time may have gone down to the Buchan Caves, given that one such track is called the Caves Track, but nowadays there’s certainly no vehicle access to Buchan Caves from these tracks. Sunny Point Track isn’t really difficult, but it does have some deceptively steep sections that, if they were rough, would make for very interesting driving indeed. It’s a fairly scenic drive and there’s lots of wildlife along the way, especially Wallabies that don’t appear to be afraid of oncoming vehicles. I think a female Lyrebird kept pace with me for a while as well.
That said, not long after we started we came to the Buchan River, which gave us our first challenge. The river crossing itself wasn’t much at all, but the opposite side had a rather large sand embankment that gave us pause, in more ways than one. I was the first to give it a shot and came to an ignominious halt not far from the top of the embankment and, after repeated attempts, I wasn’t going anywhere, except down. My last attempt took me so far down that it required a snatch to get me out of the sand. This obstacle was then attempted with the fully locked and loaded Jeep Rubicon, which went barely further up the embankment than I did. The only option was for the Jeep to winch the last metre or so onto solid ground, from whence it could come to the assistance of others if required.
And assistance was most certainly required on my next attempt, especially as my winch once again stopped working for no apparent reason other than maybe it’s scared of doing real work (it started working again once we reached our first night’s camp). No matter what the vehicle, everyone came to rest at the top of the embankment and had to be pulled out by the previous vehicle. Even filling in the ruts to flatten the embankment, while helpful hands across the river gave warming solace to add to the sweat that the hot morning was providing, produced no appreciable benefit. Even the lighter vehicles that we expected to benefit from the lack of a diff pumpkin fared no better than the lumbering Patrols. Once all were through, we stopped to cool off and have a lunch break under some shady gums.
Time was beginning to slip away from us and my original plan to have a look at the Mt Seldom Seen fire tower had to be revised, if we were to reach our first night’s campsite at any reasonable time. So we needed to peel off the current track as soon as possible to make better headway and thus we followed what had now become Dawson Track until we reached Glenmore Road and then turned east to the Gelantipy Road, coming out at Karoonda Park. From there it was a pleasant drive to Seldom Seen, where we passed the turnoff to McKillops Bridge and another potential Snowy River campsite. The drive to Suggan Buggan was as picturesque as always but, as time was getting short, the only stop was when I waited for the others to catch up. Taking Sandy Creek Track just after Suggan Buggan, we headed to the Snowy River along a track that produced much scepticism (those of little faith), but which was quickly dispelled when the Snowy River came into view.
While access to the river wasn’t possible (well it was, but very awkward), the campsite wasn’t all that bad and with the night being very warm, it was a very pleasant place to be as the sun set over the river. There was another campsite not far away, but it was occupied, so perhaps that one had better access to the river (something to consider on another Cruise). Anyway, the next morning looked to be another fantastic day weather wise and we decided to retrace our steps and go up the track that we’d come down. Going down the track had been very gnarly and we wanted to see what it was like in reverse. As it tuned out, going up wasn’t as difficult as we’d anticipated, so we were back on the main road much earlier than we thought and before long we were at the start of the Ingeegoodbee Track.
The Ingeegoodbee Track is always a mixed bag when it comes to difficulty and, on this occasion, it wasn’t overly challenging, with just a few ‘roughish’ spots along the way. Mt Menaak was upon us in no time and is always a great spot for a group shot, especially on a fine day. As we progressed along McFarlane Flat Track, there was constant evidence of Brumbies, with fresh droppings placed at regular intervals along the track and, at one point along the track, I came across a magnificent looking stallion that gave me an aloof look before heading into the scrub. Eventually McFarlane Flat Track became Cobberas Track and we started to descend to Limestone Road from where I’d planned a diversion to the Rams Horn that was a short distance along Limestone Road. This turned out to be worth the trip as the Rams Horn is a spectacular rock outcrop and the view is absolutely magnificent, reminiscent of Blue Rag or Mt Pinnibar.
Once again, our journey took far longer than planned (a usual hazard on Cruises), so we decided to call it a day and, as Native Dog Flat was just around the corner from the Rams Horn and unoccupied, we decided to call it home for the night. In the quiet season, Native Dog Flat is one of the nicest camping spots that you can find, sitting right next to the Buchan River (albeit, very narrow and shallow). As night descended and dinner was had, we settled in for what was going to be a rather cool, if not cold, night. During the night we had a couple of unexpected visitors and we could hear the Brumbies moving about in the darkness. A few decided to look upon the stars and see what they could find, which led to discussions about space/time (shades of The Big Bang Theory?) and space travel, whereupon one of our travellers demonstrated what light speed et al was all about.
The next morning we continued along Limestone Road and then turned north at Misery Trail, which we followed until we reached Buckwong Track. My intention was to take Greggs Track earlier on, but it was in the same condition as in 2013, with a massive fallen tree not far from the start of the track with more visible in the distance, which makes me wonder if this is not intentional. Buckwong Track is a very steep drop down to Buckwong Hut, where we stopped for a look, but It wasn’t much of a look as Buckwong Hut was double padlocked to make sure no honest thief was going to enter (so much for offering emergency shelter). After a short break, we continued on until we reached Buenba Flat, where we stopped for lunch. Buenba Flat is an expansive camping area that unfortunately gets its fair share of the usual good and bad crowds. It benefits no one by leaving broken camping gear behind and I couldn’t see the point of trying to burn logs of a ridiculous size in a small campfire.
Buenba Flat was going to be our second night’s campsite, but we were never going to make that schedule. So from Buenba Flat we followed Buenba Road until we reached Pheasant Creek Track, which would lead us back south towards Benambra. Pheasant Creek Track turned out to be one very, very, steep track, both down and up, but being graded in the last few years it didn’t have many difficult sections. With erosion, this will become a very challenging track over time. From Pheasant Creek Track we were hoping to find some further good tracks but, unfortunately, there’d been a lot of forestry work and track regrading such that a large number were quite ordinary. We peeled off what was a logging road and took Oakleys Track to the Benambra Road, as anything else would have taken us to Benambra, and this was one track that would be remembered for giving vehicles a few bush pin stripes. Eventually we came out on the Benambra Road and headed to the Tablelands Road.
My intention was to go to a campsite at the end of the Lower Tablelands Road, but it seems that while this area is in the Alpine National Park, it’s now through private property and the area is completely off limits. Apparently there had been a warning sign at the start of the road (according to a council driver I spoke to along the way), but that’s disappeared. So we headed to Taylors Crossing for our last night’s camp at Kennedys Hut. The last time that we were at Taylors Crossing, we had to do a long diversion around Lake Omeo, as the river was very high and flowing fast. This time it was much lower and flowing far more sedately; however, one of our crew decided to test the waters anyway, which showed that things were fine. The crossing was uneventful for all vehicles and added a bit of a change after the long and dusty tracks.
After crossing the river, we headed along the track that took us to Kennedys Hut on the banks of the Mitta Mitta River. The site of the hut turned out not to be large enough for five tents (or four and one car dweller), so we decided to put four stretchers in the hut (the double bed bunks were not utilised). It was a tight fit, but not uncomfortable, other than when I forgot the low door jamb and gashed my head (my God that hurt). As the evening wore on, hunters went a hunting, gatherers attended to campfires, while others enjoyed the million dollar views. We also spotted what ‘could’ have been a Drop Bear nest. The morning came all too soon and as the mists were swirling on the river, we began to pack up for the last time.
From Kennedys Hut we took Kellys Track to the Omeo Valley Road and then the Great Alpine Road back to civilisation. The Great Alpine Road is generally a good road, but becomes unbearable when faced with glacially slow drivers in front of you who never look in their rear view mirror. I’m not sure how many vehicles were behind this vehicle, but every driver must have thanked the gods when it eventually decided to let everyone pass. Anyway, it was another top weekend and our new crew member seemed to be right at home with our unlikely lot and we hope to see him again on future Cruises. With the school holidays soon over and the High Country once again a little quieter, we’re hoping to have another Cruise in the not too distant future.
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!
An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand
though Earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.
My Country – Dorothea Mackeller