The High Country – Jan 2017

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.

Airing Down - Sunny Point Track Victoria

Airing Down – Sunny Point Track Victoria

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.

No Access - Sunny Point Track Victoria

No Access – Sunny Point Track Victoria

Relaxed Wallabies - Sunny Point Track Victoria

Relaxed Wallabies – Sunny Point Track Victoria

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.

River Crossing - Buchan River Victoria

River Crossing – Buchan River Victoria

Stuck in the sand - Buchan River Victoria

Stuck in the sand – Buchan River Victoria

Winching your way out - Buchan River Victoria

Winching your way out – Buchan River Victoria

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.

Track Maintenance - Buchan River Victoria

Track Maintenance – Buchan River Victoria

We could watch work all day - Buchan River Victoria

We could watch work all day – Buchan River Victoria

Next in line - Buchan River Victoria

Next in line – Buchan River Victoria

Drag me up - Buchan River Victoria

Drag me up – Buchan River Victoria

Please sir, can you help me? - Buchan River Victoria

Please sir, can you help me? – Buchan River Victoria

Why certainly! - Buchan River Victoria

Why certainly! – Buchan River Victoria

Next! - Buchan River Victoria

Next! – Buchan River Victoria

Video – Crossing the Buchan River

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.

Suggan Buggan River - Suggan Buggan Victoria

Suggan Buggan River – Suggan Buggan Victoria

Suggan Buggan River - Suggan Buggan Victoria

Suggan Buggan River – Suggan Buggan Victoria

Scenic Camping - Snowy River Victoria

Scenic Camping – Snowy River Victoria

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.

Sunset over the Snowy River - Snowy River Victoria

Sunset over the Snowy River – Snowy River Victoria

Sunrise over the Snowy River - Snowy River Victoria

Sunrise over the Snowy River – Snowy River Victoria

Early morning river dragons - Snowy River Victoria

Early morning river dragons – Snowy River Victoria

Going up Sandy Creek Track - Snowy River Victoria

Going up Sandy Creek Track – Snowy River Victoria

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.

Ingeegoodbee Track - Suggan Buggan Victoria

Ingeegoodbee Track – Suggan Buggan Victoria

Mt Menaak – McFarlane Flat Track Victoria (source: Grahame)

Mt Menaak – McFarlane Flat Track Victoria (source: Grahame)

Mt Menaak – McFarlane Flat Track Victoria

Mt Menaak – McFarlane Flat Track Victoria

Ingeegoodbee River - McFarlanes Flat Track Victoria

Ingeegoodbee River – McFarlanes Flat Track Victoria

Having Fun - Cobberas Track Victoria (source: Grahame)

Having Fun – Cobberas Track Victoria (source: Grahame)

Rams Horn - Rams Horn Track Victoria

Rams Horn – Rams Horn Track Victoria

Magnificent Views - Rams Horn Victoria

Magnificent Views – Rams Horn Victoria

Rams Horn - Rams Horn Track Victoria (source: Grahame)

Rams Horn – Rams Horn Track Victoria (source: Grahame)

Rams Horn - Rams Horn Track Victoria

Rams Horn – Rams Horn Track Victoria

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.

Native Dog Flat - Limestone Road Victoria

Native Dog Flat – Limestone Road Victoria

Waiting for the stars - Native Dog Flat Victoria

Waiting for the stars – Native Dog Flat Victoria

Visitors in the night - Native Dog Flat Victoria

Visitors in the night – Native Dog Flat Victoria

Visitors in the night - Native Dog Flat Victoria

Visitors in the night – Native Dog Flat Victoria

Starry, starry night - Native Dog Flat Victoria

Starry, starry night – Native Dog Flat Victoria

The Great Nebula, Orion's sword with messier 42 - Native Dog Flat Victoria

The Great Nebula, Orion’s sword with messier 42 – Native Dog Flat Victoria

Buzz Lightyear - Native Dog Flat Victoria

Buzz Lightyear – Native Dog Flat Victoria

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.

Buckwong Hut - Buckwong Track Victoria

Buckwong Hut – Buckwong Track Victoria

Buckwong Hut - Buckwong Track Victoria

Buckwong Hut – Buckwong Track Victoria

Buckwong Hut - Buckwong Track Victoria

Buckwong Hut – Buckwong Track Victoria

Lunch Break - Buenba Flat Victoria

Lunch Break – Buenba Flat Victoria

Pointless Logs - Buenba Flat Victoria

Pointless Logs – Buenba Flat Victoria

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.

Pheasant Creek Track - High Country Victoria

Pheasant Creek Track – High Country Victoria

Buenba Creek - Pheasant Creek Track Victoria

Buenba Creek – Pheasant Creek Track Victoria

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.

Mitta Mitta River - Taylors Crossing Victoria

Mitta Mitta River – Taylors Crossing Victoria

Mitta Mitta River - Taylors Crossing Victoria

Mitta Mitta River – Taylors Crossing Victoria

Mitta Mitta River - Taylors Crossing Victoria

Mitta Mitta River – Taylors Crossing Victoria

Mitta Mitta River - Taylors Crossing Victoria

Mitta Mitta River – Taylors Crossing Victoria

Mitta Mitta River - Taylors Crossing Victoria

Mitta Mitta River – Taylors Crossing Victoria

Mitta Mitta River - Taylors Crossing Victoria (source: Grahame)

Mitta Mitta River – Taylors Crossing Victoria (source: Grahame)

Video – Jeep crossing the Mitta Mitta River

Video – The rest of the crew crossing the Mitta Mitta River

Video – Patrol crossing the Mitta Mitta River

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.

Kennedys Hut - Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Kennedys Hut – Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Kennedys Hut - Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Kennedys Hut – Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Kennedys Hut - Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Kennedys Hut – Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Wombat Hole - Kennedys Hut Victoria

Wombat Hole – Kennedys Hut Victoria

Just a fishing - Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Just a fishing – Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Macquarie Perch - Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Macquarie Perch – Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Drop Bear Nest - Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Drop Bear Nest – Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Gatherers at work - Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Gatherers at work – Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Indulgence - Mitta Mitta River Victoria (source: Grahame)

Indulgence – Mitta Mitta River Victoria (source: Grahame)

Kennedys Hut - Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Kennedys Hut – Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Million Dollar Views - Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Million Dollar Views – Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Morning Mist - Mitta Mitta River Victoria

Morning Mist – Mitta Mitta River Victoria

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 also want to wish everyone a top Australia Day, wherever you are.
We’ll be having BBQ lamb and bacon chops (to keep things multi-cultural) and cold beer – I just wish it were in the bush:

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

9 thoughts on “The High Country – Jan 2017

  1. Shawn K.

    First visit here in a few weeks. That’s a nice bit of country, with a few structures in the mix. Were those built for ranchers, and are they common in your area? I like sleeping in what I brought, but being able to get the whole group under one roof adds something to any trip. Looks like weather couldn’t have been better.

    What tyres and pressure were you running? I’m surprised that no one could quite make it through that sandy crossing on their own. I usually run around 15 psi on that kind of terrain.

    Reply
    1. Ray Post author

      Most of the huts have been built by cattlemen many years ago and some by gold miners. We always prefer to camp out and that’s what we always plan to do, but sometimes using a hut turns out for the better. The weather was perfect.

      We normally run between 22-25 PSI depending on the vehicle, but you can’t go too low or the rocky tracks shred the sidewalls. We could have dropped pressures, the Jeep from memory was running fairly low pressure, but that can become a pain. We will do that if we’re in very muddy hills, but even that doesn’t always help. This sand was very deep and soft, so I don’t think dropping tyre pressure would have made much difference, nor could we get much of a run up.

      Reply
  2. Shawn K.

    That sand did look awfully loose. I guess some sand ladders could’ve been used, but that would’ve taken longer than a winch. I have some Maxtrax, but have never really had to use them.

    I stay on the safe side around 20 psi as a general rule off-road, as that pressure works well with my truck’s suspension, and offers good traction without too much risk for damage. Running 15 psi over a long stretch of sand makes the truck ride so smoothly, I almost hate to air them back up. I don’t have bead locks, so I don’t tempt fate by running any lower than that on stock wheels.

    For puncture & cut resistance, I’m going with a set of Cooper Discoverer S/T Maxx tyres when my current Goodyear ATs are done. They’re one of the most durable tyres I’ve seen, and have favourable reviews for the kind of terrain I travel. Not a sidewall test, but still:

    https://youtu.be/9Kz8mmLkeks

    Reply
    1. Ray Post author

      With this sand, loose is an understatement. What made things worse is that it was coarse sand, so didn’t compact at all.

      We all run different tyres. I run Nankang Mudstars, tough as nails given where they have been used, but they are only for going off-road. The Jeep runs Kelly Safari TSRs, from memory, and they appear to be a very good tyre for the High Country and on-road. I’ll be keeping a close watch on these to see how well they go and they might be my next tyre if they hold up.

      Reply
      1. Shawn K.

        I drive on-road enough that I have to stick with an AT. Iirc, I’ve read good things about Nankang tyres from world travelers, but I haven’t seen them in North America. I’m a little concerned with moving to the heavier Coopers, but I don’t commute in my truck, and I’ve kept it relatively light with aluminum skid plates, so fuel economy may not suffer too much.

        That sand almost looks like what I’d refer to as “pea gravel”, similar to rock I’ve seen used at runaway lanes in the mountains to stop trucks with failed brakes. Does a great job at river banks, too.

        Ever use a kinetic recovery rope or strap? I’ve been amazed at what one can do. I still lack a winch (and the bumper to house it), but I’ve recovered a much heavier trucks with a KRR, and without any significant shock load on either vehicle.

        While I’m thinking of it, do you have a preferred mount for your dashcam? The freebie that came with mine is junk, and I’m willing to pay for a product that won’t release at the first bump in the trail.

        Reply
        1. Ray Post author

          I’ve read a lot about 4WDriving in the US but never personally experienced it and, from what I gather, it’s very different to anything that we have here. I’d love to try places like Moab etc, but that’s never likely to happen. Tyres (and suspension) take a beating no matter where you go in Australia. There are many, mixed, reports about Cooper tyres in Australia, some love them and others hate them. You can have an entire week of debate over which tyre is the best.

          One of the big differences between the US and Australia is that we tend to drive very long distances off-road. Some of our Cruises can be over 900km (on-road and off-road combined) with long stints between fuel stops. The off-road section can be 300km in low range, so you need a lot of fuel. Our Jeep Rubicon driver has a long range tank installed (as he did with his previous diesel) as the standard tank wouldn’t last half a Cruise.

          We call the ‘kinetic rope’ a snatch strap and just about every 4WD owner has at least one in their vehicle at all times. It’s about the most basic recovery tool that every 4WD owner has, or should have.

          I’m currently writing a story about the action cam and how it’s been mounted, which I’ll publish in a week or so.

          Reply
          1. Shawn K.

            Cool. I look forward to the action cam story. It’s a new toy for me, and I’m getting used to it before taking it on a trip.

            There are some longer 4WD trails available, but there’s usually some road travel mixed in to connect sections. What you’ve shown reminds me of some lower elevation mining trails in Colorado. Fun to cruise, mixed terrain, with some moderate obstacles, and not many people if you stay away from the hot spots.

            Some areas are just so big that I’ve had to plan my travel around fuel & ice – Death Valley comes to mind. I now carry two NATO Scepter cans for an additional 40L of fuel, which is generally more than enough between fuel points if a little forethought is used. I’ve also built a slide-out platform and mounted a fridge in the back seat area, so I can stay out much longer.

            Reply
  3. Mike Harding

    A nice write-up, thank you.

    I know that country fairly well, I usually travel alone but am planning to form a small group to do the Ingeegoodbee Track in a couple of months – I haven’t done Ingeegoodbee before. We’ll do it from the SB end too.

    I’m pleased to see you only had five vehicles in the group, sometimes I see 4WD clubs with 10 (or more!) vehicles – they chop up the tracks and generally cause mayhem and I doubt many of them *really* appreciate the country but rather simply want to put another “Track badge” on their chests.

    God’s own country up there.

    Reply
    1. Ray Post author

      Thanks.

      We try to keep the group size manageable as, when a group gets too large, it does create issues. Our motto really is to tread lightly, especially as all the vehicles are basically daily drivers, with minimal modifications. The last thing that we want to be noted for is ‘buggering the bush in a 4WD’, as that old song goes.

      The Ingeegoodbee Track is a nice drive, as is the road into Suggan Buggan (top views). Pick the right time and you’ll have it all to yourself and, even on a busier time, it’s likely to be fairly quiet.

      Reply

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