It’s been a pretty ordinary year since our last High Country Cruise in Mar, one that wasn’t really of much note at all due to good tracks being closed. So we were hanging out to do another Cruise before the tracks closed for Winter and especially avoid the Queen’s Birthday weekend. To that end, we decided to make our move the weekend prior and see what we could find. And with the weather being pretty miserable lately, not only very cold but wet as well, I thought maybe we could do things a little differently this time and have a base camp from where we could do day trips. And what better way than to stay in a cabin. To this end, we booked a cabin in Licola, which meant that we didn’t have to get up at sparrow’s fart each morning, we could take our time driving about and have a nice comfortable place to return to each evening.
Our trip started at the Thomson Dam on Friday morning (just the two of us initially, as our third would join us at Licola that afternoon), from where we decided to play it by ear and take various tracks that eventually would lead us to Licola. We hadn’t really planned anything specific, as we had plenty of time on our hands, and so just decided to follow our noses with tracks that we’d done in the past. The weather looked to be somewhat foreboding, quite different to what was predicted a week ago, but that hasn’t been something that’s deterred us in the past. Our only concern was the track conditions given the rain that we have had and what might come down on the day. The Thomson Dam area is known for slippery clay surfaces on many of the tracks, so some caution needed to be taken if we were to make it to Licola while it was still light.
We started our journey going north from the Thomson Dam towards the junction and then turned back south to take Fultons Creek Track that had defeated us in 2016. This year it was a bit different. The track was still wet, but it hadn’t been recently graded so it didn’t have a two inch cover of greasy clay that impeded all progress entirely and, while still a bit of a challenge, it was quite doable after a few goes with the tricky patches. I have to admit, I wasn’t entirely looking forward to this track given the effort that we had to go through on the last trip, which has us wet and weary after many hours of winching in pouring rain to get off the track and onto Binns Road where we eventually found shelter in Jackson’s Hut. Though at least this weekend we’d have a cosy cabin and not a manky hut.
From Fultons Track we took the turnoff to Army Track and then worked our way to Pheasant Track, Donnelly Track and then White Star Track. On a recent Cruise we’d come down White Star and it was quite a steep and interesting track, so it was a natural to try going up, rather than down. Unfortunately, it’s simply way to difficult to try and get photos or video when on such steep tracks; maybe when I was a spring chicken, but not nowadays. Anyway, the journey was interesting but uneventful and it wasn’t all that long before we were on Springs Road. From Springs Road we headed down Burgoyne Track and then Green Hills Track, which would take us to Cobb Spur Track and then to Licola. The weather had improved dramatically and things were looking good.
We had a good night at Licola and really enjoyed the cabin. The next morning we had a fairly leisurely start and decided to do a circuit through the Macalister River, up Butcher Country Track to the Caledonia River, then Dingo Hill Track and back to Licola via Tamboritha Road. The Macalister Track, like always, had its interesting bits and boring bits, the river crossings always being interesting. Butcher Country Track was somewhat similar, but it’s ever changing from year to year, so you never can predict what to expect. The Caledonia Track and subsequent Dingo Hill Track offered no impossible challenges, but gave us enough fun to make the trip worthwhile. Again, we needed some spring chickens or more travellers along to run up and down tracks and video/photograph the difficult sections. With three vehicles and three drivers, it’s often impossible to get anything on the long steep tracks.
We had a great drive and Licola was a welcome sight at the end of the day. The circuit from Licola, through the Macalister and back again can take a few hours or half a day or more depending on the conditions, and to some extent on the traffic and we were on the go for around six hours. After a well deserved night of relaxation, we were ready next morning for our last day of adventure. Today we headed for Mt Margaret Track, then to the Chromite Mine and B1 track. The journey from Mt Margaret to the Chromite Mine is always a fairly long affair and can have its moments. We’ve done this many a time before, but it’s always worth a visit and especially as we didn’t have to put up camp anywhere along the way. B1 track can also be interesting at times, as it’s very steep and rocky, so always worth doing. This was the last day and we didn’t want to overdo things, so after B1 track we headed back to Licola for another well earned break.
Of course all of this would have been fantastic had it been real and not imaginary. Sadly, the week before this trip was due to happen, the state government called a statewide, week long, lockdown due to another COVID panic (the fourth so far) and which was then extended for another week. This utterly ended our existing plans and that of many others looking forward to the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. The way things are going, all we might be able to do in future is simply reminisce about going bush while downing another beer at home.