Our Mar 2013 Cruise took us on a long circuit from Morwell to near the Nunniong Plains, Bruthen and then back home. It was a four day Cruise with five travellers and one other that we met for a day along the way. We started from Dargo and headed off to some tracks that we hadn’t looked at for some time. The intent was to stay off any main roads as much as possible this weekend, but the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. And so it was that at the very start of our Cruise we encountered unexpected obstacles and had to detour to more staid tracks to make headway that first day.
The plan was to take the Lower Dargo Road to Punchen Budwuid Divide Track and then Orton Track to Mt Steve Track, which would take us to Waynes Track on the Wentworth River for camp that night. Unfortunately, Orton Track was closed and so we followed Gidley Track to Mt Steve Track, which was open, but after around 100m (one vehicle only), it became so overgrown that you couldn’t even see the track. To get out, I had to reverse the entire distance back, as there was no place to turn around. So we continued on, stopping briefly for a group photograph on the Gidley Track helipad. From there it was a short hop to Jones Road and then the Wentworth River, where we met up with our other traveller who’d come just for the day. While the weather had been reasonable, the afternoon became quite miserable; it rained all night and didn’t let up until early morning.
From the Wentworth River we took the other half of Mt Steve Track to Baldhead Road and then Boomerang Spur down to Haunted Stream Track. We followed Haunted Stream Track until the Stirling old town site and then headed up Stirling Track, past Victoria Mine, to Angora Range Track. We finally emerged on the Cassilis Road and then Swifts Creek. From Swifts Creek we headed south and took Windy Ridge Road, where we followed what must have been the ultimate electric dog fence in Australia (a triple layer of electrical goodness). We eventually went back into state forest and then Nunniong Road, past The Washington, and finally arrived at Moscow Villa which, thankfully, was free given the continuing poor weather.
I’ve said before that Moscow Villa is possibly the best hut in the High Country, lots of room, great layout, comes with quite a story and thankfully hasn’t been trashed, even though the internals have been tagged relentlessly. And, to be honest, even though we’ve never written on any wall or door in any hut, I’m not that bothered by it, as it does provide interesting reading while relaxing inside. I kind of look at it as somewhat similar to cave paintings and rock drawings that reflect the history of visitors to these huts. And when you consider it, tagging or graffiti has a very long history, dating back as far as ancient Egypt, Greece and the Roman Empire.
The first order of the day was to get some wood so that we could get a good fire going and dry out some very wet clothes and camping gear that had been saturated from the previous night’s rain. It took quite some effort to get what was ostensibly wet wood ablaze and then to let it die down to a more sensible fire. Sometimes the fires may look somewhat extreme, but when the firebox is wet and cold, along with wet wood, it often takes some effort to get a sustainable fire going. And compared to the previous night, getting dinner ready was a much easier task. I don’t know what I had the night before, but I vaguely remember that it was only partly cooked given the awful weather. And with the fire warming up the hut, the travellers were far more animated and relaxed.
As the night wore on and with comforting warmth and a full belly, some of our travellers were beginning to succumb to sleep. Though not everyone was going to accept too early a disappearance under the bed sheets and, when you’re in a hut, you can’t simply lock the bedroom door. But eventually things settle down and while some caught up on a few zeds, the night owls keep going for a bit longer before they too found that keeping one’s eyes open was not worth the battle. And don’t ask about the blanket.
From Moscow Villa, we briefly followed the Bentley Plain Road until we reached Camp Oven Gap Track, which we followed until Mt Tom Track and then on to Mt Wong Track, where we had to do some track clearing. We stayed on Mt Wong Track until we reached Dinner Creek Track, where we encountered the first bit of real excitement for the weekend, though it ended up being a fairly short section of excitement. It wasn’t long after that we reached the Timbarra River where we had a few river crossings. The floods that had come through the High Country late the previous year were very evident on the Timbarra River, with the erosion and debris all along the embankments. There was actually quite a nice campsite along the river, but not quite large enough for our group and, being early, there was no point in stopping just yet.
We continued on and took Mt Elizabeth Jeep Track to Collins Road until we reached the Great Alpine Road where we started to look for some campsites. One marked on the Great Alpine Road wasn’t suitable and Maindample Track, which led off from the Great Alpine Road, went down to the Tambo River, but when we reached the end, the hoped for campsite was non-existent. A single vehicle could have camped there, but with our group, it was not feasible. So we backtracked and then took Playgrounds Road, which brought us to the Tambo River again and a nice sandy campsite right next to the river. It wasn’t the flattest of campsites, but good enough given the river nearby. There was also a massive pile of trees near the campsite (floods or otherwise?) that provided us with ample firewood for the night, following the first really pleasant day of the Cruise.
The next day it was an easy drive to Bruthen, Bairnsdale and then the back roads from Stratford to the Princes Highway. This cruise provided us with all manner of experiences and especially a few new tracks that we hadn’t previously explored and, I have to say, that the weekend seemed to fly past.