Our late Nov 2014 Cruise was just a three day trip that took us up to the Bentley and Nunniong Plains for a bit of a look around and an opportunity to get out. We more or less started at Ensay, where we stopped over at the Ensay Pub to have a beer, something that we don’t normally do, but we’ve always pondered stopping there and, as the weather was amenable, it seemed like the appropriate thing to do. We’d actually stopped to look at our maps and thought why not drop in while we were here and given that it was late afternoon and we weren’t in any rush, why not. It actually made for a nice break given the drive to get here and the early start. Anyway, we enjoyed the ultra cold beers and were soon on our way.
From the Ensay Pub we took the Little River Road until we reached the Bentleys Plain Road, which led us to Bentley Plain. The Bentley Plain camping area was vacant, but we drove the short distance to Moscow Villa Hut, which was also vacant. While it was still relatively early in the afternoon, I think we debated whether to stay or leave, but the stay vote won the day. When you have the opportunity to enjoy a hut as good as Moscow Villa, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense not to take the opportunity to enjoy it, especially if all you’re going to do is stop to camp in an hour or so anyway. If Moscow Villa Hut had been taken, we would have been just as happy at Bentley Plain, as the campsite there is far from shabby, or we would have continued on.
Moscow Villa has that homely feel that if you can take advantage of it, you generally feel obligated to do so. I’m sure that Bill Ah Chow still looks down on the visitors on what was once his abode and is happy that his endeavours have endured, and that the visitors are truly happy to be there. And thankfully visitors have, in the main, respected what is a magnificent High Country Hut. Our first order of the day, as always, was to find some firewood and we were fortunate enough to find a small fallen tree not far away, So it wasn’t long before we had a nice collection of firewood for the night, as well as some for others that may visit in the days to come. Not all of it was completely dry, but after a bit of warming, it did quite well.
The next morning after packing up and cleaning the hut, we continued on to the Nunniong Plains. I have no recollection as to whether we did any tracks in between, but it seems that we arrived at the Nunniong Plains fairly early, so perhaps we didn’t do many, if any, diversions. We’ve been to the Nunniong Plains quite a few times over the years, but we’ve never really looked much beyond the central section. So this time we ventured to the western side to see what existed over the hills. The first thing that we encountered was a fairly major bog hole and after a bit of probing, decided that backtracking and going around would be a better idea. The bog hole, while it doesn’t look that significant in the photographs, was fairly substantial with a very soft and deep bottom (the bit that we could reach) and it’s even visible on Google Earth.
The area is surprisingly large and there are many quite nice camping spots throughout the area, and it was a fair circuit to our main destination, Commins Hut. It wasn’t until I did a bit of research that I discovered that Commins Hut was actually built by Bill Ah Chow, the same Bill Ah Chow that built Moscow Villa Hut. Mind you, the quality and style differ significantly and it’s clear that Commins Hut wasn’t built for any long term accommodation. That said it does appear to be used on what may be a regular basis, given the seemingly new(ish) looking mattresses on the bunks. Perhaps it’s used as a staging point for hunters and the like, though it’s far from a salubrious hut compared to many others about the High Country.
From Commins Hut we continued north along a narrow track which the maps indicted would take us to the top of the Nunniong Plains. We hadn’t travelled very far before the convoy came to a halt and we were told that there was a small rivulet to cross. As the track was narrow, we couldn’t really congregate and so we were slightly spread out and, waiting at the rear, I started to wonder what was going on. Just as I was about to get out and walk, the convoy started to move and we came to where it was a lot easier to see what was happening. The rivulet turned out to be a somewhat boggier and deeper crossing than anticipated and clearly made so by previous vehicles having issues getting across. It was just one of those holes that’s basically nothing to look at, but has a way of grabbing a vehicle and holding on tenaciously. In the end, everyone received a helping hand to get through.
Once through the bog hole, the Nunniong Plains Track was probably no more than 300m away. So after our obligatory group shot we went around the top of the plains and found ourselves a campsite on the eastern side of the central forest. Once camp was set up, several of us looked under our vehicles and did a bit of cleaning (as best as possible) and minor repairs, as the clay from the crossing had packed itself into all manner of nooks and crannies, and best to get as much out when it’s wet, rather than wait until it dries rock hard. The campsite overlooked a clearing and as evening settled in, a herd of Brumbies trotted past, wary, but not overly frightened of us camped nearby. One of our group went to see if they could get a closer shot and found himself confronted by the stallion of the herd that had sneaked around, and then put on a snorting and menacing front. Fortunately, the herd had moved on to where we’d been earlier in the day and the stallion decided to resume his place before the herd got too far away.
The next morning we took the Nunniong Plains Track until we reached Avonmore Road that would take us to Swifts Creek. I’m not sure how Avonmore Road got the name of road as, at the end of the Nunniong Plains Track, all that we could see were a couple of wheel mark in grass winding down paddocks to a farm house. We were certainly hoping that we were on the right track and weren’t going to be intruding on anyone’s property. But as we descended, it certainly did appear to be the right track, as we couldn’t see anything else anywhere in the distance and the GPS was sort of on track. We were glad that someone had recently travelled along this ‘road’, for if the marks hadn’t been there, we would have had little idea as to which way to go. Once through the farm residence, we were on the road proper only to find a herd of sheep dawdling their way along the road. It was slow going until the herd finally reached the end of ‘their’ road.
Once on the Bindi Road, we were on the Great Alpine Road in no time and then Swifts Creek. We stopped at Swifts Creek to have a look at the caravan park on the other side of the river, as that’s another thing we’d never had a look at before and it is a very nice camping spot indeed. I wouldn’t want to be there at peak season, but when it’s quiet, it would be a very pleasant spot and right next to the river. The campsite bookings are managed by the corner store in Swifts Creek.
From Swifts Creek it was a relatively easy drive back to Bairnsdale and to our various home ports. Going back home is always an unexciting part of the Cruise, knowing that the fun is over and it’s back to ‘normal’ life once again.