This Cruise started out as one where we were thinking about staying in some cabins that we’d passed on an earlier trip but, for various reasons, a number of fellow travellers had to pull out and that just left two of us once again. After a lot of pondering, we decided to go to the Far East to the Davies Plains instead and, as we were doing this Cruise the week after the Melbourne Cup long weekend, we thought it should also be fairly peaceful. However, that can never be guaranteed as you can’t predict how many foreigners are doing a border crossing to Victoria to experience the good life that is denied them in the land of the cockroaches. Those north of our borders can laugh all they want about Victoria, but it still has the best and most accessible 4WDrving and camping in Australia. As it turned out, there were plenty of others about.
I started considering what path we could take to get to Davies Plains and thought that it would be interesting to come in from the Tom Groggin end rather than the western side. One reason for this is that we got fairly close to the western start for Davies Plains on our Jan 2017 Cruise, where we had to divert due to the track being closed and ended up on the Mitta Mitta River. The most recent time that we’d travelled the Davies Plains was on our Jan 2012 Cruise and the only time that we’d travelled from the Tom Groggin side was on our Jan 2008 Cruise. So not having done it this way for just on 10 years, if we were going to do this, why not go east to west. But to get there, and since we had four days, what could we do in-between? We decided to head up north on the Benambra-Corryong Road towards Nariel Creek, from where we could turn east and explore an area where we’d never ventured previously. None of this was hard and fast, we’d just pick a start point, make a rough outline and then follow where the tracks allowed. I was especially interested in some of the sections that passed by or ended on the Murray River.
Our Cruise ostensibly started at Omeo, which was swamped by visitors, both motorbikes, cars, caravans and RVs (the latter two coming there for the RV muster). So we headed onwards and stopped at Benambra for a top up. As we headed north, we travelled along a valley that had numerous nice campsites on the Gibbo River, which we noted as possible future places for a family camping trip. Some were large and open, others small and secluded, so lots of opportunities, From the Gibbo River we climbed up to Sassafras Gap and then descended down to the Nariel Valley. The first day’s drive was a long one, with Google maps suggesting nearly seven hours before we even locked the hubs. I thought this a bit odd as the journey to Omeo was marked at three hours, but then it was a very windy road from Omeo to Nariel Creek. Given that none of us are spring chickens anymore, seven or eight hours of straight driving is becoming quite tiring nowadays.
So rather than push ourselves for no reason, we had a plan to camp before reaching Nariel Creek. The maps indicated that there was a campsite at Stacey Bridge, which came up on Google search as a reasonable looking site, though right on the main road. Another option was the Glendart Campsite marked on the Hema map and located on the Dart River, which required going down the Glendart Track. I couldn’t find anything about this site on Google, but given that it wasn’t all that far off the main road, it was worth having a look. Further along there was also the Dart Campsite that from one report I found, was a reasonable looking site. As it turned out, it didn’t take anywhere near as long to reach the first campsite; Glendart, which was no more than a rest stop. So we continued on to the Dart River campsite, which turned out to be OK, but nothing to write home about. However, we found a secluded spot at the campsite and called it a day.
Making fire is possibly the singular most important human achievement and this apparently happened around one million years ago; bringing warmth, light and protection to the dark caves inhabited by our early ancestors. Despite the passage of time, we still have a fascination for fire (and more or less still live in caves) and probably have that same feeling towards fire as did those early ancestors whenever we light one. There’s rarely a High Country Cruise where we don’t have a fire going and this trip was no exception. However, finding firewood near popular campsites is always a problem, as every inch is usually scoured clean, which means we often have to go searching further afield. We were lucky and found wood nearby, but after a very wet Melbourne Cup long weekend, getting our first fire going was not easy. That said, having a river next to you makes it very easy to put the fire out the next morning.
The next morning turned out to be another fine day and we were on the road fairly early and when we reached Staceys Bridge camping area, we realised what a good decision it was to stop at Dart River. The campground was packed. There was a 4WD club taking up the major side of the campground and the other side was taken up by individual campers. We continued north and then east towards the Murray River, but not after having done some diversions as entrances to tracks couldn’t be found and dead ends were encountered. After finally getting into low range, we could see snow again in the distant mountains. As we traversed along Mt Elliot Ridge Track towards the Murray River, we came across some steep side tracks off Indi River Track that looked inviting but, on closer inspection, not so inviting. Eventually we came to Bunroy Station but couldn’t get through, so we kept following the Indi River Track until we eventually came to Surveyors Creek Track.
High Country Tracks – Dusty Hill
We followed Surveyors Creek Track until we reached Blue Gum Ridge Track, which we then took down to Riley’s Monument. This was a waste of time except for the fact that on leaving, we came upon a Victorian Parks guy with useful information. While the maps show a shady camping spot, it’s anything but, and not much to see. Anyway, I stopped to chat with he Parks guy and thankfully I did, as he informed us that Davies Plains was closed until 1 Dec. Had I checked beforehand on the Parks website I would have found this out, but I didn’t give it a thought. So we continued on and arrived at Mt Pinnibar where a large group had already gathered at the top. We parked a little lower to take some photos of the snow capped mountains before heading off along Mt Pinnibar Track to Grassy Flat for that night’s camp.
View from Mt Pinnibar
High Country Tracks
The Parks guy said it was a very long trip to Grassy Flat, but we managed to get there before 4:00pm, giving us plenty of time to set up and relax. Had it been Winter, it would have been a different story. The drive into Grassy Flat was quite uneventful and, other the the drop from Mt Pinnibar, not much to talk about. We weren’t sure whether Grassy Flat would be occupied, but it wasn’t, so we had a large area all to ourselves. Grassy Flat is actually a very nice camping spot, close to the Murray River and well laid out with grass throughout. The only thing missing is a long drop, which is quite surprising given the nature of the campsite. It’s apparently a starting/end point for a lot of walkers, so it probably gets support crews through the Summer. A thunderstorm loomed in the distance but soon moved on and the morning was very fog bound.
One of the interesting things about the High Country is the wildlife you find, many of the birds are pretty common to what we get in Mirboo North, but then from time to time you come across ones that you’ve never seen before. And every so often a common, but skittish, visitor also comes to see what’s going on. The kangaroo didn’t seem to be bothered one bit by our presence and did a circuit around the campsite, not all that far away. Then there are other oddities living under bark and whatnot.
Deer and Dogs
From Grassy Flat we headed back up the track to the Mt Pinnibar Track and then on towards the start of the Davies Plain Track. The Parks guy that we met at Riley’s Monument said that a new track had been put through, but where he indicated on the map we saw nothing on our way down. It was only when we’d reached the end of the track that we saw a signpost pointing one way to Grassy Flat and the other to Davies Plain. The track on our Rooftop map was completely wrong and the new track was a quick run to Tom Groggin and Dogmans Hut. We had a short stop to check out the hut and then moved on.
From Dogmans Hut we went back and took Tom Groggin Track to the Anderson Road junction and then took Mt Hope Road down to Buckwong Track, McCarthy’s Track and onto Limestone Creek Track. That took us to Limestone Creek Road and then Nunniong Road. Soon enough we were on the Nunniong Plains looking for a campsite. We did a full circuit of the plains and no one was about, so we had the pick of the campsites. Not only did we have the pick of campsites, our campsite came with cut wood and there was more just around the corner. A pity that whoever vacated the campsite left the fire going. While there was minimal chance of the smouldering fire going out of control, getting into a habit of leaving things to chance could lead to dire consequences.
Wallis and Matilda – Clancy of the Overflow
As the evening settled in and the wind died down, things became quiet on the plains until the wild horses came to graze. We counted around 20 in the distance. One thing we noticed was that a new conservation area had been declared and fenced off to protect it from access by animals. We both pondered what the purpose of this area was, as these places never actually tell you what is important and why they’re closed off, you’re just left guessing. As night settled in, so did we and pondered the changing landscape, the night sky and a few other oddities. It’s strange that it’s illegal to catch the wild horses, yet the government is on an eradication program to kill these horses. I’ve always said that governments work in mysterious ways.
Wild horses on Nunniong Plains
There wasn’t much more afoot the next day but to try and dry our tents and then make the long journey back home. We decided to take Nunnet Road back as it’s a pretty good dirt road for most of the trip before it turns into a sealed road for the last part. It was along this stretch that we came upon the Green Hills Huts and then further down the road where the recent fires had passed through. Everything along this latter part looked like Autumn had arrived, apart from the blackened tree trunks.
Bushfire remains along Timbarra Road, Victoria
From the Buchan turnoff it was a fairly easy run back home and, thankfully, not a lot of traffic.
I have a whole pile of video to go through and will update the story over the next few days as I sort out the video into meaningful or worthwhile bites. My cheap action cam failed this weekend (didn’t record a thing), so a lot of good footage is gone.