One of the greatest things about living in Victoria is that we still have access to some of the most wondrous country and scenery in Australia, places that reflect the long history of our first settlers and the arduous task that lay before them as they proceeded to explore and develop this state. While the difficulties and deprivations of the explorers and settlers of the outback shouldn’t be dismissed by any means, the effort required by the people doing the same in Victoria can barely be imagined by today’s populace. It’s only when you venture into the High Country using modern transportation, do you realise that these early settlers were made of very stern stuff indeed.
Back in those early years, there were no roads whatsoever and everything had to be carved out by hand; with the early settlers being driven by prospects of finding gold, harvesting timber and developing prime farmland. Today, you can travel many parts of the High Country in the comfort of a 4WD, sometimes following paths laid out by those early settlers, yet often you will only be travelling at a maximum of 10km/hour, if that. Imagine those early days before any paths were laid down and the later days when travellers had, at best, a horse on which to travel over extremely poor tracks; travel times would have been a fraction of what is possible today. The shear labour involved in moving some of the heavy machinery used for gold mining and timber cutting makes the mind boggle. Seeing these areas first hand makes you really appreciate, yet in no way truly comprehend, the effort and struggle required to traverse the High Country in those days long past.
Many of the old tracks and trails have been closed over the years, often replaced by new ones to allow access for management and fire prevention, but there are still plenty open and accessible during various times of year to maintain one’s interest in returning year after year. The seasons can dramatically change the nature of these tracks, with torrential rains and storms changing the course of rivers or wiping out tracks completely. That means that there will be times when favourite places are not accessible until the damage can be rectified and, at other times, you simply come across the effects of storms and the like and make do with clearing and rebuilding.
The seasons also dramatically change the landscape and become a controlling point for access to the High Country. Additionally, the weather can be very unpredictable throughout the year, with snowfalls and freezing conditions often experienced in the middle of summer. You can never count on forecasts when out in the High Country, so it’s always best to be prepared for good and bad, as well as being self-sufficient should you be confronted with more than you anticipated.
After more than 40 years of visiting the High Country, I can honestly say that I never get tired of travelling there at every opportunity. And the fact that you can do so with a group of like minded friends makes the journey even more pleasurable and memorable. I sincerely hope that I can do this for another 40 years at least and I also hope that future generations will be able to do the same.