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    "Wobbegong sharks are now increasingly rare"
    2024 Victorian High Country
    This trip was one we had planned originally for early 2020 but bushfires across most of South-East Australia put paid to that. We again planned it for a few years later but floods stopped that idea. Finally, we got to go in February 2024.

    On this trip with me in my Toyota Land Cruiser 200 series was Ron and Donna in their 200 series and Ron’s brother Eric and his wife Jane in their Land Rover 90 ute. We all had rooftop tents. The majority of the trip is similar to the one Ron, Donna, my ex-wife and I did in 2012 with a few different sections.

    Eric and Jane came down from their place near Kempsey on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales the day before we headed off on the trip. Eric was still recovering from very bad injuries he suffered in May 2023 when the plane he was piloting was hit by windshear as he was landing. This limited some of the walking we would normally have done on a trip like this.

    Before the trip I had to replace my second battery as the old one, which was six years old, had given up the ghost. I purchased a 100 Ah Lithium one from 4WD Superstore. It was actually $80 cheaper to buy as a package with a LED rechargeable torch, making the battery cost about $399.

    As I had not used the rooftop tent since my 2021 trip during the Covid lockdown, there were a few bugs I had to iron out during the first days of the trip. I will detail these as they happened.

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    My route as recorded by my GPS uploaded to Google Earth
    Left home in Sydney top right then south to Victoria.

    Day 1 – Thursday 15 February 2024 – Sydney to Bennies Crossing

    I headed off at 6:05 am and travelled via the Princes Highway to Stanwell Tops, then Appin Road to Appin where I arrived at 6:45 am. Here I refuelled as I had not had the chance to do so the day before. I topped up (fuel only 189.9 cents a litre, considerable cheaper than the price in my part of Sydney. I was back on my way 10 minutes later.

    The others planned to leave Ron’s place which is not far from me but travelled via the M5. I went via Wilton Road and Broughtons Pass to Wilton and here I joined the Hume Freeway for the trip south. The weather is not great, it is drizzling and a cool 13°C. I phone Ron and find they are a short distance behind me.

    At 7:45 am I arrive at the Suttons Forest Service Centre and go to McDonalds for breakfast. The others arrive a few minutes later. After some breakfast, we head off at 8:22 am. The drizzle continues but by 10:10 am it is sunny. There are a lot of cars on the road, but not many trucks. We arrive at Jugiong at 10:20 am where we stop for morning tea and a toilet break. It is now a warmer 22°C.

    We leave at 10:40 am. We are sitting on just over 100 km/h and at 12:13 am we arrive at Holbrook. This is 483 km from home. It is warmer at 26°C. We stop at the rest area near the reconstructed HMAS Otway. We have lunch here and look at the submarine.

    HMAS Otway at HolbrookOn the deck of HMAS Otway

    Holbrook was named after Lt. Norman Douglas Holbrook, a decorated wartime submarine captain and winner of the Victoria Cross. Lt. Holbrook commanded the submarine HMS B11. It was renamed early ion World War I from Germanton for obvious reasons. Since then the town has had a relationship with Australian submarine squadrons and when the Otway was retired, the top part of the submarine was transported here and rebuilt. It is a major attraction in the town and there is a museum next to it as well as a reconstructed part of AE2 which was sunk at Gallipoli in WWI.

    The pressure hull of HMAS Otway A reconstruction of AE2

    We leave at 1:00 pm and arrive at Wangaratta in Victoria at 2:27 pm. This is 619 km from home. Here we all refuel. I take 60.48 litres at 197.9 cents, total cost of $119.69. This is a fuel economy of 12.3 litres per 100 kilometres since Appin. Eric needs some things from Bunnings so we head there and then leave at 3:00 pm.

    We head out of town to the south-east and King Valley. We arrive at Whitfield Hotel at 3:35 pm. We go to the pub and have a beer. I stopped here in 2007 on my first trip to the high country. I have a King Brewery North by North East Lager at $9. We passed the brewery earlier but were past it before we realised. Next time I will stop at the brewery (it was open).

    The Mountain View Hotel at WhitfieldHaving a beer in the pub (missing Jane somehow)

    We leave at 4:15 pm and at 4:50 pm we arrive at Bennies Camping Area. From Whitfield there are dozens of trees and branches on the road, luckily they have been cut or pulled off the road. There was a huge storm on Tuesday night, that is, two days ago, and we will see more evidence of this in coming days.

    We pick the first section of the camping area and set up. There is a nice swimming hole near here too. We are the only ones here and I don’t think there was anyone in the other section either. I fly my drone and then have a swim. The water is a nice 21°C.

    Bennies Camping AreaA drone shot of Bennies Camping Area

    We have drinks at 5:50 pm and at 7:00 pm I heat up some Chinese food I had frozen a few days ago. We then put the fire on, using timber from the camping area (lots of small branches blown off in the storm).

    We go to bed at 9:50 pm. It is a cool 14°C. I read the rest of my paper and go to sleep at 10:10 pm.

    Weather: Fine, max 26ºC Arrived: Bennies Camping Area Time: 4:50 pm Distance: 701 kilometres

    Day 2 - Friday 16 February 2024 – Bennnies Camping Area to Craigs Hut

    Weather: Fine, 11.9ºC minimum

    I am awake at 6:30 am and I get some patchy ABC radio news at 7:00 am. I read my tablet book till I get up at 7:45 am. I have breakfast and then go to the toilet. I only mention this as when I lifted the lid up there were hundreds of flying ants on the seat. Then, hundreds of mosquitos come out of the hole! Never seen this before.

    I pack up and am ready by 8:55 am. We leave at 9:30 am, it is mostly overcast and 18°C. We head up the Lake Cobbler Track. It is windy the first third, then good and then rough and steep for the final section. At 10:10 am we arrive at the lookout towards Dandongadale Falls. There are good views, but it is fair distance away. We have come 19 km. This is the water coming out of Lake Cobbler. We leave at 10:15 am.

    A panoramic photograph of us at Lake Cobbler

    We arrive at Lake Cobbler at 10:22 am, although Ron has had to turn around and go back as he has lost his reading glasses. He finds them at the lookout, they fell out of the car there, so lucky he did not run over them. We have morning tea here. It is 21 km from Bennies. We have morning tea here. Last time Ron, Donna and I visited here, we camped the night here. Not the greatest spot, but at least you can have a swim. The sun has now come out a bit and it is 20°.

    The large muddy section on the StaircaseRon navigating the muddy section, it is much worse than it appears from the photo

    We leave at 11:05 am and head via Speculation Road towards King Hut. This track is very steep and rough. We rise from 1100 metres to 1370 metres and then dropping to 800 metres at King Hut. Part of this track is called The Staircase and can be very difficult at times. On the way we have to negotiate a large muddy section with very deep holes and high dried sections. We get through fairly easily after stopping and checking it out. We used a fair bit of low range on this track. My transmission got to 117°C on the climb up from Lake Cobbler, quite high.

    A panoramic photograph of King Hut

    We arrive at King Hut at 12:25 pm, having taken 80 minutes to travel 14 km, an average speed of 10.5 km/h. There are dozens of cars and people here. Seems this weekend there is some crazy running race which starts and finishes at Mount Buller. King Hut is one of the checkpoints. These people are the support for the run. Some people are stopping here the night but others will do the whole 150 km in one go. See later.

    We have lunch and head off at 1:05 pm. It is sunny now and a nice 21°C. We follow the King River and cross it six times before arriving at Pineapple Flat at 1:41 pm. It is 10 km from King Hut. There are only a few people camped here. We park on the northern side of the river and go for a swim in the hole next to the river crossing. It is a cool 18°C in the water.

    A dash cam photo of crossing the King RiverThe causeway across the King River at Pineapple Flat, the swimming hole at left

    We leave at 2:10 pm and at first start straight up King Basin Road but backtrack a little and take Black Landing Track as it seems to be a shorter route to Craigs Hut. This is a very good track but very steep. We climb from 770 metres to 1160 metres over the next 15 minutes. We turn left onto the Circuit Road which goes around Mount Stirling. This is a good 2WD road and we take it past the car park for Craigs Hut and then turn onto Clear Hills Track.

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    A photograph of Craigs Hut looking towards the eastA closer shot of Craigs Hut

    We arrive at Craigs Hut at 3:00 pm. We have come 65 km today. From Pineapple Flat I have averaged 31 l/100 km, it was over 50 before Circuit Road. We have a look around the hut itself first. This spot is another check point for the run and there are a bunch of women running it. We soon move to the camping spot we know of just a short distance away. This is where we wanted to camp in 2012 but Owen and his goats were there (see 2012 Trip).

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    Our camping spot just below Craigs HutA drone shot of the camping area

    This is a very good spot for four or five rooftop tents and is also only a hundred metres or so from the toilets at Craigs Hut. We setup camp and then Ron sets up his shower and heats up water. We all have showers and at 5:00 pm we have drinks around the fire. Once again there is a lot of firewood left here, so we use that. Five minutes later the first runner goes past us headed for Mount Stirling.

    At 6:30 pm we have dinner, I have the last of the Chinese meal from home. At 7:20 pm we walk up to the hut for sunset. I take my drone with me as does Donna. We have a wine as we take photos and fly the drones. The women running the checkpoint are now all dressed in pyjamas, they are having a pyjama party as they work.

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    A sunset photograph of Craigs Hut
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    A drone shot of Craigs HutA drone shot of the camping area

    The sunset is pretty good and I get some nice photographs. I think one of the ones of Craigs Hut I will get made into a canvas print for my wall at home. We are back at the camp at 8:35 pm. We sit around the fire for a while longer, a lot more runners go past. We go to bed about 9:30 pm. It is 15°C.

    Weather: Fine, max 21ºC Arrived: Craigs Hut Time: 3:20 pm Distance: 65 kilometres

    Day 3 - Saturday 17 February 2024 – Craigs Hut to Flat Spur Camping Area

    Weather: Overcast, 14.6ºC minimum

    About 5:00 am it is very windy for about 20 minutes, but not here. I can hear trees moving, but it seems to be a short distance away. I wake at 7:00 am but there is no radio reception. I read from 7:30 till 8:05 am when I get up. It is almost 16°C. We have breakfast.

    After this I attempt to work out the problem that I noticed last night where the rear power cut out. Everything works when the plug for the mobile phone repeated is plugged in but nothing works when it is out. It is obviously an earth problem. We open the bonnet and I notice that when I put the new lithium battery in a few days ago, I did not reattach the earth for the rear cable to the new battery. I put it on (difficult as the bolt is very short) and everything is working properly now.

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    A photo from the lower of the two peaks at Mount Stirling looking southishFrom the lower peak towards the main one

    We take all the cut timber from here and head off at 10:05 am. We take the Stirling Track and head towards Mount Stirling. This is a very rough track, and I mostly use low range. We arrive at Mount Stirling at 10:35 am, having travelled 4.4 km in the 30 minutes.

    Mount Stirling is 1718 metres and has 360 degree views to Mount Buller and where we are going tomorrow. It is very windy here and I cannot fly my drone. We walk to the two hills and take some photos. This is a spectacular spot.

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    A panoramic photograph taken from part of Mount Stirling looking towards Bluff Hut

    After this we have morning tea and at 11:23 am we leave. Another 30 minutes brings us to Howqua Hut and Circuit Road again. This is 4.1 km from Mount Stirling. Once again, mostly low range. This is another checkpoint for the runners, this time they are coming from the other direction and we see the first ones arrive. We could not stop as there was nowhere to park.

    We head down Circuit Road travel via Bindaree Road and at 12:23 pm we arrive at Bindaree Falls. It is now sunny and a warm 24°C. We have lunch and then walk the short distance to the waterfall. There is a fair bit of water coming over. Just before we walk there, a tag-a-long group of nine vehicles comes in. Luckily we beat most of them to the falls.

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    Bindaree FallsThe Flat Spur Camping Area

    We leave at 1:34 pm and at 1:50 pm we arrive at Bindaree Hut. We have a look around and then go back a short distance to Flat Spur Camping Area which is much nicer and has a new toilet and large shelter shed. It also has a lot more grass. We arrive there at 2:10 pm. This has a horse paddock and seems to be used by horse trips. I would recommend against staying there when they are there, from previous experience all you can smell is horse manure.

    We are about to set up camp when the tag-along tour comes in. Luckily, all they are doing is using the toilet. Once they leave, we set up camp. When setting up I discover that I have broken the cigarette plug for the LEDs inside the rooftop tent. Luckily Eric is an electrician and has a small soldering iron in his car. We use it and my car’s 240 volt power to take another plug off some other LED lights and put it on the main one I use. This works.

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    A drone photo of Flat Spur Camping AreaThe remains of my dinner tonight

    Ron has found a swimming hole to the eastern end of the camping area and at 3:15 pm we go and have a swim. The water is warmer than yesterday, 20°C. After this I have a cuppa and fly my drone.

    We put the fire on just after 4:00 pm as we are cooking camp oven roasts tonight. At 5:00 pm Ron puts his chicken on and we start drinks. At 5:30 pm we put Eric’s lamb and my beef on. The vegies go in 15 minutes later. At 6:30 pm it is all ready and we have an excellent meal sharing the meats. After this I help Eric and jane do the washing up.

    At 7:00 pm six or seven vehicles head past towards Bindaree Hut! WTF! Why would you still be driving this late? We sit by the fire till 9:30 pm. I read in bed and then go to sleep at 10:00 pm. It is a nice 17°C.

    Weather: Fine, max 29ºC Arrived: Flat Spur Camping Area Time: 2:10 pm Distance: 32.2 kilometres

    Day 4 - Sunday 18 February 2024 – Flat Spur Camping Area to Howitt Hut

    Weather: Fine, 9.7ºC minimum

    I slept well last night, no idea why I have terrible sleeps at home but great when away camping and diving. I woke at 6:15 am and read the SMH a bit later. There is good Telstra phone coverage here. I get up at 7:35 am and it is sunny, a beautiful day. After breakfast I pack up and then collect all the unused timber from last night’s fire.

    We leave at 9:07 am, it is 12°C. We stop at the river at Bindaree Hut so Ron and Eric can collect some water for showers. We are back on our way soon after and travel via 12 Mile Jeep Track to Pikes Flat. We arrive there at 9:33 am, it is 6 km from last night’s campsite. There are a few people camped to the north of the hut (which is crap but has a few camping items inside for emergency use).

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    Bindaree HutPikes Hut

    We leave at 9:50 am and continue on the same track. It is high range and first gear most of the way, the transmission gets to 100°C and the radiator 96°C. We arrive at the main road at 10:14 am, 5.6 km from Pikes Flat. We turn right and then left into Bluff Track. This is mostly low range to Bluff Hut where we arrive at 10:25 am, 2.2 km of steep climb to almost 1500 metres from 700 at Pikes Flat.

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    A drone photo of Bluff HutBluff Hut looking south

    We have morning tea here and Donna a I fly our drones, we get some spectacular photographs. We leave at 11:00 am and continue on Bluff Track to Lovicks Hut. On the way there are some great places to stop and look at the view (one is 2.8 km on). There are also a few camping spots along the way (last time we camped at both Bluff and Lovicks Huts).

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    A panoramic photograph taken from Bluff Track above Bluff Hut looking towards the west

    We arrive at Lovicks at noon and stop for some photos and to show it to Eric and Jane. Again it has been mostly low range to here, 6.5 km of reasonably good track. We have travelled 20.3 km this morning. It is a cool 13°C but it seems much warmer due to the sun and no wind.

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    Lovicks HutA fence at Lovicks Hut

    We leave at 12:20 pm and 15 minutes later we stop at a spot that some maps mark as Picture Point but which is not really (I think). Anyway, it is a nice spot with a small camping area and great views to the west and north. We have lunch here. I used 59.1 l/100 km for this short distance. We leave at 1:12 pm and at 1:40 pm we arrive at the intersection of King Billy Track and Mount Clear Track. We head down King Billy Track.

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    A mud pile on King Billy TrackCrossing the Maclister River on the King Billy Track

    Well, this is much worse than the previous times I have travelled it. We have to use a lot of low range and there are many mud holes, one has a big detour around it. Finally when we get near the bottom and the Macalister River, we speed up a bit. The climb from the river at 1000 metres to over 1600 metres at View Point is mostly high range but some low.

    Once at View Point the road is named Howitt Road and is a 2WD road, although not the greatest in spots. We arrive at Howitt Hut at 3:20 pm. Fuel economy since lunch was 28.7 l/100 km. We move to the camping area and set up. It is not a huge area, but we find some nice spots. There is also a toilet her too.

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    The Howitt Hut Camping AreaA drone shot of the camping area with the hut in the middle

    Once set up I get the shower pump working, looks like the problem is the connection to the earth from the pump. We all have hot showers. At 4:00 pm I have a cuppa, fly my drone and read the paper which I downloaded earlier in the day. At 5:00 pm we put the fire on and have drinks. A couple of people come in on horses with a couple of pack horses as well. They camped at the hut. There are on a 19 day trek from Dargo.

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    Howitt Hut with the horses behindA night photograph of the camping area

    It is really nice here in amongst the snow gums. Ron heats up his Bidji hotplate. I cook a pasta dish on the stove and then a sirloin steak on the Bidji. A very good meal. We sit around the fire till 9:30 pm. It is 10°C when I go to bed.

    Weather: Fine, max 13ºC Arrived: Howitts Hut Time: 3:20 pm Distance: 45.3 kilometres

    Day 5 - Monday 19 February 2024 – Howitts Hut to Dargo

    Weather: Fine, 8.9ºC minimum

    I wake at 5:15 am but then fall back asleep till 7:10 am. I read a new book on my tablet. I get up at 7:35 am after listening to the news on ABC Melbourne. I have breakfast, read some more and then pack up by 8:45 am. At 9:00 am I drive to the hut and the horse people area already gone. I fly my drone as I want some photos of the hut and I did not want to overfly the horses last evening.

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    A drone photograph of Howitt Hut in the morningA drone shot showing the fog/cloud in Wonnangatta Valley

    The first time I send it up it decides it has a critically low battery and attempts an emergency landing. I fly it back to a clear area and manage to put it down. Despite there being quite a bit of battery life in it the night before, the low temperature seems to affect it. This is the second time this has happened. I put another battery in and all is good. I can see that there is fog or low cloud in the Wonnangatta Valley to the east of us.

    We leave at 9:25 am, it is now 16°C. We continue on Howitt Road and at one spot we stop for a short time to look at the cloud/fog in the valley. A few kilometres on we pass the two horse riders. At 10:05 am we arrive at Dimmicks Lookout. This is a bit off the main road and has brilliant views into the valley. We have morning tea here. There is some phone coverage but very poor internet.

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    Howitt Hut in the morning sunA shot looking from Dimmicks Lookout into Wonnangatta Valley. Ron standing on the edge.

    We leave at 11:00 am. There are a number of interesting sights to see along here but we don’t stop as Ron, Donna and I have seen before (The Gorge and a hut) and we have a lot of hard off-road driving ahead. At Arbuckle Junction we torn left onto Moroka Road. This is also good 2WD, probably better than Howitt Road. We drop altitude from nearly 1700 metres to under 1100 metres and then climb back to 1422 metres.

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    A panoramic photograph taken from East Pinnacle looking towards the north

    Again, we do not stop at Moroka Hut or Sheepyard Flat Camping Area. We arrive at East Pinnacle at 12:30 pm. We have travelled 75 kilometres this morning, fuel economy since Dimmicks has been 13.5 l/100 km. We walk to the fire tower and lookout, reasonably difficult as the steps are really high. The tower is obviously staffed at times of high fire danger as there is an accommodation building that you walk past, with dining facilities etc.

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    A drone photograph of the East Pinnacle Fire Tower looking to the northAnother drone shot, looking to the east

    The tower is a large metal structure with a balcony all around. There is also a public walkway outside and below this. We take photos of the scene below. You can see almost 360 degrees and have amazing views into the Wonnangatta Valley. It is one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen and even though I have been here before, it still excites me. I also fly my drone and get some great photographs.

    We go back to the cars (1:13 pm) and have lunch. There is a nice camping area near here too and toilets near the lookout. We head off at 1:54 pm. We go back a short distance and then turn right onto Billy Goat Bluff Track. This has the reputation of being one of the hardest 4WD tracks in Australia and which definitely is not a lie.

    Just before we start the descent at 2:15 pm, a few vehicles come from the opposite direction. They have come up the track and report that it is hard, but not totally impossible. The track is very steep, rocky with some loose rocky sections. It is low range, mostly first with some second, all the way down. Some sections have drop-offs either side and all of it is very narrow.

    At 3:13 pm we reach the helipad and have a five minute break. We drop from 1400 metres to 280 metres at the bottom (3:40 pm).

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    A dashcam photograph of a very steep section of Billy Goat TrackAnother dashcam of the track
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    A photograph of my Land Cruiser when we had a breakLooking back from the helicopter pad towards Billy Goat Track coming down the hill

    It has taken 85 minutes to travel 6.4 kilometres. It was a fairly stressful descent, even for all three of us who are extremely experienced at four wheel driving. From here it is a two wheel drive road along the Wonnangatta River. We arrive at Dargo at 4:38 pm and park in front of the Dargo Hotel. We go in an order a beer and book into the camping area behind the pub. This costs $10 per person a night. There is a hot shower in a portable toilet type building and a portable toilet for campers use. The camping area is on the edge of the Dargo River and is a large grassed area.

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    Looking back from the helicopter pad towards Billy Goat Track which is at the rear of my Land CruiserThe Dargo Hotel

    After the beer (5:25 pm), we drive to the camping area and set up towards the northern end. I set up and then fly the drone. At 6:00 pm I have a shower and at 6:20 pm I walk back to the pub and order a beer. The others arrive shortly after and we move into the dining room. I order a Hawaiian chicken parmigiana, expensive at $35, but very large and good. I end up only eating a bit over half and take the remaining chicken back when we leave and I have as a chicken sandwich tomorrow for lunch.

    The beers are $8.50 a schooner but one was $7.50, must have been a happy hour that I did not see advertised. We leave at 8:25 pm and I read the SMH till 9:30 pm when I go to bed. It is 17°C.

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    Me having a beer inside the Dargo Hotel with Ron and EricA drone shot of the Dargo Hotel Camping Area

    During the day I had a lot of problems with my UHF radio. Yesterday it was also not working properly but today was a lot worse. The radio is turning off and then back on whenever I hit a bad bump. There is obviously a bad connection somewhere. I will check it out in the morning.

    Weather: Fine, max 25ºC Arrived: Dargo Time: 4:25 pm Distance: 121 kilometres

    Day 6 - Tuesday 20 February 2024 – Dargo to Talbotville

    Weather: Foggy, 11.0ºC minimum

    I slept very well and wake at 6:40 am. I read the SMH and then listen to the ABC news. I get up at 7:55 am and it is 13.3°C. I cook a bacon sandwich and finish the paper. I start packing up at 9:05 am and also check the UHF radio power cables and think I have found the problem. I leave at 9:35 am. I go and have a look at some of the older buildings in town, the two churches and the public school.

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    St Joseph's Catholic ChurchAnother church, not sure what branch

    The others go to the shop to buy some bread and we leave town at 9:51 am. The road out of town to the north is the Dargo High Plains Road. It is tar all the way to the turnoff to Grant and Talbotville (21.0 km). McMillans Road is a good dirt road to Grant Historic Site. We arrive there at 10:23 am. This is the site of an old gold mining town. All that remains are a small cemetery and the roads. There is some good interpretation signs around the town with photos and information.

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    A scene at GrantA hut at Grant that I had not seen before

    We have morning tea and I also look into the UHF problem which has not improved. I then realise that the power comes from the main battery rather than the second battery (I thought I had connected it to the second battery). I then find that the positive connection is very loose. Eric crimps it with a pair of wire snips and it is now all good. I don’t have a problem again.

    A national parks ranger comes in and we speak to him. I ask him where the bodies of the man and woman who were murdered in Wonnangatta Valley in March 2020 were found. He says they were not actually at Grant but nearby off a fire trail. He also says that some of his colleagues have been subpoenaed for the murder trial which is supposed to start this month (but as I write this still has not started into the second week of March 2024).

    We leave at 11:28 am and continue on McMillans Road till we come to the Bulltown Spur Track. This heads down to the Crooked River. We drop from 946 to 380 metres over the next 3.1 kilometres. It is mostly low 2 and it takes us 24 minutes. From here we travel on the Crooked River Track. This follows the river and we have to cross it 24 times before we get to Talbotvillle.

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    Coming down Bulltown TrackThe first crossing of Crooked River, harder than it looks

    The first crossing was the hardest, with the exit from the river very steep and also washed out. There is a large rock step up and while Eric gets up first go, Ron is having problems. He and Donna have to move rocks around and make a smaller step up. He takes a couple of goes and gets up. I then cross the river and having had the advantage of watching Ron, I take a slightly different line and get up first go.

    It has taken us about 15 minutes to get across. A bit later there is another hard section, this one is down to the river. We have to get out and look for the right line to take. This was a lot easier to navigate. A few crossings later, we pull up on the other side of the river and have lunch. It is 12:45 pm and a nice 23°C. I have a swim before I make lunch, it is nice in the water in a deep hole. After lunch I have another swim.

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    Another crossing of Crooked RiverWhere we had lunch, nice swimming hole next to the crossing

    We leave at 1:35 pm. All along the river are signs of gold mining. You can see shafts next to the track. Ten minutes later we arrive at the carpark for New Good Hope Mine. Eric tries to drive up the walking track but eventually gets to a spot where he can go no further. He can also not turn around so he has to reverse over a few hundred metres back. This takes him a while as can be imagined. We don’t walk up as it is too far for Eric to do.

    We leave about 20 minutes later and at 2:47 pm we arrive at Talbotville. Again, this is a former gold mining town. We have a look around and finally pick a spot. There is only one other vehicle here. We set up camp at 3:05 pm. There are some large fallen trees in the north-western section, the storm a week ago has obviously hit hard here. There were also some big trees down on parts of the river as we travelled the track.

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    A drone photo looking north at TalbotvilleLooking south at Talbotville

    We have a couple of swims in a deeper hole. There are thunderstorms to the north-east and south-east. We have some Telstra phone coverage the BOM radar shows that we will probably not get rain. This turns out to be correct.

    We start a fire and at 5:15 pm we have drinks and nibblies. I need some coals as I am cooking a full rack of pork ribs for Eric, Jane and myself. I have coated them in Texas rub. We are having with some cheesy rice that Jane will cook. I put the ribs in Eric’s very large camp oven (much bigger than mine). At 5:45 pm I put them on, with coals underneath and coals on the top. I take them off at 6:40 pm, they are cooked. I did not need to put any additional coals on the oven.

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    A panoramic photograph of our camp site at Talbotville

    This is a great meal, with the ribs very tender. Donna also gave us a bit of her pea and ham soup, it was also very good. There are a few drops of rain at 7:00 pm and the thunder is still around. At 8:00 pm the area is clear of rain. And there are some stars visible. It looks like there might be some storms about midnight or so. I go to bed at 9:50 pm and sleep at 10:10 pm. It is 19°C.

    Weather: Fine, max 23ºC Arrived: Talbotville Time: 2:47 pm Distance: 43 kilometres

    Day 7 - Wednesday 21 February 2024 – Talbotville to Taylors Crossing

    Weather: Overcast, 15.7ºC minimum

    It rained about 1:00 am and continued till at least 2:15 am. It was constant, but not heavy. I wake at 6:15 am and later read the SMH and listen to the ABC Sydney news at 7:00 am via my phone. I get up at 7:30 am. It is the same temperature as the minimum.

    As I have breakfast there are a half dozen gang-gang cockatoos around. They land in trees near us which turn out to be walnut trees and they are eating the outer casing of the walnuts. There are also crimson rosellas and some are eating figs. I read more of the paper and then pack up. I am finished by 9:10 am.

    We leave at 9:34 am and now it is sunny and 20°C. We head out via the Brewery Creek Track. The next to last time I was here we tried to go out via the South Basalt Track but it was in too bad condition, not helped by the old tyres on my Prado. I had previously gone out that way a few years earlier without trouble.

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    The old train truck used to be behind Ron's carA very tight section of North Basalt Track from my dashcam

    The Brewery Creek Track is a climb from 300 metres to 1300 metres, all high range 2 and 3. We reach the top end of the South Basalt Track at 10:29 am (16.7 km) and then the Richie Road/North Basalt Track intersection at 11:13 am. This is 33 kilometres from Talbotville and I have averaged 30.9 l/100 km. The one thing we notice is that the old railway freight carriage is not there. There are no remains at all, I assume it burnt down in a fire at some time and the rest of the metal parts have been removed.

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    A panoramic photograph of the track to Mount Blue Rag

    We have morning tea here and leave at 11:37 am. We take the North Basalt Track. It looks like there has been another fire here since we last came through in 2012, probably in the bad 2019/20 fires. There is a lot of new growth and all the trees that grew since the previous bad fires in 2006 have been killed in that fire. The track is narrow in parts due to the growth and some care needs to be taken to avoid scratching our cars.

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    A dashcam shot of coming towards Mt Blue RagLooking towards Eric and Ron climbing Mt Blue Rag Track

    We have to stop while Ron checks some rattles. The road is a lot steeper and it is low 2 and 3 for a fair but. Finally we arrived at the Blue Rag Range Track. This leads to Mount Blue Rag. This is a narrow track and drops off on either side very steeply. Extreme care needs to be taken, especially in two sections before you reach the summit. We arrive at the top at 1:00 pm. We have travelled 46.8 kilometres since this morning and I averaged 37.0 l/100 km since morning tea.

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    A drone shot of the track coming up towards Mount Blue RagOn the top of Mount Blue Rag Track

    We have lunch and then I take some photographs and fly my drone. Mount Blue Rag is just over 1700 metres and has 360 degree views, including to Mount Hotham Ski Resort. We leave at 2:05 pm and then take the road back to the Dargo High Plains Road which we reach at 2:51 pm. It is a harder bit of road than I remembered from my previous few trips.

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    A panoramic photograph of the view to the east from the top of Mount Blue Rag

    We head to the Great Alpine Road and turn right towards Mount Hotham. We pass through the ski resort (over 1800 metres). From here it is all downhill to Omeo and we arrive there at 4:06 pm. I go to the fuel station and fill up. I take 105.4 litres at 222.9 cents for $235.05 and averaged 20.4 litres per 100 kilometres since Wangaratta.

    I then go to the supermarket and get some bread and a cask of port. I also buy a can of fly spray. I have not been able to buy a smaller can for use when camping, Coles and Woolworths only have huge cans. There is also a public toilet in town and on a previous trip I got water from there. We head out at 4:33 pm.

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    The Omeo Post OfficeThe old Omeo Commercial Bank of Australia

    We head towards Benambra on the Benambra Road and then onto the Benambra/Corryong Road. We then take Tablelands Road and arrive at Taylors Crossing at 5:25 pm. The camping area is across the Mitta Mitta River but there are a few vehicles already there. It is not a large area so we will not really be able to fit there without impinging on them.

    Unfortunately at the day use area on this side of the river, camping is not allowed and in any case, there is a fence blocking access to the grassed area. We drive down the river 500 metres and we find a couple of small places to camp. We each decide where to camp and set up. It is not a bad spot and we are right on the river. There is also a nice swimming spot a short walk away.

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    Our camping spot next to the river at Taylors CrossingThe Mitta Mitte River with the proper camping area on
    the other side, the foot bridge and the sandy causeway

    We put the fire on and I go for a swim. I bring back some timber from a huge pile washed up during a flood. I have a second swim, the water is very nice temperature, although the water a little dirty (we learn tomorrow that it was clearer earlier but there must have been a lot of rain nearby last night). We start drinks at 6:30 pm. At 8:00 pm I cook a T-bone steak on my Bidji with sausages and sliced potato. Another very good dinner.

    We then sit around the fire and have a few ports from my cask. Donna then brings out a 20 year old Samuel port. It is quite warm and no jumper is needed. I go to bed at 11:00 pm, it is 19°C.

    Weather: Fine, max 27ºC Arrived: Taylors Crossing Time: 5:25 pm Distance: 175 kilometres

    Day 8 - Thursday 22 February 2024 – Taylors Crossing to Gundagai

    Weather: Fine, 11.5ºC minimum

    I wake at 6:15 am and then read from 7:00 am. I get up at 7:30 am. I walk to the toilet at the day use area and then have breakfast. I pack up and at 9:15 am I move to the day use area. There is a walking bridge across the river and a sandy causeway for vehicles to use.

    We leave at 9:23 am. And head back to the Corryong Road. We turn left and soon the road is dirt. At 10:12 am we arrive at the Pheasant Creek Track (signposted RWAP Track), 36.8 kilometres from our camp. We pull up and I say goodbye to the others as I am heading home while they take this track and will be away a few more days.

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    The crashed car, look at the windscreen, must have been a big rockThe airbags went off too

    A few minutes later we head off. The road is 1200 to 1300 metres high further on and about 20 kilometres on I speak to Ron on the UHF. They are also up high, hence the very good range. Iat 11:10 am I come across a smashed car. It has a broken windscreen where a huge rock has hit and it obviously went off the road and crashed into the rock wall on the other side of the road. The airbags have gone off. There is a note inside that says the owner is okay and has gone for help. The police have been there since as there is police tape on the car.

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    The Stacey Bridge Camping Area next to the riverAnother drone shot of Stacey Bridge

    I continue on and at 11:20 am I arrive at Stacey Bridge. I camped here back in December 2010, it is a very nice camping area on the river. I have travelled 80 kilometres. I have morning tea and fly my drone. There are only a few caravans here, none on the western side of the road. There is also a new toilet block. I leave at 11:44 am.

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    A panoramic photograph of Stacey Bridge Camping Area

    I travel via Cudgewa, Tintildra and Walwa to Jingelic. I arrive there at 12:58 pm, 171 kilometres from Taylors Crossing. I have averaged 10.6 l/100 km since Stacey Bridge. There are a quite a few people camped here. I have lunch, it is nice and sunny and 31°C.

    I leave at 1:30 pm and travel via Holbrook, although I miss a turn where there is some roadwork underway. I turn off the Hume Highway at the Adelong turnoff and arrive at the Tumblong Tavern at 3:15 pm (which actually has signs on the building saying Adelong Crossing Hotel). I have always wanted to stop at this hotel for a beer as it looks great and you can see it from the Hume Highway as you go past. It is a very warm 34°C.

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    The Tumblong Tavern, formerly Adelong Crossing HotelMe having a beer inside the hotel

    I go into the pub and order a beer. The publican is Owen Blundell and he is a country and western singer of some renown. The pub has lots of memorabilia all over the walls. His son Drew is there and they play a double headed guitar (see the photo) and sing a song. A pretty different sort of musical instrument.

    Owen is a pretty funny bloke, I highly recommend stopping here. Ask him to show you his blue and yellow bee). You can camp next to the pub but it would be very noisy I think due to the closeness of the freeway.

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    Owen and Drew playing the double-headed guitarA photograph taken at night of the old timber railway bridge

    I leave at 3:53 pm and go back onto the highway and head north again. I take the South Gundagai exit (there is a total rebuild of the southbound lanes for quite a distance here) and at 4:05 pm I arrive at the Morleys Creek Reserve at Gundagai. This is a very nice camping area that Ron, Donna and I stayed at in January last year. It is still very hot, well over 30°C.

    I go right down to the end nearest the old railway bridge and setup camp. There is more shade here and more room, the other end has a lot of vehicles. I setup my shower but first I have a beer and some nibblies. I then have a shower but I have heated the water too much, it is very hot.

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    A section of the railway bridge in daylightThe same section taken at night, note the star tracks

    I cook two chorizos, of which I put one into the fridge for tomorrow and the other I chop up and add to some left over pasta from a few nights ago. This makes a very nice meal when reheated. It is still very hot, there is no wind at all.

    At 8:15 pm I walk around to the track that goes under the railway bridge and take some night photographs. My simple Olympus TG-5 camera has a setting where it takes many photos and puts them all together into one. I go back to the car and have a couple of drinks. It is a lot cooler by 9:00 pm. I go to bed at 10:15 pm, it is still 26°C.

    Weather: Fine, max 34ºC Arrived: Gundagai Time: 4:05 pm Distance: 328 kilometres

    Day 9 - Friday 23 February 2024 – Gundagai to Home

    Weather: Overcast, 19.1ºC minimum

    It rains at 4:20 am but only a little. I wake at 6:15 am and get up at 7:10 am after reading the SMH a little. I take everything out of the Shippshape so I don’t need to open it at home. At 8:00 am it is 21°C. I have breakfast and then pack up. I drive to the toilets which are about 500 metres away. I leave here at 8:20 am.

    I arrive at Crowne VC Rest Area at 10:12 am, 100 km. I have averaged 13.7 l/100 km. It is now sunny and 27°C. I have morning tea and then leave at 10:22 am. I again travel via Appin (this is my usual route when heading down the Hume Highway). I refuel there again as the price here is at least 20 cents a litre than any place near my house. I take 95.3 litres at 191.9 cents for $182.88. I have averaged 13.6 litres per 100 kilometres since Omeo.

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    A very dirty Land Cruiser when I get homeSort of looks clean, but it is filthy!

    I leave at 11:40 am and arrive home at 12:20 pm. It is now 32°C. I hose the car to get rid of as much dust and mud as I can. This takes me 20 minutes.


    This was another great trip. Apart from the Billy Goat Bluff Track, I have travelled on all these roads before and visited all the places. However, it was a long time ago I went to some of the places. I had a bit of damage to the Land Cruiser, a big bash on the rear right fender from a drop into a large hole and a few more bashes into the sidesteps. All to be expected on a trip like this.

    Kilometres: 1893
    Litres: 261.3
    Cost: $537.62
    Fuel economy: 14.65 l/100 km
    Other: $10 camping, $90 dinner and drinks, $30 groceries

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