2015 NYE High Country

summary: This year we decided to spend the week of NY 2015 in the Victorian High Country
date: 27 December 2014 to 2nd January 2015
distance: 1800 kms
tags: ADVENTURE - 4X4 - FAMILY - FAVOURITE - 2015
views: 1817

PLANNING

For the last couple of years, we have ventured down to a secret camp spot near Narooma for our New Year getaway. This year, we decided to drive a little further and experience more of the Victorian High Country which we had enjoyed so much over Easter with all the members of the FJ community.

I only spent a small amount of time planning, as I knew the spots I wanted to see, and the main locations I wanted to try and camp. Hoping the weather was on our side this time, as when I last visited over New Years (14 years ago), we had rain and snow!

So the plans were done, well enough to get us there and see the locations I put at the top of our list.

DAVIES PLAIN

We set off nice and early and headed towards the Hume Highway. Traffic was surprisingly light for a change and we made good time down to Cooma in time for lunch and a little shopping. After Cooma we travelled out through skiing country to Jindabyne, then after a short detour, Thredbo and finally on to Tom Groggin camping area. This is the entry for us into the Alpine National Park, and only a short distance to crossing into Victoria.

No sooner had we stopped in the car park at Tom Groggin were we greeted by a couple of friendly Kangaroos! After a quick pit stop, we continued travelling along the dirt road through the extensive camping area and eventually crossing the Mighty Murray River and into Victoria. Fortunately for us, these are the head waters for The Murray, so the crossing was pretty easy! Time to let some air out now we were on the rough stuff. It was hot out, and very dry. It was easy to see this area was in some serious drought.

Once our tyres were down, we set off along the Davies Plain Track (see Vic FWD link bellow for details). The track was not that hard, some steep sections and lots of dust. Just enough for us after an eight hour drive from home! The drive took about an hour and a half from Tom Groggin, before we arrived at the hut. There is a great little river crossing and camping spot half a kilometre before the hut which I will definitely use next time I visit here.

Davies Plain hut is a traditional mountain hut, functional! The camping area is quite good though, lots of room for a number of campers and a drop loo. Fortunately for us, the only other residents were the rabbits!

TEE TREE

After a very good night sleep, we were up early and planning the adventure for today. We set off initially towards Charlie Creek Campground, which according to the book I was reading is the location many of the wild brumbies call home...No sooner had I started to tell the family to look out for brumbies, they appeared right in front of us! Its quite a sight seeing these wild horses just wandering around up here.

Once we had recovered from this experience, it wasnt quite as a surprise when we bumped into more brumbies five minutes later!

Continuing on, it wasnt long before we left the dirt roads and hit civilisation for a little while. We stopped off at Omeo to fill the car up with fuel and have lunch before continuing along the Great Alpine Road through Dinner Plain, Hotham Heights, Harrietville and eventually Bright. We stopped here to try and find out why so many people were around. There must have been some sort of cycling event on, as there were thousands of people around.

After taking on more refreshments, we continued North just out of town before turning onto Buckland Valley Road. This is when the day turned a little sour for us wilderness campers. The two camp sites I had identified for tonight were situated on the main road, and therefore very busy. So after a quick discussion we decided to continue on around Mount Buffalo and see if we can find somewhere a bit more to our liking.

We had to travel much further than we expected, and eventually settled in at Tea Tree campground on the Abbeyard Road. This was a little more remote, but still accessible so we had neighbours, but not quite so many. And by now, it was hot, seriously hot. I was pretty tired too, so camp was setup quickly and the family was sent out to collect fire wood for a comfort fire later in the evening. We had The Buffalo River right beside us, but with the steep rocky banks, we didnt end up swimming.

LAKE COBBLER

Today we were all excited as we had already made good ground towards Lake Cobbler so we would be able to get there nice and early. So from camp, we back tracked a little to Rose River Road and then continued south towards Lake Cobbler. We stopped in at Bennies campground - which was large and also busy - before continuing on to Lake Cobbler.

There were a few cars here, but not too many, and we found ourselves a great campsite right on the waters edge. We spent some time setting up camp here as the weather was looking a little like rain. Soon after, we hit the road for some exciting driving.

We travelled the Mount Cobbler loop, which took us down The Staircase (which is very easy these days) and and on to King Hut at the bottom of the valley. We had lunch here before heading back via Little Cobbler Track. The wind had now got up, and we had also heard a few claps of thunder while down in the valley.

We arrived back at camp early afternoon, so it was time to sit back and relax - finally! But off in the distance there was the sound of helicopters, which was a little unusual. And then only half an hour later, a chopper swoops down in front of us and sucks up a tank of water from the lake. This does not look good. A few minutes later the chopper was back. And not long after that, so were the Victorian RFS! Yes indeed, there was a fire on top of Mount Cobbler and we all needed to evacuate!

So what was supposed to be a relaxing afternoon turned into a quick pack up of camp and then get back on the road and head for the nearest town of Whitfield. We arrived there about 8:00pm and after travelling the length of the main drag (100m) we decided the pub was the place to stay. Unfortunately, they were full, so it was off to the local caravan park. In the end, this turned out pretty good, the park was quite, grassy and had toilets!

CRAIGS HUT

So today, hopefully we would satisfy two of the goals of the trip, Mount No. 3, and camping at Craigs Hut.

We packed up from our caravan park adventure - I even had a shower! And hit the road. We made a quick stop at a great lookout over the King River Valley at Powers Lookout, before eventually getting off-road again on Cambatong Road. This was not a well travelled road, but we were surprised to find some campers setup along here!

The track wound its way along some narrow and rough tracks, but most of it had been recently graded so there was no issue getting through. We stopped at Tomahawk Hut, where the weather was quite different to yesterday, the temperature had dropped ten degrees at least! A quick stop here, before heading up the road to Mount No. 3. The tracks here were a little complicated to locate, compared to the rest of the trip. But we were lucky I think and selected the correct track.

Reaching the Refuge Hut was quite a relief, and once we entered the hut and realised some kind souls had left the fire going for us, it was hard to convince the family we needed to get back on the road! This site is amazing though, a great hut and lots of camping areas not just at the hut but for the next few kilometres along the trail, definitely a place to come back to!

The track up here was quite a challenge in places, rough and rocky, but nothing that stopped the FJ. We travelled along a few more of the less travelled tracks before reaching the bottom of the valley near Pineapple Flat. We decided to check out the popular campsite, just as a reference for future. It was not nearly as pleasant as anywhere else we had been! Nice having the river there, but the locals did not appear too friendly!

So from here it was on to Craigs Hut. Following the main road to the bottom of the track to the hut, and then waiting for a break in the traffic before we could start the drive up. And yes, once up there it was very busy. The car park was almost full, thats how busy it was! So we jumped out and checked out one of Australian Travellers top views in the country. On the drive up the track, we noticed a couple of official campsites, which we then went to check out. We decided on the one closest to Craigs Hut so it was easy to walk up later once the crowds were gone.

It was pretty windy at this point too, so we settled in using the car as a wind break and waited for the weather to improve before setting up camp. We went back up to the hut later in the evening, which was amazing. The weather had calmed down, and the people had gone - so we were able to get some great photos!

So we did manage to tick off the two most important things on my list today - and no fires!

WELCOME 2015

Early in the morning, I wandered back up to Craigs Hut to spend another quiet moment just watching the sun come up, and the birds fight over the best branch to sit on - it was quite amazing.

We decided to continue along the main trail through the back of Craigs Hut area. This takes you along Clear Hills track and exposes you to some amazing views. The track conditions are also quite interesting, not difficult, unless you were driving a corolla! Our first stop was at GGS (Geelong Grammar School) Hut. This place was pretty well set up, as you would expect from the most expensive school in the country! And the views were to die for. We marked this spot as a potential camping area too, as there is some nice clear areas just before you get to the hut.

Not far along the track, we arrived at the Mount Stirling summit. Make sure you stop here and climb to the top to check out one of the most amazing views you will ever see in the high country.

We then continued down the trail via Howqua Hut, which is another recently upgraded and on to Bindaree Falls. These falls are definitely worth the five minute walk too, as they are quite unexpected in such a dry and arid environment. You can walk directly under the falls and cool off in the gentle spray it creates. We stopped for lunch a little further on at Bindaree Hut camping area, which was a little busy but not nearly as bad as some other places.

After lunch we took 16 Mile Jeep track out of the camping area which eventually tracks along side the Howqua River. This track was very steep, and if the weather were wet it would definitely be something to avoid, unless you want to spend a day or more doing recoveries! Our next stop along this track was at Bluff Hut. It takes a little work to get up to this hut, the track is quite rough. I was under the impression that the walk from the back of the hut, to the summit views above was only a few minutes so off we went. It wasnt until about 20 minutes into the walk that Jack decided to tell me the sign said two hours...We quickly and quietly returned to the car.

As the day was getting on, we continued on to check out Lovicks Hut, before dropping back down from the dizzy heights of Long Spur down to the Cairn Creek. Fisheries department have done lots of work along this road putting in little camping areas right on the river, so it wasnt long before we found a great campsite, which had probably never been used before! As this was our New Years Eve camp, we were hoping for some solitude from the crowds, but unfortunately we were joined by one other camper later in the evening. Amazingly, this guy worked in Shellharbour as a diving instructor!

Before we had company at the campsite, we managed to find an amazing little swimming hole just off the main road. Took Jack and I a little coaxing before we finally took the plunge. But the refreshing feeling of the cold water was a welcome relief, and washed away much of the road dust I had been accumulating!

MOUNT BULLER

Today we packed up and continued along the main road, taking a small detour to check out Upper Jamieson Hut camping area. Nice spot, if you like cow poo! And of course, lots of people. We then checked out more of the main camp areas along the Howqua river, and found alllll the people! These places were really busy, packed even, and a couple of the camping groups even took their horses with them! Sheepyard Flat was the last one we stopped at before continuing along Howqua Hills road to the bitumen of Mount Buller road.

From here we took it nice as easy as we climbed the hill to Mount Buller resort. This place was pretty cool, like a little mountain village. We stopped in at the pub for lunch, before finding the local IGA (yes they have a supermarket) to grab some supplies for tonight, which will be the last of our trip.

After relaxing here for a while, we back tracked a little so we could find Cornhill Road which takes us back to Howqua Hut, and the start of Mount Stirling track.

We made it back up to Craigs Hut early in the afternoon, after identify several potential camp sites for tonight as we travelled along the trail. Amazingly, Craigs Hut was very quiet this time! So after soaking up the atmosphere again, we travelled back along the track to the most amazing campsite of our trip. It was a small clearing just off the road at marker 48. The weather at this stage was perfect too, not hot, not windy and we were able to settle in for a nice relaxed evening.

HOMEWARD BOUND

Unfortunately like all trips, we had to pack up and head home. There was quite a distance to travel, so we packed up early and left camp shortly after 7:00am (a record I believe). But with 700kms to travel, there was no alternative. We went back out to Mount Buller Road, then down to Mansfield were we filled up with fuel. Then on to the Hume via Benalla. Listening to the radio, we probably timed our exit pretty well as there was major fire risk today with high temperatures and winds expected. And it did turn out to be a bad day for fires in both Victoria, and South Australia.

We arrived home just after 6:00pm, and of course Benjii was very happy to see us :)


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