The Big Lap Again – Part 4: Adelaide to Clare

Sailing ship at Port Adelaide

Our first day in the Adelaide area started fine and calm but didn’t stay that way. We spent the morning in camp. The first job was to take in the awning in preparation for the wind. The blow started mid morning and continued until late. We went out to do some shopping after lunch. Heavy rain arrived soon after our return, but passed through in about an hour. Then it was wind and occasional showers until around dark when the rain ceased and the wind moderated. By 9.00 PM we had stars over the visible sky.

Lift bridge for access to boat harbour

On our second day in Adelaide, the morning was wet and windy. The rain abated at lunch time but the high winds continued. We took a drive.

We went west to Virginia, a route that took us past the Edinburgh Air Force base. This is very flat country, formally an area of small crop farming. Green houses abound but most look disused. Property developer signs are starting to appear at the roadside. At least one new housing development has sprouted in the middle of formally productive agricultural land.

Reg Spriggs’ petroleum exploration submersible module

We continued south to Port Adelaide. There has been considerable development since we last visited, some of it industrial, but some related to residential and leisure activities.

Glenelg has always been one of my favorite parts of Adelaide, so that was the next point on the drive. Glenelg is near to both Adelaide Airport and the mouth of the Torrens River. It has its own inlet from the sea, around which there has been a great deal of high value residential development, a marina and hotels. Of particular interest to me is the diving chamber used by scientist and petroleum explorer Reg Sprigg during his search for off shore oil deposits. Reg Sprigg developed the ecological resort at Arkaroola in the northern Flinders Ranges and was heavily involved in the launching of petroleum companies Santos and Beach Petroleum. He was also a close associate of South Pole explorer Sir Douglas Mawson.

The statue of Colonel Light, designer of Adelaide City. Colonel Light is said to have used this point to lay out the design for his city.

From Glenelg we drove into the City via the Anzac Highway. Even on a windy Saturday parking spaces in the city were hard to find, so we drove through, west to east, then turned north to find the Colonel Light statue and viewing point. There used to be good city views from this point but they are now partly obscured by the huge white canopies of the football stadium.

One of the joys of driving through Adelaide is the superb homes and public buildings built from local stone. They are best viewed on foot, but on a day like we were experiencing, we settled for viewing them from the car.

View of Adelaide City from the statue in North Adelaide

It was approaching 4.00 PM, so we sought coffee and found it with scones, jam and cream. Satisfied that we had made the best possible use of a bad afternoon, we returned to the caravan for the evening.

 

 

 

The roof on the football stadium now obscure some of the city views

New planting of grape vines

A wet morning greeted us on Sunday, so we stayed in for the morning, but ventured out after lunch to top up food supplies before we moved on from Adelaide. While out, we decided to have a bit of a run through the Barossa Valley between the rain showers. We drove through Gawler, Lyndoch, Tanunda and Nuriootpa before returning to base.

We called at a winery suggested by Briony, but it had closed by the time we arrived.

Post harvest grape vines

We did manage to stumble across Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop. The weather had kept most people away from the area, so the normal popular spots were quite. But Maggie had pulled a crowd. There was hardly a spare table in the coffee shop area. It just shows what a TV profile will do for your business.

On our way back we passed the huge Seppelt winery at

A Lutheran church among the vivyards

Seppeltsfield and saw the Seppelt family mausoleum, a large columned building on the side of a hill, at the end of an avenue of large palm trees. Most of the roads in the area are similarly lined with palm trees.

Regular rain showers swept over the area, one of them seemingly appearing each time that I wanted to take a photo. But there were some opportunities for photos, as the illustrations to this blog post attest.

The Seppelt mausoleum

Come Monday morning, we packed up amid periods of drizzle, but not too much wind. The wind returned later to blow frequent rain showers across the flat landscape through which we drove, the dark grey cloud appearing to brush the ground.

Ardrossan jetty

The area north of Adelaide and the top of the York Peninsula are quite flat. We stared out over the same flat coastal agricultural plain that we had driven through on Saturday, past areas of swampy salt bush country and finally into the grain production areas of the York Peninsula. We detoured to visit the town of Ardrossan on the upper east coast, before turning west to cross the Peninsula to our destination at Port Victoria.

Red cliffs along the shore at Ardrossan

We had camped at Ardrossan about 45 years ago. I remembered a long jetty that is still there, although it doesn’t seem to be as long as I remember it. A second jetty at the grain silos, which I don’t remember, reaches much further to sea to provide deep water access for bulk carriers.

The rain moved on to the east about lunch time. We arrived at Port Victoria to a cool wind from the sea and grey skies, but things looked up later in the afternoon with the sun trying to break through. Expectations for tomorrow are much brighter.

Hotel and general store at Port Victoria

Tuesday started overcast but improved as the day progressed. We didn’t set out on the day’s activities until after morning coffee. Some days require a slow start.

 

 

 

Port Victoria jetty

We took a gravel road nearer to the coast to reach Balgowan. This small town has been discovered by retirees, but in a limited way, as new land seems to be released sparingly, ensuring that it brings a good price and limiting growth in a small town with

Houses overlooking the sea at Balgowan

limited services. Like many towns on this peninsular it has a jetty, launching ramp, pub, general store and a caravan park. Largish quality houses occupy any high ground with sea views. The main leisure activity seems to be fishing. Some towns on the Peninsula have golf courses and bowling greens and, of course, an Australian Rules football ground.

 

The excursion train at Moonta mining site

We continued on the gravel road until almost to Moonta, our main destination for the day. Moonta is a historic copper town, the heritage of which has been retained in its buildings and a museum. Copper was mined there between 1861 and 1923 during a period when prices for the commodity were high. Wealth and growth quickly followed. Copper development in South Australia closely followed gold discoveries in NSW and Victoria, to where many local men had departed to make their fortune. A shortage of labour resulted.

The excursion train passes under an old mullock pile

The need for a work force in South Australia coincided with the closure of copper mines in Cornwall so almost an entire workforce immigrated to the South Australian mining area. Claims are made that as much as 95% of the Moonta workforce were Cornish men and boys. To Cornish people that area was known as Little Cornwall. The traditional Cornish pasty, a staple of the diet of the day, may still be enjoyed in eating establishments in the town, as we proved.

Part of the copper refining plant

It would not be difficult to spend a couple of days examining this town, but we had less than a day. So we decided on a tour on the narrow gauge railway that utilises the original railway station as its starting point. In the same area the original School of Mining has become an extensive mining museum, which time did not allow us to visit.

Copper was initially shipped from the area through the neighbouring port of Wallaroo, but later the area was connected to Adelaide by rail.

The old Town Hall in Moonta is now partly used as a picture theater

For almost an hour the train meanders through the mining area. It is a one man operation. Driver Ian not only drives but changes the points, collects the money and talks. During the entire tour he hardly stopped for a breath. But it was all interesting. He recited facts and figures, most of which we don’t remember, without hesitation.

The train stops at one point at the remains of the main processing plant where details of the very labour intensive process of extracting copper from the mined ore are set out on a wall in storyboard fashion. Stories included that of the discovery of commercial copper in the area being made by an alcoholic Irishman who drank himself to death on the proceeds. That seems to have happened in other places.

An old Methodist (now Uniting) church. Most Cornish miners were Methodists.

A partly eaten Cornish pasty with tomato sauce and cream

The tour completed, we drove back to town to lunch on the traditional Cornish pasty. Part of the ordering process was an explanation of this imported delicacy. We discovered that the traditional Cornish pasty is partly filled with meat and vegetables and partly with stewed apple, in about two thirds one third proportions. Ours were served with salad, tomato sauce and cream. I doubt that those served to the miners included these embellishments.

Houses overlooking the sea at Moonta Bay

With the day quickly ending, we visited the adjacent coastal towns of Moonta Bay and Port Hughes and found another coastal community that has been discovered by well healed retirees, with many modern houses lining the top of a miniature red cliff that seems to be a common feature of the York Peninsula coast.

We returned to Port Victoria on the sealed road, via Maitland.

The Red Devil with a replica model at the Captain Harry Butler memorial

The days were improving. Early Wednesday was a bit cold but developed into a great day for our trip to the southern end of the York Peninsula. Innes National Park was our ultimate destination, but first we travelled through Minlaton where we stopped to buy a National Parks pass and to view the memorial to Captain Harry Butler AFC. Butler was another flying pioneer who got his start in England during WWI as an Air Force pilot. Back in Australia and his home town of Minlaton, he was famous for his small aircraft called “The Red Devil” in which he performed aerobatics and provided joy flights. His memorial is at the northern entrance to the town.

A scene from the road in Innes National Park

The small town of Warooka is the only settlement during the 90 km between Minlaton and Marion Bay, the small coastal town near the National Park entrance. Initially the road runs through fields that produce wheat, barley, canola, legumes and other grains, but as you travel further south the terrain becomes rougher and scrub covered. Sheep and cattle appear at the roadside. The grain fields contain only stubble, as the time for planting has not yet arrived.

Another view of Innes National Park

Innes National Park is truly a beautiful place. The southern extremity of the peninsula is rugged with promontories, bays, islands and off lying reefs. Over every hill top and around every corner a new view of headlands, bays, beaches and blue ocean appear, while the hills are blanketed in a hundred shades of green. One day is not enough to see it properly. Just to complete the walks would take several days.

The remains of the sailing ship “Ethel” wrecked on this beach over 100 years ago

Cape Vincent lighthouse. There are about half a dozen lighthouses in the area

We drove as far as the fishing village at Pondalowie Bay before working our way back to the start via all of the points of interest along the way. It is an area well worth a visit.

Sunset at Port Victoria

For a partly different route home we detoured at Warooka to drive through Yorktown, finding there a substantial but spread out town and a couple of really pink salt lakes. At this point we turned for home, travelling via Maitland. We arrived back in time to see a rather magnificent sunset.

Overnight, Ruth and I had a serious discussion about the future of our trip. We are aware that if we continue to Western Australia we will be placing ourselves in a position where we would not be available should something happen to brother Winston before the end of July, the time that we plan to

Sunset at Port Victoria

return home. Additionally, I have developed some health issues that  need to be addressed by medical professionals. We have plans in place to fly back home for a few days for my quarterly endoscopy but we are now asking ourselves if it might not better to return home and see how things work out.

 

 

Later in the same sunset

Thursday dawned the best day for some time. We first drove north to look at the Port town of Wallaroo and the neighbouring town of Kadina. Copper ore from Moonta was originally shipped from Wallaroo before the railway line was built. The port facilities now handle export of much of the grain grown in the area.

 

 

Grain silos at Wallaroo

From Kadina we travelled east towards Clare. The road that we were on, called the Alt 1, runs through endless grain production country, countless hectares of stubble. We did see one farmer ploughing, a huge array of earth tilling equipment and a seed or fertiliser bin behind a huge farm tractor, with a trail of brown dust rising into the sky.

 

The pink lake at Lochiel

At the tiny town of Lochiel the road that we were on crosses the main Adelaide to Port Augusta Highway. The town is on Lake Bumbunga, one of South Australia’s pink lakes. Pink lakes are salt pans that have a marked shade of pink when the sun shines on them. As we had lunch we watched a succession of tourists walk onto the solid salty surface to take selfies with the pink salt in the background.

 

A vine covered arcade in Clare contains a rather good bakery and coffee shop

The vineyards start as soon as you top the hill driving into the Clare Valley. The town and its surrounds are most attractive. Many of the vine areas have achieved the russet colour of post harvest autumn and the deciduous trees are wearing their autumn outfits. We spent the night at the Clare caravan park.

The Big Lap Again -Part 3: Drouin to Adelaide

There was something to blog about in our family visit at Drouin. On reflection, I think our visit there should be recorded, as it is part of the experience of our trip.

Family group. Lest to right: Colin, Aileen, Ruth and Bernard

Our reason for coming so far south on a trip to South and Western Australia is the medical condition of my brother Winston. He has been assessed as terminally ill, with probably only months to live. We visited him in his nursing home and on the following day he was able to attend a family lunch at his old home. He is wheelchair bound and can only move to other seating with a great deal of help. But it was a happy occasion. He was able to spend time with his only grandchild, an eight month old girl, and other members of his immediate family.

We parted after we had delivered Winston back to his nursing home. As we shook hands we were both very aware that this might be the last time that we would see each other. We can only hope for a miracle.

The Noojee trestle bridge at deck level

The following day, in company with my sister Aileen, her husband Colin and my youngest brother Bernard, we drove into the hills to the north of Drouin in search of the restored Noojee trestle bridge. The bridge was part of the now long closed Warragul to Noojee railway line, built mainly for the transport of timber. The bridge was partially destroyed by fire many years ago. It has been restored as a tourist attraction. If success is to be judged by the number of people visiting it then the strategy has worked.

Trestles supporting the Noojee bridge

We had stopped for coffee at the Neerim South Bakery, another place enjoying a brisk tourist trade, visited the bridge and then drove into Noojee for lunch. We enjoyed a pasty at the general store, and then drove out to the parking area for the water falls on the Tooronga River. The walk takes in the Tooronga and Amphitheatre Falls during a brisk walk of a bit more than two kilometres. There are some steep parts and steps, but generally an easy walk.

Family group minus Ruth at Amphitheater Falls

Tooronga Falls

The river runs beneath rock falls in some places

Next morning we moved on to Melbourne, to a caravan park at East Doncaster, to visit long time friends Thelma and Joe. Our caravan won’t fit on their property because of narrow streets, so we commute from the caravan park. Short visits like this are mostly spent talking, catching up with news and the doings of family and friends. We did a very pleasant lunch with them at the Ringwood Club, near their home.

A street in Maldon

Planning the next move forward always includes keeping an eye on the weather. We were a bit shocked, after the cold weather we had experienced, to find our planned route would lead us back into southern summer like extremes. We planned to go to Castlemaine and then to Mildura, before following the Murray River to South Australia. But temperatures were forecast to be in the high thirties. Clearly it was advisable to stay in the south for a few days.

View from the mountain top. The water is Cairn Curran Dam

Keith and Lynda have a great spot for a caravan at the front of their house in Castlemaine. We had planned a one night stop over but, at their invitation, extended it to two. Again much chatting, but we did fit in a tour to the nearby gold town of Maldon, for lunch and a stroll along the historical streets. There are many fine restored buildings in streetscapes which preserve their heritage. There was no time to research gold rush history, but we did return home via the panoramic views from Mount Tarrengower and a park by the waters of the Cairn Curran Dam.

Parked in the guest space at Halls Gap

It’s Saturday 7th April and time to move on again. The plan is to do a short leg to Ararat for perhaps two nights, but we want to catch up with an old friend at Dunkeld, so we called ahead to her mobile. She answers it from her hospital bed in Geelong. She had a mild heart attack on Easter Friday. She awaits news of future treatment but meanwhile is bored. Know the feeling? After hearing our proposed schedule she suggests that we overnight at Halls Gap, where her daughter and son-in-law manage the Big 4 caravan park. I suggest that it will be booked out with school holidays and we say our goodbyes. Five minutes later, she calls back to say that she has talked to her daughter and they have a site for us. So here we are!

Update: Do has had two stents inserted into the troublesome artery. She is fine and will soon be back to normal. In her early eighties, she is planning another tag-along tour in a desert somewhere in Western Australia.

The park at Halls Gap was busy

To reach Halls Gap we passed through the larger towns of Maryborough and Ararat and some smaller settlements. We crossed the sheep country of the Moolort Plains and through some of the hills of the Pyrenees Ranges. Finally we drove the Great Western Highway from Ararat to Stawell before turning off to Halls Gap. The entire area through which we drove needs rain.

 

The Grampians on the way to Dunkeld

We left Halls Gap at about 9.00 AM, bound for Dunkeld, then Hamilton and on through the small towns of Marino and Sanford to Casterton. After lunch we continued to Penola and turned south west to our final destination. The quiet caravan park at Millicent, near Mt. Gambier, should be ideal to catch up on washing, blogging and general record keeping.

Brown farm land near Casterton in Western Victoria

The Autumn colours were appearing in Casterton

A lighthouse stands above Beachport

Sunday 8th was Ruth’s birthday and we had travelled all day. Ruth spent part of the day fielding telephone calls and Facebook posts. By way of celebration, we went to a local hotel recommended by the caravan park management and enjoyed a pleasant relaxing meal.

 

 

After lunch next day, with chores substantially complete, we drove the 35 km west to the beach side town of Beachport, located at the south eastern end of a chain of lakes that run just inside the coast to the north west to the better known holiday and lobster town of Robe. Beachport is an attractive town with a great deal of tourist accommodation. I suspect that many Adelaide residents find it to be something of a refuge during the summer heat of holiday time.

Beaches along the scenic drive

A scenic drive follows the rugged coast to the north west, with observation points that provide views of the rocky promontories and small sheltered beaches that reach up the coast and views back over the town and along the sweep of the beach to Southend in the far distance.

 

 

The barrier at the mouth of the drainage chanel

At the entrance to Beachport a drain reaches the sea, but its entrance is protected by a barrier to stop the entry of salt water. We noticed a number of such drains the next day. The area is very flat and near to sea level. It was drained to make it suitable for farming activities, many long years ago.

Weathered rocks at Southport

On the way back to Millicent, we did a detour to Southend. It is a typical seaside village with almost no commercial centre. But a does have a headland with interesting erosion patterns in the rocks, which seem to be of a material that selectively weathers. From the headland you can see back to Beachport.

With forecasts suggesting Adelaide weather returning to sanity, we left Millicent on Tuesday 10th, bound for Port Elliot and Victor Harbour. It was a 400 km drive into a strong head wind. Unpleasant conditions made worse when the caravan tyre that had been repaired in Orbost again went flat. So out with the compressor to add some air! We made the 15 km into Meningie before it went flat again. But this time it has suffered mortal damage, probably from a sharp edge to the pavement. Fitting a tube got us back on the road, but the tyre will have to be replaced before we go too far.

Views over The Coorong

The drive from Millicent is over very flat terrain for most of the way. It is mostly dairying and grazing country with both cattle and sheep. Pine forests can be seen in the distance to the right. The road was rather bumpy. The views are of brown land in need of rain. The highway joins the coast at Kingston SE. Soon after that a long strip of water enclosed within its own National Park, known as the Coorong, appears to the left and stays there for most of the 130 Km to the next town of Meningie.

The Victor Harbour to Goolwa steam train runs through Port Elliot

We turned left and took the ferry over the Murray at Wellington, travelling through the vineyards of Langhorne Creek and via Strathalbyn to reach Port Elliot. We set up at the showgrounds where a basic caravan park operates. You have to save money when you can. The tyres on an off road caravan are expensive.

 

 

A walking track follows the coast as Port Elliot

As we approached Port Elliot, Ruth phoned her long time friend Margaret who is retired, with her husband Brian, in the town. We found that her retirement village backs on to the Showgrounds. Brian was in hospital in Adelaide having a new knee fitted. Margaret was not visiting him the next day so we arranged to meet for coffee. We met in the street and did a short foot tour, walking up to the headland that provides views to Victor Harbour to the west and

Protected stone buildings in Port Elliot

Goolwa to the east. Brian’s forebears were among the earliest settlers in the area, so we heard some interesting stories before returning to the coffee shop/post office for coffee and a long chat, as Margaret and Ruth covered many years of not seeing each other very often.

The Granite Island horse drawn tram

The granite pile in the centre of the island

 

 

 

With coffee long finished, we took our leave and drove to Victor Harbour. One of the features of that fine resort town is the off lying Granite Island, which is linked to the mainland by a timber causeway. There is a regular and popular horse drawn tram service to transport tourists to the island. The alternative is to walk. And a pleasant walk it would be.

The Hindmarsh Island or “Secret Women’s Business” bridge

But we caught the tram. I ascended the wooden stairway to the top of the granite pile for the view and photos. Then we caught the tram back to the mainland. The island also hosts an under water observatory and, just off the island, a circular enclosure where you may swim with tuna, if that activity takes your fancy.

After lunch we drove back east to the old river port town of Goolwa, to visit the restored wharf area which includes the Goolwa station of the Victor Harbour to Goolwa steam railway. The train normally operates on Wednesdays but was dormant for our visit, probably undergoing maintenance in preparation for a coming busy school holiday schedule. As we stood on the wharf, towering above us was what I call the Secret Women’s Business Bridge.

Houses at the Hindmarsh Island Marina

Do you remember the kerfuffle when activists used the secret women’s business ploy in an attempt to stop the building of the bridge and a marina on Hindmarsh Island? The protest failed, as the completed bridge demonstrates. Accompanying photo illustrates that the marina, which was being protested at the same time, was also built. Where do the people come from with the money to buy all of the houses and units this far from Adelaide, I wonder?

The bridge and the old wharf

During our drive, Margaret called to invite us to dinner. So a pleasant evening was spent with old times getting a thorough going over. Margaret is a retired nursing sister, with most of her working life spent in the Northern Territory, but she has also worked in the United Kingdom and Zambia. There were some interesting stories. Oh, yes! Brian’s knee operation went well.

 

Thursday gave us a leisurely start. The appointment to get the new caravan tyre fitted was at 11.30 with check out time at the caravan park at 10.00, so we found a high spot with good views to spend the intervening hour or so. I had ground some coffee beans that morning, while we had power, so we enjoyed homemade cappuccino while we admired the view.

New tyre fitted, we set out for the northern suburbs of Adelaide, where we are set up in the Gawler Gateway Tourist Park for four nights. The forecast for our stay is for cool weather, with winds to 45 kph and some rain. That will be horizontal rain, no doubt. I will let you know in the next post.

The Big Lap Again – Part 2: Marlo to Drouin

Marlo Caravan Park

Monday 26th March. We are coming up to our second windy night in Marlo. Last night was rather wild. We had our awning out. That proved to be a mistake. The rafters that reinforce the awning fell out at about 12.30 AM with a loud crash. That got me out of bed in a hurry. I then had to wait for the wind to ease at about 4.00 AM to take the awning in. Not much sleep until then.

Marlo jetty in the Snowy River

We have spent a quiet day. Ruth did some washing and I completed my first blog for this trip. There is not much to see in Marlo. The town boasts a general store, pub, fishing tackle and coffee shop, a couple of caravan parks and a small motel.

The park that we are in is substantially empty. The tourist season is over. There will be a burst of activity for Easter and school holidays but that’s about it until next summer. Local businesses will be reliant on local people until tourist season comes again.

We have neighbors in the park. They are a young Swiss family. While we are rugged up and staying inside they are getting about in shorts, having their meals outside and playing with their children in the full blast of the cold wind. They don’t think that it is cold at all.

On Tuesday morning the first order of the day, as we moved on, was a call at Orbost Tyre Service to have a slow leak in one of the caravan tyres fixed. That, and a bit of grocery shopping done, we set course for Omeo. So we travelled west to Nowa Nowa, then to Bruthen for the start of the Great Alpine Road.

Tambo River near Tambo Crossing

Bruthen is on the Tambo River. The Great Alpine Road follows the Tambo Valley for much of the first 80 km, although the first 10 km of the drive is over a forested mountain range. The road re-joins the river after crossing the range.

Poplars by the stream

 

As the trip progresses the scenery becomes more alpine. Farm land occupies the valley floor and the lower slopes, the upper slopes covered in forest. Clumps of Poplars start to appear along driveways and the banks of the streams. The grass is green but there is no sign of any recent heavy rainfall.

There are a few named localities along the road and a couple of towns, the largest of which is Swifts Creek, situated on a creek of that name that joins the Tambo at that point. Road side signs advise that Easter Picnic Races will be held on Easter Saturday.

Omeo’s main street

Swifts Creek is at an altitude of about 350 metres. Just past the town the road turned out of the valley and over the next 10 km we climbed a further 400 meters to reach the tableland on which Omeo stands.

Autumn colours in the mist

 

The Omeo Caravan Park is located in a narrow valley with the park facilities built beside the stream, which runs along the foothills on one side. Steep hills rise from each side of the parking area. Well established deciduous trees provide summer shade and let the sun through in winter. It was quiet when we arrived but getting crowded when we left. The High Country is popular at Easter. Numbers also increase because of the Easter Saturday rodeo in Omeo.

 

A busy caravan park

We used Omeo as a base for two mountain tours.

The Blue Duck Inn at Anglers Rest is near to the turn into Bogong High Plains Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Wednesday we headed along the southern end of the Omeo Highway and turned into the Bogong High Plains Road, where a serious climb commenced. The winding road was lined in bright yellow paint with yellow snow posts marking the outside edge. The altimeter on our navigator showed 1,740 metres at the highest point.

 

Typical Bogong High Plains scenery

One of the features of alpine areas is dead trees standing above the green vegetation, looking at a distance something grey stubble on a green face. The impact of bush fires lasts for decades. Strangely, the dead standing above the living adds to the grandeur of the scenery.

At that altitude the weather was crisp and clear with some cloud cover. The wind was strong and cold and quite invigorating. Pity there was not time for a walk.

Caravans on the Bogong High Plains Road

The ski runs of Falls Creek were soon in view at a distance, becoming clearer as we approached. At one point four large caravans stood by the roadside. This is not easy caravan country. I’m glad it was them and not us.

 

 

Rocky Creek Dam and Falls Creek ski runs

An idle chair lift at Falls Creek

Visitor accommodation at Falls Creek. There is much more than this.

Mount Bogong from the Mount Beauty to Bright road

We had intended to have lunch at Falls Creek, but there was nothing open that we could see. Work was under way in preparation for the ski season. We continued down the mountain to Mount Beauty where we found a cafe attached to a bicycle shop.  Many businesses in that town seemed to still be closed from the summer season.

From Mount Beauty we crossed the range to Bright, famous for its

A tree lined street in Bright

autumn colours. We knew that we were too early in the season for the full Autumnal glory of the trees, but it is an attractive town at any time. We have not spent much time there. It is worth a longer visit.

 

 

 

A mountain view on the climb to Hotham Heights

With daylight hours reducing, we pressed on. The climb starts just past Harrietville and is steep, winding, narrow and about 30 km. Travelling east, as we were, we were on the outside of the road. I must confess, when safe to do so, I drove straddling the bright yellow centre line, staying left on approach to right and bends, of which there are many. I had much time to ponder the placement and scarcity of Armco protective barrier.

 

More mountain scenery

As you approach the 1,830 metre summit, the last few kilometres of road stretches above you, clinging to the scrub covered mountain side like a sloping shelf. Pre-winter road works added to the entertainment.

 

 

 

The western approach to Hotham Heights

But the mountain scenery makes it all worthwhile. As you round the final turn at the top, the first buildings of the Hotham resort comes into view, the remainder unfolding as you proceed along its main street. It has, unsurprisingly, substantially increased in size since we drive through many years ago.

 

 

Kosciuszko View near Omeo. Mount Kosciuzzko is the peak second from the left.

Another 100 km brought us back down the mountain to our caravan at Omeo.

 

 

 

 

Omeo from Kosciuszko View

A farm on the way to Hotham

The second tour, on Easter eave, fulfilled a long standing desire to drive over the Dargo Hugh Plains, from Hotham to Dargo. To do this, we returned up the mountain to Hotham Heights, making a short detour into the alpine village of Dinner Plain. This quintessential ski village is 11 km from Hotham, so provides access to the ski fields there as well as its own skiing areas. A number of businesses were open with signs of activity.

An idle ski lift at Hotham Heights.

We paused at Hotham, in a partially protected spot right under the summit, for the most elevated coffee ever, except for coffee in an aircraft. But airline coffee is not really coffee, is it, so it doesn’t count.

 

A view from our morning coffee stop

Part of the Hotham ski runs

Mount Feathertop viewed from Hotham Heights

View towards Hotham from the Dargo High Plains Road

The turn into the Dargo High Plains Road is 4 km past the summit on the western side. It commences with a short sharp and narrow sealed decline but soon becomes a gravel road, narrow on mountainous sections but quite wide in flatter areas. We stopped at the appropriately named Mount Freezout rest stop to reduce tyre pressures.

 

Dargo High Plains pasture land

The Dargo High Plains are more timbered than their Bogong counterpart. I have the feeling that driving over them does not reveal their extent. We initially wondered as we drove when we would find them, but suddenly we were driving through undulating pasture lands that reached to the fringing forest. There is evidence that grazing activity continues but it may be on privately owned land. Grazing in National Parks is a live political issue and tends to change with governments.

The road was in good condition generally, with speeds of 60 to 70 kph easily achievable, but some sections were pot holed and there were areas of exposed stone, particularly at the crowns of rises. The sealed road reaches 20 km north of Dargo, so the descent into the valley is on good sealed, if somewhat steep, winding road.

Historic Dargo Pub

Because of the number of people coming into the area for Easter the Dargo pub was doing a roaring trade. We satisfied ourselves with a picnic lunch in the park and an ice-cream from the general store, before starting our return journey to Omeo.

The plan was to take the Upper Dargo, Jones and Berrigan Roads directly back to base. We were about 16 km into the trip, on Jones Road, when we decided that we had not chosen well. The Parks Victoria officer has assured us that the road was good. Two wheel drive road, he said. The reality was a narrow ever ascending track, badly washed out and comfortable at no more than about 20 kph. That meant that we would still be on the track late in the day.

Dargo General Store – ice cream time

We continued until we found a piece of track wide enough to turn and made our way back to Dargo. We had two choices. Either to return over the High Plains to Hotham or go south via Bairnsdale and the Great Alpine Road. The latter is sealed all the way, so much the quicker route, and only about 20 km longer. It was no contest. Via Bairnsdale it was. We arrived back at the van at about 7.30.

Good Friday dawned cool and foggy. A heavy mist hung over the valley and lay in dense banks along the face of the mountains. We met many vehicles making their way into the high country for Easter and school holidays. There were a good number of caravans, more camper trailers and hosts of four wheel drives, pack racks piled high with camping gear. By the time they all arrived there would scarcely be a vacant camp site to be had.

But it was back at Bruthen, on the Princes Highway, that we really met traffic. You could almost have believed that Melbourne was being evacuated. The combination of Easter and school holidays sure had Victorians on the move. The continual strings of traffic, moving at near the speed limit, did not abate until we were approaching our destination at Drouin, quite late in the day.

We are taking a four day break here for some family visiting. Then two days in Melbourne with friends, so activities will not become bloggable again until we head out of Melbourne.