Here, there, and everywhere


Over the last few weeks, with 2 weeks of Annual Leave, the family and I did the following…

Friday 28th October
Finishing work at 1pm, Zoe and Eli and I were on the road by 1:30. Destination: Hotel Granya, beside the upper reaches of Lake Hume. By 3pm, I was all booked into my accommodation there, and Zoe and Eli were driving back home. Granya is in a mobile phone black hole – about the only place I had mobile service was way out in the bush, about halfway to the Mt Granya summit. So that basically means no internet until sometime on Sunday. But I’m wasn’t going to let that bother me. There was too much interesting stuff to do.


After I was unpacked, I hopped on the bicycle and headed up. Because that’s what most of the roads at Granya do – they go up. After exploring some side roads in Granya township, I decided to try and get to the top of My Granya. Until Cotton Tree Creek it was fairly easy going despite the steepest section of  asphalt road I encountered today being in the town limits. After Cotton Tree Creek the track went up, and down, and then again, and again, and again. And then there was a 2km section of relentlessly steep and slippery 4×4 track . And that was by far the hardest part of the ride.

Eventually I got past that section and onto Mt Granya Road. But by this time it was about 5:30 and I decided it would be best to head back towards the hotel. As I was soon to find out there was some more up hill, but after the really steep 4×4 section those hills were a breeze! And then there once I got to the asphalt road at Granya Gap it was super easy for the rest of the ride as it was downhill – O the joy of the downhill.

On arrival back at the hotel, I decided it was time to fill the fuel tank, so ordered some Moroccan Pumpkin soup, which was delicious, and some potato wedges with sweet chilli and sour cream. Not long after the Sun had set behind the Granya mountains and so it was Sabbath. So I spent a bit of time listening to some music (Steve McConnell, if your interested), and then mulled over an idea for a sermon I am due to preach on Christmas Eve. And then… bed.

Sabbath 29th October
Sabbath. The very word suggests rest. But rest from what? If one believes in the Judeo-Christian understanding, as I do, it means rest from doing business. That is, employment. And so on this Sabbath, as with every other one, that is what I did. And so today’s main activity was to be a mountain bike ride up to the top of Mt Granya. After riding hills of varying levels of difficulty I found myself at the aforementioned destination. And by that time I was due for a rest. After a bit of a snack to replace the energy I lost on the climb I sat quietly for a while and listened to the serenity. Lyrebirds, kookaburras, and some other unidentified birds could be heard. The silence was punctuated only by the sounds of nature. The view was amazing – down into Georges Creek valley, across to the alpine national park, and Mt Bogong with snow. But I had this feeling of dejavu, like I had been to Mt Granya before. Maybe I have. But it was still a first – the first time I had ridden a bicycle up it. After a decent rest, and because a few cars of people arrived, I decided it was time for a good downhill roll. And a good downhill roll it was, too.


Later in the day, around 6pm, I thought it would be nice to go for a trundle (that’s a ‘slower than usual’) bike ride along River Road and enjoy the views out over Lake Hume. And the views didn’t disappoint. I could have shot a lot more photos than I did, and the temperature had dropped a bit from its warmest temperature a few hours before. The only bad thing was the bugs – I swallowed a few, my beard collected a few, and some almost got in my eyes. By the time I got back to the hotel the sun was dropping over the hills. Sabbath would soon be gone for another week.


Sunday 30th October
I had an idea of what I was getting myself into when I read the weather forecasts for the day, and they all said roughly the same thing – rain probability high, 10+kph winds, possibility of a thunderstorm, low temperatures. Well, all of it happened, except the temperature was a bit higher than forecast. I left Hotel Granya around 6:30am, after a hearty breakfast of muesli with soy milk and an Up-N-Go, and a large banana. I had some snack foods to nibble on during the ride – nut and yoghurt bars, an orange, and some fruit and nut mix. I also had two ’10 Mineral’ drinks – a kind of sports drink without a lot of the nasties.


So there I was, riding into the north westerly wind more or less, for the first 16km. And then a turn southward starting with a grueling ascent to possibly the highest point on the ride. I am thankful that this ascent was early on in the ride as if I had to traverse it later in the ride I might have given up and called Rebecca up on the phone to tell her where to pick me up. As it was I felt decidedly low on energy by the time I got to the top, and took a decent rest before continuing. But then I heard some rather loud thunder rumbles in the hills above where I was, and I decided it would be better to keep moving down into the valley rather than feeling like a sitting duck on the high point I was on. After that high elevation, I had a long descent into Old Tallangatta – a real pleasure, even with the intermittent rain, after the tough climb I had endured not long before. The rain was one of the other variables on this ride that I have not had to experience on rides of similar length – rather than saying there was rain here and there, the ride could be better described as being doused by various intensities of rain. Sometimes it was light drizzle or a few drops here and there, other times it was bucketting down, and other times it was somewhere in between those extremes. I didn’t know whether to wear the raincoat, or not, as if I put it on then I felt too warm but if I didn’t wear it I got wet. In the end, it was just easier to not wear it!

By the time I got to Old Tallangatta, which was roughly the half-way point of the ride, I was feeling a little refreshed by the long downhill stretch through Georges Creek and was looking forward to the Yabba Road section. On Google Maps the Yabba Road seems fairly flat, especially when compared with the first half of the ride. Either Google Maps gradient profiles aren’t that trustworthy or I misread it, or something, because it was tougher than I thought it would be with a number of short but steep climbs, although the climbs weren’t anywhere as bad as the “grueling ascent” mentioned earlier. Yabba Road was a bit over 30km long, and by the time I turned onto the Omeo Highway I was really ready for a rest. It’s funny how when you drive a car over a stretch of road that it is totally different to when you ride a bicycle over the same section. I really don’t remember all those hills on the approach to Eskdale! But eventually I arrived at Eskdale, a beautiful small town nestled on the side of the Mitta Mitta River valley. This was the place where I was to meet Rebecca, Jesse and Eliana. It wasn’t long after I had started feeling human again that they arrived. We had some salad rolls, and a donut (I know, donuts are not exactly healthy food, but after 84km of cycling, well, you know where my logic headed). Then the bike was put on the bike rack on the car, and we drove another 2 hours south to the picturesque town of Omeo and booked into the Omeo Caravan Park which was to be our home for the next few days.

Monday 31st October
While snoring and generally drowsiness was the condition of the family, I was up early at about 6am, had some breakfast (again, healthy muesli and a banana), and a little later I went for a bike ride. No long bike ride – at about an hour in duration and about 13km long it was a lot less exhausting that the one the day before. But Omeo being in a valley, if I wanted to go anywhere I had to climb hills. So not long after I started the ride I found myself climbing up towards Mt Hotham but I soon decided that was not what I wanted to do, and took a turn to the left along lane called Cousins Lane. It climbed up pretty high too, but I knew it wouldn’t climb anywhere as high as the Mt Hotham road did, and besides when I turned onto Cousins Lane the Hotham road was starting to descend I didn’t really want to have to ride up that descent later.

Cousins Lane didn’t disappoint. The views across to the mountains was spectacular, and once the lane levelled off I enjoyed riding along it. Then there was a steep descent and ascent before it turned sharply to the left, then over one more hill, and then it was downhill as far as the eye could see all the way into Omeo. Well, almost. That’s how I like my rides to be – all the tough stuff in the first half, and then the ‘reward’. When I am riding around home and the wind is strong I always try and ride into the wind for the first half so that I can have an easier return back home. Riding into strong winds is just like riding up hills, except that they don’t show up on the gradient profile. But the effect on the rider is roughly the same.

After I returned back to the caravan park the family was up and we decided to walk into the township and do some exploring. There are an abundance of historically interesting buildings in the town and we saw a number of them – the courthouse (inside and out), the justice precinct with it’s Log Lockup, the Post Office, an old bank building, and some others.

Then after lunch we went driving. First it was out to have a look at the Hinnomungie Bridge in the Omeo Valley. This bridge is the only surviving wooden multi-truss hand hewn bridge in the state. It was particularly interesting to see ripped steel in structure of the bridge. That might be partly why the bridge was replaced by a more modern concrete structure. Then we drove along the Hinnomungie Connector road which goes up and over the Blowhard Lookout, a very aptly named locale that gives great 360 degree views of the surrounding area. But it was too cold to stay there, as the wind was blowing hard (surprise, surprise). In the distance we could see Lake Benambra, and so we headed towards it and skirted around in before arriving at the quaint and peaceful village of Benambra.

From there we headed north, and after missing a turn-off we finally arrived at our next stop – Taylors Crossing. This is a crossing of the Mitta Mitta River. It’s main point of interest is a sturdy looking steel suspension bridge for walkers to cross the river. This crossing is part of the Australian Alpine Walking Track, a long distance walking trail that traverses the Australian Alps between Walhalla and the Australian Capital Territory. After having a look around there, we drove back to Benambra and then headed north east towards the McFarlane Lookout NFSR locality on the map (don’t ask me what NFSR means, as I don’t know). I didn’t know what we would find there, but there were signs to a “Historic Marker” so we followed those signs, and found the remains of the Pendergast family home erected in the 1860s. All that remains today are 2 stone chimneys, but one of them had a hearthstone so big that they had to excavate a substantial hole underneath it from it’s locale in the neasrby hills, and then back the bullock wagon under it before toppling the hearthstone into the wagon to transport it to the site of the homestead. All the stones for the fireplaces for the building were granite brought down from the Bulgaback Range.

From there, we went back to the Caravan Park, where it was time for dinner and some evening relaxing.

Tuesday 1st November
Up early, again. Same reason – an early morning bike ride. This time the ride was from Omeo to Cobungra and the Victoria Falls. I jettisoned as much of the extra weight as possible from my bike touring kit. And then I was off on a bike ride that I knew was going to involve some climbing. The ride was uneventful, as is often the case. But the road was one of the steeper ones I have ridden, and the higher I got or the more exposed the road was, the stronger the headwinds. And it was a cold wind too. But I was prepared. I had 3 layers on – the cycling jersey, a polar fleece jumper, and an almost-wind-proof rain coat. I could feel the cold of the wind a bit, but not so much that I was worried about getting a chill or anything worse.

Pretty soon after leaving Omeo the main climbing started, and for approximately the next 8km I pedalled slowly up the hill. Near the top of the climb I arrived at Kosciosko Lookout, which was a bit under half way along the ride. And had a bit of a rest. But I felt the road calling me on. And I was on a bit of a timetable. I had told Rebecca that the ride would take me 2 hours to reach the Victoria Falls Historic Area, and so I couldn’t linger in any particular place for too long. So on I pedalled. Then I reached the top of the main climb and there was some downhill. But the downhill didn’t last as long as I thought it would. It teased me into thinking there would be a lot of downhill, but before I knew it I was climbing again! Then there was some more downhill, then some more climbing. And then the wind… This was the most exposed part of the ride, along the sides or tops of hills, and the wind made even some of the flat and downhill sections seem like climbs.

Eventually I made it to Cobungra, and the Victoria Falls Road. At Cobungra I had mobile reception, and so I sent an SMS to the family to let them know where I was and where I was going. After a little more downhill I found the picnic area, rode on a little further to see what was further a long the road, then after a while I turned back to the picnic area to wait for the family.

The Victoria Falls Historic Area is the location where the first hydro-electric power scheme in Victoria was built. Not to serve residential or commercial customers, but to provide power to one industry – a large, power hungry mine which was finding it increasingly difficult to source firewood for it’s boilers. So it was decided to convert the mine from steam powered to electric powered. Quite innovative for it’s day. There is not much left there today – we saw a dam wall that was destroyed in a flood, and another old dam further along at the end of the road. There are apparently more things to see, but some ambiguous signage that said “private property”, and then had a “walkers and management vehicles only” (which suggests state / public land) sign a bit further on made me wonder whether it was a good idea to explore further. In the same area is the Victoria Falls, a fairly spectacular set of cascades, made more so by the over-abundance of rain over the preceding months. We stopped at the lookout overlooking the falls and enjoyed the sight and sound of the falls roaring down the canyon.

From there we headed up to Dinner Plains, an alpine town with architecture reminiscent of the cattlemens huts that dot the Victorian alpine area. There was also some interesting pieces of art – a shiny metal emu and horse, and what looked like a giant gear and pedal set for some super huge bicycle. From there, we went even further up to Mount Hotham. There was still a lot of snow around, although I don’t think it would have been very ski-able. It was only just on the right side of zero – 1 degree according to the big clock / weather sign in the Hotham village. And the clouds were rolling in, and so it was possible that more snow could fall. But none of the ski-lifts would be operating if more snow did fall as the ski season finished officially almost a month ago.

We headed for the shelter of the day centre, and heated up some soup, and soon we had forgotten how cold it was outside. But then we had to go out in it again to get to the car. No matter. From that stage it could only get warmer. And the lower down the mountain we got the warmer it got. On the way back we stopped briefly at the Kosciosko Lookout, and then on to the Oriental Claims area to explore it. This area is named after the name of the company that worked the site for about 30 years in the late 1800’s / early 1900’s in search of that elusive yellow precious metal, gold. There are a large number of exposed cliffs towering above the various walking tracks. These cliffs were created by miners pointing high pressure water jets at the cliffs to wash the soil into sluicing areas, from which the gold was then extracted. The whole process would seem to be a good way to get to the gold in the soil, but the problem with the method is that it creates a lot of pollution problems even 100’s of kilometres downstream. A similar mine at Mitta Mitta also created similar water pollution problems during it’s operation.

By the time we had explored the Oriental Claims area, it was around 4pm, and so we decided we to go back to the caravan park, and engaged in less than interesting activities – dishes, cooking, showers, etc.

Wednesday 2nd November
Today’s early morning bike ride was a sedate affair when compared to the ones earlier in the week – about 26km long, and a little over 400 metres of climbing, and the average speed was almost 20kph. The destination and meeting point for me to meet the family was the Cassilis Historic Area in Tongio West, about 25km south of Omeo.

The Cassilis Historic Area was once a gold mining area, similar to many other places in the region around Omeo. And it has a lot of gold mining relics including old machinery and mine adits (the holes in the sides of mountains that the gold bearing rock is extracted through). The Cassilis Historic Area has 3 adits, collectively known as the Mount Hepburn / King Cassilis Mine. Each adit has it’s own name: “House of Horrors”, “Main Adit”, and “Boatmans Mine” – two of those names being very interesting names for a mine, and suggesting a story behind the names. After exploring the various mine remains on the loop trail, and enduring a certain child’s complaints of being tired and sore, we arrived back at the car. Then it was on to the village of Swifts Creek.

I had this picture in my mind of what the town of Swifts Creek would be like based on many other small villages I have visited over the years – very quiet main street with the occasional truck thundering it’s way through town, a sawmill, and a collection of buildings that had seen better days. Apart from the occasional truck thundering through town it was nothing like I envisioned. The school was in the middle of playing a game of “rounders” (I think). There was a cafe (which we had lunch at), another cafe, a pub, and a small supermarket, as well as some other community centered organisations. A quick read through the local noticeboard revealed a community that was very busy with all kinds of things including a community gym, a regular bike riding group, and a karate class. The thing that struck me most, though, was that the buildings we saw were all in very good condition, except for some rusty looking corrugated iron sheets on some roofs. They still had that ‘small country town’ look, but way over towards the ‘well-maintained’ end of the condition spectrum. Swifts Creek appeared to me to be a town whose citizens take pride in it’s appearance. I was only there for about an hour, but that was the impression I had of the town in the short time we were there.

After some lunch at the Creaker Cafe, we headed further south towards Ensay. After a quick stop at the Connor Lookout (I think it was called) we arrived at Ensay and turned east, with a plan to do a big loop through the Moscow Villa area, but about 20km into the loop we came across a large tree that had fallen across the road, and as we didn’t have a car that could get around it (ie, a 4×4 with lots of clearance) we turned around and back-tracked through Ensay. So the idea of doing a big loop fell in a heap. By this time I had about had enough of trying to get to Moscow Villa and the walking tracks in that area, so instead of trying to get there I decided we would just go towards Omeo. Along the way, we took a detour along the Tongio Gap Road just because it looked interesting on the map, and soon we had arrived back in Omeo. Rebecca wanted to have a look at the Cuckoo Clock shop, which has a large range of German-made cuckoo clocks, most of them being on different times. This is probably a good thing – can you imagine 100 cuckoo clocks all going off at once? The various styles and sounds of the clocks was interesting, and the mechanisms and moving pieces of the various clocks was quite amazing.

Thursday 3rd November
Not much of interest happened today. I managed a 20km bike ride before we departed Omeo. Most of the day was spent traveling from Omeo to Bairnsdale, and trying to find a playground for Eliana to burn off some energy. One thing of interest is that I have now driven all of the Great Alpine Road From Wangaratta all the way to Bairnsdale. In Eliana’s and my search for a playground we did find some interesting things.

Friday 4th November
An early start today. Eli and I started a somewhat epic journey from Bairnsdale back to Rutherglen, so we had to be at the Bairnsdale railway station to catch the 6:10am train. The VLine train tickets said we would travel on 2 trains and a bus, but instead we travelled on a train and 2 busses. Not exactly ideal for me and my railfan buddy. But we had to connect with the bus to Rutherglen so we had no ability to change the booking so that we got to ride a second train.

Originally I calculated we would travel about 1/4 of the possibile country passenger routes in Victoria on our journey, but with one train changed to a replacement bus that diminished to about 1/8. Oh well.

Sunday 6th November
Today marked the second week of my Annual Leave. Up until Friday night I couldn’t decide where to stay. So I was browsing the internet, considering options, when I happened upon a webpage describing a venue called Bharatralia Jungle Camp. On the webpage I looked at it said they had “luxury tents, with real beds, camp kitchen, shared shower and toilet”. That looked promising so I sent them an email, and the cost was going to be $40 a night. So I booked one of their “luxury tents” from tonight until Thursday. That was the accommodation taken care of.

So today, with the car packed with all the essentials, some of which I won’t actually need as the venue supplies them, I drove merrily to my booked accommodation. After paying the hosts, I unloaded all my gear and took it to the booked tent. I don’t really know what I was expecting (the words “luxury” and “tent” don’t quite seem to go together in my mind), but I was pleasantly surprised with the standard of accommodation. And not just the tent, but the whole place. It was like a beautifully manicured garden, with tastefully placed trees and gardens, and the sounds of peacocks (I think), the flittering of birds, and the noises of other wildlife abounding. A little slice of heaven.

After I had unpacked and had some lunch I went for a bike ride. That probably shouldn’t surprise anyone who has read this blog before. Earlier in the day I did a 1 hour 10 minute gym workout, and on the bike ride I noticed a definite lack of energy, which I think was because I was still recovering from the gym workout. But I still enjoyed the 15km ride. Inspite of the plethora of fallen trees across the track I rode. After I got back to the tent, I still had some time until dinner so I went for a walk around the property. Heavenly! The mountains in the background, the rolling hills of the property, and the gardens all fed the senses and along the walk I stopped often to just take in the scenes before me. Even the sounds were soothing and gentle on the ears, when there were any sounds. Back at the tent, after dinner was consumed, I took some time to sit and watch the King Parrots, Crimson Rosellas and other birds feeding not far from where I was sitting. Heavenly! And I managed to get some good photos of the birds too.

Monday 7th November
The plan today was to ride. But it was only after breakfast that I chose a destination – Dartmouth Dam. Having ridden the Mitta Mitta to Dartmouth route before, I knew what I was going to encounter until Dartmouth. And I had driven up to the Dam some time ago, so I knew there would be some up hill after Dartmouth township to get up to the Dam. More than 25 km of pedalling later, sometimes sedately sometimes not, I was at the dam wall. Dartmouth Dam was built back in the 1970s, but even by today’s standards it is impressive. The dam holds 4,000,000 megalitres. To put that into perspective, if every Australian (all 25 million of us) drank 2 litres of water a day it would take more than 200 years to empty it, if it was full. When full it has 150km of shoreline – that’s more than some countries! And the wall itself has 14,000,000 cubic metres of volume. It is the biggest dam on the Murray River catchment.

After reaching Dartmouth Dam and having a look around, I began the return trip to Mitta Mitta. And before too long I was at Banimboola Pondage. After after a quick look around there I continued on to Mitta Mitta. All went well, until I got to the driveway of Bharatralia Jungle Camp, where I had stopped, and then started and the chain slipped and my knee slammed into the handlebars. Ouch! And as if to have a visually sign of the “ouch”-ness, the knee swelled up. Even as I write this entry, in the evening of the day, it is still puffed up and a bit sore. But I figured out how to minimise the soreness – keep it moving. So after lunch I went for a hike nearly 7km long which was a combination of the River Walk and the Deep Gully Walk. While on the Deep Gully Walk I found a “Gnome Home”, and a “Frog Log”. Rather than explaining what they are, just have a look at the photos.

After getting back to the camp, I relaxed for an hour or so and watched the birds feeding, and with a little patience managed to get some good photos once the birds were in a photogenic spot. And I found some more gnomes. This time they were interspersed in the vines that surround the tents at Bharatralia.

Tuesday 8th November
Today I tackled the most difficult ride on the whole holiday – Mitta Mitta to Eskdale Spur Track / Camp Creek Track junction. This ride had approximately 30km of climbing, the most climbing I have ever done on a single ride, with total of around 2440 vertical metres of climbing. According to Google Maps, it should have been around 1500 vertical metres of climbing. Just goes to show how inaccurate Google Maps is once you get away from the main roads. The weather was very suited to a ride with lots of climbing as it was not too cold and not too hot. Real Goldilocks weather. That it wasn’t too cold meant that when I got to the higher altitudes I didn’t need to rug up with extra layers of clothing. Actually, the climbing helped keep me warm, and I found I only really got cold when I took a rest then started riding again.

The original plan was to try and get to Mitchell Hut, which I believe is somewhere on the Eskdale Spur, via Camp Creek Track. But by the time I had reached the Camp Creek Track turnoff, I had already ridden 30km, and I knew that Camp Creek Track would have some climbing on the way back. So at the Camp Creek Track turnoff I turned around. I think if I am going to try and get to Mitchell Hut / Eskdale Spur I will need to do it from the Mountain Creek end, as I think it is only about 10km of climbing from Mountain Creek camp ground, which would give me plenty of reserve energy to climb out of Camp Creek Track.

The last few kilometres of climbing out of the Rodda Creek valley were taxing, and I eagerly looked for the last crest signifying the last of the major climbs. By that time it was time for lunch, so I had the sandwiches I had prepared back at camp, and had some other food to replenish the energy used. And from there it was virtually all downhill all the way to the Omeo Highway turnoff just outside Mitta Mitta. After a short pedal on the Omeo Highway, I turned into the Bharatralia Jungle Camp road, and then there was one last uphill – the last 500 metres of so back to the tent. By that time the legs were really ready for a rest. But I needed to buy some bread from the Mitta Mitta General Store, so I had a bit of a rest, and then rode in to buy what I needed. Then once I returned from the shop I was able to rest the legs properly!

Wednesday 9th November
Compared to yesterday’s high altitude climbing ride, today was more akin to a recovery ride than anything else. It was still around the same distance as yesterday’s ride, but without the large vertical altitude difference. It was mostly flat, following the Mitta Mitta River flats from Mitta Mitta to Eskdale, with some not-to-strenuous (ie, easy) climbs, if you could even call them ‘climbs’. Today’s ride was also along more populated roads, so there was not quite the same level of ‘adventure’ on this ride. But it was still very enjoyable. A few times I saw Mt Bogong poking it’s head above the other mountains, and the contrast of the river flats and the mountains at their extremities made for a pleasant ride. The legs didn’t have to work too hard at all, and most of the time I was cruising along at about 20kph. By the time I got back to the camp, though, I was still pretty tired. After some lunch, I had trouble keeping my eyes open, and so laid down on one of the couches in the camp kitchen, and for about an hour was off in the Land of Nod (or, if you prefer, ‘catching some zzz’s’ or ‘having some shut-eye’). The warmness of the morning and early afternoon also contributed to my sense of drowsiness.

After I awoke from my slumber, I decided to go for a bit of a wander along one of the tracks. I don’t know what the name of the track was, but it followed the southern boundary of the Bharatralia Jungle Camp property. I followed this track for about as far as I could before there was a large number of trees across the path, and the undergrowth at that point of the track suggested it wasn’t used much beyond that point. That point was right up at the opposite end of the property to where the camp’s tents are located, and the vista down the valley was awesome. The property itself was all grassland – not the 6 foot high type, but more like a lawn that hadn’t been mowed in a while. And on each side of the valley were forests of trees as far down the valley as I could see. There were patches of trees in the paddocks, and the grass was a nice verdant green, not the dried out pale-brown color we get at home during Summer.

This is the last day of my away-from-home adventure. I left on the start of my adventure soon after I finished work around 1pm on the 28th October, and wont be home until after 1pm tomorrow, which means it will have been 2 whole weeks I have been away from home. Some of that I spent with family at various places, and only the last 4 days I have spent away from family. Even though adventures away from home are great fun, it will be good to be back home!

Time for a Weddin


No. I am not getting married (again), or anything like that. Over the weekend just gone, Rebecca, Jesse, Eliana and myself went to the Weddin Mountains National Park, located in the New South Wales central-west region. The purpose of the trip was to camp and hike and generally enjoy nature. Or in other words, get a prescription strength dose of Nature-RX . My wonderfully organised wife had trolled the internet for suitable venues for this outdoor adventure weekend, and many of the places she found were having road closures and/or fuel reduction burns over the weekend, and Weddin Mountains National Park was just about the only one she found within a reasonable distance drive from home, which had some good tracks to walk and things to do. So Friday morn, the car was packed with all the stuff we thought we would need, less some things we should have tried to fit in to our Honda CRV but didn’t due to space. And off we trundled initially at the leasurely pace allowed by Learner drivers in the ever forward-thinking state of New South Wales (Australia), but then after Jesse (our Learner driver) had finished driving I took over and drive at the actual speed limit, where possible.

Weddin Mountain National Park is located about 30 minutes drive west/south west of the town of Grenfell, and rises up to a somewhat impressive height above relatively flat surrounds. It seems somewhat out of place surrounded by flat-ish farming land. The place we were going to be camping was Ben Hall Campground, on the western side of the park. The campground was very dry, the creeks in the area all dried up, but apart from that it was a great place to camp with lots of shade from eucalyptus and kurrajong trees. Ben Hall was one of a not insignificant number of bushrangers (ie, outlaws) who found that stealing, pillaging, and taking other people’s stuff was more lucrative than working hard for a pittance and buying his own, and he had a hideaway in a cave near the campground from the long, but probably not quite long enough, arm of the Law.

BenHallCampground-Kangaroo-7378

Kangaroo at the campground

Sabbath morning dawned with a little cloud, and a forecast top temperature of around 28 degress (Celsius). And so we embarked on what would become the longest hike Rebecca and Eliana have every done to date – more than 10 kilometres. Jesse and I have done longer hikes before. The destination was Eualdrie Lookout. The hike itself initially followed a dry creek ravine, with stunning multi-colored and variously shaped cliffs and rock faces, with layers of tress between various parralel cliffs and rock faces. The creek bed looked like it hadn’t had water in a long time. Along the way we saw a goat, which I think must have been wild, as well as hearing kangaroos and/or wallabies bounding through the bush above and beside us. And hearing the song of birds. Although it seemed that bird life was no apparent as in other places we have visited over the years. Rebecca and Eliana must be commended for the effort on this hike. Following the trail involved a fair bit of scrambling over rocks, negotiating fallen trees, and trying to avoid some pretty nasty spiky plants that we encountered in a number of places. Eliana had a fall, but with a some tears and a little encouragement she was back on her feet again. Rebecca kept referring to the last time we climbed “The Rock”, a towering edifice of a rock that stands sentinel over the township fo the same name about 40 minutes drive from where we live. I tried to re-assure her that this hike would be no where near as bad as “The Rock”, but I really had no idea what the hike would be like. We eventually arrived at the Eualdrie Lookout, and had some lunch while enjoying the views (which were quite stunning), and watching various members of a colony of lizards moving over the rocks.

Near the lookout we met a couple who we had seen at the campground earlier in the morning. They live at Ulladulla, on the NSW south coast. They were heading south to Victoria and visiting various places of interest along the way. At the campground, we met a number of other campers, some staying just one night, some longer – they were either going to or coming from Western Australia, Katoomba, Adelaide, and other places. The campground almost seemd to be some sort of ‘cross roads’ for all points of the compass.

Sunday we decided to go for a hike fairly early, then we had to go into Grenfell to buy some more water as there was absolutely no water at the campground excepot for washing hands in the toilet blocks. The hike we did was the Bertha’s Gully walk, which seemed to be named after the wife of Jim Seaton, who had a farm only a short distance from the campground in the years during and after the Great Depression. On other documentation the walk seemed to be called Black Gin Gully. But as a Black Gin is a racist term for an Aboriginal female, I am guessing that the gully was renamed after a white woman. This hike was described as a ‘pleasant walk’, and so we were thinking ‘easy’. But it wasn’t. This walk involved even more climbing and scrambling over rocks in relation to it’s length than the Eualdrie Lookout walk. But the scenery! There impressive towring rock formations and cliff faces, and some other differently shaped rocks which with that wonder of the post-modern age – the digital camera with impressive zoom capabilities – I was able to get some close up pictures of.

Upon our return back to camp we went for that drive into Grenfell I mentioned earlier. It was basically uninterering, so I won’t bore you with that. And lunch was minestrone soup with bread buns, then biscuits and fruit. After lunch, while Rebecca and Eliana rested after their earlier hikes, me and Jesse decide we would tackle the Lynchs Loop and Lookout hike. The sign at the start of the hike said it would take 2 hours, and was 2.5km in length. So we bounded off like a couple of mountain goats and slahed the required time in half! Including a 10 minute beark enjoying the views at the lookout. This hike had more impressive rocks. Impressive rocks are one thing this park has plenty of. And on the way down we, or I should say Jesse, almost collected a spider’s web. And it was a rather large spider that presided over his food collecting apparatus. After a rather un-manly scream from Jesse we negotiated around it and kept going.

When we got back to camp we all got in the car and drove to nearby Seaton Farm, a historical site featuring various Depression-era innovations and money saving examples. The farm buildings were constructed by Jim Seaton from second hand iron, mill offcuts, mud and earth, and hand cut timber from the surrounding trees. It seems that Jim Seaton would be what we might call a ‘hoarder’ today, as he kept anything and everything including bags of charcoal, tins and bottles, old tyres and car parts, second hand fences, correguated iron and farm machinery. But then when the times were tough all that assortment of thing could make the difference between making a living and not. The various items collected by Jim Seaton is testament to not only the difficult times he encountered, but also to his unique character.

The farm was a model of self-sufficiency – they grew their own vegetables, killed their own meat, grew feed for their sheep, cows and pigs. The farm house was made of iron, and had a packed earth floor – probably no “take our shoes off before you enter”, or “don’t bring those dirty boots inside the house” for the Seatons! The internal walls were made of mud over wire frames. But it did have sky-lights in some rooms, built by the Seatons of course.

ApproachingStorm-SundayEvening-7505

Storm clouds brewing

After our visit to the Seaton Farm, we continued for a leisirely drive to the nearest settlement, a township called Bimbi. By the time we arrived back at camp it was time to cook some dinner. As we partook of our dinner, a vegetarian pasta bolognese, storm clouds seemed to be gathering and as we had heard that there was the possibility of it being a  stormy night. As we had no plans for the next day except to pack up and head for home, and as we had done and seen everything we had planned to by Sunday afternoon, we quickly as possible packed up all our belongings into the Honda, and departed for home. And we are glad we did. As we drove along towards home we had a fairly constant lightning display – sometimes close by and sometimes nearer – and when we got home and checked the weathr radar on our phones we noticed that two storm systems – one coming from the south / east and the other from the north could have collided not too far distant to where we were camped!

Koscioscko National Park Get-away


Friday before Christmas 2014

For weeks now I have really felt like I needed to “get away”! Today I realised the start of “getting away” for a few days. Having packed the car the night before, I left home a bit after 8am. And then I decided I wasn’t going to check the clock until Monday. I would also be “off-the-grid” till then as well – no mobile phone reception and no internet. Just me, God, nature and the bike. I arrived at Geehi Flats camping area and it didn’t take long to set up camp. Then I embarked on an activity I hadn’t done for about a month – I went on a bike ride. After a quick look at a map, I decided the Swampy Plain Loop would be the go. The ride being rated as “easy”, I was fairly confident that I could do it. The first 2 kms was uphill and fairly steep at that, and then the rest was either downhill (sometimes steep) or almost flat. On the ride I saw many kangaroos, some 4x4ers (a common species in them thar hills), 3 different huts all made out of river stones, and some awesome scenery. And just to complete the experience, there were 2 river crossings – the first time I have ever attempted that on a bike. After a bit of recovery time I decided to try and find the old Geehi township site, which was set up as a work town for the Snowy Mountains Scheme. It showed it on the map, but the track that led down to it had a nice sign warning that site rehabilitation work was in progress, so not to go there. Being a law abiding citizen I decided to heed the sign, and turned back towards camp. On the way back to the campsite I found the Bicentenial National Trail, so walked along that instead of along the Alpine Way. I did manage to find the Dr Forbes Hut, albeit from the other side of the river! There were already quite a number of campers at Geehi Flats camping area, but it is still very serene. The stresses of life seem so far away. I spotted a number of Wrens, Crimson Rosellas, the laughter of the Kookaburra, some bird calls I don’t think I have ever heard before. And there was also the sounds of the river nearby to camp. One bird I saw looked like a cross between a crow and a magpie and sounded like a galah! The white moths fluttered from bush to bush without a care. The mountain peaks of the western fall of the Kosciosko Main Range in the distance standing watch over the valleys. I think it would be very easy to lose one’s self, and find closeness to the One who made these beautiful places like this, in the process. As Sabbath approached I got in the car and headed towards Scammells Spur Lookout. Along the way I encountered a family whose car had overheated on the hiil climb. I stopped and helped them get going again and then offered to follow them to the top of the hill, which they were grateful for. Then I drove to the lookout. To open Sabbath I read Psalm 92, “A Psalm for the Sabbath”, and blew the Shofar. It’s sound produced a pretty cool echo. And the view of the Main Range was amazing.

“LORD, … I take joy in what your hands haave made; How great are your deeds” (Ps 92:4,5 CJB).

Old Geehi Hut

Old Geehi Hut

River crossing on Swampy Plains Loop

River crossing on Swampy Plains Loop

Behrs Flat looking to Main Range

Behrs Flat looking to Main Range

Keeble Hut

Keeble Hut

Geehi Hut

Geehi Hut

Original Geehi Hut

Original (?) Geehi Hut

Campsite at Geehi Flats

Campsite at Geehi Flats

Swampy Plains River

Swampy Plains River at Geehi Flats

Dr Forbes Hut

Dr Forbes Hut

Bicentenial National Trail

Bicentenial National Trail

Geehi airstrip

Geehi airstrip, probably unused!

Kosciosko Main Range

Kosciosko Main Range from Scammells Spur Lookout

Kosciosko Main Range

Kosciosko Main Range from Scammells Spur Lookout

Kosciosko Main Range

Kosciosko Main Range from Scammells Spur Lookout

To see GPS data for the Swampy Plain Loop, go here: http://www.strava.com/activities/231707713 .

Sabbath

I awoke to the sounds and songs of birds today. I recogised the sound of a lyrebird nearby. Varied was the bird-songs I heard. All of them singing songs of praise to their Creator.

“What variety there is in your works, LORD. How many of them there are! In wisdom you made them all; The earth is full of your creations” (Ps 104:24 CJB).

After breakfast I had a quick look at the map and decided to try and hike from Dead Horse Gap towards Mt Kosciosko and see how far I got. Before that could happen I had to drive to Dead Horse Gap, a distance of 40km from camp. Last night while settling down to go to sleep I listened to Dr Richard Davidson’s “Blazing Grace”, a talk about Moses and the Israelites encountering God at Mt Sinai. In that talk he says that the difference in altitude between Mt Kosciosko (Australia’s highest mountain) and Mt Sinai was about 50 metres. As I hiked towards Australia’s highest mountain I remembered that talk and concluded that Moses must have been a very fit man at age 80 (read the Biblical story and you’ll see what I mean)! I contemplated the power of such a God that could create the foundations for these mountains as I walked amongst the rugged beauty. By the time I got to the Kosciosko Lookout (about 4 kms from the mountain) I realised I wasn’t going to make it to the top, so after a short look at the view I turned around towards Dead Horse Gap. I’m glad I did as I devloped blisters. The scenery on the walk was awe-inspiring – beautiful alpine meadows and wildflowers, majestic rock tors, an abundance of bird life, and pristine mountain creeks. And I got to SEE Australia’s highest mountain even though I didn’t get to climb it – that will have to wait for another day. When I got back to the car it was starting to warm up and so I drove back to a camping / rest area called Leather Barrel Creek to have lunch. Lunch was non-descript so I won’t bore you with the details. On the way back to the camp after lunch I saw a turnoff for Geehi Horse Camp, and turned off to take a look, I reckon I found the old Geehi Township site not far from the horse camp area, so what I thought was the track to the Geehi township site yesterday probably wasn’t. By the time I got back to camp it had heated up even more and so inside the tent was WAY too hot to stay in. So I found some shade under a nearby tree and relaxed for a while. Putting the feet in the river, watching a family of ducks fighting the river current to stay in one place and splashing water on my mildly sunburnt arms and hands was also a pleasant way to relax – for a while. I noticed around this time that clouds were starting to build up – big white fluffy clouds, not the wispy-of-no-consequence kind. I began to wonder whether the weather forecasters might have got it wrong (again) and that the rain forecast for Monday might arrive early. At least the clouds will break the sunshine for a bit. Around the same time the wind strength increased too. Between the time I left this morning for the hike and the time I got back most of the campers had left, and then from the time I got back to camp a fairly steady stream of new campers arrived. It has been an interesting Sabbath. Experiencing the mountains at their sunny best, and enjoying the serenity of the camp area with it’s wildlife. Topped off by a Potato and Cashew soup (3 helpings) for Dinner and Pear Halves for dessert.

Gang Gang

Gang Gang, female I think. Male Gang Gangs have a bright red head. Near Dead Horse Gap.

Cascade Trail Head view

Cascade Trail Head view, near Dead Horse Gap

Dead Horse Gap Track

Dead Horse Gap Track

Mountains viewable on Dead Horse Gap Track

Mountains viewable on Dead Horse Gap Track

Mountains viewable on Dead Horse Gap Track

Mountains viewable on Dead Horse Gap Track

Native orchid?

Native orchid?

Flower

Flower

Alpine flower

Alpine flower

Rock Tor

Rock Tor

Mountains

Mountains as far as the eye can see. No sign of human habitation!

Mountains

Mountains as far as the eye can see. No sign of human habitation!

Mountains

Mountains as far as the eye can see. No sign of human habitation!

Mountains viewable on Dead Horse Gap Track

Mountains viewable on Dead Horse Gap Track

Mountains viewable on Dead Horse Gap Track

Mountains viewable on Dead Horse Gap Track

Alpine meadow

Alpine meadow

Creek

Creek on Kosciosko Trail above Thredbo

Snow

Remnants of snow on Mt Koscioscko

Rams head range

Rams Head Range. A metal and paved “pathway” extends from the top of Kosciosko Express chairlist to within a few kms of the summit of Mt Kosciosko.

Rock Tor

Rock Tor

Alpine Meadow

Alpine Meadow

Ferns

Ferns in the cleft of the rock

Creek

Creek at Leather Barrel Creek Rest Area

Emu at Tom Groggin Rest / Camp Area

Emu at Tom Groggin Rest / Camp Area

Site of Geehi Township

Site of Geehi Township, I think.

For GPS data on the Dead Horse Gap – Kosciosko Lookout walk, go here: http://www.strava.com/activities/231707720 .

Sunday

Awoke to fog this morning, and what looked like an “ovecast” sky. It was a bit hard to tell whether the “overcast” sky was just the fog lifting or was actual overcast sky. And it was cool as well. I think I got out of bed earlier than I did yesterday but it’s a bit hard to tell as I haven’t been living on clock time since Friday. The plan for today was to do the Major Clews Hut bike ride, a 35km circuit described as “challenging” in one document I read. Hmmm! According to the information I have, the return journey from the hut is a “constant climb” to Scammells Spur, and mostly along an “easy 4×4” track. I started the ride as planned – along Alpine Way for 2km, then left into Geehi Walls Track. Everything went well until I got to the bridge across a creek about 4km down the track. It was then I heard a canine howl, then another from a different direction. I had read on one of the infomation boards near my camp site that there were Dingos in the area, and those howls didn’t sound like domestic dogs. I envisioned being harrassed by a pack of dingos. So rather than ride towards where the howls seemed to come from, further along Geehi Walls Track towards Major Clews Hut, I turned around and back tracked up the Geehi Walls track to where it starts on the Alpine Way. From there I turned left, the revised plan then being to try and ride to Scammells Spur Lookout along the Alpine Way. So off I trundled on the treadlie! The ride to the lookout is about 11km from Geehi Flats camping area, and most of it is uphill. And not just a slight uphill. I did eventually make to the lookout after many many stops to catch my breath. Then I took in the view for a while, rested, and rehydrated (a fancy term meaning I had lots to drink), and checked and adjusted the brakes. It was while doing this that I noticed that the back brake cable was badly frayed in the assembly at the back wheel. Not good! So I made some hasty repairs and decided that the descents on the way back to camp would have to be at a lower speed, and only using the back brake when absolutely necessary and then only gently. This meant the front brake would be the main brake on the way back to camp. A prayer for protection was said, and then the descent began. The brakes worked fine for limiting my speed on the descents. And the ride was totally uneventful – definitely a GOOD THING. On the way back I saw a group of cyclists heading the other way. I am guessing they were heading to Khancoban as there was no other town until then. I also guessed that they originated in Jindabyne or Thredbo, although they could have camped overnight somewhere along the way if they had a support vehicle to carry luggage, etc. By the time I got back to the camp the sun was high in the sky, and I was feeling somewhat hungry, and it was rather warm. I decided to put the food in the car and go to Olsens Lookout and have some lunch there. I arrived at Olsens Lookout and had a “gourmet” (not) meal of Baked Beans, tinned Fruit and Shapes while looking up at the mountain range. The food might have been a bit ordinary, but the mountain views made up for it! By this time it was getting a bit too hot to do anything strenuous so I returned to camp and found the shadiest spot I could – under the roof of the information booth next to my camp spot – and read some chapters of a book called “The Colour of Courage”, the story of a two year pack-horse journey along the Bicentenial National Trail (BNT) from northern Queensland to the outskirts of Melbourne. The BNT runs through the Kosciosko National Park and the Geehi Flats camping area where I am. As I relaxed, I noticed that whenever I had to get up to do anything that my leg muscles ached quite badly. Must be a reaction to the bike ride in the morning. For the second day in a row bit fluggy clouds started overshadowing the camping area. The clouds yesterday produced no rain so it seem unlikely that the clouds today would either. Also for the second day in a row most of the campers left and were replaced by new campers. After a dinner of all sorts of weird and wonderful combinations I set about organising things that I could pack away in the car so that I wouldn’t need to do it in the morning. This will minimise the amount of time it will take to “break camp” in the morning . It’s a sure sign that my time here is drawing to a close! I came here to recharge, to get in touch with nature, and to appreciate more the Creator of the real world beyond the bricks and mortar, concrete, timetables, money, etc. I think it’s been a success on all counts. And along the way I rediscovered the benefits and joy in doing something physically demanding and challenging, and yes maybe even a little dangerous!

For GSP data for the two rides done on this day, go to:

Monday

Well, today is the day I leave the real world and go back to that “other” world. It is with mixed feelings that I leave this place. On the one hand I love the serenity and natural beauty of this National Park. But on the other hand I have mised Rebecca and the kids and look forward to seeing them again. It’s been great to live “off-the-grid” and off the clock for a few days without emails to check, and no clock to dictate what I should be doing. But the reality is that the busines world runs by the clock and, alas, I must join that world again. When God makes the earth new, and we have eternity to enjoy perfect natural beauty, then the clock will be no more, the world of wires and wireless will disappear, money will not be needed. O bliss!

Old Friends?


Normally we think of friends as being those fellow human beings that we have a bond of friendship with, people we have something in common with. And certainly those fellow human beings are friends. But maybe friends can be more than just human beings. Dogs are often referred to as “mans best friend”, so maybe other non-human things can be friends too in some way? When I was growing up in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges in eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria (Australia), my dad and I would sometimes spend a Sabbath afternoon exploring the national parks / state forests not far from where we lived. My parents still live there, and it is good to go back from time to time and experience the fond memories of days gone by, days that somehow seemed to be more relaxed, less stressful.

Interesting gum tree

Interesting gum tree

Over the New South Wales September 2014 School Holidays I had an opportunity to go on a mini-holiday with Eliana, my youngest offspring, to visit my parents and re-discover some old friends that I haven’t connected with in a long time. At church on Sabbath I had an opportunity to catch up with a number of ‘old friends’ (‘old’ not referring to their age, but rather how long they have been friends!). In the afternoon after lunch mum and Eliana went for a drive and I took the opportunity to do some hiking in the nearby forests. The plan was to hike from my parents’ house along Paddys Track and Neumanns Track to Grants Picnic Ground in Kallista then loop around via Coles Ridge Track and Welch Track back to my parents house through the Dandenong Ranges National Park. It had been many many years since I last walked that loop – at least 30 years I think. Some things stay the same and some things change. Near the start of the walk, just past the bridge that spans the Monbulk Creek there is a location called Jack the Miners in Selby. I have memories of going there for family picnics when I was young, and of it being a big expanse of open space with nicely mowed grass. But today it looks like the photo below.

Jack the Miners, near the Monbulk Creek bridge and Paddy Track.

Jack the Miners, near the Monbulk Creek bridge and Paddy Track.

The obvious source of the name would be that it is named after a fellow named Jack who was a miner. And I have heard that there was once a hut there. But I also read that there was a timber tramway through the area at some point in the early 20th century that ran through the area, and Welch Track seems to follow that tramway for at least part of it’s distance. So Jack the Miners might have been a timber storage area or something else at some point as well. There is no real evidence of what it was used for evident today. So exactly where the name came from or what the clearing was used is not entirely clear. The track itself seemed little changed from what I remembered of it.

Paddy Track joins Jack the Miners and Neumann Track.

Paddy Track joins Jack the Miners and Neumann Track.

I remember the hill in the photo above a bit too well! But I didn’t remember quite how long it was. But in spite of doing virtually no excersize for the previous month I still managed to get to the top of the hill with only a little breathless-ness by the time I got to the top. At the top I heard some lyrebirds – at least I was pretty sure they were lyrebirds. Lyrebirds have been known to mimic all sorts of sounds including steam trains, car horns, chainsaws, someone chopping wood, and all sorts of other sounds. They look a little like a peacock, especially with their tail fanned out.

Lyrebird

Lyrebird

And it must have been breeding season as it was doing it’s dance and song to try and attract a mate. I managed to get reasonably close to the lyrebird I heard, but before I could take a photo of it close up it would scamper off further into the forest. I managed to get this photo of it’s mound.

Lyrebird Mound

Lyrebird Mound

About this time I saw a fellow walker who was walking in the same direction as me. It turned out he was from Ringwood and was spending a day hiking in the forest. For the rest of the walk into Grants Picnic Ground we talked about all sorts of things including religion (he was a Christadelphian), the state religion (Australian Rules Football) and the worship in the temple of sport happening that very same day (I still don’t know who won, but I suspect the Hawks going by the shear number of Hawks colors flying from cars, trains) and how that meant less people in the forest and more serenity for those who were walking in them, our different walking experiences, different places worth a visit (he had walked in the Little Desert near Dimboola, Victoria), the history of the tracks we were walking on, etc.

Dead but majestic looking tree

Dead but majestic looking tree

At Grants Picnic Ground we parted company and I continued along the Coles Ridge Track. Some months ago I purchased a Shofar (probably best described as a rams horn trumpet). The Shofar was used to sound a warning of attack, to call warriors to arms, to call people to religious feasts, and to announce important events. I took it on the walk with me and along Coles Ridge Track, and in a nice quiet spot I got it out and started ‘playing’ it. The echo of it’s sounds in the forest was pretty cool to listen to!

Crimson Rosellas

Crimson Rosellas

Then I continued on to Welch Track, through Jack the Miners again and back to my parents house. Are you are still wondering about the ‘non-human friends’ idea I talked about at the start of this post? In this particular case, the ‘friend’ would be the forest surrounds – the sort of friend that expects nothing of you except maybe a visit every once in a while. The sort of friend who continues to surprise with new experiences, while evoking old memories of past time spent together. And while walking in the forest, it’s hard to forget the ultimate friend, the “friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24), a Divine friend who guides our steps and watches over our path (Psalms 23), who knows our innermost secrets (both good and bad) and remains the most stedfast, truest and loyal friend.

(For some more info on the weekend, see: http://www.jimsmodeltrains.ws/blog.php?id=390 .)