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!

Where the reeds grow


That’s what the Aboriginal word means that the township and river named Mitta Mitta, in the Victorian high country, derives it’s name from. We weren’t there to check out the reeds, but for a regional church camp. We stayed at the Mitta Mitta Caravan Park, which because of the recent abundance of rain was a bit of a muddy place. Some of the Autumnal trees had not quite realised it was spring, and were bare of leaves, while others were profuse in the celebration of the arrival of Spring even though the weather over the last few days was more like winter. The Snowy Creek was a raging torrent, compared to the very sedate Mitta Mitta River, which merge at the township.

This is the second time we have been to Mitta Mitta, the first time being a passing visit while we were driving and exploring along the Omeo ‘Highway’, and this time we were staying in the town. While almost everyone else at the caravan park was snoring peacefully on Sabbath morning, I was up early and decided to go for an early morning walk around the township. Mitta Mitta township is not very big, but as is often the case the smaller the town the more character there is. Mitta Mitta town is just such a place. As far as amenities go, it is well served – it has a General Store, Hotel, Caravan Park, 2 churches, a Primary School, Ambulance Station and Police Station. It’s population, at time of writing, was a couple hundred humans, some geese, sheep, and probably some wombats and kangaroos representing the native fauna.

Not far away is Dartmouth township and Dam. The Dam can store 3856 giga-litres – rather a lot of water! On Sunday I again got up early, inspite of the raucous partying of a bunch of fishermen next to our van till the wee small hours. I decided that I would do some cycling and bike ride up to Dartmouth, either the township or the dam, depending on how energetic I felt. As it turned out, I didn’t feel that energetic until I had turned around to go back to Mitta Mitta at Dartmouth township and was a bout 1/2 way back! But then the last stretch from Dartmouth township to the Dam would probably have been somewhat tougher than the previous 20km so it was probably a wise thing that I did turn back when I did. Maybe I can attempt getting to the Dam another time.

It was quite foggy most of the ride, but this provided some interesting vistas – mountains poking above cloud, the road seemingly disappearing into the cloud, some farmland seemingly erased by cloud coverage. All very beautiful, and good for the soul. And despite the fog and lack of sunshine, I wasn’t cold, although that was probably the various layers of clothing I had on which kept my body warmth in (sometimes too much) and cool air out. There is nothing quite like being out in the beauty of nature to refresh and restore. And Mitta Mitta and it’s surrounds offer plenty of that! And little bit of quirkiness besides…

And I even saw some reeds.

Family Holiday Highlights – Fri 19th April


(This post follows on from the 2 previous ones, so if something in here doesn’t make sense try reading the previous two posts).

Trappers Gap Track

The Mountain Creek Camping Ground where we were camped is accessed via a road from Tawonga that continues beyond the camping ground to the Omeo Highway near Mitta Mitta. Between the camping ground and the Omea Highway the road is called Trappers Gap Track. On Friday we decided that a non-energetic day was in order, and so we decided to go for a drive to Mitta Mitta and explore around there. This meant travelling along Trappers Gap Track. As far as mountain roads go, it’s not a bad road. A little rough and steep in places, with very steep mountain sides above and below the track in quite a few places. But we have been on worse roads (the backwoods ‘road’ through the Wollondilly River valley to reach the Wombeyan Caves, for example). The road climbs steadily and provides some great views of the Bogong ridge. And I am fairly sure that it gets up above the snow line ad when I got out to take some photos it was very cold.

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Above and below: Views of the Bogong ridge from Trappers Gap Track.

MountainCreek_TrappersGap_roads_view_5175_500The photos above give the impression that the road is about the same altitude as the road, but I don’t think that would have been the case as a sizable portion of the Bogong ridge is above the treeline (not just above the snowline), and the road still had plenty of trees on both sides of it for it’s whole length to suggest it never gets above the treeline.

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Above: Trappers Gap Track

Averaging about 30kph, it took us a bit over an hour to travel the 38 km from the Mountain Creek camp ground to Mitta Mitta.

Mitta Mitta

Mitta Mitta is a small town nestled into the steep sided valley where the Mitta Mitta River and Snowy Creek converge. Actually the name Mitta Mitta means “meeting of the waters” in the Aboriginal language. The first settlers are believed to be William Wyse and Charles Ebden who took up cattle grazing leases in the area. Gold was discovered in the 1860s, which brought many more people to the region, as gold finds tended to do back then. The Pioneer Mine was opened in 1861 and was the principle claim, and the site is reputedly the largest open cut gold mine in the southern hemisphere. The mine is so huge that the road goes into the mine for a way, and then there is a 1.5km walk inside the open cut itself.

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Above: One of the walls of the open cut.

The Pioneer Mine used hydraulic sluicing methods to extract the gold. This needed a large volume of water which was brought in open channels (water races). These water races were hand cut on the contour to bring water from nearby creeks to the mine site. The water used for the hydraulic sluicing was channeled through iron pipes from the top of the mine to the bottom where it was channeled through a hose with a nozzle. The pressure created by this method was so great that it generated a huge jet of water that was used to hose down earth from the walls of the mine literally washing away the walls of the mine which was then ‘sluiced’ in sluice boxes to separate the gold from clay and loam that held it. Two men were needed to hold the nozzle to direct the water at the mine wall. A nozzle could deliver 18 MegaLitres of water a day. Thats 18,000,000 litres!

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Above: Remains of a water race inside the Pioneer Mine open cut.

Also in the area was the Mammoth Flume, which was built during the 1860s and was 35 metres high and 210 metres long. Made of timber, the flume was constructed to carry water across a creek as part of a 22km water race. The water race is still visible in places but the flume was dismantled in 1908.

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Above: The Mammoth Flume

Not far from the Pioneer Mine site, beside the river near the edge of Mitta Mitta township, is a historical reserve with a number of static displays related to the history of the town and it’s gold mining past.

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Above: Buckets used by ‘The Dredge’ which overturned large areas of the Mitta Mitta riverbed and discovered 5376 ounces of gold.

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Above: A replica miners cottage.

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Above: Poppet head used to crush quartz as part of the gold extraction process.

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Above: This wheel seems to have been used to generate power to operate the poppet head. Many things relied on the power of water to power machinery in the 1800s.

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Above: A mine tramway wagon used to haul rock out of a mine.

The town of Mitta Mitta today is a lot less busy’ than what is was in it’s heyday, but it still has a general store, hotel, caravan park, ambulance and police stations. It still has a number of old buildings around the town…

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Above: Union Church.

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Above: Mechanics Institute

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Above: I am not sure whether this building is really that old, but it captures the style of gold mining era buildings.

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Above: The hotel. While I am a non-drinker, I still appreciate the architecture of buildings such as this.

Eskdale

Not far from Mitta Mitta is the township of Eskdale. The township was first surveyed in 1887 and was named by the first shop owner, James Aitken. A bakery was opened around 1890, and the original hotel was opened in 1897. The discovery of gold in the area and early farming effected the development of the town.  Also in the 1890s, Eskdale had it’s own butter factory.

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Above and below: Remains of Eskdale Butter Factory. The chances of this being restored seem somewhat remote as the dreaded Asbestos is in the factory and it would probably take a large amoutnt of money to extract it before restoration could begin.

Eskdale_old_butter_factory_5195_500A declining mining industry saw the ascendancy in importance of farming, particularly dairying, as a viable regional pursuit. The area is very suitable for dairying. Farmers brought their milk to be separated at creameries from where the cream was transported to the butter factory. In 1967 the company that run the butter factory was merged into the Murray Goulburn Co-op, and when bulk milk road transport became viable the butter making activity was closed down.

Back home

This is not so much a highlight of the holiday (for me at least, as I was still eager to explore), but as everyone else in the family had by this time developed an ailment of some kind I reluctantly heeded the suggestion of the Wife and when we got back to Mountain Creek we packed up the campsite in record time and headed for home.

Thus endeth the holiday!

Family Holiday Highlights – Wed 17th April


From Tuesday 16th to Friday 19th April, we were able to have a family camping holiday. We camped at the base of Mount Bogong, the highest mountain in the state of Victoria (Australia), at a camping place called Mountain Creek.

Here are a few highlights of the activities we did on Wednesday…

Bogong village and Fainter Falls

Bogong village was created in the late 1930s by the State Electricity Commission (SEC) to provide accommodation and services for workers constructing the Kiewa hydro-electric scheme. A post office, a primary school and a shop were also established. When the Kiewa hydro-electric scheme was completed in the early 1960s, the SEC planted various terraced and lakeside gardens. In the Spring various flowers bloom, in Summer the gardens take on a cool and leafy green appearance, turning to a kaleidescope of color in the Autumn when the leaves of the deciduous trees announce that Summer is over and Winter is on the way. Autumn is the time of year we visited there, and the various colors of leaves throughout the region made for a very colourful vista. But it isn’t just the gardens at Bogong that provide beauty – there is Lake Guy, a man-made lake built as part of the hydro-scheme.

Above: Lake Guy wall

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Above: Lake Guy, looking upstream

While the wall itself is somewhat utilitarian and made of concrete, the lake that it holds in the valley is very pleasant to behold as are the various visual elements associated with the village. A little upstream from Lake Guy, there is a beautiful parkland setting where the Kiewa River is joined by a creek. A bridge crosses at that location, providing a good view up the valley.

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Above: Bridge across the Kiewa River at Bogong Village

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Above: Looking upstream from atop the bridge in the previous photo.

Photos really don’t do the scene justice (as is often the case with scenes of such beauty) – much less a wordy written description. A short drive from Bogong Village is Fainter Falls. According to the signage on the walk, it flows all year. This is hardly surprising as it has the High Plains to feed water to it. Winter snowfalls and seasonal rains recharge the ground water, springs and alpine wetlands which  slowly and continuous feed such water ways.

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Above: Looking downstream towards the Kiewa River.

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Above: The falls

While we all went on the walk, only Jesse, Rebecca and I actually went up to the closest viewing platform to the falls. Zoe and Eliana stayed at the viewing platform a few hundred metres back.

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Above: the family minus Dad (on the other side of the camera) at the intermediate viewing platform before Jesse, Rebecca and I went on to the next platform.

Falls Creek Alpine Resort

This was the first time we had visited the Falls Creek resort, but I had been there before, having been somewhat enthusiastic about snow skiing before I got married. I think the last time I was there was before Rebecca and I got engaged, so it would have been some time around 1994 when I was last there. Things had changed. New buildings had been built, but some of the ski runs looked somewhat familiar (but some had what looked like snow-making apparatus which they didn’t last time I was there), and the mountains themselves hadn’t changed (at least not noticably).

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Above: It wasn’t there last time I was.

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Above: Wishing Well. This also wasn’t there last time I was.

Another thing that I noticed was the non-ski-season marketing. Once upon a time a ski resort was basically just used for skiing. But it seems that the marketers for Falls Creek and Mount Beauty are recognising the potential for other non-Winter sports such as mountain biking, etc.

A ‘ruined castle’ and a Basalt Hill

Above Falls Creek, on the Mt McKay / Pretty Valley road is a naturally occurring feature called Ruined Castle. The feature is evidence of a basalt flow as a result of volcanic activity in the area years ago. The cooling of the lava caused cracks which divided the rock into close fitting columns, usually hexagonal (6 sides) in shape. The “Ruined Castle” formation is one of a few remaining examples of columnar jointed basalt in the area.

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Above: view of all of ‘ruined castle’ formation

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Above: Close-up showing hexagonal shape of columns.

A short-ish drive further up onto the high plains on the road between Falls Creek and Omeo, past the Rocky Valley Dam near the Wallaces Hut walk and car park, are some formations which also are apparently of volcanic origin according to the signage. One of the formations is called Basalt Hill, which I suppose is indicating what it is comprised of.

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Above: An example of a basalt topped mountain, where the basalt on top helps to protect the rock underneath from erosion.

From there we decided to continue on to Omeo, as if it might be some sort of Shangri-la nestled in the hills.

Omeo, Omeo, wherefore art thou, Omeo

According to the road signs and our calculations it would take us about 1.5 hours to get to Omeo, but none of us had ever been to Omeo before and so we had no idea what we would encounter. The Omeo Highway and the song “Life is a highway” (which our son decided was an appropriate song to have playing) somehow just don’t seem to fit together. For one thing, the Omeo Highway is not the sort of road that one would like to ‘ride all night long’. Why it would be called a Highway at all might even be questioned. Maybe it was to get government funding for it, or something like that. It may not be what would often be thought of as a highway, but the drive is spectacular! Jutting rock faces and deep gorges are the major features, and with an average speed of around 50 kmh we (except the driver) had plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. Sadly there were no places to pull over and just gawk at the scenery as the road is so narrow and winding.

As the kilometres passed we could all have been mis-quoting Shakespeare and thinking “Omeo, Omeo, wherefore are thou Omeo”. But eventually we made it! And here is the proof…

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Nestled in the mountains seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Omeo is a small country town surrounded by beautiful scenery and farmland. To the north is Mitta Mitta, and Dartmouth and Corryong, and to the south is Bairnsdale. Gold, that precious and allusive metal, was the reason the town came into existence, but as the gold rush ended farming became the main activity of the region. Very picturesque, the town has a number of old buildings, and has the winding streets seemingly so common in gold mining towns and towns in the mountainous regions.

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We couldn’t stay long in Omeo as we wanted to be back at our camp site on the other site of the High Plains in time for tea and it was about 3:30pm when we arrived at Omeo. We also didn’t really want to be driving on the High Plains as the freezing temperatures descended below freezing point! So we had a brief look along the main street and then, with a sense of urgency, we headed back along the Omeo Highway from whence we came and over the High Plains. But we decided fairly quickly that a holiday to Omeo was a must-do at some point in the not-too-distant future.