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.

Vacations are for…


Celebrating with family
Over the last week and a half we had a number of celebrations: we had Christmas lunch in the Aussie bush with my mum and dad and youngest brother Callum, and his girl-friend Sharon.

Sharon_and_Cal_4713_500A few hours drive away, we caught up with Rebecca’s brothers and their wife / partner / fiance (soon to be wife), depending on the brother. The highlight was when Rebecca’s youngest brother David and his fiance Mel got married. To each other, of course. Here is the happy couple cutting the cake.

DSCF4764_500The wedding ceremony was held next to the Latrobe River in a town called Noojee, in southern Victoria. A town that holds special interest for me as I once owned a block of land there and was planning to build a house and live there, but that was nearly 20 years ago. Plans change.

Travel
The next day we decided to travel into the Victorian high-country, into an area called the Dargo High Plains on our journey home. Not that they are really ‘plains’ as in ‘large areas of flat land’. Before we got to the bustling metropolis (??) of Dargo we did some exploring of the Den or Nargun, a portion of the Mitchell River National Park. Wondering what a Nargun is? It is a mythical creature that the Aborigines of the area described as half human half stone which supposedly captured children that visited the pool near Nargun’s den. Here is a photo of the den where the non-existent Nargun supposedly lived, complete with rock pool.

Den_of_Nargun_4773_500One wonders whether there was some sort of fearsome creature embellished by legend and oral traditions over the years, similar to the dragon St George fought in Welsh legend. Or whether the tradition of the Nargun was merely an attempt to keep certain people (in this case children) away from the pool. I guess we will never know. Our youngest daughter was a little concerned that the Nargun might get here (she is 7), so we explained that our God was more powerful than a Nargun or any other monster and she was ok after that. The township of Dargo itself owes it’s existence to the discovery of Gold back in the 1800’s, but today is mainly frequented by tourists and local farmers. Being good tourists, we decided to have lunch at the Dargo Hotel.

Dargo_hotel_4781_500We don’t often eat at Hotels (also called Pubs in Australia), but we are glad we did eat at the hotel as the food was great, and well priced. There was also a lot of information about the town displayed on the walls, so while waiting for our lunch there we read up on the history of Dargo and surrounds, and looked at the artifacts on display. The hotel oozed character.

From there we headed north and up. And up. And up some more. I travelled the same road, the Dargo High Plains Road, around 20 years ago and I don’t remember it being so steep! And for so long. Funny how the mind chooses to remember some things and not others. On the way we stopped in at a place called Grant. Actually it’s not so much a place as the site of a no-longer-existant town – a ghost town.

Grant_4788_500This town, when it existed, owed it’s total existence to Gold. Unlike Dargo which had farm land around it, Grant had no farmland nearby (unless you include Treasures Homestead which is some distance further north and above the snow line). Water was constant problem, and when the gold ran out the town died. In 1865 it had 2000 people, 4 banks, churches, a stock exchange, stores and a newspaper called the Crooked River Chronicle. The decline had already started by 1870. With the closure of the Good Hope mine in 1916 the town was doomed. Along with the lack of water, the climate seems to have been somewhat severe too – I have a book which tells the story of there being a snow storm, a heatwave, and an earthquake in one day!

From Grant we continued north and up, to Mt Saint Bernard. At this location there was once a hospice which catered for travellers between Harriteville and Mount Hotham. This was in the days of travelling by open motor vehicles, or horse transport and the Hospice would have been a welcome relief to travellers making there way over the mountains. the Hospice was destroyed during the Black Friday bushfires of 1939. Today, all that remains to commemorate the existence of the Hospice is a cairn and a sign.

Mt_Saint_Bernard_Hospice_4804_500A little more ‘up’ and along a very exposed road…

Mt_Hotham_road_4805_500… and we arrived at Victoria’s highest alpine resort – Mount Hotham. A large sign at the entrance to the resort shows how proud they are of that fact!

Mt_Hotham_resort_4812_500The ‘main street’ of Mount Hotham resort looks more European than Australian. But then thats not unusual for an Australian alpine resort.

Mt_Hotham_resort_4814_500The views from the resort are simply breathtaking. The mountains poke above the treeline. And the valleys are so steep and deep. Pictures really can’t do the views justice, so I didn’t think I would even bother posting a photo of the views. The temperature was a very pleasant 27 degrees Celcius. Much more pleasant than the 38 degrees down on the plains!

From Mount Hotham we travelled down, down, down, to Harrietville, then across Tawonga Gap to Mt Beauty where we needed to buy some pain-killers for my wife who by that time had a migraine headache. Within 2 hours we were back home, and we all collapsed in tired heaps on our beds.

Exersize?
Well, maybe exersize isn’t really what most people think of while on holidays. But then I am not ‘most people’. Today I took to the Murray to Mountains Rail-trail with some friends. From Myrtleford to Bright we trundelled along on our bikes (most of the group powered along and quickly disappeared into the distance) and saw lots of interesting things, including old kilns and buildings…

Myrtleford_Eurobin_oldBuilding_4823_500… old machinery …

Myrtleford_Eurobin_OldMachinery_4827_500… some interesting animal life – a lot of bird life…

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… and a lazy brown snake being some of the more interesting animals we encountered. On arrival at Bright, that jewel of the Ovens valley, that town of the beautiful autumn leaves, that provider of great hot foods, we had lunch.

By the time I got home I was feeling ready to finish my vacation and embark on a week of vocation.

Doritos at high altitude


Here is a one of the stranger sights I have seen in a while. While travelling in the Dargo High Plains in the Australian Alps near Mt Hotham we noticed that the two packets of Doritos we had in the car were getting bigger and bigger the higher we got in altitude.

Doritos_at_high_altitude_4798_550The reason why they got so big is perfectly logical – the air pressure is lower the higher in altitude one gets, so the air in the packet expands. But even still, we weren’t expecting it!