by Lee Caldwell
Day 1 (13/11/04)
Due to other desires we were delayed and departed Tailem Bend at 1020, there
were 7 vehicles and 13 people heading for Mt Gambier. The tour group included
Mal Swalling & Lee Caldwell, Ken & Anne Trebilocock, Evelyn & Ron Pitt, Leith
Holder, Barry & Kay Speck, Dennis & Ros Connor & Robyn & Garry Worrall.
On arrival it was tents up before the rain set in and followed by a very
comfortable evening in a well appointed camp kitchen.
Up and away by 0900, heading for Peterborough (Vic) stopping for lunch at Pt
Fairy. We continued on to Peterborough via several coastal stop overs including
Bay of Islands, Bay of Martyr’s and Worm Bay. It was then we discovered the
origin of the Bay of Islands. It appears that Techno, as a toddler, dug a hole
with his plastic spade which over the years has expanded. We are all a little
worried about where else he may have dug holes.
The appropriateness of wind farms along the Victorian coast became apparent when
we were putting up our tents.
Ably lead by our tour guide for the day Leith, we headed out to view the scenic
spots along the Great Ocean Road from Peterborough to The Twelve (10) Apostles.
Some of the spectacular spots visited were The Grotto, London Bridge, Pt
Campbell (for lunch), Island Arch, Loch Ard Gorge, The Blow Hole, Thunder Cave
and ending at the Twelve Apostles. Returning to Peterborough we found we had
been joined by Dennis and Carole Vincent.
Departed Peterborough early along the Great Ocean Road and headed for the Otway
Point Lighthouse. Getting a small glimpse of the scenery we were to experience
more later. The light house complex was very interesting with several annexes
including a telegraph station, weather station, WW2 radar bunkers and keepers
cottages. Most of our group climbed to the top of the lighthouse and were
rewarded with spectacular coastal views and the Great Southern Ocean.
We headed for the Otway Fly, a series of elevated suspension walkways, which
took us above and over the rain forest reaching a height of 47m. Species
included huge Mountain Ash, Beech Myrtle and enormous soft tree ferns. Too
beautiful to describe we took many photos to remember the experience.
Travelling to Anglesea via Apollo Bay along the most beautiful section of the
Great Ocean Road was slow, but most rewarding. We were joined there by Ken and
Heading for Eildon via Melbourne was always going to be tricky but we were very
ably led in two groups by Ken R and Mal without getting lost once!! Well done
guys and well done followers it was a great effort. The two groups joined again
for lunch at Yea and then proceeded to Eildon arriving at about 1430. Paul and
Linda Stein joined us at Eildon.
The morning was spent as free time giving the group a chance to wash, read,
relax or do what ever they needed to do. At 1300 we departed on a drive through
the Eildon National Park led by Ken and Helen. We drove to Mt Piniger Lookout
with views of Lake Eildon and were enlightened as to the enormity of it complete
with many houseboats. Then we proceeded to an altitude of over 900m to Rocky
Point once again with spectacular views down to Lake Eildon. The decent down was
of some excitement being extremely steep and some what rough and rocky. This
caused some concern in the lead vehicle to the extent that Helen swore!!.
Once at the bottom we appeared a little bit (just a little bit) lost. But Barry
saved the day with his superior skills with the GPS and ably led us back to
camp. All agreed it was a worthwhile & rewarding afternoon of driving.
When we returned to camp we were joined by Richard (Blackjack) and Wendy (Black
Jackette) Wheeler and Tony Porter. Birthday celebrations were held this evening
for both Helen and Wendy. Happy 39th Girls!
One of the pleasures of Eildon were the native birds in abundance including
Sulphur Crested, Wattle Birds & Rosella’s that ate from our hands…magic.
A 0930 departure saw us heading for our next night stop at Mansfield. Stopping
at the Snob’s Creek Waterfall proved to be a rewarding experience. From there we
travelled through Eildon National Park with wonderful views over the valleys to
the extremes of Lake Eildon. Arriving at Jamieson we stoped for a lunch break in
this pretty but small town. We then travelled the 40km to Mansfield which is our
base for the next 3 days. Here we were joined by Colin and Sue.
At what was now becoming the standard departure time of 0930 led by Ken and
Helen we headed out of Mansfield for a day trip into the Howqua Hills. Stopping
at Sheep Yard Flat, several of the group went on a 4km bush walk for about
1.25hrs to view Fry’s Hut, while others went fishing (or at least tried to) and
the remainder just relaxed and enjoyed the views. After lunch we proceed onto a
4wd track, Three Chain Track in the Mansfield National Park. This track proved
to be very challenging and took us up to 950m altitude. On the return loop of
the circular track the lead vehicle became bogged which required some road
building with any dead wood we could find to fill the bog. Proving to be a
longer track than we had anticipated it turned in to a full but, fun & rewarding
Based at Mansfield the group had a relaxed day with a variety of activities
being undertaken, including a visit to Kelly’s Tree & Cemetery, a food & wine
festival at Whitfield and a trip to the summit of Mt Buller and others fished
(we still haven’t been fed any fish).
A 0930 start saw us heading for the Alpine National Park via Mt Stirling. This
trip was awesome the scenery breathtaking and the tracks a challenge.
First point of interest was King Hut on the banks of the King River which by
then we had crossed 3 times. We then proceeded to our lunch stop at Lake Cobbler
and Dandongadale Falls. Back on the track was proving to be something of a
challenge especially a section aptly named “The Staircase”. The track became
much better after that point & we reached our over night camp at a very lovely
spot called Upper Howqua Camp on the banks of the Howqua River.
This was a very full day and took in gorgeous views, challenging tracks and
included about seven water crossings.
A brave group of 4 vehicles set out at 0800 for Craigs Hut, which proved to be
another interesting and challenging 4x4 track. The end result giving 360 degrees
panoramic views of as far as the eye could see across the mountains. Craigs Hut
which was used for the filming of the Man From Snowy River movies was truly well
On the return trip we visited Bindaree Falls which you can stand under the water
flow at the bottom.
Return to base camp and everyone was ready to negotiate the days travel to the
Wonnangatta Valley. Travel was slow over mainly 4x4 tracks consisting of rock
ledges creek and river crossings and posed a challenge for most drivers. We
travelled via Bindaree Hut, Pikes Flat, Bluff Hut and Lovick’s Hut were we
stopped for lunch after being advised by the ranger that the track we intended
to take was closed. This meant at least an extra two hours travel to our
Soldiering on as any good VOR travellers (most trained by our intrepid Grumpy)
would, we were now aware this was going to be a very long day. By this time
tempers were becoming a little frayed and our main aim was being in camp before
dark, the lead vehicle arriving at the Wonnangatta Station camping ground at
about 1850hrs. It was a lovely spot in the valley surrounded by the Wonnangatta
River, Conglomerate Creek, mountains and studded with huge tall gum trees, a
After 2 very full and long days the leaders gave the group the option to stay
here two nights instead of the scheduled one and it was a 100% decision to do
It has become apparent that it is very hard to calculate a time for distance and
ETA in this area due to the unknown track conditions and the speed at which
individuals are confident in travelling.
A very rewarding day full of fabulous views and lots of 4x4 driving to test us
Most of us woke up later than normal and spent the day recovering from
yesterday. A bathroom was erected for anyone wanting a shower or sponge bath,
but nobody told Leith who chose to bathe and wash clothes in Conglomerate Creek.
Around the campfire that evening frustrations were vented regarding the previous
day and we retired to our tents for an early night.
A nine a.m. start saw the group move out toward Dargo. Our first challenge was
to cross the Wonnangatta, but as the river was not very deep, the challenge was
not great. However the next three water crossings of Humfray River proved to be
more fun. Soon after that we climbed Wombat Spur, a long steep climb that tested
some of our newer drivers as well as the more experienced.
Soon after reaching the top we descended a fairly steep spur that took us to
Eaglevale. There we crossed the Wonnangatta again which was deeper and wider
than before, and proceeded to Smith’s Hut. This has been restored to original
condition and furnished accordingly and was well worth the trip.
Returning to Eaglevale, we stopped by the river for lunch and then continued
along the valley to Dargo. The scenes were breathtaking as the road followed the
river but about 100 metres above for much of the trip.
Today was a lay day in which washing was done some cars washed, some sight
seeing. The evening was spent in the Dargo Hotel for dinner attended by all.
Dinner was proceeded by the launching of the Heckarewe anthem sung by the very
talented!!!!! VOR Choir.
We headed for Omeo via “Dogs Grave” a very impressive monument to a man’s best
friend which touched the hearts of the dog lovers among us. About 15km into the
trip the Nissan Patrol with us encountered some mechanical difficulties. This
caused the convoy to split. The main group continued on and one vehicle
returning with the Nissan owner to Dargo while another stayed with the broken
The second convoy arrived about 1 hour later to inform us that once the Nissan
was repaired it then received a staked tyre which was subsequently changed. Not
a good day for the Nissan.
A 1030 departure saw us heading for Mt Hotham a fairly steep ascent with
breathtaking views over the mountains some of which were still capped with snow.
Passing through Mt Hotham Resort we came across a patch of snow close to the
road and a compulsory stop saw most of our group playing in the snow and hurling
snow balls at each other. Our imaginative leader then produced a small tarpaulin
which was used by several as a toboggan which created some fun and hilarity. One
of our “ladies” coming off very unceremoniously with legs in the air.
Onward then, to the very pretty little town of Harrietville, where we stopped in
a lovely park along the river, for lunch. Lunch over we headed up Mt Hotham
again to return to Omeo via Victoria Falls. On the way back Ros suggested we
stop and take some snow back to Ann, Ken, Barry, Kay, Dennis & Carol because
they didn’t go with us. A large amount of snow was collected in esky’s etc. On
return to camp a snowman about 60cm high was built complete with beanie & scarf.
The group who didn’t take the trip were delighted and there was enough snow left
over for snow ball fights.
A very enjoyable scenic & fun filled day was had by all, although many are
getting very weary.
A rest day for most with shopping washing etc happening. Some took a short drive
into the Berambra area whilst another group went into the gold mining area
panning for gold. At the end of the day we were all rested and stocked up for
the next few days.
We headed for Dartmouth, via Mitta Mitta, stopping briefly at “the Blue Duck”
hotel, and a fruit fly check point where most of us decided to have a large
fruity morning tea.
Further up the road we came upon a vehicle that had rolled over and needed a
hand to change a tyre. We checked out the car and the driver, and sent him on
his way back to Omeo.
Lunch time was spent on the banks of the Mitta Mitta River at Mitta Mitta. As we
were expecting to spend the next four days away from supplies we all topped up
our fuel tanks there, and drove onto Dartmouth. We were welcomed at the caravan
park like lost brothers, as the park has three Vietnam Veteran permanent
lodgers. The proprietor sent a slab of beer across for us all to enjoy at happy
hour and beyond, and insisted that our flag fly on the parks flag pole.
Most of us had the opportunity to inspect the Dartmouth Dam and its hydro power
house, the bane of SA politics in the early 70’s.
An early start of 0830 hrs was required to ensure the tracks and water crossing
planned for the day were completed in good time. As we left Dartmouth it began
to rain and by the time we were about 7 kms down the track to Taylor’s Crossing
the rain had become heavy and was affecting the track. That and a five foot
diameter fallen tree across the track made it impossible to continue.
Turning around on a narrow slippery track proved how important Grumpies training
had been. The 7 kms back to the bitumen was becoming increasingly slippery and
caused us all to crawl along, sometimes sideways leaving plenty of space between
vehicles. The rain had increased which was affecting the track even more for the
last vehicles out.
Drama over, without injury to vehicles or drivers, we met back at Dartmouth. It
was then that all the passengers needed to pop a few sedatives swallowed with a
schooner or two of brandy.
Having relaxed some made the decision to return to Adelaide as we had to reroute
the rest of the trip off of the 4WD tracks we had intended to take. They
included Paul and Linda, Denis and Carole and Colin. The remainder decided to
press on to Khancoban, and spend the night in cabins and review the trip from
On arrival the rain had ceased, but we all decided to stay in luxury anyway,
except for Gary ad Robyn who left us to continue on to Jindabyne by themselves.
We were then down to eight cars and 15 people.
That night at happy hour we decided our new route which took into account all of
the original planned destinations accessible by bitumen. The debrief for the day
was considered, but also a lot of fun. We all agreed that it had been a great
Onward and upward we drove to Jindabyne via Cabramurra which is the highest town
in Australia (not Nimbin as suggested by Ron).
We stopped for lunch on the banks of Lake Eucumbene then drove on to Jindabyne
where some restocked, refuelled etc. We then proceeded into the Kosciusko Alpine
Retreat in Kosciusko National Park where we were spending the next three nights.
This was a top location with nice grassed sights and towering gum trees.
The evening entertainment was the possums which ventured down to the ground. One
mother with baby on board even allowed Leith to hand feed it although biting him
for his efforts.
Mixed activities including six of our more fit and eager members i.e. Ken R,
Helen, Richard, Ron, Evelyn and Mal driving to Charlottes Pass and taking the 18
km round trip walk to the top of Mt Kosciusko. They started out at 0845 and
phoned us from the top at 1130. Returning to camp 1730 having taken the long
track back at total of 22 km round trip. They were all tired & leg weary but
very pleased with themselves on having achieved their goal.
Others drove to various localities in the area including Cooma & Thredbo to take
a chair lift ride to the base of Mt Kosciusko & sip cappuccinos in the café at
Barry spent last night fighting with the possums that apparently were invading
his space and being very vocal about it. Another free day where each did their
own thing. Dennis & Ros departed to return home from here.
Leaving at 0900 we now headed for our next over night stop at Tom Groggin
travelling along the Alpine Way via Thredbo where we stopped for two hours so
those who wanted could take the chairlift up to Eaglesnest for a coffee.
There was a River Murray crossing at Tom Groggin just begging for us to give it
a go. So we did, but as it wasn’t the way we were going anyway we all did a u
turn and did it all again (what fun).
We then decided to proceed to the next bush camp locality for our over night
stay at Geehi, a lovely spot on the banks of the Swampy Plain River.
This being the last night we would all be together Helen provided party whistles
which must have had the local duck population worried, sparklers and toasted
marshmallows. Much merriment was had by all and of course a rendition of the
previously newly launched “Heckarewe Anthem” was sung with gusto.
An 0830 departure saw us heading for Tallangatta for lunch after which Ken and
Anne, Richard and Wendy departed to head home in other directions. Barry and Kay
left us at Benalla heading for Melbourne to pick up their dog from the dog
There were only four cars left by now (hope it wasn’t something we said)
stopping over night at Shepparton with rain, thunder and lightening. Not at all
the type of weather we had become accustomed to. The caravan managers must have
felt sorry for us because they kindly allowed us to use one of the cabins to sit
in to chat and cook our evening meal.
A 0800 departure heading for an over night stay at Nhill but because we were
making very good time it was decided we would make a dash for home. We stopped
for lunch at Nhill and then again at Tailem Bend where it all started, to say
our farewells to those who were left, Ken & Helen, Ron & Evelyn, Leith, Mal &
There were thousands of photos taken which will be great to help jog memories
but they cant replace the reality of what we experienced over the past 26 days.
Mind blowing scenery along with challenging 4x4 tracks and the company of great
friends all contributed to this being an amazing trip we will all remember and
talk about for a long time.