near won wron
held on the Australia Day long weekend
of Saturday 24th to Monday 26th of January 2009
The White Womans Waterhole campsite
in the Won Wron State Forest is approximately 210 km east of
Melbourne in Gippsland just 5 km from the small town of Won Wron.
There is one drop toilet and no drinking water. The free camping
areas and facilities are currently being upgraded, including
wheelchair access, by the Department of Sustainability and
A number of conflicting
stories exist about the naming of White Womans Waterhole. One
favoured story, with a happy ending, concerns a ship that was
wrecked about 1854 on the nearby 90 Mile Beach. The sole survivor
was a white woman who, after the shipwreck, lived with a tribe of
Aborigines who used this waterhole. She engraved a message on a
nearby tree which was subsequently found by a passing stockman. A
search party was formed and, after a skirmish with the Aborigines,
the lady was rescued whereupon she returned to England. At her
parents' request, the section of the tree with the message was cut
and sent to them, eventually, so it is said, to become part of a
London museum collection. During the Depression years the Forests
Commission operated charcoal kilns near White Womans Waterhole.
Tracks used for this and a subsequent sawmilling operation in the
area, are still evident near the waterhole. The old railway line
minus the tracks and sleepers were just a short walk from the
campsite. The waterhole is currently dry (see photo further below).
If you are historically minded, this is well worth reading:
The Great "White Woman" Controversy
From the start of the weekend, the
weather was perfect - very hot and sunny until we all left on
Tuesday. Almost everyone seemed to have a solar panel up and running
taking advantage of the free power available. We were very lucky -
just days after this get together, Victoria experienced one of its
worst heatwaves in over 40 years with 3 consecutive days of total
fire bans and temperatures over 43 degrees.
Giant lace monitors (up to 2
metres long) are very active throughout this forest area but none of
us saw any. A photo of one taken previously at our campsite appears
further below. Sighted were a few koalas and kangaroos. Over 100
bird species have been recorded in the nearby forests – I noticed
the Graham Pizzey/Frank Knight “Birds of Australia” guide being
consulted quite a bit. The sounds of koalas screeching during the
night were quite startling. I still wonder what animal it was that
jumped onto my camper trailer and crawled up the canvas in the
middle of the night (certainly not a possum, maybe another camper?).
Apart from the Happy Hour
around the campfire at the end of each day, on Saturday night a
“Show and Tell” was held where we could show off some of our
handiest items when going camping. I’m happy to say all were “Made
in Australia” as requested in my email to all poll voters.
This was followed by an Aussie supper of iconic Aussie cakes,
snacks and lollies that were placed on a central table and shared by
all - lamingtons, Anzac biscuits, Tim Tams, Minties, Kool Mints,
Teddy Bears, iced Vo Vo’s. Special thanks to Shirl for the mouth
watering pavlova that emerged from the Goldstream RV. There was no
floor show or bush band – as host I find we entertain ourselves
quite well enough as it is (especially with a half full bottle of
It was good to see a wide selection of Australian flags
flying, as well as Ron and Shirl’s large pirate flag near my CUB
Kamparoo (the parrot was nowhere to be seen). Doug and Jeannie’s
enormous Scottish Royal flag (“Lion Rampant”) fluttered at the rear
near the dam – signifying the residency at the campsite of the
Queen’s representative Tjindi (see attendees further below). I’m a
pro-Republic person myself, but have absolutely no worries about
flying my Aussie flag on such an occasion.
The traditional informative Walkabout visiting each camper
trailer was held on Sunday morning. Each owner gave a 5 minute talk
about their set-up, warts and all, including the cost. Caravan and
tent users were not excluded. As I’ve previously pointed out - it is
amazing what suddenly appears out of ovens during these walkabouts –
thank you Sandy/Ian and Karen/Jeff for those scrumptious scones.
There were many other entertaining and memorable moments for
all of us – the obligatory Vic sideshow where we all pull up our
chairs, grab a drink, and torture a spontaneously selected member by
watching them set up their camper trailer – thanks Dave and Sue (and
Alana) for being such good sports!
On Sunday after the morning Walkabout five vehicles set off
in the convoy I had suggested for Tom’s Cap Lookout and Winery. It
was certainly a case of TomTom vs Garmin vs common sense. Great to
have any GPS to test anyway. And a classic case where having a CB
radio was a major advantage. Once we reached the small lookout
parking area, a 4WD shuttle service provided by Doug and Ian ferried
us all to the top – it would certainly have been an unpleasant walk
to the top in the heat.
Locals in the area were convinced that a track could be made
to the sea from the inland grazing country near Stratford. On a
seventh attempt in 1841, a track was cut to a peak on top of the
Strzelecki range which they named 'Tom's Cap'. At the summit, their
toil was rewarded by a splendid view of Corner Inlet, a waterway
that would open up Gippsland as an agricultural region. Port Albert
became an international port in 1841.
A memorial cairn erected in later years can be found on the
summit of Tom's Cap today, which is where all of us in the convoy
took numerous photos. Unfortunately there are no longer any
panoramic views of the coast – now there’s just a few gaps where one
can peer through all the trees.
The convoy then proceeded to Tom’s Cap Winery. Whether
because of being too busy or too understaffed this long weekend, we
left most disappointed and empty handed.
Because of the superb weather, and the heat, we then headed
for Woodside Beach, where the Ninety Mile Beach starts. I don’t
think any of us realised how close our campsite was to the coast. A
picnic was held under the trees in the main drag, and then it was a
short walk to sand and surf.
At other times during the weekend, individual excursions were
made to Tarra-Bulga National Park, and the nearby towns of Yarram
and Port Albert (fish and chips ahoy!). A possible future campsite
at the nearby Big Tower - erected in 1941 - was also checked out.
Special thanks to Bob
Chaffey and Butch Watt from the Department of Sustainability and
Environment Land and Fire Management for not only visiting us a few
times to see that all was well and handing out information leaflets,
but also generously providing lots of firewood for the Group’s use.
The photo of the giant lace monitor at White Womans Waterhole (see
further below) was kindly supplied by Bob Chaffey.
A number of members had arrived by Friday lunchtime, with
the rest turning up on Saturday. The last of us left Tuesday afternoon.
Simone, and Joel (4), caravan, Ford sedan - new members
Brenda, Oztrail Camper 6, sedan – new members
Jeannie, and Liam (15), dog Djindi, Ultimate, Mazda Bravo crew cab ute
Sue, and Alana (4), Pedders Xtrail 001, the Mighty Volvo sedan
Karen, William (11) & Andrew (9), Trak Shak, Ford Ranger twin cab
Karen, Emily (17), Nick (14), & Jeremy (9), Dingo, Commodore wagon
Shirl, Goldstream RV cutaway caravan, Nissan GU Patrol
Sheryl and dog Maggie, Ultimate, Jeep Cherokee
Exodus Kingston (“The Tardis”), 4WD (“Moby Dick”)
Sandra, and Trae (7), Sunwagon, GQ Patrol
Sandy, Brooklyn (9), Lyndsay (8), Dingo 2000, Nissan Patrol
(host), CUB Kamparoo, Ford LTD sedan
All up there were 33 of us in all age groups (plus 2 dogs) staying in
various camper trailers, caravans and tents.
Non-members staying at the campsite, and invited to join us (and become
Dani, Cailey (10), Taylah (8), Bohdi (7) and Ava (3), Coromal
Silhouette caravan, Pajero (from Gold Coast Qld - travelling around for
Russell, Jayco caravan, Falcon sedan (from Geelong Vic) (creators of gas
Everyone who attended would probably agree that White Womans Waterhole, with its
central fireplace and a large open area for the children to play, its history
and numerous forest walks, and being fairly close to a beach, was a magnificent
location for a summer get together. IMHO certainly a piece of the real
Australia. I would recommend it to anyone who would like to have a go at bush
camping with minimum facilities. My thanks for a great time to everyone who
attended, especially considering in some cases the long distances travelled, and
the bush camp conditions.
Once again it is easy to realise just how much we all had in
common & yet still have interests other than camper trailers. Everyone was
friendly, and in particular the first timers and newer members, as well as the
guests, were made especially welcome. Many of us learnt about and saw some
interesting things to try and buy, as we all seem to do at these get togethers.
On a personal note, this was my first ever bush camp. I’m now
totally convinced, when going bush camping in Vic in hot weather, of the merits
of (1) a reliable fridge (2) a portable toilet (3) a solar panel, (4) a good
insect repellant, and (5) an instant hot water/shower system. The latter is my
newest toy – my thanks to those who offered or donated water during the weekend.
Unfortunately I can’t carry much water with my present camper trailer/car setup.
So that’s it! I enjoyed your company enormously so I’m really
looking forward to the next get together!
After being a member for 6 years, attending 16 get togethers
in four states, and hosting 5 times in Vic, I have decided to take a break from
hosting until sometime during 2010.
A selection of photos by
Robert can be seen at