AWOL Around Australia… Snowy River High Country

Fridge and fuel replenished at Orbost. The lovely, and knowledgeable old lady at the Tourist Information gave us some advice about the country ahead. It was clear she had spent plenty of time on the tracks and trails in this area. Plus, she was giving away free lemons from her garden!

It was only a short drive to the campsite at Wood Point. Right on the banks of the once mighty Snowy River. Now a shadow of its former self due to sixteen dams and seven power stations upriver, stemming its flow and diverting its water through over 200km of tunnels to agricultural lands.

The lack of flow in the modern Snowy meant there was a beach along its banks here.

Still, a better camping spot you would be hard pressed to find. Just one other couple there when we arrived. Also a local guy walking his dog, we had a good chat with him, usually a pleasure to talk to farmers when they are the talking kind, and this was no exception. Next, more locals, a couple of ageing ‘hippies’ and their adopted Aboriginal daughters, come down for a paddle and a swim. Originally from Kalumburu, NT, where the parents had just worked for five years – somewhere I had happened to spend some time whilst in the Army. So we had a few things to talk about too. N made the girls bracelets out of crocheted wool, which seemed to make their day.

Rollo at wide open throttle. He was loving the beach, even if it didn’t quite have the smell sensations of the coastal beach back home.

Later a couple of families rolled in, and set up in the final site. We spent the two nights camped here, as did our neighbours. I observed to N, that campers were less friendly in eastern Australia than where we’re from in South Australia. Not that people were unfriendly or rude, but they just kept themselves to themselves. Whereas if this was SA, everyone would have been over to everyone’s else’s camp by now, even if just to say “g’day”. I suppose this is just a reflection of the relative population densities of these areas. Touring the east was definitely making me appreciate what we took for granted touring back home.

I took a swim in the river the next day, in the deeper area on the far bank. Hippie dude had said there were a couple of big Bass (fish) over there. I didn’t see them, but myself and a metre plus female eel had a good staring competition for a while. Quite content to swim a couple of feet from me, only moving a bit further away when I put my hands in the water. Why female? My wildlife app told me the males don’t grow that big.

Whilst we were there I also gave the truck a good check over, and readjusted the handbrake now the new shoes were bedded in – handbrake was now holding, on even the steepest hills.

Toolkit was a mess. So I unpacked it and changed its position in the truck, so it could sit level. I have a hardcase kit with sockets, etc in it, in addition to this bag.

I made chocolate chilli con carne for dinner.

Beef, chorizo (from the market back in Canberra), onion, garlic, fresh chilli and chilli powder.
Start the chorizo in a cold pan, this will render the fat out of it. Use this to brown the beef.
Add the rest of the ingredients then add beef stock. You can get proper stock in jelly form these days, this is what I use mostly when camping.
Use as dark a chocolate as you can get. I add it right at the end on the cooking off the heat. once the beef is super tender and the sauce reduced. I just add a bit at a time, to taste.
Accompaniments. Toasted flatbreads, cultured cream or yoghurt, and pickled red onion and chilli – I just chop these first and put them in salt and vinegar or lime juice before I do everything else, they are nicely pickled by the time everything else is ready.

Good tucker. Works for hot or cold weather.

So we pressed on. Into the hills proper, first rutted and steep climb. Now with differential locks, Bertha burbles up this sort of thing with ease.

Going up!

So many trees down. In an ideal world we would have a chainsaw and clear these as we go, but in the real world we just drove round them on the bush bashed tracks like everyone else.

Raymond Creek Falls.

We took a detour to Jackson’s Crossing for lunch. I couldn’t really find any information about why it is called Jacksons Crossing, but its definitely one of the easier places to cross the Snowy. What it was like before all those dams, who only knows?

We didn’t cross, Had no reason to. The risk vs reward equation changes considerably on these longer solo vehicle trips, or maybe I’m just getting old…

Pretty fine lunch spot.

There were some beer cans in the fire pit here, funnily enough the same brand of beer can that we had seen sporadically spaced apart on the trail on the way in. There could have been 1000 people down that trail, unfortunately it only takes 1 dickhead to leave their mark. We packed the beer cans out.

The trail to this point was easy enough, and picturesque to boot.

Thumbs up bitches.

Back now on a more main dirt road, we headed off to that nights camp. Good views on the way.

We passed through a couple of small villages on the way, they were quite ‘rural’ shall we say (banjo plays).

We camped that night at Wilson’s Hut. The high country is well known for its many huts and this was our first. Easy to get to, it was a great little slice of history.

A for Alf.

In the morning we headed back out into the high country. Taking what appeared to be a fairly main road to get to McKillops Bridge, one of the heralded attractions of the area.

Did I mention the high country is picturesque?

The road, McKillops Road, was challenging, but not in a good way. To be fair the wise old duck back at Orbost tourist information had warned me about it, say there was a section that will make your passenger nervous with the big drop and don’t meet anyone coming the other way as neither of you will want to back up. Well there is that section, it goes on for about 15km either side of the bridge…

The original bridge was washed away 11 days before it was due to open. This replacement was built five metres higher and has survived since 1935. Could it do with renovating? Yes, it could.
I suffer from vertigo, maybe that’s why the road freaked me out so much. Anyway, I got N to drive over the bridge.

Single lane, loose gravel surface, no barrier, totally blind corners and a drop of 20 to 200ft off the edge of the road. I considered taking a 4×4 track south from the bridge, as I could see on the map the road on the other side was just as bad if not worse. Unfortunately that was now a one way track, south to north only, due to a couple of very bad sections in the middle – despite being marked as a medium track on Hema’s highly detailed, but somewhat outdated high country map.

It’s not the road per-se that is the problem. People have obviously been travelling this road for many years. It’s the fact it is two way and the signage is not sufficient ‘tight and twisty turns ahead’ does not convey the gravity (boom!) of the situation. It should say ‘walking pace only or slower round all blind corners’ as there is no way to fit two vehicles past and a collision could easily result in the vehicle on the outside going over the edge.

Luckily the only other vehicle we passed while moving was an ADV biker, going like us, walking pace. We acknowledged each others caution as we passed. The two other vehicles that passed us, when thank the lord we were pulled over were tourists in road cars, probably doing 15-20km an hour round those blind bends, would have been curtains if 3 ton of Land Cruiser is coming the other way…

As the road eventually opened up, I noticed a warning light on the dashboard of the Land Cruiser. I pulled over, did a few basic checks, nothing smelt too hot or looked obviously wrong. I looked up the warning light in the owners manual ‘take me to Toyota’ is what it basically said. I was wracking my brain trying to think what it was. I had recently switched fuel tanks and though maybe I had some bad fuel. I switched back to the other fuel tank, just as we finished climbing and started to go downhill. The light went away.

We pulled over again and switched the car off for a bit. I had intended to head a little further north and do some more 4×4 tracks, but with a potential vehicle issue that didn’t seem such a good idea. We headed back to the bitumen, as we now drive south to the first town marked as having fuel, the weather changed somewhat.

Having driven over a few ranges by now, it is very noticeable how the weather can vary hugely one side to the other.

I got a full $2 worth of fuel out of the pump before it ran out. Fuel truck was late apparently. We cut our losses and just headed for the nearest place to pitch a tent. We still had 60L in the other tank and I was pretty convinced by now the problem wasn’t fuel.

These government G-Wagens were all over this part of the high country. I haven’t seen them anywhere else, apart from the Army. Mercedes obviously made a good sales pitch to the Victorians.

So we ended up staying on a little farm property. They had ducks!

I checked everything I could think of on the Cruiser and everything seemed tickety boo. I though we’d just stick to more main tracks, check out a couple of towns and see how it went.

We try not to waste anything food wise, so I used a chicken carcass and some leftover veggies to make stock that night.

Back roads to the little town of Swifts Creek the next day.

Where we could hear the sounds of the school Christmas production rehearsing and found our first bakery in days (what’s up with the lack of bakeries, Victoria?). After wolfing down some tasty pastry treats, we pushed on to historical gold mining town of Omeo.

Log jail. Still being used in 1981…
The Golden Age Hotel, the fifth version, previous building having been destroyed by bushfires. This one was built in 1940.

The cuckoo clock shop housed another treasure. We talked for maybe forty minutes with it’s 84 year old owner, who was getting to grips with not just having recently sold the building, but also facing up that it was probably time to retire. We talked on a wide range of topics, this was one old dame still sharp as a tack. I’m glad we met her.

The old gold diggings are worth a wander around.

After Omeo it was back on some back roads and then trails, heading for a bush camp. In the direction we wanted to go and off the beaten track for sure, but not too crazy.

Well, one big hill later and the ‘take me home’ warning light was back, with some erratic idling to go with it.

So for the second day in a row we scrapped our current plan and headed back to the safety of the bitumen. You feel deflated for sure, but that beats being stranded miles from anywhere with no phone reception. Trust me.

Anyway, this Plan B wasn’t so bad.

Just down from the bitumen road.
We saw a good half metre catfish merrily feasting in here in the morning.

Time to go and get this truck sorted out.


2 thoughts on “AWOL Around Australia… Snowy River High Country

  1. When you get to Tasmania…you are so going to love the road from South of Corinna until the Lindsay River Bridge (between Zeehan and Arthur River on the west coast)…they call it the Western Explorer. 80 km of three dimensional lane and a half wide dirt road full of blind corners and magic views…and a ferry to boot!

    Oh and beware forest roads…many log trucks.

    1. Yeah might be a while before we get to Van Diemens land, but thanks for the tips. About to get back on the road, heading west. Cheers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *