Wednesday, November 26, 2008

To Mount Buggery and beyond ...

Can't believe it's been almost 2 weeks since I've had reception good enough to blog (as adding photos seems to need two or three bars or it just leads to a false hope and ultimate frustration and potentially some foul language).

In those two weeks we've crossed from the Spencer Gulf in SA to the far south east corner of Australia and are currently in Mallacoota on a tip of from Shaef. He was right, there is an awesome camp ground right on the water, however I only realised after handing over two nights rent that there is absolutely no protection from the gale force south easterly which means we'll be sleeping in the one man tent in the shade of the truck tonight.

After our two nights at Port Germein we headed over the Flinders and into the Clare valley, stopping at Skillogalee winery for a posh lunch on the terrace. We camped at another site called Redbank, then an Australian Geographic dud recommendation called Gluepot and then a more successful night in Murray River National Park. Unfortunately our first camera misfunction means we don't have any pictures from that part of the trip but it all looked a lot like the Darling River but with a bit more water in it.

We followed the Murray into Victoria and then turned north to avoid the first predicted bad weather and went to Mungo National Park. Mungo is full of aboriginal history, going back 40+ thousand years. All the history is under clay and the stuff which has been unearthed has been put back under clay to preserve it so there isn't really all that much to see, but there was an awesome visitor centre (with hot showers), the sun was shining and the kangaroos in the campsite were extremely friendly, especially a group of about half a dozen which followed us around and posed for pictures.

The predicted rain arrived a little ahead of time so we made a quick early morning escape to avoid being trapped on the dirt roads. Our next stop was Swan Hill with it's Giant Murray Cod - an obliging Japanese tourist took this photo for us, always nice to get one back for all the ones I've taken in Sydney. We ate and drank at the RSL but had to give the much anticipated bingo a miss.

More bad weather was predicted and it was also set to get colder (which we're not equipped for) so we set up camp for a few days in the largest iron bark forest in Victoria (Heathcote Graytown NP). This ensured a ready supply of hot burning wood and we also had a great little covered facility all to ourselves, with the exception of a guy who came past each afternoon on his horse.

The three day lay up gave us a chance to really relax and do some fairly easy forest walks, and also for VJ to try out an exploroz Damper recipe - all it needs is some flour and a can of VB and hey presto in around 30 minutes you have a delicious double helping of carbs. This was apparently the staple of early explorer types such as Burke & Wills and it was so yummy we ate the whole thing (about a foot across) and had no room for dinner.

The bureau were predicting that the weather would get worse so we decided to push on into the Victorian high country. There had been talk of some snow so we headed through the amazing Eildon NP and then all the way up to Mount Buller where it was already snowing a blizzard. Thongs off and shoes on was the order of the day and as many tee shirts as I could manage and still move my arms. Mount Buller is quiet this time of year and the only other residents were a dozen subbies working on a new resort, some of whom had never seen snow before.

[One of the views while we were going through Eildon NP - note to self, as many 4wd tracks as you can shake a stick at in Eildon and camping is free almost everywhere - go the Victorians and thanks for helping us get back in budget after the Mt Buller blow out!]

While we were offered the opportunity to eat chicken wings with the other guests we decided to brave the elements and try and find the local restaurant for a decent feed. It was en-route I discovered you can't operate an iphone with gloves on in a blizzard even if you're lost and need google maps. We eventually found the entrance to the Grand Mercure and settled in for some rich food and some non cardboard red wine. While we didn't over do it by Sydney standards our digestive systems put up a bit of a fight during the night and we both felt quite ill. The room wasn't as fresh anymore either. It was strange sleeping in a bed again after 8 weeks but at least it was a bad one with a foam mattress thinner than the one in the tent.

Troopie started first time the next morning despite the freezing cold. It was minus 3 with a 70kph wind which apparently made it the equivalent of minus 15.

[Ness looking to the sky for Jonny Wilkinson-esque inspiration before launching a snowball at my head, which missed by the way.]

We headed back down the mountain on the Sunday morning before the thaw set in and made our way over some great country to a top little camp spot by a river on the slopes of the enticingly named Mount Buggery. Finding Mount Buggery was an unexpected bonus - it was the end point of quest in a book Deano had given me (The Road to Mount Buggery) about a couple travelling round Australia when we first told him we were doing the trip. There I did it, three buggeries in one blog.

By the way, we've got lots of photos now of Ness screwing her face up when I pull in for some romance, but she reckons this time at least it was more to do with the fly on her chin.

Not deterred by the threat of more bad weather we turned off the Great Alpine Road to take in Falls Creek. It was a massive climb up the hill, a winding road with a sheer drop off to the left and a good chance you'd meet a construction truck from the half built hydro power station coming the other way on the wrong side of the road. I (and it seems my parents) thought I'd die out in the desert but let me tell you we came a lot closer to disaster on this road than at any time so far. The drive was also quite eery as all of the trees were dead. For miles and miles and miles the whole mountain side was filled with trees that had been killed in the massive fires here two years ago and they obviously take some time to re-establish themselves in the harsh conditions

There was quite a lot of snow on top of the mountain and while we did go for a walk (me in my thongs and shorts) we decided it was better to get down to lower ground to set up camp as there was plenty of weather still to come. The drive down the other side was also pretty exciting as the road was unsealed, had snow on bits of it and also had a lot of debris from the weekend storms. Some we went round, some we went over (a bit like speed humps) and some I had to get out and lift over the car. Top stuff.

Another corker of a campsite at Joker Flat where we had premo real estate on a bend in 'Big River' and even though we were still at 600+m it was relatively warm, but still low single digits, which meant an early night and sleeping with our beanies on.

I couldn't recommend the Vic high country enough and while we have done plenty of dirt roads this time we have had to put some of our more adventurous routes on ice until we come back in the new year. We had another left or right question just short of Omeo which offered the chance to go up to Jindabyne and then over to the coast but we decided it was time to go back to the coast whatever the weather may bring. Subconcious at work here I think as I really don't like the thought of heading back to Sydney, despite all the fun we'll have when we get there and the knowledge that come January we'll be leaving it behind again.

Last night we camped at Conran Coastal reserve and almost had the 100 place campsite by the beach to ourselves. One advantage of our travels so far is we've pretty much had everything to ourselves. Normally you have to book things month in advance or win your place in a ballot but we've had entire campsites to ourselves almost all the way around. Can't say I'm looking forward to the school holidays.

So, that brings me back to Mallacoota. It's still blowing a gale and we're also a way away from thge amenity block. Good practice for me I guess to get used to not being able to piss wherever I want to. You can get away with a lot of things on King Street but public urination in daylight is not one of them.

We'll be passing through Sydney on Sunday 7th December if anyone wants to catch up.

We're planning a sunday session (probably the shaky) but I have to go into work on the Monday for a pretty important preso to our new chief so go easy on me - I drink mid strength these days (I'm also already stressing about turning up for said preso in shorts and thongs and heavily bearded so if anyone can lend me some 32/34 waist semi smart trousers for a couple of days I'll shout you a few beers).

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