Victorian High Country

by Bushducks

What do you do when your good Aussie friend arrives in town, demanding your company for a weekend, and keen to show her new French fiancé the delights of mainland Australia? Go bush of course. What else?

Poor Rover was somewhat laden, as he headed out of town early on Saturday morning, up the Warburton Highway and up towards the hills south of Jamieson. Two ducks in the front and Jane et Alain in the back. Our brief was simple, show Alain just a snippet of what Victoria has to offer, some interesting but not ridiculously hard driving, a picturesque camp and above all, a bloody good time. Alain's wants were simple, "I want to zee a kangaroo, to zee if my boomerang vill come back, and I want to zee a snake but no, I no want to zee ze spiders".

Jane, being a country girl, was just out for the bloody good time.

Big River RoadFirst stop was the Upper Yarra Reservoir, just past McMahons Creek for a belated breakfast overlooking the dam. The flat, grassy picnic ground made the perfect flight proving ground for the boomerang. And yes, it did come back, it just depended on who threw it. The only way it would come back when launched by Jane was via Australia Post.

Heading out of the Reservoir, one of the friendly wallabies obliged by sitting still at the side of the road to have his photo taken.

"Oui, I have seen ze kangaroo and my boomerang he comes back sometimes. When vill I zee ze snake?"

Hold your horses, Alain. Snakes, well... sometimes you see them and other times, well... you wish you didn't see them.

We stopped to show them the fire dugout on the corner of Second Road. Nearly had him convinced it was a genuine Australian dunny but not quite. Cumberland Junction came and finally onto dirt, turning onto the Big River Road. Dirt and plenty of dust. The real Australia. All we needed were the flies. Big River is a popular area for camping, but this weekend the grassy sites were surprisingly quiet. Just past Stockmans Reward, we turned off onto, what else, Frenchmans Spur Track. Frenchmans Spur is an easy climb up a well graded track. The views over the Big River valley stretched out to the north and as the track wound around more views opened up to the east. Tracks off either side of a trickier nature lead down into the river valleys, Frenchmans Creek to the west and Springs Creek to the east. We continued along the spur listening to the exclamations from the back seat over the parrots, trees, lyre birds, trees, more trees. Lunch was taken at the Helipad, three quarters of the way along. Views were stunning but the flies were pretty stunning too, especially for poor Jane in her blue shorts. The March flies were all over her which was great for the rest of us as we were left in relative peace! Seems to be true, they are attracted to bright blue. The bush flies were thick however and quite indiscriminate in their attentions.

Jane, who had been dancing around avoiding March flies all lunchtime suddenly leapt into the air. "SNAKE!!" Sure enough, a large brown snake had strolled straight through the middle of our lunch spot, right past Jane. Alain shot off for his camera and tailed the creature, practically standing on it to get his shot. He finally got a shot of the final foot of the tail disappearing into the undergrowth.

"Thees snake, he is venomous? No?"

"Oui Alain, très venomous."

So, four hours from Melbourne and Alain's wish list was complete. We were hoping he didn't want to see a herd of charging wild boar, the way things were going he probably would. The track from the helipad is less of a standard, with some sections somewhat scratchy. We pushed on, splashing through the puddles left from the storms two weeks before. The stony ridge tops means the water hangs around but the firm base means no bog holes. The track exits via a quarry onto the Woods Point-Warburton Road, skirting the cleared area of The Springs. We followed the major dirt road for a few kms, stopping to admire a small waterfall on the side of the road, cascading down over rocks in its own grotto of ferns. The water was cold and delicious. Climbing over McAdams Gap, we turned off onto a small track at the Goulburn State Forest sign. This rocky, graded track leads up to Mt Matlock Fire Tower. This is one of the tallest towers around at around 50 metres. The current metal tower replaced the shorter wooden one a couple of years ago. As we pulled up, a hand waved from the open window at the top of the tower, "Come on up!"

Goulburn RiverBit of a climb up a narrow ladder (no problems to our sailor friends used to climbing rigging) but the view was stunning! A couple of students were manning the tower that summer before returning to Uni. Locals from the store at Woods Point, they obligingly pointed out tracks and routes for us through the area. Descending down from the tower, we piloted Rover along the Corn Hill Road before descending down the side of the spur to emerge at the A1 mining settlement. The mine there has been closed now for a couple of years. All the buildings remain, the tunnels blocked by metal grids.

We backtracked to spend the night at Comet Flats camping area in Woods Point, and of course to show Alain what a real Aussie bush pub was like. We finished the evening with a feed of kangaroo bourginon cooked over the open fire with a Yarra Valley red to wash it down. The night was clear and a million stars peaked through the gum trees above us. Alain enjoyed his first bush camp, once he was satisfied that no-one was going to appear and turf us out. In France, camping "au sauvage" is definitely not welcomed and is actively discouraged.

"So," we said to Alain. "How do you like Australia so far?"

There was no answer, Alain was dead to the world in his camp chair, chin on chest and chucking some z's, an empty wineglass in hand.

That good, huh?

© Bushducks 1995
All photos © Bushducks 1995

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