12-14 February Melbourne – Licola – Wangaratta (The Victorian High Country)
The Victorian High Country is one of the iconic 4wd destinations in Australia and a part of the trip I had been looking forward to for ages, so it was with an sense of anticipation and excitement I woke on Sunday morning. We went to church at Planetshakers South East Campus for old times sake and it was just like stepping back into a mini Planetshakers conference. While it’s not a style of service that appeals for every Sunday, it was great to worship with them!
After church we picked up some last minute supplies (including a panda beanie for Chelle)and headed to Licola which was to be our jumping off point for the adventure of the next couple of days. We made camp early beside a pebbly river under a grey sky (what is going on with summer this year?) and the kids had a great time exploring and playing in it while Chelle and I cooked burgers for dinner. Then we all turned in early ready for a big day!
Because we are travelling to a fairly tight timeframe and I wanted to visit Glenrowan which is just north of the High Country, rather than drive up the highway to Mansfield and daytrip into the mountains, I had planned a route that would take us from Licola at the south of the ranges to Whitfield at the north over 2 days, bypassing Mansfield and Mt Buller, avoiding the roughest and steepest of the tracks and taking us past some of the iconic huts and landmarks of the area.
The plan (For those who are into getting their vehicles dirty :p ) was to head up Tambaritha and Howitt Rds onto King Billy and Bluff Tracks to Bluff Hut for the night then along Bluff Link Rd, Bindaree Rd, Circuit Rd and Clear Hills Trak to Craigs Hut for lunch on the second day before backtracking along Circuit Rd to Speculation Rd and Little Cobbler Track to Lake Cobbler and the Dandongadale Falls (The highest in Victoria) before heading up Lake Cobbler and Upper Rose River Rds through Whitfield to Glenrowan.
All the roads above are narrow dirt and the tracks are single vehicle width trails through the bush. The total distance over the 2 days was about 250 kms on dirt to Whitfield then 50 on bitumen to Glenrowan.
The first part of day one went very smoothly up graded dirt roads, we stopped at Howitt’s Hut for lunch and the kids had fun playing in he hut while we cooked fried Sausage Sandwiches for lunch.
Then we continued on to King Billy Track, which was supposed to be the roughest section of the drive, the going was slow but steady with a couple of shallow creek crossings and no really difficult terrain until we reached Bluff Track.
Although listed as an easy-medium track, Bluff Track had been very badly eroded in the rain before christmas and was extremely slow going. I thoroughly enjoyed the technical driving and challenging line choice, however the steep tree covered drop on the left of the track, combined with the lean of the vehicle as Blu rolled over outcrops and ruts as well as the occasional metal on rock grinding or crunching noises (from the side steps and towbar, not the diffs or tanks) made Chelle uneasy, the kids were watching a movie and were oblivious to everything. There are no pictures of this section of trail as Zach was occupied and Chelle wasn’t getting out of the truck for anything!
Eventually we made it to the Summit of Mount Lovick and paused to take in the view, stretch our legs and assess the damage. The brackets for the passenger side step had been bent and the step was sitting a few inches further back than it should with a slight buckle in the middle and a missing end cap, while the swing away for the bike rack had survived with no more than scratches on the powdercoat underneath…Blu had conquered the Mountain… Bruised but not broken!
We reached Lovicks Hut at 5pm having covered 90kms in the previous 6 hrs. The area was beautiful and we were weary from the slow going, so we decided to make camp 10kms sooner than planned. The hut was so nice inside that we decided to call it home for the night instead of pitching our tent (Especially with 4° minimum forecast and howling winds!). It was a great adventure for the kids and all felt very Man from Snowy River!
The next morning was freezing cold, and as we set off to Bluff hut (After wishing each other Happy Valentines Day), we were thankful that we had stopped where we did, the track was slightly less rugged than the day before and there was no drop off to one side, but there were several sections that required rocks to be stacked into steep wheel ruts to avoid bottoming Blu out in the middle, Zach eagerly helped with this and also took some photos of the trails. He is becoming quite the proficient photographer!
After passing Bluff Hut, the going was much smoother as we came out onto graded roads. We paused to stretch our legs and go for a walk to the Bindaree Falls, these falls are lovely and the viewing platform is under an overhang behind the water!
Some more gravel road and a short steep rocky climb and we were at Craig’s hut for lunch. Craig’s Hut is the iconic hut from The Man from Snowy River and it is immediately apparent why they chose to use the location, the views out over the mountains past the hut are nothing short of spectacular!
The drive through the rest of the way was smooth, easy going compared to the earlier tracks and were able to maintain 40km/h for the most part, we paused briefly at Lake Cobbler and the Dandongadale Falls for a couple of pics then headed to Whitfield and blacktop roads…Big Blu had conquered the High Country from South to North!
By the time we were back in phone range, it was after office hours at the Glenrowan Caravan Park, so we booked in at Wangaratta just down the road and had a late dinner, put the kids in bed and had a much needed hot shower. I came back to find the table covered with heart shaped tealights and 2 tubs of Gourmet Icecream…A nice luxurious end to a rugged mountain Valentines Day.