Day 8 – 8th April

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Our travels in Victoria so far.

We had a good night sleep with only a little rain. We woke to blue skies but it’s be on and off all day the weather doesn’t know what it wants’ to do. One min you are reaching for your jumper then next you are hot and taking it off.

We left our night spot and headed into Wangaratta to get gas. We then headed towards Mansfield, taking the more scenic route through King Valley, a big vine area, and through to Whitfield before crossing over the mountains to Mansfield. It was a lovely drive with lots of trees and interesting things to look at. We stopped for morning tea At Edi which is also a good spot for a night stop.

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When we arrived at Mansfield we went straight to the information centre picking some info on the area and 4wd tracks. There is a circuit track that takes in a couple of huts including Craig’s Hut. We picked up a really good map of the Alpine Park showing 4wd tracks for $2.

We then decided to book into a van park as we figured we will be reaching for the heater over the next few days. We have booked into Mansfield Holiday Park on the Mt Buller road for 3 nights at a much more reasonable price of $28 a night, it is still the school holiday period. Has level large grassy sites, a hole for the sullage hose and water. This is not a drive through site but the site has so much room around it we were able to just drive in. The park is on 17 acres but they certainly have not used all of that, they could easily put more sites in, it has wide open spaces and mountain views. There are plenty of toilets and showers in the clean amenities block. There is mini golf and a dam that has some birdies with some week old babies on it. There are a few permanent vans that are a bit shanty looking. A horse and cart does a loop through the park and into town.

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We have just come back from walking around the town, very friendly little town. In one of the tourist brochures they call some of the shops eclectic, that’s what we thought about Bright.

Horses

Brrr it is cooling down, just heard on the news a cold front is coming Sat and Mon that might cause some snow on the Alps. The jackets will be coming out.

Day 9 – 9th April

Wow what a day. We left the van about 9.30am as we knew we were going to be home late today so didn’t want to start too early. We packed all the food, water and lots of warm clothes we needed as we were heading up the mountains, with Craig’s Hut on the hit list.

We headed up to Mt Stirling and onto Circuit road it is all dirt but is suitable for 2 wheel drive cars; it is closed during the winter months. This does a full circuit around Mt Stirling, up and down round and round. Several huts come off this road including Craig’s Hut and Razorback Hut. It is a really good drive, lots of trees and quite lush, the road is very good, apart from the area within the Mt Stirling Resort, there were a lot of corrugations, and it is in need of a grade.

Our first stop was Razorback Hut, for people without a 4wd you have to stop on the Circuit rd and take a short walk up. For those with a 4wd drive there is a 4wd track only that takes you right up to the hut. The hut is well used with one of the huts being used as dorm type accommodation, only the mattresses where really yucky. In the main hut there are several very old dirty chairs and lounges that have been set up into a U around an open fire place. When we were there, there was a sign up saying a Horse Riding firm had the hut and stables booked for a few days next week.

Razorback-Hut

Approx 17km further up Circuit Road is Craig’s Hut. There is a day use area that has toilets and parking, with a 1.2km steep walk up to Craig’s Hut. For people in 4wd’s 1km further up there is a 4wd track right up to Craig’s Hut. We did see several people park their cars near the 4wd track and then walk up from there; this is a lot longer way up.

I was very excited to be going to Craig’s Hut, I have wanted to go there every since I knew you could. The sky was grey and overcast, but it was still awesome to be there. There is plenty of parking at the top and toilets. We had read that no real Cattleman would built a hut in the position Craig’s Hut was built, right out in the open with no protection from the elements, but we all know it was built for the movie the “Man from Snowy River”. But they are right it is right out in the open and as we walked up from the car park you were hit with a lot cooler air. It is impressive and has awesome views over the High County Ranges. It was originally built for the movie in 1981, it fell into disrepair and was re-built and open to the public in 1993. It was later burnt down in the 2006 fires but my popular demand was rebuilt. It is quite different from the original shown in the movie. I didn’t care I was just thrilled to be there.

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After taking some photos for a while we saw a man had set up several tripods, one with a Sony video Camera and another with a film panoramic camera. We went over and had a chat; he was very chatty and said how he had been there for several days. He was obviously a professional photographer, I asked if he had a card which he didn’t on him but gave us his name Pete Dobre, and I knew I knew that name from somewhere but couldn’t place it at the time. He was impressed with Chris’s 7D; he was a really nice man and was very free in sharing his experience and knowledge. After quite some time, I started to freeze so we left him and went back to our car for lunch. It was about then all the cars started arriving, so he also packed up and moved on for a while.

After lunch we headed further around the Circuit Rd planning to visit a few more huts and Mt Buller, and then come back to Craig’s Hut around 4pm in the hope we might get some good lighting from a sunset. About 10km’s past Craig’s Hut there is a turn to Bindaree Falls, this is also accessed by 2wd, from the car park it is only a 15 min walk up hill via steps, what joy. It was worth it though, a nice water fall, falling onto mossy rocks surrounded by ferns.

Bindaree-Falls Bingeree-Falls

After spending quite a bit of time there taking photos it was time to turn back and head to Craig’s Hut again. There were a few people camping up near the hut in a picnic area which you are not suppose to, but well away from the actual hut. It was obvious we were not going to get our sunset shots, Chris said if we wait a short time the fog was going to come in. Well we didn’t have to wait long, it was eerie watching the fog move in fast, we could hardly see the campers behind us, within a short time the hut was totally surrounded by fog and we could no longer see the hut, and it was freezing.

Foggy-Hut

We went back to the car and boiled up the billy for a hot cuppa. Pete Dobre had come back by this time, so we went over and had a chat to him. He is such a nice bloke, giving us hints and tips and encouraging us. He has travelled the world taking photos and also doing speaking engagements. He asked us if we had been to Mungo National park and then gave us a signed copy of his book on Mungo and Paddle-steamers and Riverboats of the Murray River. I then realised who he was as we have several of his other books at home, wow what an honour to have a photographer of his calibre sharing his experiences with us. He was just a down to earth normal person with no air or graces.

Snow

After talking to him for some time we left Craig’s Hut and headed down the mountain, by this time it was getting dark. The fog cleared not far down which was a very good thing as we rounded a corner and saw a big red stag with huge antlers standing in the middle of the road, I quickly grabbed the video camera and just got him as he raced into the bush.

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We didn’t end up getting up to Mt Buller or the other huts, but that will be done another day. They have said on the news that it is going to turn cold and snow could fall in the next few days as low as 1500m, today we were 1450m so we might get to see some snow before we leave this area, cool ha very.

Day 10 – 10th April

My mum’s birthday, Happy Birthday to her. After our late night we had a sleep in before I rang my mum to wish her Happy Birthday. The plan today was to go back up to the mountain and check out some more huts that we didn’t get to yesterday. But…………….. The weather has closed in, it’s wet, drizzling on and off was foggy around us earlier, certainly foggy on the mountain. We decided to do a bit of catch up around here this morning, I’ve done some house work or is that van work either way cleaned up, the washing is on and will use their dryers to dry things. Chris is looking up the Telstra site to find out why we aren’t using our bonus phone credits instead of it guzzling through our money. After lunch we will take a run up the mountain and see what it’s like, depending on the weather as now it’s gotten very wet.

We heard on the radio the other day about “Glamping” Glamour Camping, which means you have running water, hot showers, flushing toilets and in their situation a cabin or motel. So we came up with “Glamvanning” Glamour Caravanning, so if you have a hot shower, flushing toilet and a van you might be “Glamvanning” but what’s the difference between caravanning and Glamvanning you ask? For us it would be plugged into 240 power, so we can use the micro and heater whenever we want, the hose hooked to a tap so we don’t have to be stingy with tank water and lots of hot water for showers so no on and off. Now “Glamvanning” is nice occasionally especially when there might be snow on the way but in general we like to slum it and just do the good old caravanning pulled off on the side of the road at some free spot enjoying the elements of nature. They are forecasting snow over the next few days so we are going to book in another few days and do a bit more “Glamvanning” with that lovely heater.

The weather didn’t improve until late this arvo so we just stayed around the Van Park, and popped into town for a while.

Mt-Buller

Day 11 – 11th April

That’s more like it, the Jack is now covered in mud covering up the slimy green hoppers, life has returned to normal. We will need to hose it down though as its hard open a door without getting dirty.

Weather wise we just about covered it all today, we had rain, fog and sunshine at times all 3, we had sleet and the big finale we were snowed on at Craig’s hut, yippee. We had a massive day, leaving the van at 9am and not getting back until 10 ½ hrs later at 7.30pm.

We headed up the Howqua Hills Track, which has a sign off the main road to Mt Buller marked Sheepyard Flat. This takes you into the Howqua Hills Historic area it is a dirt road that is suitable for 2wd cars. Sheepyard Flat is market in the Camps 5 book and has a tick and we can see why. It is suitable for vans and motor homes, is a very large grassy area on 2 sides of the road, has toilets and lots of trees next to a river.

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Heading through this area you get to Frys Flat which is also a camping area that van’s can get into. It is here you will find Frys Hut. Fred Fry built this hut in the late 1930’s and lived there until 1971. It is quite an elaborate hut with a main room with a fire place, 2 bedrooms come off that, then another room with a room leading off that. Fred Fry erected many of the huts in the region including Upper Jamieson Hut, Ritches Hut, Gardiners Hut and Schusters.

Frys Hut

From there it was back to the Howqua Hills Track, stopping a little further up at Pickerings Hut, this was a lovely hut surrounded by autumn colours as the trees had changed colour and there were lots of fallen leaves on the ground. We had to battle the rain here trying to hide our camera from the wet. We also found some really big red fungi, a smaller red one was even in a hole in a tree.

Pickering Hut Magic-MushThis road joins onto Bluff Link road which is also supposed to be suitable for 2wd’s but only in the dry. There are several 4wd tracks that come off this road including one to the Bluff, which we didn’t take as it was wet, drizzling on and off as well as foggy so we didn’t think we would be able to see anything from there. We also passed through a placed called Refrigerator Gap reason being a freezing cold gale blows through there. It was after the turnoff to Bluff that we thought the road became unsuitable from 2wd’s. There were lots of large dips and bumps, holes and rocks that we didn’t think a standard car would handle. Including a creek crossing that was flowing quite hard after the recent rain. Chris got out of the Jack and walked the crossing first, the look on his face was priceless as the water was icy cold, he said by the time he got to the other side his feet had gone numb. The Jack made the crossing with ease. We took a 3km detour and headed towards Bindaree Hut, the road in is very rough big holes that were filled with water and a creek crossing that was a bit hairy.

Hobbit-Hut

Bindaree Hut was a very strange hut indeed, we think it should be renamed Hobbit Hut as it is very small, not much bigger than a kid’s cubby house. Chris stood next to it and it wasn’t much taller than him, handy for cleaning the roof. I might add Chris didn’t shave today and he is looking like one of these mountain men. The sun came out briefly here before the weather changed once more; it changes very quickly in the High Country.

Snow-GumsIt was on the road heading towards Bindaree Falls that we had some sleet, we stopped just before joining the Circuit Track for Chris to put his boots back on and to put some thermal gear on as we were heading towards Mt Buller, we were about 1000m at this point and there was some snow on the road. From the Circuit Track we took a 7km 4wd track that joined Mt Stirling and Mt Buller. Just as we came into Mt Buller there was a sign stating the temperature and it was 1 degree. There was quite a bit of snow on the ground, on roofs of buildings and cars. We drove as far up as we could go which was several hundred meters higher, it was here we got out and had a little snow fight, it was freezing but very pretty, we drove back down stopping to take some photos of snow gums with snow at their base and another snow fight.

Mt-Buller-1 Mt-Buller-first-snow

We took the 7km track back to Mt Stirling and headed towards Craig’s Hut, the clouds had cleared somewhat and we were seeing more and more blue sky, we were hopeful of those sunset shots. We donned on our jackets, gloves and hats ready to face the freezing cold wind that greeted us at Craig’s Hut. We had the place to ourselves and yes there was some blue sky. We took a few quick shots before boiling up the billy for a hot cuppa. The sky still had some very dark ominous clouds that blocked the sun for most of the time we were there, it did peek out from behind the clouds for just the briefest moment, and it was in that brief moment that literally only latest 1 to 2 mins that the hut lit up a golden yellow. Wow it was awesome, the sun quickly disappeared, we waited in hope that it would emerge once more and light up the sky but instead it snowed, yep we got snowed on at Craig’s Hut how awesome, wow it was fun, we stayed as long as we could before our lenses kept getting snow on them as it was really starting to come down. It was fun, cold yep in fact freezing as soon as your little fingers popped out of the gloves to change a setting on the camera it felt like you had just placed them on a block of ice, mate the things we do to get that perfect shot, don’t know if we got that but we sure had heaps of fun trying.

Sun-at-last

It was a long slow drive back down the mountain but we both agreed we had a great day and was worth every bit of wet, mud and snow we encountered.

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V – Sheepyard Flat

Sheepyard Flat – T, OR, F, W, M, BR, D. 19 km SE of Merrijig. Turn onto Howqua Hills Road 2 km E of Merrijig. 17 km of dirt road. What an awesome place in the high country, great base to explore the area. Huge, massive area next to a flowing river. There is 2 sides to this camping around one on either side of the Howqua Hills road. We arrived well after Easter, when apparently it was packed. You can drive through this are to another camping area further along near Fry’s Hut, 4wd only. Rating – 5.5

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Day 12 – 12th April

Well we have decided to give it one more go, Craig’s Hut that is, more snow was supposed to fall overnight and the showers should have cleared by this arvo. The temp has certainly dropped outside.

We are catching up on postings this morning; we will have an early lunch before heading back up the mountain one last time, fingers crossed today is the day we get the photos we are after.

Foggy Snow Gums Foggy-Road

We had another big arvo not getting home until nearly 7.30pm; we left about 12.30pm and headed up Carters Road a 4wd track up to Tomahawk Hut. It was overcast when we left Mansfield but got very foggy as we continued up the mountain. At times it was hard to see very far in front of us it was very eerie, we were wondering what happened to the so call weather clearing. We then headed up the No 3 road, passing cows and the No 3 hut.

Cows in fog Tomahawk-Hut

The No 3 road links back onto the Circuit Road, at this point the fog cleared and we could see a few patches of blue sky. Pete Dobre was back up at Craig’s Hut also, he had stayed there the night before and told us he got some awesome sunrise shots.

Foggy-Trees

Forest

We set up near him and took plenty of photos with him his enthusiasm was contagious. The sun did come out on and off much to Pete’s delight and ours we all got some pretty good shots. It has been very different up there every time we have been; you really are at the mercy of the elements. It did turn very very cold, even with thermals, jumpers, jackets, beanies and gloves we were still cold.

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Day 13 – 13th April

That would be about right; we woke to blue skies this morning. We left Mansfield and headed towards Healesville, it was a very pretty drive and we could see where the fires had been over 12 months ago, with lots of new growth. We had planned to go to the Healesville Sanctuary but changed our mind and decided to head to Melbourne, by this time the sky had become overcast again and it had cooled down.

We are booked into the Melbourne Big 4 Holiday Park in Coburg. It is 9km from the city and has a bus stop out the front and trams a short drive away that will take you into the city. The cost is $37 a night, we are on a large powered site, which is a good size but not overly large. It is a quite a nice park. There are 2 amenities block, the one near us it one big building with a very impressive camp kitchen in the middle, 4 unisex toilets at one end and 4 unisex individual shower cubicles at the other, the other amenities block is more like what you would expect.

They seem to have a thing in Victoria where they don’t trust you to put the exhaust fan on yourself. With the toilet and showers near us the exhaust fan comes on the moment you turn the light on, which you have to do as there are no windows. There is a vent in the middle of the floor which only purpose is to provide ventilation, problem is the moment the exhaust fan goes on it sucks cold air up the floor vent, I figured out very quickly to put my shoe over the hole to stop the draught, you can’t go to the loo without the light on as it’s pitch black, it’s like a little adventure to go to the loo, have to make sure you take your jumper.

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