Kosciuszko National Park – Melbourne via Victoria’s High Country
11 – 15 December
From Kosciuszko NP we dropped off the high country and down across the border to Victoria for our final hoorah. We were headed to Mountain Creek campground at the base of Mt Bogong. Back in Apr 2013 we came up here for a long weekend with the intention of climbing Mt Bogong, Victoria’s highest point at 1986m. Last time we were here we got about 2/3 of the way up when we hit thick cloud. With my legs giving out we turned around, so this time around we were ready to knock the bastard off.
The walk up Mt Bogong was a tough slog uphill with the direct route up the appropriately named Staircase Spur climbing 1250m over 6kms. Yip the legs definitely felt this climb, no ski lift here to do the hard work. Walking up through the Peppermint Gums, Marcel came to a sudden halt in front of me – there lying across the track was a brown snake. From what we can work out it was either a Copperhead or Brown Snake, either way it would pack a punch. It had no interest in moving out of the way for us, so we carefully picked our way around it giving it as wide a berth as possible. This was our first, and only, real encounter with a big(ish) snake on our trip around Australia. We were certainly very vigilant where we were putting our feet after this!
On up the track, past Bivouac Hut and up into the white limbs of snow gums recovering from an old fire with new growth coming through. Then it was past the point we turned around last time onto the treeless rocky ridge that led up to the summit. Summit in the loosest sense of the highest point, as the terrain flattened out to a rounded plateau. At the summit there was one of the best cairns we’d seen. Sunny blue skies meant that we had 360deg views. It really was a sense of achievement getting up Mt Bogong after all this time. Back down to the campsite to nurse our legs that were complaining loudly. We utilised cooking on the fire as much as we could as the LPG tank was effectively out of gas and with just a few days on the road remaining we didn’t want to refill it.
From Mountain Creek we climbed up to the Victorian high country past Falls Creek. We stopped off to check out the oldest hut in the Victorian Alpine area – Wallace Hut built in 1889 by early cattlemen. With the cold wind biting, we understood how welcome the high country huts must have been for the early graziers and now for those needing shelter in bad weather. It was a beautifully built hut.
We dropped off the high country plains down to Omeo, an old gold mining town where they used water sluicing to cut away at the bank of the river. The 1939 Black Friday bush fires burnt right up to the town and burnt some of the buildings along the main street before a wind change saved the rest of the town. You can still see the line where the old and new buildings meet.
On our second to last morning, we woke to another ‘Ant Fiasco’. Overnight small black ants had discovered our tent ladder and decided that the space under the mattress would be a great spot to relocate their nest. Ants were running all around the side and underneath of the mattress. After pulling everything out, sweeping up and blasting their access routes with fly spray we were ant free. I think this was just a timely reminder that life on the road isn’t all sunset drinks by an open fire.
We were taking a bit of a zigzagging route as we toured the Victorian high country so it was back up the mountains to Mt Hotham. We pulled in for a coffee at Dinner Plains just before the Hotham ski village, and it was a surreptitious stop. Chatting to the guy in the coffee shop we learnt that the road we’d planned to take down to Dargo was closed, and he was able to suggest another 4wd road which saved us a long drive around. We had never got to Hotham so headed on along the Great Alpine Rd climbing up until we were in thick cloud. Inching along the road with 10m visibility we wound down to check that the road was indeed closed. Coming back over through Hotham the cloud had lifted and we could see down the valleys and across to Mt Feathertop with a wispy feather cloud hanging onto its summit. The road itself was also really striking winding its way along the ridgeline.
Turning off the bitumen we let down the tyre pressures, locked the hubs and selected 4wd drive for the old girl’s last off road adventure. It was a pretty good track / road with a small section a bit rocky and steep. We pulled in to a campsite alongside the Dargo River, where we put the tent up for the last time, scrapped together a meal using all the odds and ends in the car, and stoked up a roaring fire.
Day 221, our last day on the road, we headed out of the high country for the M1 back into Melbourne from Gippsland. Suddenly Melbourne was on the highway direction signs, and it was back into the thick of the traffic back to where it all began. 39,722 kms, 221 days and one continent circumnavigated – we did it!!!!
We had 10 days in Melbourne to unpack the car, get everything for the roadworthy lined up, sell the old girl and generally catch up with friends. In the end we’d decided to sell the car as we had used it for everything we needed it for, and didn’t want to see it end up sitting around not getting used. It was sad to say goodbye to our home for the last 7 months, but also quite nice to start the next chapter of our life fresh. After a typically Australian Christmas Day – a very warm 36deg, a BBQ and swim in the late afternoon at the beach we picked up the last of our boxes and headed to the airport to fly home to NZ. Onto the next adventure …