Thursday, 5 February 2015

Victorian High Country around Mansfield

We left our camp on the Murray at Bruce's Beach on Australia Day & headed down towards Mansfield & the High Country. We were very excited to head up into the High Country as neither of us has been before & it would be so different to anything else we have done on this trip. 

We made it to Mansfield & called into the visitor centre to buy a few maps of the area & to ask about camping. After a stop at the bakery for bread, we were on our way up into the High Country. We decided to have a look at the camps on the Howqua Hill Road out towards Mt Buller. We soon found the turnoff after the little town Merrijig & were soon on the dirt. The track in was steep, windy, dusty & narrow in places, not to mention the huge amount of traffic coming out after the long weekend. We must of passed at least 100 vehicles from station wagons, flash 4WDs, buses, camper trailers, caravans & even a large goose neck horse float towed by a cattle truck. It was a slow trip & took nearly an hour when it normally only takes about half an hour. 

We finally made it to the famous Sheepyard Flats, a lovely huge camping area right on the Howqua River. It was nice but there were still to many people camped so we headed further along, we looked at a couple more campsites that were all good, but not quite right & then we found Noonans Flat, which was perfect, a large flat site right on the river in a corner. There is a hut there as well Noonans Hut but it is a privately owned hut & had people in it. We set up camp & again couldn't believe the quality of free camping in Victoria. It even had toilets. Just as we were finishing setting up a couple in a caravan came in. They had camped in our spot a few years ago, so were a bit disappointed to miss it, they camped a few hundred meters away & were a lovely couple that we got to know over the next few days, there dogs kept us entertained as well. 

Camp at Noonans Flat

Noonans Hut

Everything was going well till a heap of teenagers rocked up with their druggo dad & cranked the music up. Our new friend in the caravan marched right over there & told them to turn it down or he would be coming back with his axe to smash the radio. They soon turned it down & Mat had a new best friend! They were quiet all night & left the next morning. 

The next day we decided to do the drive to Craig's Hut. As we pulled up at the toilet on the way out the guy from the hut "Johno" came over for a chat & gave us some great advice on the tracks. Off we went on our adventure. Initially we went towards the Bluff Link Rd, the road was in good condition but very steep & windy as we made our way up, around & over mountains. 

The scenery was amazing with tall trees & amazing ferns, cycads & bracken in the valleys & anywhere they got a bit of light. We then took the small side track up to the Bluff Hut. What a track, it was steep & rocky & there was a huge hole just before the top that felt like it would swallow up Ruby, not to mention the huge drop off on the side. Low range 4WD & Ruby powered up, it was a relief to get to the top, although we had to go back down the same way. The drive was worth it & there were amazing views & Bluff Hut was gorgeous. Amazing what they can build with very little resources. Back down the track & it felt even worse going back down! 

Bluff hut above & inside below

We then headed north on Bindaree Road & called into the Bindaree Falls for lunch. The walk in is only 400m but pretty steep but well worth the effort. A platform takes you almost under the falls & you get a gorgeous view. 
Bindaree Falls above & below

After that we headed towards Craig's Hut via the Circuit Road. The tracks were still really good just slow. We found the turn off into Craig's Hut & had another extremely steep drive to the top. You definitely wouldn't want to meet another 4WD coming down as it was mostly one lane, again with huge drop offs. We had Ruby in low range 4WD just in case we had any problems but we were fine. 

At the top the view is breathtaking & Craigs Hut is amazing. Craig's Hut was the one they used in the movie The Man from Snowy River. It was burnt down in 2007 by bushfires but has been rebuilt. There is just an aura around the hut, it's something that every Aussie needs to see in their lifetime. We were the only ones there & after we signed the visitor book, we found how lucky we were to have the place to ourselves, as over the Australia Day long weekend there were hundreds of visitors. 
Craig's Hut & 3 photos below 

After coming back down from the hut & thankfully meeting no other traffic we finished the circuit road that meets up with the bitumen road that goes to Mt Buller Resort. We were going to have a look but weren't sure if it was open in the summer & they also charge $40 per car to get in. So we made our way back to camp. It was a long day, but worth it. The High Country is pretty amazing. 

The next day we headed south to Frys Hut, another awesome hut & camping area right on the creek, just beautiful. After that we decided to take the "back way" to Lake Elidon. 
Frys Hut
River at Frys Hut

We ended up in the Howqua Hill Track. A fantastic drive but it was the steepest track we have been on. Amazing to see & we didn't see any other cars at all. 

We finally made it to Steiners Road & Howqua River Road & had an easy run out to the highway. On the way through we called into the Running Creek campground & it was another lovely river campsite. As we got out for a look around I spotted a hammer laying in the grass, so we scored a expensive hammer!

Running Creek

We then had a quick look at Howqua & Jaimeson & then took the very windy but bitumen track to Elidon. Lake Elidon is huge & a beautiful green colour & Elidon would be a nice place to spend a few days if you had a boat. We then made our way back towards Mansfield, going through the very infamous Bonnie Doon (think the Castle movie) & grabbed some fresh local cherries on the way through that were the best cherries ever! It was then back to camp. Another big day of driving but a great day. 

Our first glimpse of Lake Elidon

Lake Elidon dam wall

As we sat back enjoying the evening around the fire the druggo & his kids came back in to camp again this time with a mate. The music was cranked again & our neighbour sorted them out again. This time they camped close to both our camps. After a big day we went to bed at 10.30pm only to be woken at 12 midnight to hear the latch on our food box being opened, as Mat jumped out of bed & we could hear someone running away from our camp. Nothing was missing, we guess they were looking for grog as it does look a bit like an esky. We both couldn't sleep & at 1.30pm I saw 2 people with torches right in the bush near our camp, again Mat jumped out of bed & yelled at them but they high tailed it further up the road. To say we were pissed was an understatement. We still couldn't sleep & at 2am I heard a noise & I spotted 2 kids outside my window about 5 meters from the tent. Mat jumped up again but they took off again. This time Mat went over to the druggo camp & got the father out of bed & told him what was going on & to sort it. We had no trouble after that but couldn't sleep very well. The next morning Mat went back to talk to the father & he reckoned they said they were only out spot lighting, yeah right. Mat told him he better not be there that night & they had better leave. Our good neighbours arranged with us to stay at camp to keep an eye on camp while we zipped to town & we did the same for him that afternoon. We went to town to grab a few groceries & fuel & when we got back the druggo's had left. I took a few more photos of the creek at camp as well. 

We finally slept that night. The next morning as we were packing up to leave, we had a visit from about 15 wild king parrots. They were very tame & when I gave them some Walnuts they were climbing all over us. It was amazing & a great way to end our stay near Mansfield. 

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