Circumnavigating the Avon- 32 hours in 4wd heaven East Victoria,.

Submitted: Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 07:56
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For the 2009 Australia day weekend we decided to go exploring by ourselves in a less well known area, the Avon Wildness.
Vehicles are only allowed around the edges of this place nowadays so we planned a circumnavigation which takes in most aspects of 4wding. Pretty well the whole trip can be done by mainline 4wd wagons but the river gorge sections should only be undertaken when water levels are low.
Trip plots were made.

The Avon is a catchment area surrounded by high forrested mountains coming out as the Avon river in pretty gorge country.

The trip really begins with cappicino's at 9am in Cafe358 as its known in Heyfield 2 hours east of Melbourne.

In perfect weather we then headed north to Licola stopping to check out the recently re-constructed Cheyenes bridge free camp area on the Macalister river. The floods had made a real mess of this place even taking out original bridge. The new one is much more substantial and the whole area has been expanded with 2 drop toilets even.

After dropping by the Licola store (Which was again out of Vegie pasties) we headed up the Wellington river road noting the huge re-construction efforts.
But many areas of this prime camping country are only a shadow of what they once were.
Our favourite campsite at the start of the National park is even fully taped up and closed off with signs reading "Keep Out Asbestos contamination".

The bitumen soon becomes a good 2wd dirt road as you climb up the valley on the Tamboritha road to Arbuckle junction and then bear east to the start of "Mt Wellington Track".
This is the start of a great 4wd ridgeline drive that rises majestically to 1650 meters
in open country with spectacular, but windy views from the rock strewn summit.
This dead end track is the western driveable boundary of the Avon Wilderness and it
proceeds on to a fine example of high country huts, "Millers Hut".
The hut is nestled below the summit in a very pleasant forrest glade.
I have to admit to a lack of judgement here because this weekend the huts association and parks rangers were present for a hut restoration working bee.
We pulled up right in front of the group. I got out of the car and with an air of confidence I started shaking everyones hand saying "Robin Miller here guys, thanks for working on my hut".
I really had them going till my embarrassed wife pulled the rug out from under me.

From Millers hut the track deteriotates rapidly and it meanders to two huge rocky outcrops called the Sentinels which tower over lake Tali Karng at the end of the ridgeline.
Just before the end is a short rock ledge section which needs careful wheel placement.
You could also camp at the Sentinels, but its exposed with many burnt snowgums.
A protected campsite with great views exists on a short offshoot track above the turn off to Millers hut.
We spent some time exploring the Sentinels then headed back out to the main Moroka road and proceeded east to where the road crosses the Moroka river.
It was now 5pm and we found a delightful campsite near the river under trees on a short track not far from the rivers bridge.
Beyond the bridge the areas characteristics changed rapidly to what I call "Hillbilly country".
As if to reinforce this image my wife walked 20 meters to check out the river access and there it was. A huge dead wild pig, half decomposed lying 1/2 in the river and covered in flies.
No way she was going to camp near here and I must admit I was wishing I had my 30-30 although even it might have struggled to drop that boar.
On we drove, down a scrubby, swampy, little used bog-holey back track and soon found another campsite but this ones river access was lined with mosquito infested swamp trees.

There was nothing for it - for some good camping we would have to drive out the entire Avon east boundary road down to the river gorge country. This 30km boundary is a long drive on narrow rarely used track strewn with fallen rocks and cut into the various ridges as the road swaps from side to side of the hills.
Not once does it descend into the valley or pass a campsite and no vehicle tracks were evident.
In many places grass grew on the road. Trees, tree debris and over-hanging rock sections with step drop offs really kept you awake.
While not hard driving in the 4wd sense its certainly not a road to underestimate.
Of all things a pair of Emu's jumped out on us right near a steep drop off.

Being lone travellers, we were feeling quite relieved as we left this track for Mt Angus track and its Helipad overlooking the river valley wildness area below.
It was now 7pm as we undertook the long steep descent down to the Avon river.
There are few campsites in this valley but plenty of river crossings and on the second crossing of the Avon we encountered a large area of river rocks on a bend and parked the car on them for the night, only 3m from the waters edge.
For this trip, the Gu Patrol was configured to be slept inside and its great to park almost anywhere and have an instant campsite that others just bypass.
The campsite was a very beautiful spot and we soon had a small campfire going on the rocks next to a small waterfall beside a rock walled swimming hole.
Zero insects and a mild and windless night followed and it was so peaceful we just didn't want to leave the next morning.
Eventually we did, and drove only 200m around a hill to a 3rd river crossing where apon we came across a troopy whose crew had camped just as we did, except their section of the river had a school of 500mm long fish in it.
They also loved the ease and flexibility of there in-car sleeping setup and we had quite a discussion with them about camping options inside a vehicle.
Their troopy had more head room and length but without side doors it isn't as simple to get into bed as it is in a Patrol. This subject requires more investigation.

From here the road splits and we took the 3km dead end track which basically drives up the Avon river in what has to be one of the best short drives I know of.
There are plenty of river crossings in Victoria but not many places where the track is mostly the river bed.
This track wanders up & down embankments then climbs over river rock sections to come to a magnificent water hole. You drive on and thru 100m of water before you can spot an exit which just leads you on to another beautiful scene.
At one point we stopped, before us was nothing but steep sided river for 70m.
One side of the 500mm deep river was dark and the other side light.
Being by ourselves we couldn't take a chance of driving into a silt ladened hole.
I got out and began walking it. The angle of the sun changed and I could see one side of the river was a 2m deep mudhole and the other side had clearly visible tracks under the water
where 4wds had compressed the river bed rocks.
I directed my wife thru it and it must have been interesting as she followed my instructions precisely.
It would have been to easy to have not walked this section and end up badly stuck in the underwater ooze.

We were now 8 crossings and a couple of km into this track and it was getting rougher.
We came to an embankment that said "Locker time" to me.
It had a deep scallop in one of its sandy wheel tracks in addition to a short 45 degree jump up.
We made it up and came out onto a little used but lovely flat campsite big enough for 6 cars alongside a 100m long rock walled waterhole with diving rocks and fishing spots.
(location 55H 490439 5827543).

Into the river bed we again drove and soon came to the effective end of the track as a 1m thick tree went right across the bank and no wheels marks went past it.
As if the previous spot wasn't impressive enough, this spot had another huge lagoon lined by a flat walled rockface, the sort of thing you see in outback photos.

What a sensational short drive.

Time to turn for home, and on the way out we came across one of those sights that warms the heart of any Patrol driver.
As we approached the edge of the steep embankment section, there below us were two V8 landcruisers trying to get up, their drivers with shovels in their hands.
They didn't want a snatch and said they were not going up unless they could smooth out the track.

On the way out of the gorge we explored some little off shoots stopping with our wheels in the sand and water opposite a huge fern lined rock that overhung the river.
We had a slow lunch and just took in the beauty of the surroundings.

We left the Avon river via the Avon then Ben Cruchan roads back to Heyfield and Cafe358.

On the way doing the short side track which runs up to the 850m high top of Ben Cruchan to take in one last view across this magnificent but less travelled area.
Robin Miller

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Reply By: Sir Kev & Darkie - Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 08:58

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 08:58
Robin,

Great Read once again.

You will have to put them into your blog so they are easier to find in the future LOL

Cheers Kev
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 17:45

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 17:45
I must figure how to use that Kev as I persume you can have pictures embedded as well.

Always thought that the inability to embed pictures directly into a post has been an exploroz weakness
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Follow Up By: Sir Kev & Darkie - Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 20:38

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 20:38
Robin,

Have a read of this "How to create a Blog" that David wrote just after he introduced Blogs for members use.
It explains how to insert photos etc

cheers Kev
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Reply By: Member - John (Vic) - Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 10:22

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 10:22
Nice one Robin, the Avon has always remained one of my favorite areas.
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 20:33

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 20:33
Its got a lot rougher over the years John.

Zero maintenance on the upper dead end area such that you can't even drive to the road closed gate anymore.
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Reply By: Tim - Stratford (VIC) - Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 10:53

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 10:53
G'day Robin,

I had better apologise for not coming over - We were camped at the Moroka Bridge (the opposite side) to where you went. I didn't see the pig - glad we used the camper water this time!!!

We got there Saturday morning and left Monday - nobody else use 'our' campsite - apart from the coulpe of million little black annoying bugs!

Great weather though and a good spot as always.


Tim
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 11:19

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 11:19
Hi Tim

Yep you never know whats a hundred meters upstream do you, at least it was flowing water.

We wouldn't have been there 15 minutes as my wife has seen some of those movies where the pig comes racing thru the bush and gores you.

I was a little suprized to find both pigs and Emu's in that area Tim, would you have expected that ?

Also , unlike your area we counted 1 fly only at our overnight camp in the Avon River.


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Follow Up By: Tim - Stratford (VIC) - Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 11:41

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 11:41
I haven't heard of any pigs up that way for ages. There are normally a lot of deer hunters in that area, although they ease off over the summer months.

My wife did get traumatised by a rabbid bandicoot at camp!!!

She heard a noise in a tree and was walking towards it at night with her torch and this banicoot came running/hopping at her - they both got a fright and ran from each other (my words!) - I then went looking for it along a small game trail and the bandicoot came at me - but soon backed off and disappeared.

The following night I sat around with the camera and could hear him skirting camp - but he never came back while I was there.

I have come across emus along the Castlehill track (end of Marathon Road) before in the summer months.

...and I agree - the Avon Wilderness is a great spot - and not far from home!


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Reply By: Member - MUZBRY(Vic) - Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 12:29

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 12:29
Gday Robin
Little Wes and i saw the same two Emu at the Avon between Christmas and New Year.We go up through Huggets crossing and keep on going for about one hour.At the end of the road there is a nice camping spot and a river to bath in .
Murray
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 20:35

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 20:35
If that was the same pair Murry then they didn't listen last time cause they still ran straight up the road for 1/2 km before getting out of the way.
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Reply By: Sigmund - Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 14:18

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 14:18
Thanks for the post. Brings back memories.

Of 12 riders on horseback from Moroka to Heyfield and an ancient Land Rover as back-up.

The Landie broke two axles. And we had two spares of the right side. You can be lucky!

Although the second break was uphill, the Landie had to be tied to a tree to stop jack roll-off, and the spot was a bl**dy ants nest.
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