Roads and Tracks We Have Traveled (Part 6 Sydney The Long Way)

Tuesday, May 01, 2012 at 20:37

Member - Michael John T (VIC)

A trip to Sydney driving up the highway… No way, so how to get there and enjoy the drive. Finding an alternative route was easy as I had previously read of such a trip in an aging 4wd book that took you there via the North Eastern Victorian Alps and so with these details in hand off we went. The time line was 5 days from Central Victoria to Sydney, a few days there and 4 days back home.
We left home, one Toyota tray pulling a camper trailer and a big 4 litre Nissan towing a T Van. As it turned out we needed the power and the clearance of these vehicles to negotiate the fire trails of the North-Eastern Victorian Alps. Across country to Violet Town and then onto the freeway (ugh!!) for the short trip to Benalla where we gratefully turned East following the narrow bitumen, but pleasant drive to the small hamlet of Whitfield. Around here there are plenty of places to explore, follow the King River road to Lake William Hovel or to Paradise Falls. We took the Rose River road through beautiful country and then turned off onto the winding Dondengella still showing the scars of recent severe bush fires. Had we continued straight ahead we would have followed the Upper Rose River road climbing up to Lake Cobbler and the base of Mt Cobbler, a great place to visit and walk. Our next turn took us along the lovely Buffalo River road with many picnic and camping spots as it wound it’s way along the picturesque valley. The mild and sunny February weather made this just a delightful drive.

As the road turned to dirt and significantly narrowed we were looking for a turnoff onto the Durling Track. We eventually found it, down through the river bed and out onto a reasonably steep track heading into the bush. This was a great development for us, but we hadn’t anticipated from the track notes, of what lay ahead for us. Any niggles of concern from the ladies centred on “should we be taking the trailers through this country” none of us were worried about the ability of the vehicles. As it turned out later, there was some justification for these concerns.

We followed the directions onto the Mt Buggery track and onto the Camp Creek Fire Trail. Now some years ago I had bush walked to the top of Mt Buggery on the northern end of the Cross Cut which leads to Mt Howard, so I had a fair idea that we could be heading into steep country. As an aside having ‘been there’ … at times when I was told to “bugger off” or “go to buggery” I could truthfully respond … “I’ve been there”… After traveling about 3klms of up and down dale we climbed to the turnoff onto Scotsman’s Track which eventually led steeply downhill to the turn into Nelson’s track. The problem here was it was a sharp left hand turn with no room for the trailers to easily negotiate it. In time we managed to get them around and straight down into a small creek with a steep exit out over a formidable rock bar. We managed it Ok, tow bars scraping, only to find that the track simply disappeared. Obviously this section of the trip had been closed for quite some time and all that lay in front of us was timbered grazing country complete with cattle. Definitely time to set up camp, it was a great spot to do so. A good camp fire and time to reflect on what had been a day of real driving contrasts matched with beautiful country. To this point we had traveled 77klms from Whitfield and only 40klms since accessing the Durling Track.
A beautiful morning met us as we rose early, the scene with the cattle grazing amidst the tall timber and morning mist reminded me of a McCubbin painting. We back tracked through the creek crossing, a little wiser this time, and not long after found the Buckland Valley Road, eventually passing where the Nelson Track should have emerged. We passed an historic 1860’s cemetery on the left just prior to crossing on the bridge over the Buckland River, and shortly into Bright township.

From here we climbed over the Tawonga gap (spectacular views) down into the valley and Tawonga township. We next traveled the Mountain Creek Road (dirt) which soon narrowed and twisted its way to what was referred to as 5 Ways Junction. Being just that, you could follow straight ahead through to Mitta Mitta, probably an interesting drive into wild country and so many years ago when I played football against Mitta they were wild men as well. We were directed to ‘turn sharp right through the gate and up the steep hill’ and yes it was steep. The track was narrow, bushed in, washed out in places and continued to climb necessitating 4wd low and mostly first gear. As you gained a little momentum you were required to back off again to negotiate the humps designed to prevent erosion of the track. We reflected later that there was no way that we could have turned back or reversed the trailers if we had of encountered a large fallen tree or impassable washout. Unhitching would have not been viable either as there was just no where to push the trailers off the narrow track. Of course we had not anticipated this type of country and had little clearing equipment between us either. Luck was with us however and “Murphies Law” did not prevail, I guess being the end of bush fire season the tracks had been cleared before summer. We crossed the Eskdale Spur / Mt Bogon Walking Track with Mt Bogon just 4klms to our right from this point.

After about 10 kls of this ever upward track we reached the ridge line among a lot of dead eucalypt timber, but with great views. We were heartened to find the listed picnic table and old fire place as listed on the notes, (although not used for a long time) at times several tracks came and went along this ridge. We were now at 1330 metres ASL. There was much evidence of previous logging and this explained the sudden improvement to the track as it quickly descended as a good dirt road (The Hollow Way) down to the Omeo Highway just 2klms short of The Walnuts Picnic Area and a great place for lunch and explore of the area.

Down in this narrow valley with its twisty and tight road, varying between patches of bitumen and gravel, the weather had closed in, rain and lots of mist and fog made the drive interesting and thoughts of almost “Deliverance Country”. You pass through the Mt Wills Historic Area and Glen Wills hamlet which must be one of the most isolated small towns in Victoria. It was a great drive that just continued to impress as we moved down the valley. By the time you reach Big River and follow it down to Impressive Anglers Rest (where it joins with the Bundara and Cobungra Rivers to become the Mitta Mitta River) the drive is absolutely outstanding – huge quartz rocks along the river the beginning of autumn colours and numerous small camping areas – and good trout fishing country as well. We stopped at the famous Blue Duck Inn but were knocked back on having an ale as it didn’t open until 4pm – disappointing.
On to Omeo, a very picturesque and inviting small town, before heading out along the Limestone Creek Road looking for the designated camping area at Native Dog Flat. Our arrival at this camping area, not far from the Cobblers was short lived as it was occupied by a football team camp, further on the area was already claimed by horse riders. Starting to get late in the afternoon by this stage we found a trail which we followed in 4wd for about 4klms to a clearing at Play Ground Plains. A cool and later a wet night for us.

Day 3 and we crawled back out to the limestone – Black Mountain Road and drove over the Wombat Range (1340 metres ASL) through now rolling farm grazing land and turned North towards Suggin Buggin on the Barry Way. Almost immediately the road began to wind it’s way steeply and around the edge of deep valleys and gorges. For the next 25klms we negotiated the narrow road hoping not to meet an oncoming vehicle, certainly not a truck. For someone like my wife Brenda who does not enjoy such situations it was a nail biting experience and probably not helped when yours truly , true to form- kept saying ….“look at the view….”. The iconic Snowy River soon came into view with magnificent views of it from Jacks and Ballantine Gap Lookouts. Along the way we drove through pretty historic Suggin Buggin and across Suggin Buggin creek, A few more klms to the border with NSW at Willis before paralleling the mighty Snowy for several kilometers, where there are a number of lovely camp sites. Then of course back up the other side, now in NSW, still following the winding Barry Way. A stop at the Craig Wallace Lookout proffered great views over the valleys and mountains covered in eucalypts and white Cyprus pines to the South and West.

We were soon on bitumen leading to the picturesque but now quite ‘yuppi’ village of Jindabyne. From here out through Berrydale on the Monaro Hwy and into Cooma for fuel. Our destination for tonights camp was the ‘Cascades’ on the Tuross River, a lovely spot about 12klms into the Badja State Forest but as we were to find out,well known to the locals and Camberrites. Still a great spot and well worth the visit, during the week may have been better though.

Next day we traversed quiet dirt roads passing through several NPs – Wadbilliga, Deura and Gourock - this was lyre bird country and as lead vehicle we spotted 4 or 5 darting across the road ahead of us, once they hit the bush though they were impossible to see. Out in the open country side on these high plains the country side was lush and grazed with healthy looking cattle. On a momentary whim we detoured off the main road onto Kain road and followed a lovely valley drive crossing the Jerrabuttgalla (say that quickly) Creek several times before reaching Braidwood, a very busy heritage town. We headed out towards Mongarlowe hamlet, blinked and we were through it, back on a dirt road flanked with forest as we reached the Wog Wog camping ground in the Morton NP, an ideal place for lunch. From here there are several challenging walks into this spectacular and significant Wilderness Area (worthy of a return visit). The road skirted the Wilderness Area and ascended the escarpment in a spectacular way, winding through huge boulders, but unfortunately also road works and back onto bitumen. Not far from here we found the turn off into the ‘specky’ Tianjarra Falls.

The next stage took us down towards the coast and significantly more traffic, through Nowa and then into the beautiful rain forested Kangaroo Valley. This drive is quite steep and often painfully slow (for following vehicles) as we lumbered up the winding road pulling our trailers. We detoured up to the Canbewarra Lookout, realizing that it wasn’t designed to for vehicles with trailers, nevertheless magnificent views from the top looking over the coast. We had planned to camp near Tallowa Dam on Lake Yarrunga but due to some incident there we were turned away by police and found ourselves staying the night in a small camp ground in Kangaroo Valley town ship.

Our final day before reaching Sydney saw us back towards the coast through Berry and enjoying the coastal features, rock pools and blow hole at Kiama, - an interesting area. Now followed the haul through the built up areas of Shell Harbour, industrialized Port Kembla and Wollongong. Further North the ‘sea bridge’ is impressive to drive along, skirting the cliffs then on to Bald Hills Pass where we stopped for the impressive views back over the coast and for lunch. During this time we were entertained by an impromptu display of paragliding by a local tradesman who was using his lunchtime break to enjoy the thermals.

We entered the city via the lovely Royal NP and hit the heavy afternoon traffic as we made our way out to Lane Cove NP and its pleasant camping grounds. We find this a great place to stay as it is close to public transport and the city, and has pleasant walks through the park and along the river. If you are in the city the best of two worlds. It had been a terrific drive getting here. We covered great territory and many differing environs with a couple of interesting challenges. It set the scene for a couple of days taking in the sites of Sydney, it’s city and harbor environs
The drive back home avoided to a large extent the freeways and major roads. We visited the wet and foggy Blue Mountains, stopped over night at Oberon visiting the magnificent Jenolan Caves and then turned off at Yass into the valleys leading to lovely Wee Jasper and the top end of the Burrinjuck Dam. This is a great area and well worth spending time to soak up the invigorating autumn climate. Another day to pass over the hills through Batlow , Tumit. Jingelic and onto the Murray Valley Hwy, through to the Goulburn River for our last bush camp. A final half day run home finished another memorable set of roads and tracks traversed.

We retired to travell
It's time to go again...
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