Friday 2nd January 2009
After months of planning and waiting finally we get to go!! With the car packed (well as much as you can fit in a Wrangler!) and the rest of the gear in the trailer we headed to the meeting point on the Freeway.
We must have been the most eager family as we were there with 20mins to spare. Everyone was assembled and signed on by 9am. 5 Jeeps in total headed off to the High Country.
Lunch stop was Lameroo. Most of us headed to the bakery for food and we all ate in the park, which had a fenced playground, for a much needed run around for the children. Lameroo is a very tidy town with the greenest grass we have ever seen. After quite a few more uneventful hours we arrived in Swan Hill. Overnight was in the Big 4 Swan Hill Pioneer City Tourist Park with the majority of us staying in cabins. A great caravan park with plenty to do for the kids – they loved the Jumping Pillow the most! The adults sat near the playground and jumping pillow swapping stories and talking about the trip ahead until it was getting too dark to jump for the kids.
Saturday 3rd January
9am start again today. More uneventful driving today however we did organise the two new Jeep's their club call signs. Gerard and Ivana were to be called “Rubberduckie” and Simon and Vanessa were to be known as “Flash”.
Lunch was at Shepparton and we stopped in a park after a lady came on the CB and directed us to it – top tip – next time you need to find something put a call out, you never know who is listening!
We then drove through Bright, over Mt Hotham (with a stop at the top to see the awesome views), down the other side, through Omeo and into Swifts Creek. We arrived there at around 6pm. Quite a nice site on the Tambo River with actual grass! After we finally decided where to set up, we did!
After tea and the kids in bed, a quick meeting was in order to plan tomorrows driving. That settled, it was off to bed and most were lulled to sleep by the gentle sounds of the river flowing…
Sunday 4th January
The Jeeps set off at 9.30am for a day of 4WD fun. The girls with kids decided that two full days in the car with kids was enough and opted to stay at the campsite. We amused ourselves with the playground for a while and then ventured into town.
We were disappointed that the bakery isn’t open on Sundays but we did amuse ourselves in the Secondhand Bookshop – 50,000 books to choose from!!! We hit the local IGA for supplies and an ice-cream. By then it was lunch and we went back to the campsite. Swifts Creek also boasts a pub and a café.
Little children had an afternoon nap and the big children had quiet time under the shade of a big tree with playtime in the river to cool off.
For the 4WD group, the plan was to head from Swifts Creek to Tongio West and head into the Cassilis area; however, as the Swifts Creek IGA guy gave us the runaround on fuel, we drove up to Omeo to fuel up first.
We made our way back to Powers Gully Track (aired down at the start), Bayliss Spur Track, then a number of tracks around Sat Morning Track, McGuiness Creek Road and out to Mt Delusion Road. Somewhere in that section we all had to squeeze past a large fallen tree. Did Bayliss Spur Road, Dingo Ridge Track in order to get to Charlotte Spur Track, which as part of the old Gold Route from Brookville to Cassilis, includes a 200 m rock embankment built around 1880. This rocky section of track provided a mild challenge for the lesser clearance vehicles.
Charlotte Spur Track returned us to Tongio West, after which we headed back up to Omeo via the Cassilis Road, then returned Swifts Creek via the Great Alpine Road.
The Jeeps arrived back at about 4.30pm and the adults settled under the big tree for a cold beer and a play in the river. Again after tea the adults seemed to migrate to Gerard and Ivana’s tent for story telling and planning the next day’s adventure.
Monday 5th January
Today was affectionately known as Family 4WD day. We left at around 9am and went along Brookville Forest Rd, Baldhead Rd, Boomerang Spur Road, Haunted Stream Track past Dogtown to Stirling.
Watch out for logging trucks in most areas – they are big and not necessarily slow!
The Haunted Stream Track had around 52 creek crossings, most were only ‘get your tyres wet’ crossings, but there were a few deeper ones. It was a very scenic part of the country with lots of trees and butterflies. After that we headed north up Stirling Track, then East along Angora Range Road (Three Jeeps looped off Elphick Back Track, and somehow headed straight through to Great Alpine Road), we followed Angora Range Road all the way to Great Alpine Road, then turned north to Ensay.
After an icecream and fuel at the General Store, we then followed Doctors Flat Road along the Tambo River, rather than the Great Alpine Road heading north back to Swifts Creek. We all stopped to get a cappuccino at the Café and then headed back to the campsite for tea and cooling off in the river.
Tuesday 6th January
Break camp and head for the next one! Oh the joy of packing up! Anyway we were all on the road at 10.30am and headed for Wonnangatta Caravan Park. You know it is not that far on the map!!!! It seemed to take forever to get there.
We went via Brookville Forest Rd, Baldhead Rd, Jones Road, Upper Dargo Road, (to Dargo) then Dargo Road to Wonnangatta CP. Basically a whole lot of bumps with the added bonus of dust and lots of it!! Oh and it was hot!
We were bracing ourselves for a dusty campsite and were greeted with green grass and lots of shade trees. The Victorians at the campsite (and most of them were from Bairnsdale) did not want us to tell anyone about this campground – they want it kept as their little secret!
So we set up camp and then headed for the river to cool off and play. Teatime was followed with pancakes for all from Simon and Vanessa – thanks guys you can come on another trip anytime! The last official team meeting followed in readiness for the last big day of 4WD.
Wednesday 7th January
The girls with kids decided to stay at the campsite and explore the river and campground. The Jeeps set off at about 9.30am again for a short trip! We didn’t see them again until after 4.30pm!
Here’s what they did: From the caravan park they took the Crooked River Road north to Kingswell Bridge – where they didn’t take the bridge option (surprise, surprise!) but took the Ford. They turned off the Crooked River Road a few kilometres later onto the Billy Goat Track. This was a long, steep climb to Billy Goat Bluff on which the KJ and one TJ had a few “issues”. (Talk to Tom for his version of events and anyone else for another!).
They then went onward via the Pinnacles Road to the Pinnacles. Then Castle Hill Track, Junction Spur Track and Scrubby Creek Track. The Jeeps came to a dead end somewhere along here and back tracked and found the Rock of Gibraltar Track (not on our maps) just off the Crooked River Road Junction.
They returned to Wonnangatta Caravan Park via the Crooked River Road full of stories about their day’s adventures. We had an end of trip dinner at the Dargo pub.
Thursday 8th January
The sun came up and three Jeeps departed after they had packed up. Sad to see them go as we had a great time together. They went home via Ballarat. Only two Jeeps left. We spent one more day and night of relaxing at the Wonnangatta Caravan Park.
Friday 9th January
We packed up for the day's drive to Porepunkah – again it didn’t seem that far on the map but we left at 10am and got to the caravan park at nearly 5pm!!!!
We left the Wonnangatta caravan park and headed north on the Crooked River Road. We continued along there until we got to the Kingswell Bridge where the boys had to do the Ford one last time even thought there was no need for it!
We stayed on the Crooked River Road and were supposed to turn off after a while but we missed the turn off – Dave was secretly pleased about this, as he had always wanted to do more of the Crooked River Track. So after a few more river crossings, we stopped for lunch along the river and then went through Talbotville and turned on to McMillans road and headed through Grant - a steep and narrow road but apparently OK for 2WD!
We then turned left onto the Dargo High Plains road and followed that up to join the Great Alpine Road. A left turn led us through Harrietville, Bright and then Porepunkah.
Saturday 10th – Monday 13th January
4 nights at the Porepunkah Pines Tourist Resort. We filled our days with time in the pool and children’s water park at the caravan park. We spent time in Bright on the Ovens River eating lunch, on the awesome kids playground or paddling and floating down the river on a blow up raft. A great time was had by all.
Monday 13th January
Our last pack up of all our camping stuff. We drove from Porepunkah to Horsham – uneventful but hot! Stayed in cabins in the Wimmera Lakes Caravan Park.
Tuesday 14th January
Home to Adelaide, but not before the Steele’s had the tread of their Cooper ST peel off at speed just out of Tintinara. With everyone ok, and the tyre changed, we continued onto Adelaide.
Our great holiday adventure was over.