13 December 2018

High Country Huts

Who knew that when we bought our preloved off road camper that it would come with Camping Rallies? Owners of Australian Off Road campers/hybrids get together every few months in the warmer months at different places around the country. Initially 95 people said they were coming to the one in the Victorian High Country, in the end 75 campers came, with most cars having two people. Surprisingly there were a number of single women driving their 4WD's and hybrids - good luck to them, I don't think I would do it. A hybrid is the camper you have when you really want a caravan, or is it the caravan comforts but you like cooking and sitting outside. They have some good positives like lots of light if you need to sit inside. There were only two of us with the hard floor camper, everyone else had hybrids. A couple from New Zealand have a camper in NZ and a hybrid in Australia and split their time between the two countries.

We were camped at Fry's Flat just out of Mansfield which is a large flat area with a hut. I felt sorry for other campers who came in and found the area overrun. The main person who organised it let the council know that we were coming up just in case the weather turned and they needed to evacuate us, which is apparently what happened the year before. Bureaucracy then kicked in and the council then asked for permits and campsite layouts. They could't understand that we weren't an organised group like Rotary, that we were just individuals who through a camping forum had come together - social media if you like. It is clear they are going to make things harder in the coming years and I feel this will be the end - Mansfield will be the losers. We had three chains made up for our chainsaw and also bought fuel and food at the supermarket and bakery. I'm sure others did the same.

There is a 4WD circuit track that takes you past some of the high country huts that help stranded walkers or bike riders if the weather turns. No chance of that today, the weather was warm and sunny.

We somehow became the tour leader on a tag along with eight other cars. But just because you have a map doesn't mean you know where you are going. The entrance to the Gap Track is hidden behind a corner that you don't notice if you are going the way we were. After turning around and then asking some other people, we found the right track. It forms a loop that takes us past a number of the High Country Huts including Craig's Hut made famous as it features in the Man from Snowy River. I'm assuming the black diamond usually used for walking and ski trails means "difficult". There were a number of cyclists pushing their bikes on the track too, unfortunately for them it didn't look like they weren't having much fun.

It doesn't look like much of a track for cars
The track is closed for half the year and even though we were a day early, the gate was open, so we were good to go. Many of the tag along team weren't experienced 4WD'ers so they appreciated being told when to let their tyres down and when to go into low range. Most of them were a bit shy to talk on the radios so we had no idea if they were listening to us. 

Howqua Gap Hut
Howqua Gap Hut
Hut next to Gap Hut
Craig's Hut from the front
Moody Craig's Hut
Craig's Hut from the rear
Craig's Hut black and white

This hut would look great as a panorama at sunrise, I guess I'll just have to come back. A dash of snow could be nice too.

King Hut
A photo competition was organised beforehand. So if you wanted to participate you had to print 6 of your best photos, one had to include your camper and another some form of wildlife. I made the fatal mistake of not considering my audience and printed our best photos which just happen to be of places in the USA. I like to think that our photography has improved over the years since we have travelled in Australia, so didn't include any from Oz. There were three categories and we didn't win any. One person won two, the best group of six and the owner's choice. The other person who won best presentation had their photos on a piece of corrugated iron from an old windmill with the names of the photos written on gum leaves. I had voted for two of the winners so it was fair; they deserved it. It wasn't really about the photographs though. The competition allowed people to walk around the campsites and talk to the owners - it was a way of breaking the ice. Though while I'm not super competitive, it would be nice to win and I will only be submitting Australian outback photos next time.

Lots of Laughing Kookaburras
Feed one and they all come - male King Parrots
View from Mt Stirling

On Saturday night they had a pirates feast, not that anyone dressed up. We all contributed a dish that we set out on trestle tables. All the food was a pretty high standard, everyone had gone to a lot of effort.

In the early hours of Sunday morning I could hear the wind racing through the valley; a change was coming. The days had been very warm and there was dew everywhere in the mornings. Not long after came the lightening followed by deafening thunder. This is a flood area and I'm sure I wasn't the only one getting a little worried. The rain that came down was torrential. Decision time, stay or go? What was foremost in my mind was that 75 other campers had to go up that unpaved track and road. We decided to go, make a decision and stick to it I say. I could hear other campers discussing the same issue, not so easy when one wants to stay and the other wants to go. Everything was wet of course and we hadn't had time to pack our awnings up and our shower tent the night before. I had been tempted to leave the washing up from the Pirates night until the morning but I'm glad I didn't. The rain was early, it wasn't supposed to arrive for another day. I used to have a boss who always knew that when I went camping that rain was guaranteed. Unfortunately most of the time he was right!

We couldn't go home as we had ordered some chains to be made for our chain saw in Mansfield and they weren't open on Sundays, so we had to find somewhere else close by for the night. After visiting a friend further on, we came back to a lovely campsite on the Wood's Point road just out of Jamieson. There are many really nice campsites along this road which I'm sure fill up quickly on Fridays as they are close to the road and free, but not many were staying Sunday night.