Thursday, 16 January 2014

Australian Interlude

It seemed appropriate that we head downunder for Christmas and having completed all family commitments a visit to the Bogong High Plains was a necessity.

My brother had indicated his willingness to accompany us on this trip, which was the first time in many years that my brother and I had spent so much time together. My brother is an avid walker and amateur radio enthusiast so we had a lot to chat about, including gear, amateur radio and families.

Late evening Wallaces

Setting off from Mt Beauty we travelled via Falls Creek to the parking area near Wallaces Hut and set up camp for the night. Wallaces Hut is a popular hut and being adjacent to the Australian Alpine Walking track ensures that many hikers camp in its vicinity. This was my first visit to the area since the 2003 fires and I was amazed by the colour (or lack of it) of the forests in the evening sunshine.

The following morning we began the climb along Heathy Spur, the trip was never intended to be strenuous so we set a leisurely pace appreciating the scenery, the clear air whilst fending off the flies. The clear blue skies provided some warmth, and with an accompanying light breeze walking conditions were almost perfect.

Rocky Valley Reservoir

Our campsite for the first night was Edmondson Hut a place I have visited many times, the hut was built in 1953 and has withstood the ravages of snow and fire. The hut is nestled within a small snow gum forest much of which had avoided the last fires and there are many idyllic campsites nearby.

Edmondson Hut between the snow gums

We had borrowed an SL2 for this trip and it provided ample space for 2 and with the bug inner ensured the flies stayed outside. Once the shelter was erected we settled in for a relaxing afternoon in the shade of the snow gums, life cannot get much better.

Camp Edmondson Hut

A leisurely start the following morning saw us commence the climb to the top of Mt Nelse, where my brother set up his radio mast to communicate with other radio buffs, as part of the Summits On The Air (SOTA) award scheme. The 5 metre long carbon fibre mast collapses to an easily transportable package and the transmitter is smaller than a nalgene bottle.

Nalgene and Transmitter

Whilst we relaxed in the sunshine sheltered from the wind, my brother listened to and responded to messages (in morse code). 

Waiting for a sign

Leaving the summit we returned to the track to Ropers Hut, I spent time admiring the vastness and beauty of an area very dear to my heart.

Surveying the scene

After a lunch stop which was interrupted by some ants (I had forgotten that ants like dry warm weather) we descended in the warm afternoon sunshine to Ropers Hut. Sadly the original hut was destroyed in the 2003 fires but has since been replaced.

New Ropers Hut

After collecting water I went for a wander along Duane Spur, a popular trail to Victoria's highest mountain, Mt Bogong, for now though I was happy to admire the forest and the flowers. One of the marker posts provided memories of my many trips up and down Duane Spur, the Alpine Walking track sign, appeared to be on of the originals and I wondered if I had seen this same marker on my last trip through here, some 20 years ago.

Original Alpine Track marker

I returned to camp and sat relaxing, later 2 families arrived and we watched as they set up their tents. Later one of the ladies in the group visited the bush toilet only to return saying that there was a snake living under the toilet floor. That statement did not seem to deter anyone but keeping your feet moving on the wooden floor ensured some sanity.

Whilst we were cooking dinner two ladies arrived and proceeded to set up a Tarptent Rainbow, noticing further that they were using GoLite packs it seemed an ideal opportunity to chat, as they were similarly interested in the Moment DW.

Ultimately we retired for the night, during which the wind gained strength and by morning with a cold wind blowing we decided to cook inside the hut, only to find several others doing the same.

We again began to chat with the two ladies (Lynn and Jayne)  and before long we found out that they had been interviewed by Bob at BPL UK  in 2010, it is a small world. As an aside whilst looking for the podcast on the BPL UK website I realised there was such a wealth of information on the podcasts that many required listening to more than once.

After breakfast we packed and begun the climb up to the windswept plains, the sun was shining but the wind was cold.

Cold and windy

Stopping near the Batty’s Hut junction, we were soon met by two National Park Rangers in four wheel drive heading to Ropers, we commented on the toilet (it was full) and the snake, they indicated that the toilet would soon be pumped out, I wondered about the prospects for the snake.

Retracing our steps we passed over the top of Mount Nelse and descended to Johnstons Hut, where the setting up tent ritual followed by the not doing much ritual repeated itself. A group of day walkers arrived and conversation soon turned to Danish police dramas shown on Australian TV, a long discussion on the quality of the shows and the dullness of the Danish weather as portrayed on the shows was had. Ultimately we were left to the serenity of the plains.

We were up just before sunrise the next morning and were rewarded with excellent views of the cloud inversion in Big River Vallley.

Inversion Big River

The changing light and tones made for a fitting spectacle for our final day in the high country and will provide memories that I will cherish until I return another day.

Early Morning Big River

Returning via Heathy Spur, I lingered near a small pool before descending to the car and back to civilisation.

Pond Heathy Spur

It had been a very relaxing and enjoyable trip, and with a total distance of 32 km for the four days it was never strenuous but provided enough scenery and memories to encourage us to return to what for me is one of the places where I have always felt at home, no matter what the season.