Lucky me! Friends wanted to go bushwalking a few days before my wedding anniversary. I combined both to spend four days exploring the rolling landscape of eastern Victoria.
We entered the Alpine National park from McFarlane Saddle. It ‘only’ took us three and a half hours drive from Melbourne (this is close by Australian driving distances!). The path crosses Wellington plain, which maintained a mist and dusting of light rain on our visit. I was reminded of walks in Scotland. My rain coat and new boots meant the weather didn’t trouble me, I was so happy to be outside walking again. Check out this blog post if you want to see the plain in sunshine.
We’d had ideas of visiting the Sentinels, but with this poor weather we knew we wouldn’t get a good view from the top. Millers hut was full of radio operators, participating in a 48hour international competition. The surrounding campsite was packed with 4WDs and tents. Instead, we camped in a clearing nearby and warmed up over a delicious curry.
The next morning we walked back to the Nyimba camp and dropped our packs, taking just enough for the day. We walked down into the valley and bashed our way out along the Riggalls spur track to Echo point. This gave us our first view of lake Tali Karng (more on that later). I was surprised how overgrown the paths were, given how many people we saw in the area.
We’d heard so much about how steep the descent to the lake was, I think we imagined it much worse than it turned out to be. It was definitely steep, but also doable. The sun shone out as we arrived. The grassy bank provided a perfect lunch spot.
Tali Karng was formed by a rock slide about 1500 years ago. The traditional owners, the Gunai Kurnai people view the lake as a sacred place and don’t visit. I am grateful that despite this, they permit visitors to come and see it. They do ask that people don’t camp by the lake. We walked along the steep rocky Northern bank to arrive at a creek. We’d heard there were some falls, but didn’t expect much after such a dry spring and summer. Boy, were we rewarded!
For something different, we exited the valley via the Gillio track. This is reputed to be steeper than the Riggalls spur track. It definitely was steep, and not clear to follow. We lost the track at one point and things got steeper, but luckily we found our way shortly after.
We picked our packs up at the track junction and walked back out the way we entered on Wellington plain. Cold and misty again in fading light, this 9km section felt exceedingly long by the end. We camped that night by the Wellington river. It was nice to be by the cheerful river in such a pretty (and warmer) spot!
Latrobe’s valley and Tarra’s mountain
We drove down into the valley past Licola the next morning. The view changed from lush mountain valley to rolling agricultural hills. We saw mostly cattle, with a few sheep and horses. Soon enough we were in Traralgon with hungry bellies. We stopped by Three little birds cafe which was more Melbourne than Melbourne itself. I wished I could have ordered the entire menu, but restrained myself to a toastie.
Driving south from town, we passed by the Loy Yang power station, spouting smoke into the sky. Our aim was to connect up to Grand Ridge Road, which is a famous touring route. We hadn’t realised that Tarra Bulga National Park was at this junction. The surrounding area was awesome, with rich moist tree ferns lining the road thickly. With delight, we parked the car at the Visitors Centre and headed out along the Ash walking track.
I truly love Victoria’s rainforests. Tarra Bulga boasts one of the state’s best examples. Mountain Ash towered above us. They are the remains of an older temperate forest. Now the area is transitioning to rainforest…over the space of thousands of years. Along the walk, a lyrebird scrambled out of our way into the forest. The track leads down to a suspension bridge that gives a great view down over tree ferns in the valley. Their enormous fronds radiated out from tall trunks.
The park brings together two reserves from the early 20th century. Bulga park was formed in 1903 and given the local Aboriginal name for ‘mountain’. Five years later, a neighbouring area was reserved and named after Charlie Tarra. Count Strzelecki explored this area in the 1840s, guided by Charlie Tarra. I was happy to learn that the names of this area maintained a strong tie to the Gunai Kurnai. In 2010 this was recognised and the Gunai Kurnai were granted Aboriginal title over this area. They jointly manage the park with Parks Victoria.
A grand ridge
Tourist route 93 snakes along the ridge of the Strezlecki ranges. There is some bitumen, but it’s mostly a well maintained dirt surface. There are views of rolling hills in all directions through the trees. We saw a black wallaby and two lyrebirds, but mercifully none of the logging trucks that also use this road. You’re recommended to take a map. Certainly we found the signage confusing and non-existant on some road junctions. I wished there were a few more turn outs so we could have stopped and drunk in the views.
More Beer North
Speaking of drinking, we drove the road only as far as Mirboo North. This town hosts the Grand Ridge brewery in an old butter factory. There are lovely examples of woodwork in the bar/restaurant, including a sign declaring you’re in ‘More Beer North’! We ordered a tasting paddle of six beers. We particularly enjoyed the summer ale and Yarra Valley Gold.
Mirboo North delighted me further with the many murals painted on buildings along the main street. Cute town!
Our next stop was Peppermint Ridge farm, but this post is already too long so I’ll tell you more about that soon!
Have you travelled through Gippsland before? Do you associate the area the area with power plants or rainforests and mountains?