Creative ideas come "out of the wild" growing like yeast. Enjoy a meander around my creative pursuits - art printing with stamps, sketching, photography, baking, gardening...

Dargo Trip

Our little trip to the high country in Eastern Victoria was intended to be about 10 days, however we were away for six nights in the end - Thursday to Tuesday. Accommodation for a powered site at the Wonnangatta Camp Ground was $120 and we took all our own food. Fuel is the main cost and that would have been about $200 (at current prices in our crazy world). We only did 960 Km altogether with the day trips being fairly short in distance although long in time.

The highway driving was pretty easy except for the closure through Morwell where they are repairing the flood damage. We stopped for coffee at one little spot called Lady Lavender's Tea Room which was chintzy and welcoming.

Lady Lavender's Tea Garden through the window.
The camp ground is a cleared paddock in the bend of the Wonnangatta River, and is part of a farm. It was our base camp and is only about 10 Km from Dargo. It's very beautiful and peaceful so the first night when we were on our own was bliss on a stick! Then all the Easter holiday families arrived and the place filled kids whose parents don't teach them camp ground etiquette. I confess to putting this straight, and then word got around.

Starting my trip notes before the crowds arrived.
We set up camp the first night, prepared for any kind of weather including snow which some forecasts had predicted. As it happened, it blew a gale which removed annexes from caravans but did not dislodge us at all. I did get up to check and to secure a tarp on the trailer, otherwise I had a good night's sleep. We had lovely sunny days for the whole time, and peaceful nights with the temperature down to five degrees or so. Very tolerable.

View of the camp ground from the entry road.
On Friday, we were lazy at 'home' and decided to move the tent away from a big old eucalypt which could drop branches as they are inclined to do. Then we drove into the town of Dargo and watched some musos setting up for a weekend of unbelievable decibels at the pub and at the local camp ground. There's a very good reason why one doesn't camp in town at Easter - LOUD music if that's what it's called, lots of beer, and fairly marginal behaviour.

The Dargo Hotel: wide verandas, the 'trucks', the boys with beers, the 'gal' roof.
Now, Dargo is well known for its fresh walnuts and chestnuts at this time of year. I had orders from two friends for walnuts which I delivered, fresh as....

These kids had walnuts & chestnuts for sale. Good value, lots of laughs.

We did go up to the little cemetery to see the head stones of generations of a few families who have been farmers and cattlemen up here since (another colloquialism) cocky was an egg! (Which just means a jolly long time because cockatoos live for eight to ten decades. My great aunt had one for fifty or more years, but that's another story. When she went to England, Cocky didn't utter a word until he heard her voice at the front gate on her return after three months. He called out "Lucy, Lucy, Lucy" until she appeared and talked to him. They are remarkable birds.)

My effort to capture the isolation, where land and sky meet, where spirit is and people are mostly not.

On Saturday, we headed for the Dargo High Plains which was the main thing to see. It's quite a steep climb up there but very beautiful. The thing I was not prepared for was the extent of the fire damage still so evident from both recent 2009 fires and those in 2003.

The epiphytes that turn our stately eucalypts into tormented bottle-brushes after fire.

The eucalypts that have survived have put out well developed epiphytic shoots making them look like mad scarecrow dolls from another planet. Eucalypts are built to survive fire, and they grow lots of these epiphytic branches full of leaves that nourish them for as long as they need it. Then a particular caterpillar breeds to plague proportions to eat all the unnecessary leaves and life for the tree returns to normal. It's now two years and still they are struggling.

The skeleton of a forest
Looming between them are the white skeletons of so many, many trees that did not survive the intense heat.They stand like a graveyard army, and in the distance, they give the mountains a silver halo that follows the contour of the land and is a stark contrast with the dark green regeneration beneath. Of course, this is the blessing of fire, that the bush regenerates and fresh plant progeny of most species is springing up. The silver wattles are growing fast and amongst them, new saplings of many other plants find protection in the early growth period. Please Mother Earth, just not so hot next time, that things die or disappear.

White halos on the ridges.
A cattleman called Jack Treasure is something of a legend up here, and we went to find his summer huts when they brought the cattle up here to graze. The huts are not easy to find unless you know what you're looking for even though they are marked on the map. Cruising slowly, an unmarked track appeared which I took with memory triggered from my last visit a long time ago. There they were, the three huts built of slab timber with galvanised iron roofs and chimneys, a couple of old bath tubs nearby in the bush, and plenty of signs of past visitors... stale biscuits in a jar, old bottles, and torn mattresses. The clearing is just as I remember it thirty years ago.

Treasure's Huts. The third is behind me. Notice the bath for horses to drink, men to wash.

The alpine grasslands were lovely once we reached the top, and they flatten out into broad plains with a roof-top view. The edges of each meadow are bounded by snow gums which have a typical shape with many trunks growing from a point close to the ground. When they shed their bark, the new surface of the trunks is the most stunning burnished colour.
Snow gums at the edge of the grassy plain. Old rocks with lichens on them.
On Sunday, we drove along Crooked River Road as far as Kingswell Bridge where we had morning coffee. The road is mostly cut into the hillside with almost nowhere to stop but the views of the river are really lovely. It was very peaceful just ambling along this track - except perhaps where it is too narrow for two vehicles side by side. I was hoping not to meet anyone coming the other way. There are a few farms up here, but it would be a very isolated existence and requires a fair degree of self-sufficiency.
We decided to return along another track which is very narrow, and again, we were lucky not to meet anyone coming the other way until we got to the top of the steepest part. This where we climbed about 700 metres in 4 Km.

Top of the track. Many of the pics on the way up are of the roof, etc.
It was fun to drive though, and I used the Air Locker a few times so that the car just gripped the rock and climbed over everything. I have All Terrain tyres on the car, and after market suspension which gives us about ten cm of extra lift. I really admire the technology and design of these cars.

Had lunch at the top in a lovely clearing, then slowly headed for home. A beef stew, some greens, and a little red wine that night.

Picnic lunch amongst the trees and copious bird life. 

And here's one little sweetie growing out of the charred stump of its Mum...well probably.
Monday, we headed into two gold rush town sites, one called Grant and the other Talbotville which is at the end of a very tricky track. The towns no longer exist, indeed they existed for about ten years and then the gold ran out. At Grant, the Post Mistress kept the Post Office open for many years by writing the requisite number of letters deemed to make it a viable office  - to herself.

The town site of Grant. Here were fine hotels, all retail services, stables, iron monger, banks, and share broker!

We went on to Talbotville which was interesting, but the most hair-raising drive of all. I kept telling myself "Keep your nerve, girl." The last eight Km was one and a half vehicles narrow, had soft edges, sloped slightly out from the cliff, and fell away 500 metres. Not my cup of tea!!! 

Love river crossings - best view along the streams.

Although we had a lovely lunch spot along the river after about four easy fords, I was eager to get going out of there. My travelling companion took heaps of awful photos to keep busy rather than look down. Here is one of the better ones.

Looking out the window, great view across the top of Oz, not much on the left hand side.
Tuesday was a mild, misty morning with the lovely light playing around the river. Light has to be the best of paint brushes. The bull rushes are like flags standing in high relief against the fading trees in the background.

The bull rushes are like flags in the mist.

A lovely, peaceful start to a day of packing up in leisurely fashion and travelling home.

Trees in the mist. Lovely shapes.
Hope you enjoyed a vicarious Easter break in the Victorian High Country. If you have questions or comments, I look forward to them.

Easter, 2011.


Elizabeth said...

Hi Ros, my husband and I (sounds very HM, doesn't it) really enjoyed reading about your trip and seeing the photos. Shame about the trees and loved the story of your great-aunt's cockatoo. Thanks for sharing. Elizabeth xx

JoZart said...

That is a really interesting post and so far from the trip I've just made to Devon UK. I love and appreciate your fab photos and a taste of the life there.
It reminded me that there had been moorland fires ravaging Exmoor whilst we were there with black swathes scarring the countryside. It always amazes me how Nature heals. We used to love to camp, so often in the English Lake District, but sadly now my DH's health will no longer allow it.
Thanks for sharing..
JoZarty x

Carola Bartz said...

Ros, this has been such an interesting trip. I loved to "travel" with you. Beautiful pictures - I especially like those of the misty trees, so atmospheric. Those fires remind me of the fires here in CA, and the wounds they dig in the country. In Yellowstone you can still see the remanins of the great fire several years ago. But it's also amazing how earth heals itself and brings new life. I had to laugh about the "Stihl" sign - those German saws are everywhere!