On Saturday, January 17 2009, we leave Melbourne towards
the Great Dividing Range in search of sunshine
and warmer weather.
In Healesville we turn north following
the road along the Bicentennial National Track.
The road is quiet steep and takes us through forests with
some magnificent fern trees.
In the late 1800's paling splitters
and bush sawyers had arrived in this area and felled
some of the finest mountain ash for fence palings.
These were milled within the forest and removed by
horse and bullock wagons.
By 1900 the demand for timber increased and numerous
bush sawmills and cottages were established.
A system of bush tramways linked the forest to the
In January 1939 disastrous bushfires destroyed
a vast area of forest and most of the mills, homes,
tramways and bridges.
An extensive network of roads and new mills followed
to enable salvage harvesting of the fire-killed timber.
An 815 ha reserve in the heart of the Toolangi
State Forest along the lower reaches of the Murrindindi
River was established in 1981.
We intend to explore some of these roads and tracks in the
reserve in the next few days.
At the Toolangi State Forest we turn into
By now the sun has managed to dissolve the light clouds but
the temperature still is only at 17°C ..... so much for
summer in Melbourne!
The OKA climbs uphill and soon we reach the Yarra
Ranges National Park where we decide to visit
the Telstra and CFA tower on the St. Leonard Walk.
The walk leads though some large eucalyptus and some
fantastic fern trees.
There are also lots of flowers along the track.
We reach the Telstra and CFA tower and of course have to
get up to the viewing platform.
The info sign says that on a clear day one can see the
skyline of Melbourne from here ..... no doubt about that!
We continue on until we reach the Mt. Tanglefoot
Picnic Area where we stay for the night.
Some Black Cockatoos have a noisily late afternoon meal in
the tall stringy bark Eucalyptus.
We enjoy the late afternoon sunshine and warmth.
But as soon as the sun sets the temperature starts dropping
(overnight to 8.5°C ..... ).
The sun is up early on Sunday morning but the temperature
does not really raise that fast in the forest.
We continue on through the forest.
The tracks are very dusty, an obvious sign of the drought.
Just before reaching the bitumen of the Whanregarwen
Road we spot a Koala sitting in a tree just beside
The docile creature only decides to climb further up its
tree after we have finished the photo session.
What a chance!
We continue on pass the Great Dividing Range and head towards
Alexandra and stop at the Goulburn River Bridge for
By now the temperature has risen above 30°C and we start
feeling a bit better - a bit more summer-like.
As Susi walks towards the back of the OKA she hears a hissing
sound ..... hmmmm ..... looks like work for Ruedi .....
A very sharp rock has worked its way into the tyre.
It sits so deep in the rubber that it cannot be removed.
After cutting away some of the rubber Ruedi and Peter see
that the rock has damaged the steel belt .... looks
like a “fatality” .... not even a professional
tyre place will be able to repair the puncture ....
Well, we cannot complain.
This is only the second fatality in 65 000 km and with a
lot off-road driving, not really much to whinge about, but
still, Ruedi is not very happy .....
We drive through Alexandra and over the Haines
Saddle into the Lake Eildon National Park.
The shop is closed and we wonder how we can find out about
the camping availabilities.
Luckily the ranger comes past and sends us to the Devils
Cove camping area.
Apparently there we can stay over night for 17$ per site
and he recons both cars can easily fit on one site.
The camping is not really open; the toilets are covered
with spider webs, leaves and dirt ..... we are not really
Not willing to pay a cent for these amenities we turn around
and head back.
As we pass the Candlebark Camping we see
that it is almost empty and after checking out the toilets
decide to settle here for the night.
Some King Parrots come and visit.
After a cool night with only 10.5°C we wake up to a
sunny Monday morning.
When checking the OKA Ruedi realises that the right front
airbag had shifted and needs some adjusting.
The angel grinder is unpacked and soon Peter & Ruedi
are busy fixing it.
This gives Susi time to watch the birds a bit closer.
They are desperate for water and queue up along the camper
and at the taps for a drink.
Then we hit the road again and travel north on the Skyline
It is a nice drive on top of the mountain ridge giving some
good views onto Lake Eildon.
It also shows the low levels of the water .....
Further along we come past some houses and caravans that
used to be along the shore of the lake.
The concrete driveway for the boat ends somewhere and then
it is a loooooong distance to where the water can be found.
The bridge crossing Lake Eildon between Bonnie Doon and Maindample
used to stand some 10 meters deep in water; now all that
is left are the marks on the pillars and some dry grass underneath
We estimate that water level at Lake Eildon must be at least
some 30 meters higher when it is full of water .....
The temperature climbs and climbs, we reach 32.5°C.
Summer has finally found us!
After stopping at Mansfield for some shopping
and internetting we continue on towards Mt. Buller.
We deviate into Circular Road and climb
up into the mountains.
There seems to be more water here.
More and more flowers start appearing.
We stop to take in the very pretty views.
Then we reach the turn off towards Craig's Hut; it is marked
as 4WD only.
The track is quiet steep but it seems that the track is travelled
often by large and high vehicles.
The OKA has no problems getting through; no hitting of branches
or having to squeeze between narrow standing trees.
Probably tour-operators go up to Craig's Hut .....
Then we reach Craig's Hut; the views are
Susi goes "views-and-flower-spotting" ....
The flowers are quiet different depending on the ground
they grow on.
Amazing what grows up here!
Even at the height of over 1'460 m the temperature is over
25°C so we decide to stay for the night.
The only downside of the warm weather is the flies ..... they
go absolutely nuts once Heidi starts grilling some meat and
it is not easy to eat without getting flies on your food
The sunset is just stunning.
It stays rather warm over night (16°C) and on Tuesday
morning we are not surprised to hear that they have implemented
a complete fire-ban and declared extreme fire danger.
From Craig's Hut we take the track up to Mt. Stirling.
In comparison to the track up to Craig's Hut this one is
less travelled by large vehicles.
We even encounter one section where we have to remove a dead
There are some steep sections and Ruedi is very happy with
the new set-up of the breaks.
here for a movie of it
(file type: .wmv, size: 6'701 KB).
Ruedi is pleased that he only has to tip the breaks lightly
for them to perform correctly.
In rear sight the breaks of the OKA must have been faulty
for quiet some time and we only really felt it once the rear
breaks gave up completely and all the breaking was
done with only the front breaks ..... which resulted in the
OKA standing in the middle of an intersection instead of
being able to stop properly at a red light ....
We take a short walk to the Bindaree Falls,
a pretty little waterfall with some moss gardens.
Then we continue on along 16 Mile Road and
enjoy the pretty flowers along the track.
This area must have burned a few months ago. Due to this
lots of sunshine reaches the ground giving the flowers enough
We stop at the intersections with the 16 Mile Jeep Track
for lunch but decide not to take that track as it is marked
as very rough.
We don't want to risk our "houses" for a track.
We continue on along some areas that must have had a severe
bush fire; large areas are still in a sad state.
Along the track we cross a CFA vehicle with a sign on its
door "Today is a day of a total fire ban"; now
we know it for certain.
We head down to the Jamieson River and
decide to stay for the rest of the day and the night.
Clouds are forming and we could be receiving a bit of a storm
later on ..... well, let's see.
We pick a camping spot besides the river with a small lagoon.
The spot is a bit elevated so we would be safe from a raising
river should the storm eventuate and in case of a fire
we could even escape into the water.
As the spot we have chosen for the night is not really level
Ruedi reverses the OKA by a few meters.
Now the OKA is perfectly level and the driver is happy!
Happy with our choice we set up camp and go for a swim
in the rather fresh water (only 20°C ..... brrrrrr .....
too cold for Susi .....).
Refreshed we unpack the computers and work a bit on our
Every so often we hear noises like breaking wood.
Sounds like some trees are dropping limbs because of the
But we are camping just besides the river and those trees
have enough water and should not drop limbs.
After dinner while washing the dishes again we hear a noise
like breaking wood ...... but this time it does not stop
..... it just goes on and on ....
We look out the window and see a large Eucalyptus tree just
hitting the ground some 50 m above us and then sliding
down-hill with full speed.
It come strait towards our vehicles, bounces of some shrubs
and ferns, gets slightly redirected, crosses the road and
stops halfway between the OKA and Peter & Heidi's Toyota.
We all rush out of the vehicles and in the dust cloud inspect
the unexpected visitor.
The tree trunk has missed the OKA by approx. 3 meters and
has stopped approx. 7 meter before the Toyota.
We can hardly believe our luck.
Had Ruedi not reversed the OKA to get it level the tree would
have rammed the OKA ... not a pretty thought at all!
Again our guardian angel has been on full alert and made
an excellent job!
On Wednesday, January 21, we wake up to a fresh morning
with only 14°C.
But soon the sun is here and the temperature rises quickly.
That's how we like it!
We continue on to Low Saddle Road.
The track leads through some very pretty sections with
lots of flowers along the track.
Then it starts climbing .... gets steeper and steeper ....
and in addition it also gets narrow!
Some hairpin bends have to be negotiated and the track still
gets steeper ..... so steep that we would love to stop and
turn back. But we can't. If we would stop we wouldn't be
able to continue. The recorded GPS track reports a slope
of up to 47%, which we really can't believe.
Then we reach an intersection on Mt. Sunday.
As it is hard to tell from the map which track is less steep
Peter & Heidi head up the track to the mountain while
we wait at the intersection.
They report that the track gets even steeper and is not often
driven and on top of the mountain the track is overgrown
and hard to find.
So we decide to take the other track which at least seems
to be used every so often.
We head down again and are please that the track is not
We reach Wren's Flat and have a bit of
a break at he little river.
Then we climb uphill again until we reach the Jamieson-Licola
The drive is very pretty. Here too the flowers are still
The views on Mt. Skene Scenic Reserve are
unobstructed due to some recent bush-fires.
As soon as we leave the reserve the forests are logged.
Large areas are just flattened and look shocking; it is not
a very pretty sight to drive through!
It is time to look for a spot for the night but this is
not easy in this area.
After a few fruitless efforts we reach Connor's Plain
Camping Ground and decide to stay there for the
During the night the wind picks up and some sheet lightning
can be seen on the horizon.
On Thursday morning the first rain drops fall.
It is just enough to moisten the surface of the road a bit
and keep the dust to the minimum.
We don't mind at all.
We continue on through more deforested areas.
Via Mt. Selma, the Walhalla Road and
past Lake we drive to Walhalla,
where OKA-guru Paul Nott joins us with his OKA.
In Walhalla Susi nearly steps on a nasty big, black snake
sunbathing on the grass.
Just outside of Walhalla we leave the bitumen again and head
into the forest.
We head down to the banks of the Thompson River.
Ian is already waiting here with his green OKA.
We set up camp and get organised.
A thunderstorm is brewing and every so often some very
strong wind gusts blow through the valley.
After seeing Ian's sunshade collapse Peter & Heidi decide
not to lift their roof with the canvas yet .....
After dark the winds quieten down and it gets peaceful.
What a shame that we cannot make any fires; it would be the
perfect setting, the murmuring river, the company .....
Just as dinner is ready the first drops fall.
So we squash into our OKA, Ruedi, Heidi and Peter on the
bench, Paul on one seat and Susi as kitchen-staff on the
After dinner we hang around a bit but it gets cool and we
decide to have an early night.
Shortly after midnight an OKA arrives ..... we will have
a look at it tomorrow.
We wake up to a sunny Friday morning.
Soon the camp is hustling and bustling.
The OKA from last night is Greg and his family.
The kids soon are busy throwing rocks over the calm water
of the river.
We have to leave today and return to Melbourne as we have
to get organised before catching the ferry to Tasmania on
We pick the track passing Happy go Lucky to
head down to the Coopers Creek.
The track looks as if it has just been cleared a few days
ago; freshly cleared trees lay along the dirt track.
Then we reach one that has fallen down since and now is blocking
the track ..... and there is no way that we can get around
The tree is quite large and lays half down the board. In
addition the roots of the tree are still attached to the
edge of the track.
We will have to be careful when pulling the roots out of
the ground and make sure the tree does not slide down into
the valley pulling the OKA along.
Ruedi decides not to use the chain but to hook a snatch strap
on to some of the roots.
As he pulls suddenly the roots let go and the shekel at the
end of the strap comes flying towards the OKA like a bullet.
Luckily it only hits the side of the back-section, but it
leaves a nice dent.
Now we know what they mean when they mention the dangers
So Ruedi tries a second time but this time fixes the strap
properly to the tree.
Carefully he pulls the roots out of the ground, then accelerates
backwards and pulls the tree along the track.
Then a bit of pushing it to the side and we can pass it.
After passing Coopers Creek we continue
on via Erica, Moe onto
the Princess Hwy to Melbourne.
And this is the end of this journal ....
Note to the reader:
Had we started or trip just 2 weeks later we would
haven been in the Mt. Tanglefoot Picnic Area on the
Saturday when some devastating fires ravaged trough
this area killing some 178 people and destroying huge
areas including the ones we had just travelled through
(the blue line is our GPS track).
It would have reached us in such a speed that we would
not have had a chance on earth to get out of there
Again our guardian angel .....?