Day 1, Wednesday, Sept 25 .
Campbells Creek - Noojee
Day Total: 179 miles. Trip Total: 179 miles.
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." So said the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu some 2500 years ago. Unfortunately Old Lao didn't say what the length of that step was, and he was similarly silent when it came to the first stage of a road trip by car. We can now, however, determine that the first stage of a road trip is 6 feet 8 1/2 inches, this being the distance the Brickie travelled before he broke down.
We had gathered at Deaf John's joint for the start of a 10 day trip through the high country of Victoria and NSW. The "we" comprised, Bull, Di and Moses, from the C.U.N.T.S, in the Chev Fleetmaster, Deaf John and Nanny Roger in the Studebaker, the Brickie and Country in the Oldsmobile, the Wolf, Her Musical Indoors and Frazzle in the Hudson Staff Car, and the Hobbit,
Helen The Hupp, and Ruby bunging in with others as they had lost the battle to get an Essex on the road on time. Very disappointing, but they would not
miss out, as we had plenty of room, with the Hudson dragging a lightweight trailer to contain the camping gear.
Took the group pic on left, and started the journey. 6' 8.5" later, the Brickie broke down with fuel blockage problems.
We have mused before that the Brickie is Fluid Challenged, it doesn't matter what the
fluid is, petrol, water, whiskey, he seems to have a modicum of difficulty with it.
Soon had that fixed, and we took off through the familiar local highlands to Woodend, where the Brickie had another breakdown, this time in the driveway of the petrol station.
Off again over the lovely rolling countryside to Kilmore, where it was decided a beer might come in handy, so we pulled off to the side of the road, and Bull became bogged. This was to be a recurring theme when he came within cooee of any grass and slight moisture :Bull the Bogmaster. Hoicked out with his own snatch strap, and off again to Whittlesea, the whole area around which is being encroached by the metropolis.
Onto the road to Kinglake and the first of the long climbs, some 10 miles or so, which tested out the
Brickie's cooling system.
We waited for a while at Toolangi for Deaf John, who had split a rim and ruined a tyre, and was now without a spare.This had also happened before on the trip to Louth and he'd pressed on , so that's what we did.
The Brickie's breakdowns were becoming more regular, the hour was getting late, and so we, Wolf, HMI, Helen The Hupp, plus 2 dogs decided to head for camp at Noojee, to set up while the others kept with the Olds.
They weren't that far behind us, and we'd just strung up a tarp between some trees, in the very beautiful Loch Valley, and established ourselves, when the weather set in.
"Ah! Only a passing shower." we thought.
Day 2, Thursday, 26th. Noojee to South of Leongatha.
Day Total: 82.5 miles, Trip Total: 261.5 miles.
"Weather Forecaste: Gale Force Winds, 44 to 88 mls rain." Must be a bloody typo, surely not 3 inches of rain!
We woke up to find everything sodden with rain, and that we were camped in ankle deep water. The rain eased a bit while we packed up our tents, and had a bit to eat.
Then it was the Wolf's turn to have a bit of mechanical grief. The Hudson's carby had been rebuilt, but they sent the wrong sized accelerator plunger in the kit. This proved to be a bit of a problem later in starting on steep slopes, but on day two it would not start, and the battery was a bit dodgy. Cleaned connections, dumped a bit of fuel down its throat, connected jumper leads, and we were away. Phew!
Visited the magnificent railway trestle bridge at Noojee, which is not only very high, but curved as well. Built from trees on the site. Well worth a look.
Along the way Bull had been heating up meat pies on the head of the Chev. He reckons that 1.5 hrs from frozen to piping hot is the go. The Brickie thought that he might like a change of menu, and put a can of chunky beef on the Olds exhaust manifold to have by the time we reached Neerim.
The Hobbit tells me that as he and the Brickie were travelling along, near Neerim, a strange smoke came drifting up from the steering column.
"Shit! We must have an electrical fire!" yells the Brickie, "Quick, check it out!" They scream to a halt, the Hobbit gets out and opens the bonnet of the Olds. At that precise moment, the can of Chunky Beef explodes covering Hobbit and engine compartment. Superb timing!
They spoon up as much as is still edible, and then call in Country the Dog to clean up the rest. And it must be said that he did a very thorough job of it.
By this stage, the wind was picking up, and getting to gale force.
We head for Warragul.
The Brickie was having increasing problems with water. The car was boiling and chucking it out. He thought it might be a soft lower radiator hose closing up and decided to seek out a radiator place in Waragul. We decided to seek out a nice bakery for lunch.
Sitting at the window of the bakery, in the warmth, looking at the horizontal rain squalls roaring down the street, the idea of camping out that night, with already wet tents, was less than appealing.
At this time, the Hupp remembered that an old friend of hers, Karen and hubby Archy, lived close by near Leongatha.
"Ring, ring! Hello Karen, it's Helen here. We're thinking of visiting you.
You wouldn't have a shed where we could stay the night would you? We're self contained with food and grog. No we couln't stay in the house, there are 9 of us plus 4 dogs. No worries? You have a bus we can stay in? Great, we'll see you in a couple of hours. We're doing the Grand Ridge Road first."
As the name implies, this road follows the main ridge in Gippsland and is used by the school bus and milk trucks to service the dairy farms, at least in the first section to Mirboo North.
We soon saw some results of the 70+mph winds, with lots of trees down across the road. Bull's snatch strap came in handy in pulling trees out of the way, as well as hoiking a 4 wheel drive out of a ditch where it had fallen after trying to drive around a fallen tree. The wind was still howling, and it was a tad disconcerting to have large trees bending towards you in the gale while you worked to remove others that had fallen earlier.
Despite this, it is a magnificent bit of road, and highly recommended.
We were having a restorative ale in Mirboo North after the first leg, when an incident occurred. Helen The Hupp, whose ankles are dodgy at the best of times, got her legs tangled in Terrier Ruby's lead and fell heavily. After a few minutes her legs started to swell, and her right knee was soon the size of a football. We hot footed it to Leongatha in search of a quack with an xray machine. Stress was not improved when the Hudson engine cut out at the top of a steep rise, across from double lines, and with no room on the side of the road to pull over. Fortunately the owner of the house on the other side of the road was a car buff, and quickly used his ute to pull us into his driveway where we soon got the thing going, and found a quack for the Hupp.
Spooky thing was we ran into Yandoit who was just passing through.
By the time we reached Karen and Archy's joint, things had gone to shit for both the
Hup and for the Brickie, who finally accepted the only other cause of his woes,
a stuffed head gasket, and they decided that in the morn, they would
call Total Care, truck the car home, and all get a hire-car.
In the meantime, Bull the Bogmaster got
bogged outside the bus door.
The storm had knocked out the power and, as they were the last house on the line, and the power was down across the entire area there was no great hope of it being switched back on soon. But we had our lights and camping gear and so agreat night was had at the house that night. Then we were serenaded in the bus by Deaf John, who, hearing aid off, and throat wide open gave an extended performance that would have put a medium sized saw-mill to shame.
How any of us slept at all is a minor miracle.
Day 3: Friday, 27th.
South of Leongatha to Bruthen
Day Total: 170 miles.
Trip Total: 431.5 miles.
In the morning, we pushed Bull out of his bog. The RACV came and pronounced sentence on the Olds. We were eager to proceed, so we would not wait for the truck to arrive. The Brickie promised to take a pic of the tragedy, but, somehow, that pic got lost. Said our farewells, and 3 people and 2 dogs down, we proceeded in beautiful weather.
The Grand Ridge Road is grand, but not grandly sign-posted. Our lead car with Deaf John and Nanny Roger took a wrong turn and we ended up at Boolarra. We decided to go back. The Road rises to rainforest east of Mirboo, with the most magnificent trees and huge tree ferns.
A short distance from where the pic on the left was taken, we came across a crew clearing a huge tree that had come down in the previous day's storm. We chatted to them while the work was being done, and they said that they had come the way we had, and had no idea if the road ahead was clear. We continued on, and a couple of miles down the track we came upon another tree down.
As we were preparing to hoik it off the track a forestry worker came from the opposite direction with a chain-saw and made life easier. He said he had come from Englishman's Corner, but was not sure if the GRR was open further on from that. We need not have worried, because when we came to that locality Deaf John and Nanny Roger sailed straight past the turn-off and headed back towards Boolarra.
We sped up to get as close as possible, and repeatedly flashed our lights, but Deaf John is not only deaf, but has tunnel vision and regards the rear view mirror as unnecessary. Mind you, the road was rarely straight. We tried mobile phone calls, but no sooner had we rung than the reception failed. So eventually we stopped, got out some food and beer, and waited for them to miss our presence and turn back.
After some time they came back, insisting that they were not on the wrong track at all. Quite fortunately, we had stopped at a location that had mobile phone access, and were able to show them where we were on our iPad. John still did not believe us (I believe he was born under the sign of the Mule) and insisted that if we continued on, all would become clear. It was, when 10 minutes later we arrived 1k west of Boolarra.
We had agreed to continue on because it was getting too late to turn back, and so we took the direct, and very boring, route through Churchill to the Princes Highway and on to Sale, Bairnsdale and our destination for the night, Bruthen.
We have not given up on the Grand Ridge Road, because it is such stunningly beautiful country, and will return to it in the future, but next time with two-way radio communication between cars.
Day 4: Saturday, 28th Bruthen.
Bruthen: what a surprise!
We had chosen to stay there because: 1. It had a pub, and we wanted to watch the AFL Grand Final at a pub that day. 2. It had a brewery, always a good sign, and 3. It had camping ground that was pet friendly, which in these days of neurotic blanket discrimination against Man's Best Friend, is a rarity in itself. But we were not expecting what we found.
We were not expecting to find the best camp/caravan park in Australia, run by an eccentric perfectionist called Walter, whose life- obsession is to do just that: make it perfect!
The camp is located on the side of the Tambo River across from the town. At one end of the camp is the main bridge immediately over which is the pub. At the other end is a foot bridge which leads to the Brewery. Heaven could not be better located!
Not only location, but the camp itself is a jewel. The lawns are manicured, the facilities are immaculately clean, but the crowning glory is the central log cabin, and in there Walter's magnificent obsession shines through.
A two room structure with a central double-sided stone fire-place, on one side of which is the kitchen which contains wood-stove, electic griller, gas-stove, microwave, toaster, sink, all cutlery and crockery you would like to use; all provided by Walter. You could come there with a swag and nothing else, and cook your meal.
On the other side is an open fire-place, table and benches, a fridge, a TV, a CD player, a library of cookbooks, again, all provided by Walter, but the creme-de-la creme is that Walter provides firewood already split, and a herb garden for your use. All of this comes free with your camping fees!
Walter's attention to the details that make travelling a pleasure is truly astounding. In the womens' toilet he supplies perfumes, and all the unguents and potions so beloved of the distaff side of life, immaculately presented on an embroidered doily! At the door of the kitchen, he has a clean dog's bowl full of water! There are many more small details that I have missed; do yourself the proverbial favour and visit this superb place, and meet someone who takes enormous pride in what he does.
His attitude to dogs is simple common sense, (and therefore not common at all). If you turn up with a ute full of killer hunting dogs, he will tell you to move one, and call the coppers if you don't. If you turn up with your normal domestic mutt, he asks only that you control it, and clean up after it. As a result he has very little trouble, and everyone is happy, including the dishlickers who get to socialise.
In the morning we explored Bruthen, which had a Saturday market, including a chinese food van. Bought some Dim Simmy things, and offered one to Bull. He chomped into it, and immediately he started coughing and his eyes turned an alarming red colour, as did his face! I had not noticed anything unusual about the food, but Bull has a thing about chillies: "They should be fucking banned! No food that you have to get used to should be allowed into the country!" A visit to the brewery across the road washed away the miniscule hint of chillie, and after that, it was onto the pub to watch the footy.
The game was interesting enough, though none of us had any skin in the game, but the pub was good, especially the meal afterwards which was excellent with serving sizes that actually fed you without totally emptying your pockets.
There's just so much to be said for Bruthen, and we intend to come back and use it, and it's great camp, as a hub to explore not only the adjacent maountains, but also the Ninety Mile Beach and other bits of Gippsland, including the missed bits of the Grand Ridge Road.
Back to the camp we staggered, after enjoying the pub's hospitality all afternoon, to find the Hut in the possession of a group of Scouts, 3 boys, 2 girls, plus their lady leader. They were on the last leg of a couple of days hiking, and cooking their dinner when we rumbled in.
That's the other thing about the genius of the Hut, not only do the dogs socialise, but other lesser species as well.
I'm sure that the scouts learnt a thing or two that night, and not only vocabulary.
Fr'instance, they, (and us), learnt that not only was Bull once in the scouts in the distant past, but that he was notalot changed from what they saw before them, and that he was frequently awarded The Dopey Dingo Award by the Great Western Group. This award was presented for acts of remarkable sillyness, and consisted of having to wear a pink scarf and woggle for a period of time in accordance with the sillyness of the particular act perpetrated.
He then, inadvertantly, demonstated the suitability of his past awards.
The scouts had finished their meal over a beautiful fire of hot coals. "This is no good!", declaimed the Bull, and went outside and got an enormous armful of logs which he bunged on the fire. "That'll fuckin' do it." he said. And indeed it did.
The whole hut filled with smoke, and we had to move away until one of the scouts suggested that we might just be wise to remove most of the logs in order to get it going again.
The particular scout who said that was a Harry Potter type, with glasses, and a deadpan delivery style which was most impressive.
Having rescued the fire, the scouts then proceeded to rub salt into the wound by outlining the physics behind the Dopey Dingo's mistake. Very entertaining.
After that the scouts went to bed, and we descended into a raucous drunken debate about not very much at all.
It was the Greek Geeza Socrates who said: "The unexamined life is not worth living." He was right, though often you have no choice, especially the morning after. Come to think of it, Socrates came to a sticky end through mouthing off to boys and drinking too much hemlock, though that is by the way.
Anyhow, the morning after: foggy head, third cup of tea, and shreds of the night coming back into consciousness, when who should rock up, but Harry Potter.
"How'd you sleep last night?" he asked. ('Shit! what's he getting at?')
"All right, I suppose."
"I didn't sleep too well." he opines. (' What's he getting to? Did we do something weird?')
Pause. "Nah, I had a terrible night."
Pause. "Yep, terrible night. Tent pole collapsed and I had to seek shelter in the girls' tent....Do you know what I found there?"
"I've got no idea!"
"Y'know, I had a good look in one of their pockets, while they were asleep, and you know what I found?"
"I found some lollies. You know that's against the rules on a hike, don't you. So I ate them!"
That kid will go far, when he grows up and gets his priorities right.
Day 5. Sunday, 29th.
Bruthen to Little River Gorge
via Lakes Entrance.
Day Total: 138 miles.
Trip Total: 569.5 miles
We bid farewell to Bruthen and headed off towards Buchan, but first we were to go to Nowa Nowa at the request of Deaf John.
We all have our hobby horses, things we bang on about and bore the bejasus out of anyone within cooee, but Deaf John has an entire stable, and they're all ready to gallop at a moment's notice.
These include: gearboxes, sex (a.k.a. being invited into the heavenly garden), Queensland, sex in Queensland, old telephone equipment, telephone exchanges, sex in telephone exchanges, Austin Sevens, sex
in Austin Sevens, and railway trestle bridges.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and there is no mention of sex on railway trestle bridges only because no-one has dared to broach that subject.
Anyhow, the request was as follows:
"I once ran a trial through here, and there's this terrific trestle bridge near Nowa Nowa. It's on the main highway. You can see it from the road. It's well worth a look. Not far out of our way."
OK, we said we'll go and have a look, lead the way.
Off we went. Through Nowa Nowa, and towards Orbost.
At about Tostaree, the concept of "near Nowa Nowa" lost its grip and the worm of doubt started to burrow deep. Nearing the Waygara turnoff we looked up Google maps and found that there was indeed a trestle bridge near Nowa Nowa, but on the Lakes Entrance road. We stopped.
Time to drink a beer passed, and back came Deaf John.
"Come on, it's not far now."
We apprised him of our doubts, and informed him of the trestle bridge on the Lakes Entrance road.
"Must be another one. I'm 100% sure it's on this road. I'll by you each a beer if I'm wrong."
"Two." we said. Done.
A few klix down the road we were flagged down by a largish gent in a spot of bother. He had driven his newly acquired secondhand car into the forest for a spin and had a flat tyre. He discovered that he had a spare, but no jack or wheel spanner, so drove it back through the bush to the highway.
He was a local, so we asked him about a trestle bridge on this road.
"There isn't one, but there is a big one out of Nowa Nowa on the Lakes Entrance Road."
And the Double Dopey Dingo Award for Navigation, and Repeated Persistance In The Face Of The Bleeding Obvious goes to..............Deaf John!
Back we went, and found the bridge, near Nowa Nowa, but a couple of k's in from the highway, and definately not able to be seen from it, though the sign to it was.
It was indeed a magnificent structure and well worth a look.
As we were not that far from Lakes Entrance we thought a short detour there to have some fresh seafood for lunch was warranted.
Back on the road, we scurried up to Buchan where we had a guided tour of the caves which were impressive with their stalagtites and mites and rock pools. The caves are well worth a look, though I am divided as to whether the Princess Margarite Caves at the other end of the state are not more impressive. They are not as commercial for sure.
Then it was on to McKillops Way, heading for the NSW border.
We stopped at the Buchan store to fill up with fuel, as there were no towns till we hit Jindabyne. The people there were very friendly, and when we asked where there was a good camping spot along the way that was not a National Park (with their prohibition on dogs), they spent a lot of time on the phone to arrange for us to camp on a station owned by one of their mates. Unfortunately they were not home.
I don't know if they are as helpful to everyone, in what is a tourist town, or if it was the novelty of the cars. It doesn't really matter, they went out of their way to assist us, and for that we are greatful. They finally said: "Just camp at Little River Gorge, no-one will bother you."
I thought about this as we travelled up the beautiful mountain road. In this age of economic rationalism and managerialism we often hear about "efficiency dividends". What this means is that the CEO gets a pay increase on their already bloated salaries by having others do more with less.
The "bottom line" is all that matters to these anal bean counters. How it translates into reality is perfectly illustrated by Buchan and its surrounds. The caves complex was over-run with National Park Rangers, in the souvenir shops, and on guided tours, all of which generate money, and are visible to the wider public.
The further you go out, the fewer will be the Rangers. We were travelling up through some of the largest National Parks, The Snowy River National Park, and the Kosciuszko National Park, on a Sunday, during the school holidays, and we did not encounter one single National Park Ranger car.
Travelled up through Gelantipy, where there appeared to be a monument to the Fallen of the Tour De France and other Pedellers. Then onto the road to McKillops Bridge and our camp at Little River Gorge. And a beautiful little spot it was too.
Day 6. Monday, 30th
Little River Gorge to Dalgety.
Day Total: 122 miles.
Trip Total 691.5 miles
Up early and eager to get away when trouble struck, this time with me.
I noticed that there was a certain amount of wetness underneath the fuel pump, and found that the junction had split. It had to be fixed, or we would not make it to Jindabyne. The problem was that, at some time in the past, a larger diameter fuel line had been made to fit the fuel pump, and instead of a step down fitting, the whole shebang was just soldered, and it was the soft solder that had cracked.
We decided that we would remelt the solder using a screwdriver heated up over the gas. As is often the case, Deaf John decided that he would do the job.
It was a good idea, and probably would have worked, except that Deaf John got impatient with the slowness of it all, and bunged the bloody thing straight over the gas where it nearly fell apart.
Sacked John from the job. We now had not only leaking, but alignment problems.
I decided to fix it with aluminium epoxy filler. The good thing about this was that it took 4 hours to fully cure, so everyone was sent off to have a look at McKillops Bridge, while I took my time to glue it up and realign it, without having Deaf John breathing over my shoulder, champing at the bit to reassume his natural role. It worked.
The wet epoxy was plastered onto the joint, then gaffer tape was wound around the epoxy, and cable-ties secured the tape. Then it was fitted back onto both the fuel-line and the pump. Massaged the epoxy lightly after it was fitted to make sure no rift had opened during this alignment process. Then waited and had a couple of beers till the punters returned.
McKillops bridge over the Snowy River is a magnificent structure, as can be seen from the pics, and they tell me that the road to it was quite treacherous, not so much because of its condition, but because it is very narrow and winding, with steep drops to the side with very little room for vehicles to pass. Fortunately they encountered none.
After their return we continued on to the border at Willis, when the road turned into the Barry Way, and noticeably deteriorated.
We have noticed this in the past. The NSW government does not look after its roads as well as the Victorians do. Maybe its because its they are broke, or maybe because its a bigger state, or maybe its because they think the world ends at Sydney, or maybe they just don't care. I suspect it's all of the above.
The road rises steeply after you leave the McKillops Bridge turnoff, and it rises for long, long stretches, as you reach the top of the divide at the border. This created some problems for all of us. With Bull and the Chev it was boiling and chucking out of water in prodigious amounts at various stages. With Deaf John and the Studebaker it was not boiling, the vaporising of fuel in the line. I hasten to explain that in the pic he is pouring water onto the line, not beer.
With the Hudson Staff Car, it neither boiled, nor vaporised. Its problem was that the accelerator plunger in the carby was stuffed, and so I had to rely purely on the jets. This was not generally a problem until Deaf John, suffering the vapors, stopped dead in front, on a steep incline. Then the engine had to be revved high and the poor wet clutch slipped mercilessly to get going again.
Once you get over the border, the road descends, and you follow the Snowy. The scenery is magnificent, but also disturbing. It's what's missing that is disturbing. This entire area should be just like the rainforest of the Grand Ridge Road, with enormous towering eucalypts, tree ferns and lush vegetation. But there are very few large trees because of the intensity of the fires that roared through this entire area in 2003. You can see the enormous trunks of dead trees lying about, but the fires were so intense that very little has regenerated. Apparently 60% of the Alpine National Park was burnt that year.
As we drove along the road that runs close to the river, we noticed a curious phenomena. This area is much loved by the horsey types and there are apparently lots of trail rides organized. What was curious was the enormous piles of horse shit on the road. My neighbour at home has two horses and I know what a normal pile of horse shit looks like, but these were about 5 times that size. They were not spread evenly as if a trailer load had lost it, but in conventional looking piles, but bigger.
Maybe you horsey punters could enlighten us on this. Do horses dump onto other horse's dumps like dogs pissing on a post? Or is there a particularly enormous breed of horses in that area? You can lose sleep wondering about shit like that.
As we neared Jindabyne, the road turned to bitumen, but this was even worse than the dirt. We now had huge axle-breaking pot-holes every few metres.
Got to Jindabyne only to find that none of the camp grounds would accept dogs, the bastards, so we were directed to Dalgety which apparently did. We were not really in the mood for another 33k drive, but the distaff faction was itching for a shower, so off we went.
From Jindabyne to Dalgety you encounter a very steep, very long winding descent.
The Hudson Staff Car was on a proving run after the machanicals had been sorted out, and amongst those mechanicals were new brake shoes, and machined drums. After the initial couple of runs, before the trip, I had not been impressed with their stopping power, and blamed the brake joint which had obviously ignored my direction to fit the softest linings known to man.
We approached the descent, and I put the car into second. After a couple of minutes the brakes heated up and had no effect whatsoever. We picked up speed and reached the bottom with the engine screaming at about 5000 revs, after having cut blind corners to get round them. We were severly shaken and it was a miracle that the bottom of the car was not filled with a pile of manure to rival those of the Snowy horses!
After that, for the rest of the trip, every descent was approached with enormous caution, often in first gear.
Fast forward to 2 days after we got back. Thinks the Wolf: "I must do something about those bloody brakes!" Jacks up car and meticulously adjusts every brake, takes car out, runs up to 60mph, plants foot as per mountains, and almost caterpaults dog from backseat through the windscreen! The bloody things were just out of adjustment after initial bedding in!
And The Dopey Dingo Award For Retardation goes to........................The Wolf!!!!!!!!
We were welcomed at the Dalgety park by an ageing Labrador who introduced himself to our canine couple, and after extended freckle sniffing, they all settled down, as did we, though sans freckle sniffing.
We put up the tent though the other four went for cabins, fair enough too, considering our drive.
They all hit the sack about 8.30, but I sat outside the tent on a balmy night, with the Snowy River gurgling past, and a glass of port in my hand making a fair effort to calm my nerves after the hell ride of the afternoon.
Day 7. Tuesday, 1st Oct.
Dalgety to Tintaldra.
Day Total: 159.5 miles.
Trip Total: 851 miles
Away bright and early after a restful night. The morning was warm, which surprised us.
We had originally intended to go to Khancoban via Thredbo, Tom Groggin and Geehi, however, there were large rockfalls before Tom Groggin and the road was closed, so we went the other way.
First we had to go to Cooma for fuel, and I happened to ask the garage bloke if it was always this mild this time of year. He laughed and said, "It won't last." He was right, and by the time we got to Adaminaby the clouds came down and it started raining.
Had a look at where Old Adaminaby used to be before being submerged by Lake Eucumbene, and then headed higher to Kiandra.
We discovered another little quirk of the staff car at this point. I've never bothered with windscreen wipers on all of my other cars because the water dispersal stuff works so well. It does however require the passage of air to move the droplets.
The aerodynamics of the Hudson are such, however, that , in the absence of any cross wind, the airflow comes up over the bonnet and completely misses the windscreen.
The other two cars were ahead and had stopped at a T junction which had a sign stating it was the highest town in Australia. Squinting through the fog I just saw the sign to Khancoban and drove past them, but my slow progress through the rain and then down the descents meant that they soon caught up with me.
Tumut 1 power station was impressive, but we saw little else till we descended out of the clouds towards Khancoban into the Murray Valley. We were amazed by the lushness of the country.
A beer or two at the Khancoban pub, then it was on to the Tintaldra Pub to surprise Alf Wilson and Maia who were old friends of Deaf John and the Ferals.
They were glad to see us, but less surprised than we would have thought, but we in the mood to celebrate, and to collect the debt that Deaf John owed us since leading us astray in Gippsland.
I was chatting to Alf when he mentioned, in his thick Yorkshire accent: "Arv goota feral boos overt' road y'know."
I thought this was a bit strange inasmuch as why would he keep it there, and not in his yard, when another round of drinks arrived and I forgot all about it.
A little later, in between drinks I thought I'd better check out Alf's bus, and wandered overt' road.
Imagine my surprise when I saw an enormous orange blob of ugliness with a small terrier running around it. Yes it was Helen The Hupp, and the Hobbit in the Fugly! After getting back from Leongatha, they'd seen a quack, got the Hupp leg sorted out, and then got in the Fugly to rejoin us.
Back together again, with only the Brickie and Country missing, we had a good night around the campfire, though it was probably galling for Alf to see all of these punters drinking their own grog rather than holding up his bar across the road. If he was peeved, he didn't show it.
Day 8, Wednesday, 2nd.
Tintaldra to Kiewa Valley.
Day Total: 114 miles.
Trip Total: 965 miles.
In the morning, said our goodbyes and headed off on the NSW side of the river. This is a great bit of dirt used by the milk trucks and school bus, and hardly anyone else, and services the dairy farms that line the flood plain.
Stopped off at the very picturesque and prosperous looking Jingellic pub, but unfortunately they were closed, the bastards, so on we travelled.
I had last travelled this road in 2005 on our very early trip where we followed the Murray from above Tom Groggin all the way down to its mouth in South Australia, and so I was amazed when we came to the Dora Dora Pub.
Back in those early days it was a sad sight. Dark, run down, closed and showing early signs of ruination. Imagine our surprise to find it freshly painted, with a good garden, mown lawns, verandah furniture, and looking in every way like a going ridgy didgy pub. This impression was reinforced by the fact that the doors were open, and inside was a fully equipped bar.
We finally found the owner, Walter out the back, who told us that no, the pub did not have a license, but yes, he would pour us a drink. I suppose its a bit like the honour system pertaining to roadside unmanned fruit stalls, where you give what you reckon its worth. Nothing wrong with that I say! In fact, to be encouraged!
Across the Hume Reservoir by ferry at Wymah, which is always a good thing to do,( because we don't have many of them in Victoria,) where we parted from Deaf John and Nanny Roger, who were heading off to South Australia.
Onto Tallangatta to get fuel and bits and pieces, and, as so often happens when you drive beaten up feral cars, were accosted by a local who dragged us off to see his stuff.
And very nice it was too, with a number of old bikes including a nice vintage Indian, but the best thing he had there was an unrestored Rugby tourer.
We headed off into the very pretty Kiewa Valley along the side road that runs parallel to the main highway, and with time running on, and the weather looking pretty iffy, we camped beside the river on a very soggy bit of ground.
Hunting around for firewood, we noticed, under the bridge, in the long grass, an old "No Camping" sign. We assumed that this must have been from a time when the Camping Nazis were in charge of the local council, but had no relevance for us, and so ignored it.
The wood there was pathetic. It seemed to be dead and dry, and even though it burned, it gave out more smoke than heat. The situation was not improved by the rain coming down, and so as soon as something was cooked, we retired to the capacious interior of the Fugly till it was time for an early night.
Day 9, Thursday 3rd.
Kiewa Valley to Kevington.
Day Total: 178.75 miles.
Trip Total: 1143.75 miles.
Early night, early start. The weather had picked up a bit, and we toured down the beautiful Kiewa Valley, where, in the distance we actually saw some snow. There had been a warm, wet early spring, and the snowfields had shrunk considerably.
The Tawonga Gap is a pretty stunning road, over a mountain range and into the Ovens Valley. For the first time, the Fugly gave a bit of trouble with a rear brake self actuating. I regarded this with some little envy, as I was still battling with mal-adjusted braking on the downhill stretches.
The roads, though, were not as steep as in the NSW alps, and they were in far better nick. Higher population density means more rates means better maintenance; pretty simple.
Through the very pretty towns of Bright and Myrtleford, then
Day 10, Friday 4th.
Kevington to Guildford.
Day Total: 201.25 miles.
Trip Total: 1345 miles.
along some superior dirt to the old tobacco growing regions of Cheshunt and Whitfield, which have got out of the cancer business and instead are into wines and hops. Some really nice little pubs in this area.
Because of the good roads, we were really powering along now. Over a couple more ranges and into Mansfield for lunch.
By mid afternoon we had reached our destination : the Kevington Pub on the Goulburn River. This is a lovely little pub, and we naturally stopped for a couple of beers. We would have stopped longer, and camped in their adjacent camp, and probably drunk more of their beer, except they were anti-dog, so we took our money and went a couple of miles back down the river where there was a camp ground, right on the river, with dunnies and dogs.
The weather was coming in again, so we set up the big tarp on the side of the Fugly, got some firewood, set up our tents for what was to be the last time that trip, and got into it.
Just before the dimming of the light we were entertained by Bull the Bog Master, who got the Chev stuck where no other car could possibly have managed it.
The Dopey Dingo Award for Excessive Gravitational Pull must go to the Chev Fleetmaster itself!
I mean, the ground was firm, and though it may have been a tad damp, it was by no means what one would call bog worthy, and the tyres did only go down an inch, but bogged he was.
There's always a sense of urgency on the last day of a long road trip, or any long trip for that matter. A longing to get back home.
But we still had a few mountains to cross, the first being the mountains to the south of Lake Eildon.
From there we decided to have a look at the Lake itself , as it had not been full for years. And we found it not only full of water, but serenity as well, you could almost feel it.
Then it was "head for home, and don't spare the horses!"
We stopped at the Molesworth Pub to claim a beer. Last year the publican contacted us, by email, and promised us a beer if we ever came past. We consequently trooped in to claim this, but the bastard was either not there, or more likely hiding, having seen our approach, and the bar staff did not believe us!
So we bought a beer, and then buggered off. But we have not forgotten!
After that, it was a gallop over the north of the metropolis to Kyneton, a gallop made faster by the absense of Deaf John who would have forced a stop at the Pyalong Trestle Bridge ....again. Then on back roads to Guildford.
And so we came to the parting of the ways at the Guildford Pub, 1345 miles to there, with Bull and Di still having to go another 100 miles to get home. A good trip.
We lost the Brickie along the way, and The Hupp and Hobbit temporarily, but had remarkably few problems. Some of us even learnt a few things about the cars we drive, and a lot about the High Country. We also learnt that it would be a good idea to get some Two Way Radios to avoid some of the hassles we had.
What the whole shebang cost in fuel we don't know, and don't want to find out.
And now, a few words about the dogs.
Dogs have always been part of Feral trips, and they love it. To drive behind Robbo in his Chev Ute with Country roof-surfing was one of the greatest things I've ever seen. To see him lean into the corners and keep his knees flexible on the rough bits was to see a dog at one with the machine and loving every part of it.
This time, as well as Country for a couple of days, there were two new dogs, plus Frazzle the Whippet who is the Ferals Cultural Attache because of his penchant for shoving his long nose up crutches, especially those of women.
A veteran of many trips, 14 years old, totally deaf and arthritic, he's not that enthusiastic about other dogs, but does socialise. He played an important role on this trip, though he didn't know it, which was to teach the other two doggy manners, because they were pups.
He did this in the usual way by growling, snarling, threatening to bite, and actually biting. But he drew no blood, and in the end the pups learnt that it is wise to let sleeping dogs lie, that being continually annoying will end in tears, and that going near another dog's food is extremely unwise.
Ruby, the Terrier Cross, learnt this quickly and was soon rolling over at the first hint of anger. Bull's dog bulldog Moses was a bit slower to learn, and, especially during the days when Ruby was absent, got disciplined a number of times. In the end they all came out of it the better for the experience.
Moses developed some interesting habits along the way. The pic on the right shows him relaxed and comfortable on the journey. The real truth is that he is pissed. He had developed a taste for beer, and had ripped open the carton of beer that was behind him, sunk a tooth into the alu can, and helped himself.
It was a while before Bull discovered the cause for his cans springing leaks and put a stop to it, which I though a bit unfair as the dog was only doing what his master did on a regular basis.
The bulldog breed itself is pretty weird. It's almost a Darwinistic anachronism, and could not survive without the active intervention of man.
In order to get the desired features the inbreeding is massive, and results in some pretty gross side effects. For example, the selection for the massive front shoulders and small rear hips results in very high numbers of birth deaths. Also, if the pup survives, it can't clean itself, because it can't twist around enough to lick it's dick. Fortunately other dogs do this for it.
The selection for a tightly twisted tail means that it gets crap caught under it. Other dogs won't do that for it, the owner has to do it, so, every couple of days Di has to don the surgical gloves, get the tissues and clean both ends of Moses, because the selection for the crumpled face means that crap gets caught in the folds that the dog can't get out.
I'm reliably informed that she offers to do the same for Bull, but only after Moses, because bulldogs are very valuable animals, and you wouldn't want it to catch something.
Add to that the pushed in nose which makes breathing difficult and the massive underbite which makes picking up stuff difficult, and you have a dog that is high maintenance.
Now if you combine all of these features: English, expensive, inbred, functionally useless, needs servants to clean it's arse and dick, cannot survive in the real world, never buys a drink and expects others to supply; and what do you have? The Pommie Royal Family!!!!
Apart from that, it's a very nice dog and fun to have around
Apparently Prince Charley has, amongst his 85 lackeys, someone whose job it is to hold the bottle for Charley to piss into. Adds another meaning to the term "taking the piss out of somebody".