Sunday 29th November - Friday 4th December 2020

Gathering Co-ordinator: Gary

What with drought, fire, floods and the dreaded lurgy, it looked for a long while like our annual Gathering might not happen. After all, all other trips since March had been cancelled and meetings had been held virtually. But the virus finally relented and Premier Dan commuted our grounding just in time to allow our final get-together for the year to happen - albeit (somewhat) socially distanced. For many, it was the first time in months they had been more than 5km from home!

Our base for the week was the Omeo Caravan Park, a convenient launchpad for day trips in the surrounding High Country. This park served our purposes well with powered sites for those not willing to forgo the niceties of life, and an extensive area for unpowered camping immediately adjacent. And the weather was pretty good most of week as well.

Sunday and Friday were transit days as Omeo is a significant jaunt from Melbourne and surrounds. That left Monday to Thursday for trips, and seven of those took place all up. Apart from trips, a variety of social activities were held in the afternoons and evenings. Pre-dinner happy hours occurred each afternoon when daily trip highlights were recounted, and plans made for the next day. Tuesday's happy hour also included our Club's December General Meeting. On Monday evening, all members made use of the caravan park's food truck for dinner take-aways. Thursday evening saw everyone gathered at the pub for dinner. On Wednesday evening, guest speaker Ben Buckley regaled us with stories from his long career as an alpine aviator and commercial agricultural pilot.

Considerable thanks goes to Gary for co-ordinating the Gathering, and appreciation to those who offered to lead trips...

Monday 30th November

North and Northeast of Omeo - Leaders: Paul and Tineke

We set off on the most beautiful morning for the first trip of the gathering to discover the delights of the Mitta Mitta river. First stop: the unique historic Hinnomunjie bridge, the oldest surviving truss bridge.

After passing wonderful rural scenes and reflections we observed where the river did a dramatic u-turn. We then whizzed over Lake Omeo, only to discover later what dangers lurked underneath had we broken the thin crust! 

Then on to another gorgeous gorge on this sparkling river for the morning tea stop after a tricky but passable decent.
Taylor’s crossing was a wonderful lunch spot for a variety of activities for everyone. A walk to Kennedy’s hut, a cooling for the bathing beauties and river crossing for those who wanted something different. A wonderful spot to while away time.

We observed the Fantail falls, a very apt name before finishing off with a distant look at the Prendergast homestead remains. The long grass discouraged walking nearer but the chimneys were impressive from a distance. How wonderful to be back in our wonderful Victorian countryside.

Text: Gill A; Photos: Paul

Mt Murray - Leaders: Phil & Gill

We headed out from the caravan park a little after 9:00 and had barely passed through the town when we turned right off the Great Alpine Road towards the Oriental Claims Historic Area. Here we stopped and took the short stroll along the Ah Fong Loop Walk - named after one of the oriental miners.

Once more back on the main road, we side-tracked towards Victoria Falls through beautiful lush country and distant views across the steep valley to the river and its falls. Reaching the turnaround at the end of the road, we paused for morning tea.

Cruising once more along the main road, we arrived at side-track #3, this time to Hotham Airport. There was nothing happening there so we returned to the Great Alpine Road and continued on to our next stop, which was a brief exploration on foot (or in some cases, in the car) of Dinner Plains Village.

Our next break was the carpark below the Big D ski lift at Mt Hotham where we had lunch. At 12:30 we loaded up and continued on through Hotham Heights, over the summit and started down the road towards Harrietville, taking in the spectacular views over the varying shades of blue mountain ranges.

Shortly we turned on to Twins Jeep Track - 16km of rocky track with steep ascents and descents. All low range stuff, but worth it for the stunning 360º views from the summit of Mt McMurray. Wow!

After taking it all in, we retraced our route back to Omeo, leaving out the side-tracks, but adding another quickie at the Kosciusko Lookout.

Text: Felicity; Photo: Graham

Tuesday 1st December

Today, the entire group divided in two teams (led separately by Gary and J-P) to head to the Yellow Girl Mine at the Mt Wills Historic Area to check out the old engines once used to power the compressors needed to pump water and air for mining operations. We listened to a talk from Ted Gilliam, who has been responsible for much of the restoration work, detailing the history of the Ruston diesel engine and its current restoration. He then shattered the serenity by starting up another smaller restored engine to give us a sense of what it must have been like working in these commercial mines back in the first half of the twentieth century.

After lunch, we walked down the track a while to view the remnants of the old stamping machines and associated works. Then the two groups headed their separate ways back to Omeo…

Via Eight Mile Track - Leader: Gary

We left the Mt Wills Historical Site and headed off to Knockers Track. We were thankful to have aired down as the track through a non-burned forest was not well-used and was quite rocky with a few steps over boulders. We continued on Eight Mile Track where we encountered deep ruts in spots. Recent grading at the end of this track was well received as the track was heavy clay and it had begun sprinkling rain. Then it was on to Kellys Road which was a good gravel road to the bridge over the Mitta Mitta, then asphalt back to Omeo.

Via Knockers Track - Leader: J-P

After a small detour back along the Omeo Highway to the nearby camping area, our group also set out to find Knocker Track, an easy logging road that took us to the Hinnomunjie  Bridge. We stopped on the way to collect some firewood, just as the rain started.  After a quick look at the old bridge, we then continued on back to camp along the Benambra Road.  A most interesting day.

Text: Graham, Gill L, J-P; Photo: J-P

Wednesday 2nd December

Nunniong Plains - Leaders: Colin & Heather

A group of seven vehicles set out south east from Omeo. Taking the Tongio Gap Road we crossed the gap which is the lowest (high-) point on the Great Dividing Range for 180 kms in any direction. We then followed the Bindi and Nunniong Roads to our first point of interest – the Washington Winch. This historic piece of equipment was used in forestry operations and has been restored. From the winch we drove up Mt. Nugong where a Fire Tower keeps watch over the surrounding forest. We were joyfully greeted by hordes of little biting ants which took great delight in climbing our shoes and legs. We shook them off and made our escape to Moscow Villa and Bentley Plains Hut where we had morning tea.

The forest in this area had not been burned and there were a great variety of trees and shrubs.  The highlight was the brilliant green of the tree ferns particularly on the south-facing slopes. We retraced our route a little to follow the Nunniong Road to the Nunniong Plains. We had lunch on the plain close to the tree line. There was plenty of evidence of brumbies, but none were spotted in this area.

After lunch we headed north and east via Nunnett and Mellick Munjie Roads, eventually arriving at Diggers Hole Road. This part of the forest had been burned in previous fires and the snow gums have not regenerated, so the white trunks are very stark. Our plan was to head further north, but this was sabotaged by a signpost which had been reversed (either deliberately or by mistake) so we ended up back at the Nunniong Plain.  

Our aim was to return to Omeo as quickly as possible and on the map the Nunniong Plains Track looked like a good shortcut. Unfortunately the track was only on the map. On the ground it was only there in parts. Led by Daniel and Mark (whose GPS maps seemed the most reliable) we made our way across uncharted territory, occasionally with wheel tracks to follow and other times just driving across the grassy plain. There were several mud-holes and deep ruts but Daniel and Mark guided us around these. We finally arrived at the edge of the escarpment and began the somewhat arduous drive down. Again our maps and the actual terrain were not in agreement but we finally made it to farmland and ultimately bitumen.

We were getting closer to the highway and Omeo when one of the vehicles had a warning light appear on the dashboard. The leader stopped the convoy on the side of the road to render assistance. It was decided to officially end the trip at this point so the rest of the convoy could return to Omeo hopefully in time to hear our visiting speaker. Unfortunately the convoy took the scenic route and ended up nearly at Swifts Creek. Eventually everyone made it safely back to camp after an interesting and challenging day.

Text: Heather; Photos: Colin, Graham

Cassilis Mine, Charlotte Spur & The Old Coach Route - Leader: Gary

Gary’s trip today was to go back in time and explore some of the relics of the past. After a pleasant drive through Omeo and surrounding farmlands we arrived at the Cassilis mine. This had once been a thriving mining centre but all that remains now are many rusted relics. There was delight for us all as we explored and clambered around the extensive remains and imagined the mine in full working order. This was also the morning tea spot. We went a little further down the track to the slag heap. We were viewing this for its beautiful colouring but this alerted us to the corrosive contamination of the soils and rocks as they were heavily polluted tailings from the gold extraction at the mine.


We then took the Charlotte Spur track and travelled along The Old Gold route. This Coach road had travelled between Brookville and Cassilis. Gary gave us warning of what to expect to go up in first gear and slowly rock climb up the hill. Some parts were very rocky, with boulders where the water had washed away the soil  and needed a couple of attempts. There were also steep drop-offs on one side and a steep bank on the other, but we all negotiated the route and enjoyed the challenge of getting back into some real 4-wheel driving. We stopped along the track to admire the work of the original road builders. The dry stone embankment was built in 1880 and it is impressive that we can still drive along it today.


Having all successfully completed the track we made our way to Swift’s Creek for lunch. Some enjoyed the delights of the bakery and others their packed lunch. We  sat in the shelter of the Caravan Park reminiscing of sheltering at a previous Gathering at which we had torrential rain and several fires going to keep warm. Fortunately this day the weather was perfect for us.

Text: Gill A; Photos J-P

Thursday 3rd December

Not Quite Dinner Plain - Leaders: Bill & Gill

A group of 10 cars set off on a cloudless, brisk morning for the last trip of the Gathering. We drove through Omeo and onto tracks to the west of the area. First stop was to find Seymours Hut on the Birregun Track. This turned out to be elusive but gave a short stretch of the legs for those involved. 

We then found our way to the Dog’s Grave for morning tea. A beautiful poem and headstone of a Drover’s dog and a recent hut were admired by the group.

The trip then proceeded up Dinner Plain Track. This area had been struck by early fires in 2019 so the regrowth was more prolific with wonderful shapes and colours on the trees. We were also intrigued with a  knowledgable  discussion from Gary about the huge number of lightening strikes during the season. 

The next destination was the Victoria Lake on Victoria River Track for lunch. There was something for everybody here with lovely varieties of wild flowers, birds on the lake and dam engineers’ delights. The last stop for the trip was Victoria Falls and the hydro remnants. This particularly tied in with the visit the previous day to the Cassilis mine as the lack of water from this hydro scheme had been the reason for the mine failing. We were back in time, after 101 km, for the keen op-shoppers to rummage and others to relax before the celebration dinner at the local pub.

Text: Gill and Bill; Photo: J-P