Trip Leader: Gary
Participants: Richard and Maria, J-P and Trish, Geoff and Peggy, Bill and Gill, Paul and Tineke, Phil and Gill, Graham, Colin A and Peter
Day 1 began with an information session revising 4WD vehicle driving courtesies, care for the environment and tracks, vehicle equipment options, simple mechanics of vehicles, packing considerations and much more. All very timely reminders. Before heading out on the tracks we did a quick walk around all the vehicles to familiarise ourselves with the recovery points on each car, should we need to quickly access them.
Then it was time to drive to the picnic area near the Thomson Reservoir for a picnic lunch before going to the Thomson River Dam wall to take in the vast expanse of the nearly full 1,123,000 megalitre reservoir which was quite impressive. Having traversed the entire length of the wall we then headed north towards Aberfeldy. Climbing high above the water level we had great views of the vastness of the water. Leaving the main road, we took the steep Merringtons Track down into the Merringtons Camp Ground in the valley. With the tracks being quite wet and slippery after the overnight rain, it was decided to back track up Merringtons Track and head to Walhalla Road. This gravel road meandered through lush tree ferns and towering eucalyptus trees. The Cricket Ground Track into the infamous Walhalla Cricket Ground was slippery in patches but nothing too tricky.
As we enjoyed afternoon tea overlooking the manicured cricket ground, we marvelled at the early gold miners walking miles to reach the flat open land in the midst of the forest to play their weekly cricket matches.
Back into our vehicles we dropped down into the township of Walhalla. We walked through the now nearly deserted township taking in all the historical markers telling of the bustling town of the 1800s when gold ruled the area. Many original and reconstructed buildings create a wonderful story of the gold rush town.
Dinner at the ‘Wally Pub’ was a relaxing conclusion to a very informative and enjoyable day.
Day 2 began with a demonstration of how to use a simple tarp and 2 ‘occi’ straps to make an effective car bra for deep water crossings. Then we were back up to Merringtons Track and a few more interesting tracks as there had been no rain for 24 hours. The Aberfeldy River crossing was quite deep (but no car bra needed!) and required 2 exits and entries followed by a steep climb out up to Junction Track. Then we had a very pleasant drive along Donnelly Creek Track, following the babbling creek close to the track. Just before our morning tea stop at Store Point one of the vehicles had a mechanical problem. Rather then push on, the owners decided to turn back and slowly make their way back towards camp. The rest of the group travelled on to the start of the 2 km walking track to view the large Thompson water wheel which was part of the Morning Star Mine.
The 6 metre high wheel was erected 1905-1910 and was part of a very productive gold mine. Thoughts of having lunch at the wheel were abandoned when the leech population became too aggressive, so we walked back to the cars parked by the creek for lunch (and a quick dip by someone).
As we started to retrace our trip along Donnelly Creek Track it didn’t take long to reach our now stranded broken down vehicle and occupants! A quick decision was made, and the car was then hooked up on a tow line to the lead car. And so began a very slow and careful trip up and down narrow dirt tracks complete with sharp hair pin corners, several creek crossings (one quite long and deep), and even the challenge of having to pass a concrete mixer truck on a very narrow hill!
Great patience and skill enabled the vehicle to be towed out to a point where phone reception could be gained and the RACV called. Another long tow on a good gravel road got the dead car to the top of the Thomson Reservoir dam wall where the tow truck then collected the vehicle and delivered a hire car for the owners (RACV Total Cover again proving very worthwhile). Our Trip Leader closed the trip at the dam wall, and everyone agreed it had been a most interesting and invaluable 2 days.
Report: Gill L; photos: Gill L & J-P