Sunday 20th November - Friday 25th November 2022
Gathering Coordinator: Gary
Our basecamp location for our annual Gathering this year was the Gentle Annie Caravan and Camping Reserve on the banks of the King River just out of Whitfield, Victoria. It was a beautiful, if somewhat soggy setting, following unseasonably heavy rains in the lead-up to the trip - rains that continued into the first couple of days before clearing for the latter part of the week. But, in the immortal words of one we would come to learn more about during our travels, "Such is life".
Fortunately, the King River, though still high and running at a phenomenal rate, had subsided from the flood levels of a couple of weeks previously, leaving behind a new beach of river rocks and allowing access to the campground.
Needless to say, the day trips we had planned for the week had to be curtailed substantially due to flooding in the area, fallen trees and still-closed tracks. Nevertheless, we still managed to fill our days with pleasant drives with some spectacular scenery, and great camaraderie.
Monday - Winery Explorer 1
Leader: Gary & Leanne
Participants: Paul & Tineke, Phil & Gill L, J-P & Trish, Bill & Gill A, Geoff, Mark & Felicity
For our first drive of the Gathering we were not going to be thwarted by the weather. So two groups set out for a wine and food exploration of the King River. Gary and Leanne, leading our group, headed out on good gravel tracks towards Moyhu. We did a few U-turns to make sure we could keep going towards the destination. One road had a serious washout - needless to say we did not try this. Later we noticed there had been a road closure sign, but it had blown over. Travelling along Meadow Creek Rd, there was spectacular flooding on the fields.
This made for some heartfelt sadness for the farmers but good photography. Monday was not a popular day for wineries to be open and elite ones were expensive for tastings but we enjoyed the Milawa cheese tastings, and a small winery attached. A good bakery serves us well for a lunch stop. The return journey saw us in awe of the flooding again and then a very interesting and unexpected visit to a walnut farm. The visit included hearing about sorting the walnuts for various sizes and uses, and how every part but the shell is utilised. A great day out, but we were all glad to get to camp before the rain returned in full force.
Text: Gill A; Image: J-P
Monday - Winery Explorer 2
Participants: Colin A, Ed, Graham & Rob, David H
This trip covered much the same territory as WE 1 above. We visited Sam Miranda Winery and were disappointed because no-one was prepared to pay the $15 tasting fee - their loss! Then on to the Milawa Cheese Factory for a coffee and tasting at the attached Wood Park Winery. Yum! And no charge. Lunch at the bakery in town. Afterwards, to another winery, John Gehrig I think, whose sign out front advised "Open 7 Days", but with a "Closed" sign on the gate. Another disappointment. Finally, return to camp via various unspecified roads. (Sorry, we were off the edge of my map. Besides, I wasn't appointed as trip reporter, so I didn't make any notes - just followed the car in front of me.)
A pleasant drive and relaxing day, thanks Uwe.
Tuesday - Paradise Falls & Lake William Hovell
Leader: Bill & Gill A
Participants: Colin A, Ray & Maz, J-P & Trish, Daniel, Ed, Ignatius & Angela, Richard & Maria
Just after 10am, 7 vehicles departed Gentle Annie Caravan Park for Paradise Falls. After a brief stop at Whitfield, the trip continued to the falls via the main Paradise Falls road. Due to recent heavy rainfall, most 4WD tracks were either impassable or closed. After arriving at the falls, most people walked the challenging 1.3 km return trip to the base of the falls which were quite spectacular particularly after the continuous heavy rain. Another walking track at the car park went through some bushland and all enjoyed seeing wildflowers. A lyrebird was even spotted!
After morning tea, the convoy moved on to William Hovell Dam, again via the main roads. Due to the unusually high seasonal rainfall, the dam was full and the spillway was an impressive sight. Some of our group even ventured via the walking track to the dam wall. As well as a water storage for irrigation, the dam has a hydro electricity generator & intermittently supplies electricity to the grid.
On the return trip to Whitfield, all 4WD vehicles took a short diversion to the King River to inspect the water crossing on Long Spur Track, which was closed due to the high river level. A river crossing was obviously not attempted.
The return route to the caravan park passed a winery and most participants stopped and enjoyed a tour as well as purchasing a few bottles of wine.
Although centre diff lock and low range were never engaged, all thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Thanks to the trip leaders and TC.
Text and image: Ray & Maz
Tuesday - Outlaws and Bushrangers
Leader: Gary & Leanne
Participants: Graham & Rob, Geoff, David H, Paul & Tineke, Mark & Felicity, Phil & Gill L
After leaving Whitfield we travelled out to Myrrhee where we turned onto the Upper 15 Mile Creek Road, a good gravel road except for the crawler marks left by a digger. Travelling along Madhouse Road, another good gravel road, we came across a small section of roadworks. Gary advised the large rock crossing was ‘’interesting but manageable’’. With 6 cars ahead to stir up the rocks, TC found the rocks to have squashed down to the mud-soaked spring below the track and quickly found the TC car bogged!
The first attempt to winch off the car in front proved fruitless as the anchor car was being dragged back into the rocky road works. Once the anchor car was attached to a nearby tree stump up ahead and maxtrax were laid in front of the bogged left-hand side of TC, the car was slowly winched free of the sticky orange mud. Morning tea was called at Middle Creek where the muddy maxtrax received a quick wash down.
We encountered a road crew thoroughly removing a large tree that had fallen across the track. Gary spoke to one of the crew who informed him that the ‘roadworks’ we had not long passed, had only been completed 4 days prior. He advised them that a rework might be needed.
We continued on to the Stringybark Creek Historic Reserve, where in 1878 the Kelly Gang shot 3 policemen. Here we wandered around reading the interesting story of the police shooting and the subsequent shooting of the Kelly Gang. The light drizzling rain added to the solemness of the gruesome story. This was also our lunch break.
Moving off, we headed to the Old Tolmie Road that travelled through pine plantations where we saw many harvested logs awaiting transportation out of the forest. Once we reached the main Mansfield Road we headed north through very thick low cloud, obscuring the view of the valley below. Fortunately as we reached the turnoff for the Power’s Lookout the cloud lifted enough for us to get a good view down to the valley below. We also scrambled down a rough track with stone and metal steps to another viewing platform that offered views of the power lines cutting through the forest and descending down into the valley below. Apparently bushranger Harry Power used this lookout spot to watch for approaching police and made a hasty escape.
We then motored on to camp, where TC had a date with the hose to get some of the sticky mud off the wheels.
Text and pics: Gill L.
Wednesday - Lake Cobbler
Leader: J-P & Trish
Participants: Richard & Maria, Graham & Rob, Colin A, Daniel, Ray & Maz, Mark & Felicity, Gary, Ed, Bill & Gill A
Distance Travelled: ~103km
The group left the “Powered Campsite” area of the Gentle Annie Caravan & Camping Reserve at approximately 10am and regathered on Gentle Annie Lane in specified order.
Once in order, the group turned right onto Edi-Cheshunt Road and headed for Cheshunt and then turned left on to the Rose River Road. This was a very pleasant and scenic road through mixed farmland and native bush. The group then turned right onto the Upper Rose River Road.
The Upper Rose River Road became the Lake Cobbler Road which then also followed the Dandongadale River as it climbed towards our destination.
Nearing the climb to Lake Cobbler, the group stopped to view and photograph the magnificent Dandongadale Falls which were in full flow following recent abundant rain.
The convoy then proceeded to complete the climb up to Lake Cobbler. All of the roads were in good condition, but the entrance to the reserve had become a tricky and rough rocky water crossing suitable only for 4WD vehicles.
The group parked and it was time to have lunch and explore the hut area. We all posed for a photograph on the steps of the hut after a lone vehicle decided to park at the obvious place to take a photograph with the lake in the background and spoiled the photo opportunity.
Text and images: Mark.
Wednesday - Paradise Falls Reprise
Leader: Phil & Gill L
Participants: Geoff & Peg, Paul & Tineke
After a detailed briefing for today’s “double black diamond” trip, along the lines of “are we all here, lets go” all three cars set off south through Whitfield. We drove straight through Cheshunt and shortly were driving on a good gravel road to Paradise Falls. We enjoyed morning tea as a party of Year 9 students gathered for the walk back to their camp as part of their 7 day cycling, canoeing and walking adventure. We made our way down the well-made steps to the yawning cavern under the 31 meter high spectacular twin falls.
Back down the road to the Little Falls and a much more difficult walk to view the single waterfall over a smaller cavern. On our return, a campfire abandoned by another family was still burning, so we used our water to put it out. We returned to just before Cheshunt and made our way up the picturesque King River valley on the bitumen road to Lake William Hovell for lunch. A cool wind was blowing as we inspected the spillway in full flow and the hydro power station.
At our afternoon tea stop at Cheshunt the bakery featured an 8m long granite topped table, supported by the old 10,000kg travelling crane which was used to service vehicles during the Lake William Hovell dam and power station construction. We returned to camp via the Cheshunt Road on the east side of King River. 75 km for the day.
Text and images: Paul.
Thursday - Lake Buffalo and Beyond - Clockwise
Participants: Peggy & Geoff. Daniel, Colin A, Paul & Tineke
We set off over the bridge, past the cattle gates and on to Lake Buffalo Whitfield Road. Parts of the road were signed as 4x4 dry weather only, however despite earlier rain the road was in excellent condition. The road took us through farmland, vineyards, bush and a fish farm. From it we had great views of Mt Buffalo and many photo opportunities.
At Lake Buffalo the spillway was working overtime. Early lunch or late morning tea was had at the picnic area and the other group, led by Gary, turned up.
Immediately after leaving the Lake we turned right onto a track signed 'no through road' and a little later went through a closed gate onto Whitelaw Creek Road. We drove through puddles, minor creek crossings and through another closed gate to Goldie Spur Track and zig-zagged up through trees which were still recovering from the most recent bushfires on the slopes of Mt Buffalo.
We started the climb at 340m and eventually reached 1215m. Nearing the top we passed a lone cyclist. We stopped at a clearing with a large transmission tower for late morning tea or lunch. Gary's group was already there so we gave them a head start on the descent - the same way down as we had come up.
On our descent we passed the cyclist several times again. He must have been sick of stopping for groups of 4x4s, as we continually stopped for photos and leap-frogged each other. The drive back took us along Rose River Road.
It was a great trip and the only one over the week where dust was a problem.
Text: Geoff & Peggy; Pics: Graham
Thursday - Lake Buffalo - the other way
Leader: Gary & Leanne
Participants: Colin A, Mark & Felicity, Phill & Gill L, Ed
A sunny day and finally some dust rising from the tracks!
We took the back road to Cheshunt the turned left onto the Rose River Road, a picturesque drive through pine plantations following the Rose River. Soon after we turned left onto the Lake Buffalo Road we came to an abrupt halt. A huge tree was down across the asphalt road. Using a small chainsaw and lots of helpful hands, we managed to clear enough of the tree off the road to be able to pass by safely.
Driving across the Lake Buffalo dam wall, we were treated to a magnificent view of the surging water crashing over the spillway. At the nearby picnic area, where we had morning tea, we met up with the other Offpeak group doing a similar trip to us.
We travelled on the Yarrabula Creek Road on the eastern side of the lake through two closed gates before we reached the Goldie Spur Track. We had a long slow climb following the high voltage power line up and up and up. The views through fire damaged (now regenerating) trees were stunning. Mt Buffalo loomed rocky and rugged to one side and endless tree covered mountains offered breathtaking views to the other side. Near the saddle we pulled off on Yarrabuck Track where we pulled over to take in the views and enjoyed our lunch in the sunshine.
Retracing our path after lunch we stopped on the track to observe Mt Buffalo Horn (1723 m) and spied several gushing waterfalls, rarely seen at this time of the year.
At the start of Goldie Spur Track we then continued to the left and crossed a narrow bridge. Following the track we came out at Lake Buffalo Road near Dandongadale. Turning right we continued on the asphalt to Carboor Road which became the Lake Buffalo-Whitfield Road. This was a pleasant road through pine plantations, State Forest and farmland back to Gentle Annie Camp Ground. We were back in plenty of time to prepare for our final dinner at the Whitfield Pub.
Text and pics: Gill L.
Thursday - Kelly Country Revisited
Leader: Bill & Gill A
Participants: Ray & Maz, Richard & Maria, J-P & Trish, Ignatius & Angela
Firstly, a very special thank-you to Bill and Gill for allowing Ignatius and me to join the convoy in our sedan car, as we did not have a 4WD available. Ignatius had installed the UHF radio so communications were covered. The lack of 4WD meant that the leaders were restricted in their travel plans.
We travelled through Whitfield , and turned onto the Mansfield-Whitfield road, to visit the Power’s Lookout. Bill joked that it was named after the power poles in the area, but in reality, it was named after Harry Power, a notorious bushranger of the 1860s, who used it as a hideout. J-P took official photos of our group. There was also a second lookout, with stairs going down and then a second staircase going up the other side, to a lookout that showed a slightly different angle of the view.
Whilst we were walking back to the carpark we admired a yellow orchid growing on the side of the path. It was a beautiful sunny day for a change, and this was our morning tea break.
Normally the convoy would have next travelled on a 4WD track to take us to our next destination, but we stayed on dirt roads and bitumen for us in our 2WD. We saw electric cables, and turned onto the C517 dirt road, on the way to Stringybark Creek Picnic Area. We drove through Archerton, and saw the entrance to Toombullup Forest and Equinox Creek. We arrived at Stringybark Creek, the scene of the Ned Kelly gang shoot-out. We looked at all the photos of the Kelly gang and the policemen who had been shot, and details of all the people involved in this famous incident. We took lots of photos, and there was plenty of reading to be done. This was also our lunch break.
After we left Stringybark Creek, we turned right, to return to our camp, but the 4WD vehicles diverted briefly offroad to see a beautiful view, while Ignatius and I waited on the side of the road, but after we rejoined the convoy, Bill pointed out the view to us, and said it was as good as what they had seen offroad.
The only animals we saw on this trip were, unfortunately, two dead wombats and a dead kangaroo, but evidently there are deer around too.
Again, thanks to Bill and Gill for their professional leadership.
Text and images: Angela
Thursday evening and a regular highlight of our Gatherings - Dinner at the Pub! All surviving participants adjourned to the Whitfield Hotel for dinner and a chin-wag. The servings were generous and the atmosphere congenial. A great evening. The next morning, we broke camp, said our farewells and everyone made their own way home, or maybe even further afield.
On behalf of all attending, I would like to express thanks to Gary, all trip leaders, reporters and photographers, and everyone for your relaxed cooperation throughout the week. Graham.