This is a long rave, going into some detail, particularly on the available good camping spots on the Omeo Highway in Victoria. This is excellent riding country, and I wanted to investigate and record the best locations. Here goes.
On Thursday with the temperature at 42C and with 44C (111F) predicted for the following day, I got it into my head that a ride into the high country would be more comfortable than trying to stay cool at home.
I left home at about 6:30pm, heading south along the Omeo Highway – magnificent sweeping bends and sections of tighter twisties - through Mitta Mitta and onto the dirt up into the hills. The road here is very twisty and the gravel is a bit chunky in spots. It requires concentration, but there is a nice river running beside the road and the cooling effect is appreciated. I stopped for a few swims as I went and checked out the campsites. This stretch of river (Lightning Creek) is popular with fisherfolk, and there are many places to camp. I used to fly-fish along here about 20 years ago, and it was good to see that some of the old spots are still good. Some have been improved, and the state gummint has even installed some toilets at the more popular places.
With nightfall approaching, I went down the Hollaway Log Track (about 5kms south of Granite Flat) for a km or so and found a comfortable enough spot to spend the night.
This site was a bit dilapidated; some good Aussie bushman with a chainsaw had cut the seats off this picnic table to feed the fire. Since they normally cut down the nearest green shade tree, I guess this should be applauded.
I drank some cold beers, cooked up some sausages and vegetables, had a final swim and slept well. In the morning I explored the immediate area and found this superb spot, just 300 metres from where I camped. With a couple of tables, a toilet and a big deep pool in the river, it’s a spot I’d like to return to.
On the road, and just 5kms further south, is The Walnuts. This is a popular spot, with deep shade and a lovely stretch of river. There was nobody here so I had a chance to explore. There are quite a few little campsites with tables and there are toilets at the well-shaded main area.
A few kms further on is the Lightning Creek campsite. This one is really big, with toilets and many tables. It’s close to the road and a bit too exposed for my liking, but would be comfortable enough.
I pushed on into the heat, heading into the high country. I couldn’t bear the idea of wearing my jacket. It was hard enough to wear gloves. I’m sure it was cooler up here than at home, but adjectives like ‘searing’, ‘sweltering’ and ‘blistering’ came to mind.
There is a lovely twisty section of sealed road on the way up towards the high bit, and then it’s back to dirt for another 30kms or so.
Here’s the route, courtesy of Google Maps.
The B flag is near where I camped on the first night, and where all those lovely campsites are, all within a few kilometres. I wanted to get to Angler’s Rest for the second night, and check out the campsites on the way.
After Glen Wills the ragged dirt road suddenly becomes …. FUN. These signs are a dead giveaway.
This stretch is superb, with broad views of dry and inhospitable bush, with the Mitta River far below. There are a few campsites along the river as I get closer to Angler’s Rest, but in this heat they don’t look very inviting. Australian eucalyptus do not throw much shade. Their leaves hang vertically - very sensible in the circumstances – the smell of hot eucalyptus oil and melting tar is a feature here.
I stopped for lunch at this spot (The Joker Campsite). In cooler weather this would be lovely, with about 8 tables and deep pools in the river. At least the river is cool and inviting, but it is impossible to walk across the rocks in bare feet.
Another two similar campsites follow before reaching Angler’s Rest (flag C on the map). It’s the home of the legendary Blue Duck Inn, on the Bundarra River, near where it meets the Mitta. There is an excellent campsite here, with about 8 tables and fireplaces, and a couple of toilets, starting just 100 metres from the pub. The river is crystal clear and I could see some of those pesky trouts lurking in the shadows. Bastards. I still don’t have my fishing gear organised, and I’m out of gelignite. I sat in the river for some time and caught up with some reading, sipping cold G & Ts.
Later in the afternoon, and still stinking hot, I explored the Bundarra River, going about 10kms along it, looking at old favourite fly-fishing spots – I caught my very first trout on a dry fly here in the mid 80s. I remember that moment well.
I set up the tent and kitchen. I did more G&Ts and a few smokes and lots of reading. Cooked eggs and beans with chunky bread and slept like a log. In the morning it was actually cool, almost cold.
This is a great place. I’m thinking it would make a good meeting place for the Oz Boxerworks boys (southeast division), perhaps in a month or two. Whaddayerreckon?
Bloody hell. As I write this it’s 3pm on Sunday afternoon and it is 44C again.
A cooling image. More to follow ….