AAWT Stage 11 (trip 10) – Benambra Corryong Road to Buenba Hut Site
AAWT Stage 13 (trip 10) – Dead Horse Gap to Cascade Hut, hiked in reverse (Cascade Hut to Dead Horse Gap)
Trip 10a + c.ii Mark & Caroline’s Cup Weekend Adventure
Day 1 – Benambra-Corryong road to Johnnie’s Top
After an eventful stay in the Benambra hotel, displaying true country hospitality, the Cup weekend team gathered for a free breakfast of toast (delicious!) and for final preparations, laughs and team photos!
Team Fun & Appreciation drove off down Limestone Road to the start of their hike from Cowombat Flat Track while Team Steamroller dropped us at the start of our hike. Although two of the four people in the car had already hiked to and from this location we still managed to drive right past it! After locating our starting point Team Steamroller headed off to our end point / their start point. “See you guys back in Melbs!” We had quite the climb ahead of us, with Johnnie’s Top a good steep kilometre ascent up.
We sunscreenend up, according to Lucie’s strict instructions, and not even fifteen minutes into the hike, it was raining, and we were lost.
We rapidly realised our error as we were heading downhill instead of up. Luckily we were soon back on track with plenty of climbing ahead! The next several kilometres were steep and rainy with lots of rock scrambling. At this point, the guide book advised we would catch occasional glimpses of Mt Bogong and the high plains behind us to the west. Sadly, our only view was of black clouds and mist.
We hit the Beloka Range vehicle track, picked up the pace and happily, the weather soon cleared long enough for us to have a delicious lunch and a few moments of sunshine, to much delight!
Upon discovering an ant infestation, we quickly packed up and moved on. (PS ants love eggshells). Our post-lunch hike included two exciting reptile/insect discoveries, the first of which Caroline discovered, stopped short and told Mark not to continue. There was a huuuuge snake across the track, almost all the way from one side to the other, and on either side of the track was dense bush, leaving us no way around.
We conferred for several minutes, hoping the snake would decide to slither off (it didn’t), and then decided the best option was to step over it and carry on. Luckily the snake was also a fan of this plan and didn’t decide to bite us on the way over. The second cool thing we discovered was a huge worm – bigger than Mark’s hiking boot – probably the biggest one we’d ever seen, and about the size of most snakes we’ve seen!
Lots more vehicle track and other vehicle tracks (like the RWAP track) led us to Johnnie’s top by 3.30pm.
It was pretty windy and the weather was looking ominous but we managed to get the tent set up and we were wrapped up and in dry clothes hiding in the tent at 4pm before the hardcore rain came in! We sat in the tent waiting for the perfect opportunity to cook dinner. Luckily Caroline took 45 minutes to find her surprise snacks which took up some time, which were ‘mazin! Every time the sun came out it was quickly followed by dark clouds and rain. But then, we saw our opportunity, our window of chance. The wet clothes were on the trees and Caroline announced it, it was dinner time! Gregory was not convinced that the window of chance was big enough but we went for it and it paid off. Dinner was cooked in record time and we were back in the tent eating before the hail kicked in! With the freezing winds swirling we were suspicious of the night ahead but with more delicious treats (as well as writing this blog post) we had enough to keep us entertained.
Day 2 – Johnnie’s Top to Buenba Road
Basically, except for the ten minutes we were preparing dinner, we were in that tent from 4pm, and didn’t come out until about 10am on day 2, when the weather FINALLY cleared up and the sun came out. Our wet clothes were dry in no time, as was the tent, and we set off.
It was a day of blue sky, sunshine, colourful wattle, beautiful rivers and fairly easy walking (with the exception of some steep downhill sections).
Though this is known as a brumby area (and many of the tracks we walked were brumby tracks) we were not lucky enough to spot any. In two sections the track notes told us we would find a gate – in one case the gate was long broken and was off to the side of the track, and in the other case there was a gap between two fences but no gate! Nonetheless, we found our way to the beautiful flat meadows that signified the last part of our hike, and despite a little confusion, made it to Buenba Road. Our last view of the hike before the road was of two rather odd looking poplar trees, planted at the site of the old Buenba Hut site.
It was hard to miss them; they stuck out like a sore thumb! After a little detour we found the car Team Steamroller had left for us.
We set off immediately because we had a lot of driving to do – here was the complicated part of the trip! We drove all the way from Buenba Road back to Benambra (for a quick icecream and petrol stop), then all the way along Benambra-Corryong Road to Corryong. A special highlight along the way was when, just outside of Benambra (on the Benambra Corryong Road) we came across maybe 100 cows on the road, being herded from one paddock to another by their owner in a ute. We drove up slowly beside his car, wound down the window and tentatively said, “So…….?”. He waved us right past confidently assuring us the cows would move out of the way, “You’ll get through”. Thus began a very, very slow next few kilometres – the cows were not as interested in moving as we’d hoped, but eventually we made it past.
We got in to Corryong around 6pm, stopped for a quick toilet break and discovered that sitting in the car for many hours without breaks right after hiking for two days is not a good idea! Our poor legs weren’t happy. We still had many more kilometers to cover and had to find a place to set up camp for the night before driving to Dead Horse Gap, near Thredbo, which is where Team Fun & Appreciation was due to finish their four day hike, and we would hike in to meet them on Day 3.
Just before dark we pulled in at the Tom Groggin campground, set up camp with a myriad of kangaroos surrounding us, and cooked up an amazing curry of fresh veggies which we’d left in the car boot along with a nice splash of red wine. Delicious!
Day 3 – Dead Horse Gap to Cascade Hut
We got up bright and early on Day 4, keen to get hiking early and meet Julia and Patrice along the track as early as we could so we could spend as much of the day with them as possible. We drove to Dead Horse Gap, determined the start of the track was a little further down the road (The Cascade Track) and were ready to go by 9.30, feeling pretty chuffed with ourselves. We were about to start walking when we took a quick look at the parking sign… apparently we were meant to have a permit (and possibly we were meant to have this where we camped the previous night). Hugely disappointed, we got back in the car, drove to Thredbo, purchased the correct permits and were then ready to start by about 10am. Still not bad.
This section of the track, along the Thredbo River, is beautiful. This babbling brook (more a brook than a river) had clear water, rolling hills on either side, great views of snowy mountains, and beautiful wildflowers everywhere. We were pretty lucky to be hiking at this time of year.
At this point Caroline had a killer headache, but decided to push through and not mention it to Mark until they were heading up a steep section towards Bob’s Ridge. Turned out she should have mentioned it much earlier, as Mark had some ibuprofen. Things improved from then on! We reached Bob’s Ridge then continued on a slight slope on the way down, almost missing the turn off for Cascade Hut, where we were to camp that night with Julia and Patrice. We’d still seen no sign of them, but were pretty hungry by this stage so stopped at Cascade Hut for lunch on a custom built seat (made of wood gathered from around the hut) and enjoyed a beautiful view. We were also lucky enough to see a couple of brumbies before we reached the hut.
There was much debate at this stage on whether to leave our packs and continue on empty handed until we found Patrice and Julia, or to take the packs with us. Mark reasoned that if we didn’t find them (shock horror) we would probably need to continue walking until we did, and would probably appreciate having our camping gear and food with us. Despite the temptation of continuing walking without packs, Mark’s logic won out and we donned our packs and carried on, placing bets on what time we would find Julia and Patrice. Turned out we found them much sooner than expected, which was an excellent surprise. We settled down to a second lunch (L2!) with them as they hadn’t eaten yet, and got to see some extra bonus brumbies.
We reached the Cascade Hut campsite in the early afternoon so had plenty of hours for frolicking in the sun, setting up tents, going for a dip in the freezing river and playing lots and lots of uno. It was a pretty blissful afternoon, followed by a delicious dinner.
Day 4 – Cascade Hut back to Dead Horse Gap
Much of the morning of Day 4, after packing up, was spent writing in the hut book and dedicating a shrine to a beautifully shaped piece of wood we found and named – bless you “Oliver Charlie (The Gnarly Seadragon) King of the Moss”. (We’ll let Julia & Patrice provide photos of this beautiful creature) We finally dragged ourselves away as we had a long day ahead of us with 8 hours of driving until we got back to Melbourne (not to mention the kilometres we needed to walk to get back to Dead Horse Gap where the car was).
It was a relatively uneventful hike and we enjoyed a dip in the river to freshen up back at Dead Horse Gap. Thus commenced the 8 hour drive back to Melbourne – definitely not as fun as the hike! We stopped for lunch at Leatherbarrel Creek Picnic Area, where we scrounged together ingredients for wraps from what we had left. Apple in wraps – delicious!
At some point on our way back to Melbourne, we came into mobile reception and learned that Jacob and Jon – Team Steamroller – had finished their 3.5 day hike in two days, and were already safely back in Melbourne.
The most logistically challenging part of the AAWT so far was over!
Total Ascending (TA): 1460m
Total Descending (TD): 1285m
Total Distance of AAWT completed (TKM): 35.4km
AAWT Points: ((TA+TD)/1000)*(TKM/10) = 9.72 points