AAWT Stage 12 (trip 10) – Buenba Hut Site to Cowombat Flat Carpark
Trip 10: The Melbourne Cup Weekend Challenge
With the recent Melbourne Cup weekend, the Adventure Gang were excited to escape the cup dealings and ‘smash out’ some chunks of the AAWT further afield as most of the track close to Melbourne has now been completed. Our challenge was to complete the section from the Benambra Corryong Road to Dead Horse Gap. The equation was complicated – 4 days, 115.8km of track, 6 people, 2 cars, 5 possible access points, and each access point approximately 7 hours drive from Melbourne. As a result the ‘self-proclaimed’ AAWT Committee wasted hours theorising the best way to achieve this, repeatedly combining and splicing these variables.
Following the AAWT Committee meeting, Mark drafted a long email with a raft of options. Meanwhile Jacob sat at his work desk figuring out the driving times to various access points. In the end a quick call between Jacob to Mark had the issue settled – and the full options paper became unnecessary.
We’d all stay in Benambra on Friday night, giving the gang a chance to be social before we split and conquered.
- Mark and Caroline – Get dropped at Benambra Corryong Road – Hike to Buenba Hut Site – Drive to Dead Horse Gap to meet Julia and Patrice
- Jon and Jacob – Leave car at Buenba Hut Site – Hike to Cowombat Flat Carpark
- Julia and Patrice – Leave car at Cowombat Flat Carpark – Hike to Dead Horse Gap
Trip 10b: Buenba Hut Site to Cowombat Flat Carpark
Day 1: Buenba Hut to Buckwong Creek
We (Jon and Jacob) started the day by dropping Mark and Caroline off at Benambra Corryong Road. Then we went off to Buenba Hut Site – where the challenge was to find the AAWT trail junction and a good spot to drop the car such that Mark and Caroline would definitely find it. After a bit of scouting around in the rain we confirmed our location and it was time to set-off.
It was immediately obvious we would not be lonely. Within the first kilometre or so Jacob got a glimpse of a wallaby hopping through the forest. However, starker evidence of our company was the frequent and enormous piles of horse crap – or was it horse crap?
We continued walking and it was not too long before our first brumby sighting – three horses on top of a small hill, which bolted as soon as they heard/saw us.
After a few hours of walking we approached our first camp site for the weekend – the sun was now shining. As we rounded a bend on the track we saw tents through the trees. As we approached we realised it was a group of about 20 high school aged kids – after stopping to chat to their leader we continued ahead to find a less crowded camp site.
There we were at a perfect campsite next to Buckwong Creek, but for no apparent reason we decided we needed to walk another 500m to another “Idyllic Campsite”. The self-professed “Team Steamroller” who pride themselves on their navigation skills continued along the Buckwong Track in search of more campsites – reputedly 500m away. After walking for about half an hour and seeing no sign of the idyllic campsite we decided to consult our guide notes – we had clearly walked further than 500m. After reading the guide we quickly realised that Buckwong Track was actually “FuckWrong Track” and we needed to turn around.
We were both relieved to have walked the pointless extra hour because after less than four hours walking to get to Buckwong Creek we both felt under-done. Once we actually followed the AAWT we were able to find the Idyllic Campsite we both craved and began making camp – just as the rain started to pour once again.
Huddled in the tent the Cup Weekend Sausage Fest was in full swing – two dudes trying to read books but instead having naps. After an early-ish dinner the Sausage Fest reconvened in the tent and sleep was not far away.
Day 2: Buckwong Creek to Cowomba Flat Track
After a cold but restful night’s sleep we rose for breakfast at the idyllic campsite, as the sun rose above the trees sufficiently to thaw jon’s frozen solid socks.
Setting off we followed the creek through other excellent camping sites (though none quite so idyllic) and then headed steeply uphill towards Davies Plain ridge. Little was said as we climbed, with energy reserved for spotting the infrequent markers. Suffice to say that our extremities had sufficiently warmed up by the time we reached the crest and met with the inspirationally named ‘Misery Track’.
Fortunately the track was not quite as melancholy as we had feared, with pleasant snowgum lined views of Mt Pilot and the Coberras. Turning off the track we decended the steep spur towards Dead Horse Creek, extremely grateful that it was dry, as conditions underfoot were testing, with the increasingly large piles of brumbycrap not assisting matters.
Down in the valley we followed the creek and occasional markers southward, after removing our boots to cross, we immediately stumbled across the perfect sunny glade complete with a fallen tree for a bench and stopped for lunch. Discovering that we had taken only 3.5 hours to cover the distance scheduled for 6.5, we wondered whether the remaining scheduled 6 hrs might not take the 2 days that we had planned. As the remaining track was shown as ‘poorly defined’ we decided to simply walk the 2hrs to Limestone Creek campsite and re-assess.
Approx 1km after leaving Dead Horse creek we crossed the curiously named Smoke Oh creek and spent a few minutes searching in vain for AAWT markers only to discover that the track immediately re-crossed the same creek and continued on the same side! Crisis averted we followed yet more brumby tracks and steadily climbed the ridge overlooking Deadhorse Creek, at one stage stumbling into 5 wild horses. As 4 of them galloped off into the bush, leaping fallen trees as they went, one stayed and stared at us from a safe distance but not quite long enough for us to get a decent photo.
Arriving down at Limestone Creek we consulted on the time. It was not yet 2pm! Setting up camp so early in the day didnt seem quite right so we decided to push on, expecting to reach Cowombat Flat Track by 6pm. Crossing the ford we followed Stoney creek’s with the AAWT markers coming to our rescue on those occasions where the route turned sketchy. The climb from Claire Creek towards Cowombat Flat Track was our second steep ascent of the day and proved a hard slog after a reasonablylong day. Emerging on the track we were pleased to be able to help a passing motorist who was looking for prospect food drop locations for his own AAWT effort. With the remaining 3km on the 4wd track we ditched the backpacks and walked, as we would collect them on the way back with the car. We were of course extremely relieved to find that Julia & Patrice had left the xtrail in the carpark, exactly where planned :-). A double bonus was that a fellow hiker arrived at the carpark just in time to take a quick photo of the two of us.
Having finished a day earlier than planned there was time for a change of clothes before the long drive back to Melbourne, briefly interrupted by a meal at a Chinese restaurant in Bairnsdale :-b.
Total Ascending (TA): 1615m
Total Descending (TD): 1175m
Total Distance of AAWT completed (TKM): 35.6km
AAWT Points: ((TA+TD)/1000)*(TKM/10) = 9.93 points
Go Adventure Gang!