AAWT Stage 9 (trip 5.2) – Langford Gap to Omeo Highway
After much planning by the self-appointed AAWT adventure gang trip organising committee we decided to do a seemingly complicated 4-team-3-car key swap over Anzac Weekend. I had declared the weekend was about smashing AAWT kms, not about being sociable. “Team Fun and Appreciation” didn’t seem impressed by this “Team Steamroller” philosophy.
Our plan was somewhat ridiculous – drive 4 hours to Porepunkah on Friday night – sleep – drive 50 kms up a mountain on mostly gravel road and drop-off our key swap partners (Mark and Lucie) and then drive another 3 hours down the gravel road and over windy mountain roads to our start point. The first segment, the gravel road drop off trip was fairly uneventful aside from a very angry looking cow with large horns in the middle of the road and a short debate about which road to take at a junction.
However, Lorelei and I’s flee to our start point got a little weird after returning to civilisation when we arrived at Mount Beauty and got stuck behind a 90 year old driving extremely unpredictably at 10km an hour around the weirdest traffic detour I’ve ever experienced. It was weird. So, after about 4 hours of driving in the morning we arrived at Langford Gap in the early afternoon – the start of our hike.
Day 1: Langford Gap to Big River
Knowing we had a solid 6 hour hike ahead of us and autumn-limited day light hours we hiked as quickly as we could. There were a few notable things about the hike – Lorelei was feeling crappy and I was feeling nauseous. My ill feelings were most likely due to wearing orange lenses in my sunglasses – which it turns out make me feel really weird. The majority of day one was on vehicle tracks crossing open alpine meadows. We climbed Victoria’s third highest peak – Mount Nelse, then its 2m-higher sister, Mt Nelse North.
We eventually arrived at Roper Hut. A hut which initially appeared to be quite old and basic – essentially a corrugated iron shed. Upon reading our track notes we discovered it was only 5 years old – a fact which startled us. We were left contemplating the stark contrast between this hut and the double glazed and insulated huts with mattresses on bunks in separate sleeping quarters that have seemingly become the norm in New Zealand. We got all judgy judgy yet again.
From Roper Hut we had a long steep descent to Big River – where we decided for no apparent reason to do some precarious rock hopping to avoid getting wet feet, despite our usual judgy judgy on such behaviour. I blame pure laziness – because we couldn’t be bothered taking our boots off. After successfully rock hopping across the river we set up camp. As we built a fire we marvelled at how flammable the bark and leaves of eucalypt trees are – they really do provide instantaneous gratification. This positive sentiment was contrasted by the unnerving feeling of recognition of how bushfires are such a problem in Australia.
After an enjoyable evening being warmed and entertained by our campfire we retired to our tent for snoozy time.
Day 2: Big River to Big River Saddle via Maddison’s Hut Site
We awoke to a cloudy day and a very long steep climb out of Big River valley beginning straight from our camp. Lorelei, who is the President of the Society for People Against Walking Fast in the Morning and President of the Uphill Haters Society, was unusually spritely on the long up and took the lead. I still don’t really understand what that was all about. She doesn’t either.
Upon reaching Maddison’s Hut site we decided to do an unnecessary side-trip to Howmans Falls, despite the weather being crappy (strong cold wind and rain). After walking a few hundred metres we came to a nice, but underwhelming waterfall – and both agreed that Australians really just must have pretty lame waterfall standards.
However, we realised the track continued and eventually reached a rocky bluff where a spectacular waterfall cascaded down to several separate pools. We were able to clamber out onto a narrow spire on the edge of the waterfall for a closer look – a pretty stunning landform. What’s more there were some seriously weird bugs crawling around up there. Okay – Howmans Falls had taught us a lesson.
Returning back to the AAWT feeling that our hour detour was worthwhile we continued over a pass at Bossiaea Hill, rock climbed our way down some wet rocky outcrops, and continued the full 10km down the aptly named Looooooong (okay we may have added some ‘o’s’) Spur to reach Big River Saddle. As we reached the last kilometres of Long Spur we started to run out of daylight, and arrived at our camp just as night fell.
We enjoyed another Schmittsky inspired camp fire (what a girl) and settled down for the evening.
Day 3: Big River Saddle to Omeo Highway via Mount Wills
Day 3 started particularly frosty and with another long steep climb on an overgrown track up Mount Wills. Lorelei’s Day 2 heroics were not repeated, and normal service resumed as I took the uphill lead – while Lorelei huffed and puffed, bitter at my eased ascent. We arrived at Mount Wills which had a stunning boulder pile atop it – perfect for a little rock climbing – and beautiful views across to Mount Bogong and the High Plains.
We met a nice Telstra employee who was working on a large mobile phone tower (reportedly built solely for communication during Bushfires) that was attached to the rock pile on top of Mount Wills. Surprisingly, we were not even angry at the Victorian Government or Telstra for erecting this eye-sore – instead we were excited to see it would be powered by a large solar panel!
Continuing on from our Telstra Tower party we found the lovely Mount Wills Hut – which we explored, it was cool. After Mount Wills South the track became more difficult to follow, however with some careful (because of previous incidents) navigation we reached a junction with a 4-wheel drive track and began a steady descent to Omeo Highway.
It was at this point that Lorelei’s hunter gatherer instincts took complete control. The four wheel drive road was completely infested with amazingly plump and ripe blackberries. Despite running out of time to meet Mark and Lucie who were due to meet us at Omeo Highway, we were both finding it very difficult to keep a steady pace with all the berry offerings.
As we arrived out on Omeo Highway, we saw no sign of Mark and Lucie – for approximately 30 seconds. The thirty seconds of uncertainty were almost unbearable, when finally we saw the trusty faded blue paint of Caroline’s Toyota Camry round the corner towards us. We were on the road and homeward bound – it would be plain sailing – or at least that’s what we thought….
The Omeo Highway Bogan Express
As we drove down the Omeo Highway – a windy and narrow road – we rounded a corner to find a woman with long black hair, ugg boots, and tattoos smoking a cigarette and holding a 2 year old daughter, behind her was a car trailer completely over-turned and a whole house load of possessions including glitter and seemingly thousands of fake nails and emery boards, strewn all over the road in front of us (they were kind of annoying to gather and move). We helped clean up the mess and direct traffic. It became immediately obvious that what we had stumbled upon was some of the finest Australian Bogans you will ever see. Seeing the woman distraught with the turn of events, Lucie almost immediately fell into a motherly role for the Bogan woman’s daughter who feasted on lollies, probably her lunch.
Okay, so we sort of got the story behind the trailer load of possessions driving too fast on the narrow windy highway:
Bogan woman’s child was taken from her by the girl’s father. Bogan woman decided the time was ripe to reclaim her child – so drove from Lakes Entrance to Albury and grabbed the girl from day care. The father of the child arrived at the house the Bogan Woman was staying with other children wielding a knife and looking ready to kill someone. Somehow Bogan Woman calls the police in time so that no-one was murdered, but the woman is now fleeing back to Lakes Entrance although the girl’s father is locked up. Apparently there is another man in Lakes Entrance who the Bogan Woman is currently in a relationship with – and she is accompanied by this man’s nephew who seemed like a good lad, kindly helping her move this stuff in her flee despite his poor dental hygiene.
During the road clean up, the Bogan Woman smokes continuously, is crying and clearly shaken. Despite Lorelei’s pleas that she let the nephew drive for a bit she says she is “fine to drive” and hops back behind the wheel. A little too soon for the windiness of the road thereafter, we then see the Bogan Express – a Ford Falcon Ute – in our rear-view mirror driving fast towards us. At the first opportunity we pull over to let them pass and wonder if they will ever really return to get all their bogan goods from the side of the road. It was a weird end to the weekend that helped us feel justified to make a quick stop at the Bullant Brewery we encountered a few hours later.
Total Ascending (TA): 2075m
Total Descending (TD): 2465m
Total Distance of AAWT completed (TKM): 41.1km
AAWT Points: ((TA+TD)/1000)*(TKM/10) = 18.66 points