Wednesday 2nd March Bright

We are sitting in the train to Wangaratta, then taking the bus to Bright – to begin our next supported walk, at Falls Creek and Mt. Hotham.

And as usual we have continued to be very busy with the process of simplifying our lives. Having finally completed the boundary re-alignment, and built a fence along the new boundary, Finsbury has been sold. Four days after it was listed, and to a person whom we hope will be a good neighbour to have.

Having sold the house, we are now busy with sorting it all out. Fortunately it is a 90 day settlement so we have a bit of time. I tried digging a trench for the power connection between our house and the shed, but gave up after only a little over a metre; tree roots ++, and not as simple as digging fence post holes. So we got in “Suck Hole Excavations”, who came with a large truck and cut the trench quite quickly using only high-pressure water!

Then it was time for the electrician to come and lay the conduit and cable, but this was delayed because he'd caught covid. But he did come, 2 days ago; laid the conduit, and in the nick of time because it was followed by two days of remarkably heavy rain. So the trench is still not quite filled in, but at least the main bit is done.

It has continued with very humid unsettled weather; Queensland and northern NSW have had very severe flooding, and I have little doubt that we're going to be doing a bit of walking in the rain. But is is not so worrying when there is a roof, hot meal, and shower awaiting you at the end of the day.

Train to Wangaratta, bus to Bright – all very straightforward. In Bright, it was coolish but sunny. It was a short walk from the bus stop to the Bright Motor Inn, where we were expected. A reasonable motel room,but very dated. I was a bit tired after poor sleep last night. We went for a walk around town and by the river (which has a very well made park beside the swimming hole in the river).

After afternoon coffee at the motel – outside, on their lawn - we went out for tea at the Alpine Hotel. It was a pleasant meal, eaten outside in the warm evening – and then we went to bed quite early. Both tired.

Thursday 3rd March Falls Creek

We woke before the alarm, and were down at the Riverdeck Cafe, a few minutes walk away, at 8am. We were booked in for breakfast here. It was an excellent breakfast, especially the breakfast panacotta. Then back to the motel, where we were picked up at 9am and driven up to Falls Creek. After dropping our bags at Diana Lodge, where we are for the next two nights, we continued on and up to Pretty Valley Pondage, where we were dropped off. It was, by now, 10.45 am; but today's walk is quite short.

The walking was good. Very alpine, with low shrubs, good views, and snow gums here and there. Some everlasting daisies were still out, but most were finished. A couple of months ago they would have been very profuse! A bit of blue sky, but a lot of cloud cover for much of the day. But no rain today.

After a little under an hour we got to the red-roofed Cope Saddle Hut – just as a (school?) group of ~12 walkers walked in from a different direction. I was initially a tad concerned as this hut was unmarked, and a signpost pointed to Cope Hut 4.5km away; but I soon worked out that Cope Hut and Cope Saddle Hut were different. Off we went to Cope Hut, en route finding the bottom section of a walking pole and stopping for morning tea. Alison had made a thermos of coffee and the muffin provided in our lunch pack (from Riverdeck Cafe) was delicious. We continued, passing of group of horse riders come from Pretty Valley. (I prefer to be on foot.)

On to Cope Hut – a very comfortable hut with lots of bunks and a Nectre wood stove, just like the one we've just installed in Lawrence St.! Then down to an old aqueduct, built as part of the Kiewa Hydro Scheme, and along it to Wallace Hut. Another cattlemen's hut, with a picnic table where we ate the last of our lunch. A salad roll with a good filling but yesterday's bread; we were quite well fed so the bread part was sacrificed. Here, we were less than an hour from the end of today's walk; we rang Lisa, from Diana Lodge, to arrange pick up at Langford Gap before returning down to the aqueduct and walking along it to the gap. Today we've come across 4 couples walking, the group of riders, and a solitary rider on a very skittish horse.

We waited by the road for 20 minutes or so (it was sunny and quite warm) before Lisa arrived and drove us back to Diana Lodge.

Diana Lodge is really nice. We are the only guests here tonight. There are lots of sitting areas, and we have a large room with a king bed in it. (Last night was a queen, and that's too big for us!) We unpacked a bit, then went for a walk around Falls Creek. There has been a lot of building done since we were last here, nearly 30 years ago; most of the buildings are much bigger. But there are not too many people about.

Lisa made us a very good dinner,paella and salad, followed by sago with caramelised pineaplle and mint, and now we're back home in our very quiet room. (Though not entirely quiet, thanks to something running in the lodge down below us,)

Friday 4th March Falls Creek

We didn't sleep so well. The enormous bed? Or having a coffee at the end of dinner? Who knows. But that's sometimes how it is.

Today the forecast was for cloud but no rain. It is the last day on this walk with no rain predicted. And as it turned out the first cloud to cast shade on us didn't do it till 12.20pm; the morning was all blue sky, and a lot of the afternoon too.

After a yummy breakfast of Bircher muesli and fruit salad, Nell (Lisa's mum) drove us back to Langford Gap, and we continued around the aqueduct. Good views, blue sky, very scenic. It was a long stage of nearly 2½ hours to Ferguson's Hut; the track followed the aqueduct till it finished (began?), then went uphill a little into lovely open alpine country with scattered stands of snow gums. The hut itself is relatively new and looks very comfortable. We had morning tea here, then continued to Pole 740 of the Australian Alps Walking Track. Here we met a group of 4 walkers, with full packs, also walking to Mt. Hotham. They are heading for Cope Hut tonight; will we run into them tomorrow?

Then it was a walk along the Heathy Spur Track for 1½ hours. A pleasant undulating walk on a single footpad. We stopped for lunch near the end, just before the track began its descent to the Bogong High Plains Road at the Rocky Valley dam wall.

From here, there is an optional 1 hour return side trip to Roper's Lookout, overlooking Falls Creek. Of course we took it – along an aqueduct again, and then a steepish uphill walk to the lookout. Good views over Falls Creek, directly across the Kiewa River, and across to Rocky Valley dam. The views were too good, though; Alison saw Falls Creek “just over there”. How about bush-bashing straight down to the river and up the other side?

We couldn't see too much water flow in the river, and there were some open areas on our side. So off we went. The descent was OK – our poles were very helpful and we watched out for snakes – and the river crossing not too bad. We didn't even need to take our boots off.

Then it was not OK. We were climbing steeply through thick scrub; there were no track; most of the time you we standing on low scrub branches and not on the ground, and you couldn't see where we were going. Just kept going up.

Eventually we got to the foot track we'd seen from the lookout, and from there it was easy. Nearly 1½ hours after leaving the lookout we arrived back at Diana Lodge. And we were very pleased to be back.

A shower and clean clothes, and the old ones in the washing machine. Supported walking does have its advantages!

Saturday 5th March Mt. Hotham

It was up early this morning, because we Auswalk people (us, and Mick & Carol who are a day behind us) needed to be fed and delivered to our starting points so Lisa could deal with a lot of mountain bikers here as well. So we set off from Pretty Valley at 8.50am.

The weather forecast for today is not good. I had psyched myself up for it, but we got out of the car into dry weather. Off we went, and it was ½ hour before the first drops fell. On with our ponchos, which stayed on all day.

The track began over the high plains; we saw a couple of groups of brumbies, before the track started dropping down to the Cobungra Gap. It was good to reach the shelter of some trees, reducing the wind and making the rain seem less severe. There was no point in stopping in the rain, and we headed for the Cobungra River and Dibbin's Hut – 2½ hours from when we set off.

The rain got heavier. Our feet in our boots had been nice and dry, but by the time we got to the river they were wet. We passed the campground (empty) and walked on to the hut to have our morning coffee under a roof; but we found the hut with seven tents around it, and the inside full of a school group (from Corryong). There was a little empty space up on a raised sleeping platform, and so we had our coffee there. The school group was quite well behaved and not despondent, but I felt a bit sorry for them.

It was time to head up – up Swindler's Spur towards Mt. Hotham. This was a 1½ hour stage; the wind and rain both increased, and we were both very happy to finally see Derrick Hut. We were even more happy to go inside and find it empty, and a little warm! The wood heater in the middle of the hut still had glowing coals in it! We re-kindled the fire and took off our wet things, and I put on my remaining clothing I had in my pack – fibrepile vest and jacket. With these, and the fire, the shivering I was exhibiting when we arrived had gone when we left, an hour later.

We had our lunch, and warmed up. I was not particularly looking forward to going outside again, for the last hour and a bit to the Hotham Road, but when we did leave we found it had improved a lot – less wind and lighter rain. We soon came upon chairlifts, and walked around them and then down and up a 4WD track up to the road.

I'd rung “The General”, where we are staying at Mt. Hotham, to come and pick us up; but there was no-one there. So we walked into Hotham Central (not very far) and we were picked up from there, and taken to our (quite swish) “Mountain Dreaming” apartment.

We took off our wet gear, had a cup of tea and a bath, and put on clean dry clothes. So nice – the very good side of supported walking. I had been leeched on both legs, so we put our wet clothing in the washing machine downstairs; and relaxed.

Then off to dinner upstairs – a quite good pub-type meal in a busy pub-like bar.

I had been expecting bad weather today, but it could have been a great deal worse than it was.

Sunday 6th March Mt. Hotham

We woke to mist and rain, and were in no hurry to get up. Up to breakfast in the bar upstairs; in contrast to last night, when it was packed, this morning it was empty. So we were able to have a chat to the staff there, who were all very pleasant and friendly. The chef, another Simon, apologised for not having yoghurt and put sliced apple on my muesli instead, and he cooked Alison a large eggs and bacon and mushrooms and tomatoes breakfast. I thought she wouldn't get through it all, but she did!

The schedule today has us driven to Dinner Plain, to walk back along the cross-country ski trail; but with rain and no views we decided not to do this. We'll see how the weather goes, and if it clears a bit we'll go for a walk around Hotham. It's not tempting to leave our warm and dry premises at the moment.

While our weather has been less than perfect, I feel sorry for Carol & Mick, walking a day behind us, who will have been obliged to walk from Falls to Hotham today despite a long wet day yesterday.

Later: the weather did not clear; the rain continued all day. We read. We did some sudoku. We ventured out for a walk down to Hotham Central and back, with umbrellas, and got wet. We labelled our photos. Made and uploaded website. Saw a rather bedraggled Carol & Mick arrive, and gave them our drying rack. Up to dinner, which we ate with Carol & Mick.

Tomorrow, its our turn to have to leave to go to Harrietville. If the weather is still lousy there seems to be a Bon Accord track going straight there, and bypassing Mt. Feathertop. We'll see.

Monday 7th March Harrietville

I listened to the rain dripping during the night. But when we got up, there was little rain; we were still in cloud / mist, but no rain! I even went out onto our little balcony, for the first time.

But it was still very uncertain. We had our breakfast, left our bags upstairs, and Simon the chef drove us to the start of the Razorback ridge. The cloud was not so dense here, but the wind was howling. Really intense.

Off we went. Weather luck was with us; as we went, the cloud cleared and the wind died down. (Though we didn't see the cloud lift off Mt. Hotham till ~1pm.) We walked out towards Mt. Feathertop, whose summit was also in cloud. It was very scenic, with excellent views all around, and we gradually had to shed some of our clothing when we got too hot!

By the time we got to the turnoff to the summit, the cloud had lifted off Feathertop summit. It had become sunny! We hadn't bothered with sunscreen before we left, in the cloud and cold; but a couple we'd been “leapfrogging” along the ridge with had some to give us. Thank you! We had our morning coffee under the big snow gum, then up we went. It became even more scenic than the Razorback ridge was. We were so lucky!

Then down again, a snack at Federation hut, and the long, long downhill walk down the Bungalow Spur to Harrietville – seeing a snake (which Alison nearly stepped on), a lyrebird, and a wallaby who was not very afraid of us at all.

It was 5.30pm when we got down. We found our way to Shady Brook Cottages, where we are spending the night. A walk around their extensive gardens, and we cooked our dinner here – mostly of some of the breakfast provisions, which were also extensive.

Today, we both feel that we've done quite a lot of walking – which we have!

Tuesday 8th March Home

We slept well, got up. Had a piece of uninspiring raisin toast and a cup of tea, and a short stroll around the gardens. Just after 9am I got a call from the taxi which had come for us, because he couldn't find “Shady Brook”. We walked out to the main road, and found him.

½ hour later we were in Bright. We left our big bags at Tourist Info, and went back to Riverdeck Cafe for a real breakfast. It was just as good as it was on that first morning. Just before we finished, we saw arrive a couple we'd been talking to at Hotham yesterday morning; we went over a chatted for a while.

Then a visit to the Op Shop, and it was time for the bus to Wangaratta, and the train home.