On the 19h to the 21st of January 2018, High Country Adventure Tours (HCAT) held its 3 day tour of Licola, Dargo, Blue Rag Range and surrounding areas. This tour comprised of 6 vehicles in total – Toyota’s Landcruiser’s x2 and a Hilux, Mitsubishi’s Triton and 2 x Pajero’s (both late and early models)
Our tour began in the beautiful little town of Licola where we topped up our fuel tanks and stocked up on last minute supplies. After crossing the heritage listed Cheynes Bridge over the mighty Macalister River, we meandered our way up the Tamboritha Rd to Tamboritha Saddle to the start of Dingo Hill Track where the real four wheel drive adventure was to begin.
We aired down our tyres and began the low range drive through the picturesque sub-alpine forest of the Alpine National Park. It wasn’t long until the track started the very steep rocky descent down to the Caledonia River. We had to negotiate a number of tight turns, which are known as switchbacks. This is where the track turns 180 degrees on itself, most of these switch backs required 3-5 point turns to negotiate. Upon reaching the Caledonia River, we took the group to our ‘secret’ spot on the river for lunch where we also escaped the summer heat for a swim in the deep refreshing deep pools and white water rapids.
We pressed on after lunch through the many deep wheel ruts and bog holes of the river flats of the Caledonia River Track. This track has 13 river crossings ranging from easy to some technical entry and exits which everyone negotiated without any problems. After the 13th river crossing it was a steep rocky climb up to the Howitt Rd. Our camp for the night was at Howitt Hut where the group dined on a campfire made roast whilst being told some of the stories behind this historically significant hut.
After a hearty cooked breakfast it was back into our vehicles for the drive to Wonnangatta Station. Our descent into Wonnangatta saw us travel the slow going 34 kilometres of the Zeka Spur Track. This is another track which has lots of rocks, washouts and switchbacks that took us over 3 hours to complete. Our efforts were rewarded by having the entire Wonnangatta Valley to ourselves! We visited the cemetery where some of station’s pioneering Smith & Bryce family members have been interned for over 140 years. We had our lunch under the shade of the pine trees at the fence boundary of where the homestead once stood. The original station homestead was accidently burnt down by bushwalkers in the 50’s and now all that remains is a floor plan outlined with river rocks. For some great reading on the history of the Wonnangatta Station including the 100 year unsolved murder of former station manager Jim Barclay and farm hand John Bamford – click here.
After departing the station we crossed the Wonnangatta River a number of times prior to the steep ascent up Herne Spur. This track is up there as one of the steepest in the Vic High Country which took us up to the escapement of Cynthia Range. We then descended down into Talbotville which would be our camp for the evening. Talbotville was once a bustling gold rush town with up to 2000 people with various pubs, banks, churches, its own newspaper, a post office and many dwellings. Today it is an open grassy flat with remnants of that era in stone retaining walls and various non-native flora in fruit, walnut and poplar trees. Not too far up the Crooked River Track is the former Goodhope Mine. There are many relics still around in steam engines, boilers and crushers which in its day assisted with yielding nearly 25,000oz of gold from 15,000t of stone!
The final day of our tour we departed Talbotville via the Crooked River Track to head into Dargo. We arrived at the iconic Dargo Pub right on opening time and all enjoyed the customary cold one! After the obligatory photos of our vehicles out the front of the pub, it was back into our vehicles for the drive up the Dargo High Plains Road to the start of the Blue Rag Range Track.
There had been much anticipation in the group all tour to drive this track, and for good reason! Straight away we were into low range ascents and descents with 360 panoramic views out each window that have to be seen to be believed! The track had us driving through eerie twisted snow gum canopies and emerging out on ridgelines that make this track one the most spectacular 4wd tracks in the country! The final climb to the 1726m trig marker has the driver seeing nothing but sky giving that feeling that they’re at the controls of a plane taking off! Once all at the top, lunch was had taking in the magnificent views of Mt Hotham, Mt Feathertop, Mt Freezeout and the Basalt Knob just to name a few! As this is a one way track it was back the way we came in to get back onto the Dargo High Plains Road. Once on the Great Alpine Road we all aired up our tyres for the descent into Harrietville.
It was an absolutely sensational three days in the Victorian High Country! We had some challenging tracks which tested both driver and vehicle! We visited some amazing places and witnessed some of the best that Mother Nature has to offer. Most importantly we had a fantastic group of people on this tour and we thank you all for being a part of it!
Anthony & the HCAT Team
High Country Adventure Tours
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