01-Dec-2001 -- Buchan Headwaters Wilderness Zone
After quite a bit of planning and preparation, we set off from Melbourne on Friday night after work heading for some tourist accommodation about 20 km east of Benambra, deep in Victoria’s High Country. Our party consisted of myself together with my cousin, Dan, and his girlfriend, Jen. The drive took about six and half hours, including stops for dinner in Sale and petrol in Bairnsdale.
We arrived at the High Country Horseless Carriage at about 1:30 am. We had pre-alerted the owner, Graeme Sinnott, that we would be arriving quite late and he kindly switched on the heating and gas lighting (no electricity up here) before we arrived. The High Country Horseless Carriage consists of three refurbished “W-Class” trams which used to frequent Melbourne’s streets in the 1950s.
We had a bit of a sleep-in on Saturday morning and then had our breakfast before heading off to the confluence at about 10:00 am. Chatting to Graeme before we embarked on the journey, we were briefed on the risk of snakes in the area and Graeme lent us a compression bandage just-in-case. Graeme also offered to be the custodian of our travel plans and undertook to contact the rescue authorities if we didn’t return by mid-afternoon. Thanks again to Graeme for his kind hospitality and assistance. When I have some more time, I’ll try to get up to the High Country Horseless Carriage again with my wife and kids. Bookings can be made by calling Graeme on +61 3 5159 9365.
We had the 1:50,000 topographical map for the area and determined that depending on the quality and wetness of the dirt roads, we should be able to get within about two kilometres (best case) or about twelve kilometres (worst case) of the confluence and in all circumstances we should only have about one kilometre of off-track hiking. It was a nice warm sunny day so the roads were quite manageable in a two-wheel-drive car.
We took Limestone Road to the intersection of Nunniong Road, which is about twelve kilometres north of the confluence. Nunniong Road is closed during the snow season and had only reopened a few weeks ago (snow season in Australia runs from about June to October).
As luck would have it, we were able to drive all the way to the intersection with Native Cat Track, drove onwards a short distance and parked approximately 1.2 kilometres from the confluence. Native Cat Track forms part of the National Horse Trail on which people can ride their horses all the way from Victoria to Queensland. This particular area is quite similar to the country on which the famous poem, The Man from Snowy River, was based. I had read that there were wild horses (brumbies) in this area, but unfortunately we didn’t see any – although we did see plenty of brumby pooh.
The hike to the confluence was moderately difficult. The bushland was quite dense, and we had to go up and down a couple of steep inclines and running streams to get to the confluence.
This confluence is just inside the Buchan Headwaters Wilderness Zone within the Alpine National Park. The confluence is not far from the beginnings of Bentley Creek, which feeds into the Buchan River.
According to my GPS, the altitude at the confluence was 1,382 metres, which I think makes this confluence easily highest altitude confluence in Australia. With quite a bit of tree cover, the GPS readings were jumping around quite a bit and we didn’t managed to get a photo of perfect zeros – but did have them a couple of times.
This confluence was, until now, the final unvisited confluence in Victoria, although the confluence on the Puckapunyal Army Base (35ºS 147ºE) remains as an attempt only at this stage.
The hike back to the car was a little bit easier, as we took a slightly different route and were able to take advantage of some tracks left by wild horses around the streams. We got back to the High Country Horseless Carriage at about 1:00 pm and returned Graeme’s compression bandage. We then contemplated what we would do next. In our original plans, we were intending to have a go at 37ºS 147ºE if we were back in Benambra by about lunchtime, but Bernie O’Shea beat us to that one with his visit there last weekend. So with it being such a nice day we turned out attention to an unvisited confluence just over the NSW border near the town of Tintaldra, Victoria.
Continued at 36ºS 148ºE.