Sunday, February 18, 2018

Buenba Creek to Buckwong Creek, AAWT, Alpine National Park - November 2017

Jumping ahead of myself, sunset was pretty sweet tonight.
It’s amazing what difference a bit of sun can make, last night when I went to bed I was looking forward to getting out of this damp and cold valley. Crawling out of the tent this morning though I was greeted by a beautiful scene, a nice green grassy camp complete with a crystal clear mountain stream all bathed in warm sunlight filtering down through the thin canopy of the trees, I was wondering if I really had to head off into the hills again. After yesterday’s solid day over Johnnies Top today promised to be an easier stroll, so I was able to soak up the ambiance of this nice spot over a leisurely breakfast.
Emerging from my tent things looked a lot more pleasant this morning.
Packing up after brekky it was once again time to set off on my journey north. Now I’d mentioned yesterday that I was a bit disappointed to arrive down at Buenba Creek and find trees and tussock grass when pictured in my mind I was expecting grassy meadows, well after climbing over a low saddle on a spur that ran down to the creek, the promised land materialised. Yep, here was my hoped for green grassy meadows complete with Buenba Creek bubbling along beside it, numerous campsites and easy walking did indeed make this feel like a Feral nirvana, if only I’d pushed on for another twenty minutes last night. At least I know now for my next AAWT walk…..
Setting off I even had a bit of a pad to follow this morning.
Now this was what all the photos that I'd seen of the Buenba Creek Flats look like.
Meandering my way across the valley I picked up an old fire track and headed out to meet the dirt Buenba Road, turning left to head back down to the creek where the road crosses it, I picked up some water for the next few hours. After refilling my water bottles I could procrastinate no longer, it was time to start the climb up to Mt Hope Road which promised to be the days hard work. Wandering south along Buenba Road I picked up an old fire track that headed bush from the top of a low cutting in the road, after a few minutes on this old track I again picked up another track heading into the scrub, this was now going to be my route all the way up to Mt Hope Road. Now while Mr Chapman once again had me braced for the worst when he said climb steadily south-east following a broad spur through trackless, but open, bushland, on the ground today I found a clear and well defined pad to follow, today was getting better and better!
Water bottles filled, it's time to start the days hard work.
Leaving Buenba Road I picked up this very old road above low cutting.
After a few minutes on the old road I picked up this pad heading off left.
The 400 metre climb from Buenba Creek up to Mt Hope Road turned out to be the best walking of the day in hindsight. As I’ve already mentioned there was now a pretty good track to help ease my progress and the gradient of the climb meant that I was able to keep chugging along without too many stops to get the heart rate under control, the dry open eucalyptus forest allowing me a few views when I did eventually stop for a break. Around an hour after leaving Buenba Road I emerged from the scrub onto Mt Hope Road on a sharp corner, the biggest climb of the day over and it wasn’t even time for my first lunch. Chapman’s map has the AAWT following the crest of the ridge east along here beside Mt Hope Road, but with no pad, no markers and plenty of regrowth you’d have to be pretty keen to tackle this short section of the AAWT. While I don’t mind the occasional scrub massage if there is no other option, with Mt Hope Road heading to the exact same spot that the official AAWT was heading to I quickly decided that the quiet dirt road was the best option this morning.
The climb up to Mt Hope Road turned out to be the best walking of the day.
There was a pretty good pad up here.
I've just arrived at Mt Hope Road.

Shuffling along Mt Hope Road in the midday sun I was pretty happy when the Buckwong Track turn-off appeared ahead, I was even happier to find a shady spot beside the road to stop for awhile, although I would of been even happier if I could of found a spot without the ubiquitous ants. After lunch I set off again on what was a bit of a road bash along quiet fire tracks, initially descending very gently through Alpine Ash forest as I made my way along to the Mt Murphy Track turn off. I’d had all sorts of plans in my head before setting off on my AAWT stroll and one of those plans was to make the 4 kilometre round trip down to the old Mt Murphy Mine, but arriving at the turnoff today I took one look at the map and decided that the old mine could wait for another trip, my short term ambition today was to get down to Buckwong Creek and have a cool drink on what was now a pretty warm and humid day.
Buckwong Track heading off to the right, it was time for lunch...pity about the ants though.
Buckwong Track
The long range views were a little thin on the ground today.
Mt Murphy Mine is down the track on the left, I'm going right.
So, with the sniff of cold water in my nostrils I ignored Mt Murphy Track and set off down towards Buckwong Creek, the descent from the Mt Murphy Track down Buckwong Track gets a little steeper but it’s still pretty easy going really. I was pretty happy when I dropped down one last steep pinch and arrived and an old wooden bridge that was now half collapsed and submerged under crystal clear water, it was time for a long drink. It was at times like this when I’d arrived at a water source, hot and thirsty, that I seriously consider whether I was using the right method to treat my water, I was using tablets to treat the water but the disadvantage of the tablet method is that you need to leave the water for thirty minutes before drinking it, now that can almost amount to torture if you are out of water and are hot and thirsty. I’m thinking of buying a Steripen now, sure it’s something else I’ll need to lump on my back but the advantage is that I could drink immediately and therefore would be more likely to treat the water (if anyone reading this has any thoughts on the Steripen feel free to let me know).
This tributary of Buckwong Creek about one kilometre from Buckwong Hut was a welcome spot this afternoon.
After rehydrating I set off again, climbing over a low spur I passed an old alignment of the AAWT heading south, before I dropped down to Buckwong Hut on Buckwong Creek. Buckwong Hut is a private hut that’s locked to the public, it’s a pretty ugly looking hut and situated right beside a fire track it wasn’t a spot I really wanted to stop at tonight. After crossing Buckwong Creek on the road bridge I set off upstream along the lightly timbered grassy creek flats, these creek flats are home to the Omeo Gum Tree, a eucalyptus tree that I’d never come across in my travels. This gum can live in very cold climates and for this reason has apparently been exported to some of the colder areas of the United States (I’m sure I’ve read that somewhere, but it could be another Feral fact?), these gums have a multi trunk set up (kind of like a Mallee Tree) with a thick bushy canopy of roundish leaves.
Buckwong Hut
Omeo Gums on Buckwong Creek.
A little while after setting off up stream along the the flats beside Buckwong Creek I arrived at my last obstacle for the day, a large quartzite spur that was blocking the valley. With no real sign of anything resembling a pad along here I just picked a spot and scrambled my way to the top of the ridge, standing on top of the quartz outcrop I surveyed the valley ahead of me looking for a likely looking spot for tonights camp. Now while I did indeed see many likely looking spots to camp it was something else that gained my immediate attention, looking down into the grassy valley below me I saw a person, while I’d bumped into a few people on the journey so far I hadn’t seen anyone walking the AAWT since way back near The Viking. Waving hello I dropped off my quartz perch and headed over to meet my new friend, by the time I’d descended my friend had multiplied as a young lady walked out of the scrub. The young lady was Hilly who was also walking the AAWT, the older lady was her mum Libby who was walking the Taylors Crossing to Thredbo section with her daughter. This was very exciting, finally I’d met someone else doing the track. Hilly had actually left Walhalla the day after me and followed my footsteps over to Low Saddle, unfortunately due to an injury Hilly had to leave the AAWT for the next section, rejoining again at Mt Hotham when her injury got a little better. Hilly and her dad had actually given the bloke that I’d met retreating off Mt MacDonald a lift out from Low Saddle.
Wandering up beside Buckwong Creek the flats are blocked by this quartz outcrop at one point.
Libby and Hilly... love those pink crocs;)
Some Feral looking bloke.
Some looming dark clouds hastened my need to set up camp a bit, so I said good bye to my new friends and continued on up the valley a bit to find a spot to pitch the tent. Like Buenba Creek the valley of Buckwong Creek has a large population of feral horses running around so I was careful to choose a spot with out any brumbie pads or piles of horse shit around, it smelt like I was walking through a farm on long sections the AAWT between Buenba Creek and Thredbo. The horses were only part of the problem this afternoon though, my immediate concern was the dark clouds that were now blocking out the sun. With the tent up I managed to throw everything in just as the rain arrived, diving into the tent I zipped up the fly and settled in for the afternoons entertainment, dozing as thunder, lightning and rain pounded my little tent. Eventually a calm descended on Buckwong Creek again and I climbed out of the tent in the twilight to cook my dinner (well boil my water for my freeze dried!), eating dinner took a long time tonight though as tonight’s sunset was one of the best that I experienced on the whole AAWT adventure.
Tents up....but the rains coming.
Hmmm, this looks serious.
Tent o'clock was a little early today.
The Dirt.
I walked 15 kilometres today and climbed 600 metres on another hard day on the AAWT. After 24 days of walking on the AAWT so far I’ve walked 405 kilometres and climbed 19,490 metres. Once leaving Buenba Creek this morning I didn’t get any water until I arrived at the first gully about one kilometre before Buckwong Hut, once at Buckwong Creek water wasn’t an issue obviously, although it needs treating. Like the water situation camping is also best along Buenba Creek, the gully before Buckwong Hut and then almost anywhere along Buckwong Creek. Navigation today was a lot more straightforward than I’d imagined that it may have been, the climb up to Mt Hope Road was clear and well marked. It’s a wall of regrowth along the crest beside Mt Hope Road so stay on the road though. Leaving Buckwong Track at Buckwong Creek the AAWT is more or less off track but the open flats make for easy walking and there are enough markers around to make navigation OK. I didn’t get a mobile signal today. I used John Chapman’s notes and maps as well as Rooftop’s Bright - Dartmouth Adventure Map for an overview.

Relevant Posts.
AAWT, First Day, October 2017.
AAWT, Previous day, November 2017.

Eventually the rain cleared, initially things looked a little gloomy. 
Things soon started looking up though.
I almost tripped over the last AAWT walker to venture up here.

See you tomorrow:)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Benambra Corryong Road to Buenba Creek, AAWT, Alpine National Park - November 2017

Hmmm, here we go again.
I had a great night at my camp last night. A food drop along with some good weather and a lot of water meant that last night was about as comfortable as it gets when you’re camping in the middle of a tough, long walk. Climbing out of the tent this morning I was greeted by a gorgeous day too, the open forest had just a hint of a mist that was quickly lifting and burning off, the forest almost translucent in the early morning sunlight. With the prospect of a fairly big day in front of me I didn’t muck around too much this morning, I’d eaten brekky and was packed up and on my way by around 8:30am, well that’s pretty early for me anyway!
I had a fairly early start today.
After stashing my food bin back in the scrub I set off on the day’s first endeavour, that of climbing Johnnies Top. Almost immediately I crossed the deserted Benambra Corryong Road and started a climb that I was guessing would last until well after lunch time. Climbing away from the road the AAWT initially climbs fairly gently, through dry open eucalyptus forest, the open forest making it fairly easy to spot the local wallabies out grazing in the cool of the morning. After a kilometre or so the route started to climb a little more steeply up a fairly pronounced spur, the going along here was really nice though, the AAWT crossing an area full of rocks where I was keeping an eye out for the track markers to make sure that I’d have no navigational hiccups.
A few hundred metres after leaving camp the AAWT crossed the Benambra Corryong Road, this spot makes an ideal food drop spot.
A few of the locals were out and about this morning.
There is a pad that faded in and out a bit as I climbed the spur, the open forest was pretty pleasant to walk through though.
Reaching a rocky section on the spur there was enough track markers to prevent any real navigational issues.

Maybe it was due to the good weather, maybe last nights food drop, maybe the fact that I was heading through country that I’d never walked through before but whatever the reason My Feral mojo was at a high this morning, normally faced with an almost 1000 metre climb carrying my pack my mood would be a little more subdued - some people might even say grumpy, but today all was good as I headed up the mountain. After a steep pinch I picked up an old overgrown fire track which I then followed fairly easily up to Turnback Creek Track, the old road was a lot clearer than I’d thought that it may have been, although there was the usual fallen trees and a bit of scrub to negotiate but that’s pretty standard on the Victorian sections of the AAWT.
I got a couple of views back down to the Fraser Tableland as I climbed.
The AAWT picked up this old fire track as I climbed towards Turnback Creek Track.
A fat Feral favourite, once I'm down on all fours crawling under these things it's always a fair effort getting back onto two legs!
Turnback Creek Track
Emerging from the scrub onto Turnback Creek Track I was now faced with a long fire track walk for the next few hours as I made my way to the summit. After climbing fairly solidly along Turnback Creek Track for a kilometre or so I picked up Beloka Range Track which would take me on a fairly undulating walk along a long spur. The good news was that the walk along Beloka Range Track was allowing me a few views through the trees, initially burnt Alpine Ash before higher up I was peering through the Snow Gums. As is usual in my Feral world there was some bad news to go with the good news though, yes as I was slowly inching my way up Johnnies Top, sweat running freely off my brow, at the same time big black clouds once again appeared to be closing in on me. Now I was starting to get use to this and I’d worked out that the best course of action was to just keep shuffling my way north and more often than not the localised storms would pass me by.
Heading up Beloka Range Track, the black clouds are stalking me.
I got a few views through the trees on Beloka Range Track.
Beloka Range Track
I've just met Johnnies Track, time to look for a bit of shelter I think.

Unfortunately my tactic didn’t work so well today, after one last short climb I arrived at Johnnies Track just as the storm that had been stalking me finally delivered, bugger! After quickly digging out my pack cover, dry bag for my DSLR and my gortex jacket there was a flurry of arms and legs as I quickly tried to water proof everything before it got wet. With the camera safely away and the pack covered I noticed a large fallen dead tree that would provide me with a modicum of protection, heading over I dropped the pack and climbed into my little grassy shelter. Now with the diameter of the dead tree only marginally bigger than the Feral fat guts it took a bit of manoeuvring to position myself so that I was more or less out of the rain. After I while I managed to find the right spot that would keep my relatively dry, and I spent the next twenty minutes in my prone position as I waited for the storm to pass through. I figured that as I wasn’t really in that much of a hurry it was definitely worth kicking back for awhile and chilling out in the hope that I could stay dry.
Time to sit back and chill out for a bit, on Johnnies Track.

Eventually the thunder and rain passed me by and I emerged from under my log. I was now on the last few metres of my climb up to the summit of Johnnies Top. Somewhat ironically by the time I arrived at the cleared area and the telecommunication towers that mark the top, I was again sweating under a blue sky. The summit area of Johnnies Top is a potential camp as there is water from a tank hidden a few metres into the Snow Gums, being early in the afternoon I decided to keep moving today though, but not before I had a good go at draining the tank;). After successfully rehydrating and filling my water bottles and getting a text message out to Sam, I set off on the fairly long descent off Johnnies Top down to Buenba Creek. Now Chapman’s notes suggested that there is sometimes a faint foot track to follow, so I was braced for a fairly slow scrub bash down here. Leaving the summit ridge the AAWT takes a turn to the east and I was expecting something a little vague to mark the spot that I’d change direction, so I was quite surprised to arrive at the spot and find a tree with approximately 100 individual track markers hammered into it. Fair dinkum there was that much metal hammered into this tree that it must of needed a tetanus shot!
Climbing up Johnnies Track the last few hundred metres towards Johnnies Top, the sun was out again, sweet!
The very welcome water tank up on Johnnies Top.
The AAWT starts of very well defined.
There was no shortage of track markers dropping off Johnnies Top.
Anyway with my descent’s first navigational challenge successfully completed I continued on down the hill on what was a very well defined and easy to follow track, the track clearing fairies have obviously been down here recently, happy days! Since leaving Cleve Cole I’d been coping a few afternoon storms passing through but generally I’d only get one storm that would take the edge of the heat and humidity and then things would be fine for the rest of the day, dropping down the long spur towards Buenba Creek it looked like today was going to break that short lived tradition though. My second storm for the day was rapidly closing in on me now, when the first few fat drops hit me I stopped to put my pack cover on but with the ambient temperature on the warm side I decided to forego the waterproof jacket this afternoon, after all my shirt could do with a good rinse out!

I was expecting something a little more scrubbier than this on my descent down to Buenba Creek.
The track clearing fairies obviously have a sense of humour....
Time for the second round of storms today.
With the rain hammering down and lightning and thunder crashing around me, sometimes a little too close for comfort, I cranked up the pace a little. Thankfully the worst of the storm arrived as I was already on the last bit of my descent so I was a fair way from the top of the mountain, so it could of been worse. The well defined pad off Johnnies Top drops fairly easily for the first 4 kilometres or so but the last kilometre and a half down to Buenbra Creek is seriously steep, and now wet and slippery.
Thankfully I was a fair way down the mountain when this one hit me.
At least my shirt got rinsed out.
The last couple of hundred metres down to Buenba Creek was steep.
Now for some reason I’d been imagining myself frolicking along some nice gassy river flats beside Buenba Creek (probably because all the photos that I’ve seen of it feature open grassy paddocks, I’m thinking). So when I finished my steep descent off Johnnies Top at the wet and swampy Corner Creek and all I could see in front of me along the valley was swampy tussock grass and trees, you could probably say that I was mildly disappointed. Not only was the grass wringing wet but I was still wringing wet as well and with the tree cover in this steep valley it didn’t look likely that things would dry off in the next hour or so, bugger. Heading east upstream along Buenba Creek the AAWT is just a route really, so long as you keep the creek within sight you can’t really go too wrong though. The are lots of brumbie pads that sometimes help to make walking through the tussock grass a little easier but inevitably the pads would end up in a muddy wallow which would require a bit of fancy Feral footwork to get through with reasonably dry boots. After passing through a bit of a constriction in the valley I decided that I’d had enough for the day, finding a nice spot on a grassy bank above the bubbling Buenba Creek I got the tent up and threw all my dry gear in. My biggest concern tonight wasn’t that things were a little damp though, I was more concerned with the number of Feral horses in the valley and making sure that I hadn’t camped on a brumbie freeway, getting trampled whilst lying in my tent would of been a sub-optimal outcome.
I've reached the Buenba Creek Valley, but where are those open grassy meadows that I'd been imagining?
Crossing the swampy Corner Creek, these damp flats with the tussock grass made for surprisingly hard walking, especially as things were wet.
The AAWT along here is pretty well off piste.
The Dirt.
I walked 24 kilometres today and climbed 1100 metres on another hard day on the AAWT. After 23 days on the AAWT I’ve walked 390 kilometres along with 18,890 metres of climbing. Water today was available from a tank on Johnnies Top and then again once I reached the valley from either Camp Creek or Buenba Creek, if there is anyone who is thinking of following in my footsteps after reading this then Buenba Creek is a good spot to start diligently treating your water on the journey north, there are a lot of feral horses running around between here and Thredbo. As is usual there are a few options when it came to camping today but the best ones are near the water on Johnnies Top (in the Snow Gums, away from the telecommunication towers) and then down on the Buenba Creek flats. Navigation was pretty straightforward today, reading my notes I’d thought that today might of had it’s moments when it came to route finding but on the ground today things were pretty easy, I guess the only real potential for embarrassment would be once the valley is reached and the AAWT heads off up stream off piste, but so long as you never wander too far from Buenba Creek then it would be hard to go too far wrong. I got a Telstra mobile signal from Johnnies Top this afternoon. I used John Chapman’s notes and maps as well as Rooftop’s Bright - Dartmouth Adventure Map for an overview.

Relevant Posts.
AAWT, Day 1, October 2017.
AAWT, Previous day, November 2017.

I got a little bit of late afternoon sun, unfortunately it didn't reach into the valley as far as my camp.
My camp beside Buenba Creek. I was hoping that I wouldn't get tramples by one of my equine mates tonight.