Foot­loose RON MOON

4 x 4 Australia - - Front Page - RON MOON

I’M OUT of touch with what hap­pens over the Easter hol­i­days. Like a lot of peo­ple who can get away at times other than pub­lic or school hol­i­days, we pre­fer to keep a low pro­file over the Easter break.

This year was no dif­fer­ent, with one ex­cep­tion: We were away camp­ing right up to Fri­day morn­ing, and again from Mon­day on­wards. Over the busy time we were en­sconced at a friend’s place out of Mans­field, be­side Vic­to­ria’s High Coun­try.

As we were pulling out of our camp in the Buck­land River Val­ley on the Fri­day morn­ing, I lit­er­ally had a ve­hi­cle on my front bumper tak­ing over our camp­site. When we got out into the King Val­ley, the pleas­ant camps along the river were jam-packed with tents, camper trail­ers, car­a­vans and mo­torhomes. If I had been plan­ning to camp there and found it like a crowded mini-sub­ur­bia, I would have gone home.

And, late on Easter Mon­day morn­ing as we drove into the de­light­ful Granny’s Flat Camp­ground on the Jamieson River, there were dozens of camps set up. By all ac­counts half of them had al­ready left by that time, and by evening the num­ber of campers was down to three. Just the way we like it.

The Mans­field pa­per re­ported lo­cal busi­nesses had their busiest pe­riod ever over this year’s Easter and, as we shifted camp over the moun­tains to Dargo, the lo­cal store owner told us Easter Satur­day was their most hec­tic sin­gle day ever!

One of the rea­sons the High Coun­try may have been so busy was that the re­ported blue-green al­gae out­break on the Mur­ray River just be­fore Easter might have changed a lot of peo­ple’s minds about camp­ing up that way.

What­ever the cause, Easter was a huge week­end for campers right through the High Coun­try. I’ve since re­newed my vow never to go camp­ing over Easter (or other equally busy times) un­less I have some pri­vate land to go to, or I can get to some­where very re­mote.

The fol­low­ing week­end we were at Tal­botville. There were still quite a few campers around (the school hol­i­days were on), and some­thing hap­pened that we’d never ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore while camp­ing in Vic­to­ria: a park ranger came over and had a talk with us. I wasn’t do­ing any­thing wrong and I was gob­s­macked!

Sure, I’ve had rangers pull me over when they thought I was camp­ing in the wrong area, and a few years ago a ranger pulled me aside for tak­ing pho­to­graphs in a na­tional park, stat­ing I was a pro­fes­sional and pro­fes­sional ac­tiv­i­ties were banned there.

How­ever, there was a rea­son for the friendly ex­change at Tal­botville. A fire re­duc­tion burn was planned the next day us­ing the Crooked River Track as a fire con­trol line. The rangers – four of them in two ve­hi­cles – were out telling peo­ple what was go­ing on and what they should do.

There should be more of this pub­lic in­ter­ac­tion. Rangers, in­stead of be­ing stuck in an of­fice or co­cooned in their ve­hi­cle, should be out and about talk­ing to the very peo­ple who are us­ing pub­lic land. A friendly ranger’s pres­ence in the pop­u­lar camp­ing ar­eas over the peak hol­i­day pe­ri­ods would lead to fewer is­sues of unat­tended fires, dump­ing of rub­bish and van­dal­ism. It would also be a win­ner as far as pub­lic re­la­tions are con­cerned.

We hope it’ll hap­pen again soon, but if it oc­curs only dur­ing the Easter hol­i­days, Viv and I prob­a­bly won’t see it!

More Foot­loose at: www.guide­books.com.au/foot­loose.htm

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