Victoria’s High Country
Show the kids some Man from Snowy River country - you’re in for a rugged time.
In 1890, a distant 123 years ago, The
Bulletin news magazine published a poem by Australian bush poet Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson called The Man from
Snowy River. It was to become one of Australia’s most well-known and best-loved pieces of literature. The 1982 movie of the same name starring Tom Burlinson (Jim Craig) and Sigrid Thornton (Jessica Harrison) immortalised this story after transcribing it onto the big screen. The poem was further cemented in history in 1983 when an extract
of verse was inscribed onto the Australian $10 polymer note alongside Banjo Paterson’s image and name.
The Man from Snowy River describes where the man comes from rather than setting the scene for where the adventures actually took place, Victoria’s High Country. The poem aside, it was the movie that inspired many to visit this region and the famous ‘Craig’s Hut’ that was built specifically for the movie. The hut overlooks an inspiring countryside many had never imagined existed.
You find yourself driving along a mountain spur with views that make you feel on top of the world.
Today the Victorian High Country is alive with visitors; some looking for a weekend away while others are seeking adventure. Located in the north- east region of Victoria and accessed from the south, or from the north down along NSW alpine regions, this region attracts visitors all year round.
There are three reasons why the Victorian High Country may be inaccessible, and that’s during snow falls where certain gates are closed and locked, when bushfires ravage the area, or when access is not advised during wet or bad weather. Such is the nature of the area that the risks during this time are too high for visitors to safely visit the region.
Whilst there are some easy access tracks and trails for light 2WD vehicles, the real attractions are located in some of the more inaccessible areas, and access is rated as you would find in any snowfield. Ratings of green, blue, double-blue, black and double-black diamond note the increasing difficulty and ruggedness of the tracks throughout the region.
Adventure may mean different things for different people, so expect to see 4WDs, the odd camper trailer in tow, motorbikes and even the odd postie bike as you make your way around the ridges and valleys of the Victorian High Country.
Thanks to modern technology, GPS receivers, digital maps and real-time positioning make trekking across the high country relatively simple. The key to any trip is preparation, and no matter how much effort is put in before leaving, travelling with others is the safest decision that you could make.
Our 230km four- day trip from Jindabyne, through the Victorian High Country and finishing at Tom Groggin within viewing distance of Mount Kosciuszko, began towards the south of Jindabyne off the Barry Way. Although the Barry Way is relatively tame and well maintained in comparison to the rest of the journey, the views of the Snowy River along the road are simply breathtaking and it’s well worth stopping at the designated view points to take in some of the spectacular scenery.
Ingeegoodbee may sound like a funny name but it is definitely a fantastic track and represents the start of many kilometres of driving in low range. Your turn-off from the Barry Way, which is a gentle dirt road in comparison to the rest of the track, will quickly highlight that things are about to get interesting.
Ingeegoodbee leads you right onto a spur before descending downwards into the Victorian Alps ahead, and from here it is not long before you reach a magnificent clearing which gives you that first ‘High Country’ experience that you’ve been looking for, with alpine trees bleached and bare from the winter snow falls.
McFarlane Flat Track is the next trail you will encounter and this makes no allusion to being flat. There appears to be a never- ending descent before it too rises and, once again, you find yourself driving along a mountain spur with views that make you feel as though you are on top of the world.
Cobberas Trail is the least-known trail that we travelled along. Although relatively similar to the other trails on this trip, it stood out as the most interesting with one particular section proving a challenge for all vehicles, especially those with camper trailers in tow, to ascend. And even though no winches were required on this trip, it was comforting to know that our convoy of well-set-up tourers had them fitted if needed.
Davies Plain Track has loose sections but nothing too concerning. If you’ve ever wondered what the purpose of high plains huts were, they are past remnants of cattlemen’s homes away from home. Running cattle in the high country and the remoteness of the area created an issue when rounding up cattle. This would often take days on end, so the cattlemen from the bygone era built huts at significant points along their mustering journeys. Some were inhabited full time while others were used as a stopover or for months on end. Some are more elaborate than others, while only a few of the ‘original’ dwellings still stand today. Davies Plain Hut is a fine example of a Cattleman’s stopover.
There are various camping areas along this trek. The most notable are Davies Plain Hut, Charlie’s Creek, The Poplars, Native Dog campground, Limestone Creek, Jacobs River campground and, of course, Tom Groggin. After staying on the Barry Way the first night, our second night stopover was at Native Dog campground, before making our last night stopover at Tom Groggin.
For those adventurers among us, there is a water crossing through the river to the eastern bank at Tom Groggin that opens onto a large open camping area populated by hundreds of kangaroos and within walking distance to the river. It’s ideal for a quick dip during the summer months.
This may be a short trek by distance, but the scenery is forever changing. People need to be fully self-sufficient, and thanks to those visitors who continue to take all of their rubbish out with them, the area remains in pristine condition and awaiting the next load of visitors.
The only discouraging point about this trip is that it finishes on the Alpine Way, a road paved in black which leads back to civilisation and all that is associated with it. How good would it have been to turn around and do it all again? Well, maybe next time.
02 01 Craig’s Hut. Photo Peter Dunphy 02 Befriending kangaroos 03 Campers are spoilt for choice 04 Steep descent 05 Rustic stopover spot