Page 105: More from the victorian alps
     
  A visit to myrtleford and Lake Buffalo.  
  One day we backtracked to the last town through which we had passed before reaching Porepunkah.

Myrtleford is a nice enough town without being special. On the roadside was displayed the root system of a fallen tree.When we stopped for a closer look, we discovered that it had been somewhat hacked about which, it seems, had turned it into a sculpture. The sculptor decided that part of the root system resembled a phoenix rising from the ashes and so named 'his' work The Phoenix Tree. Written on an adjacent notice board were the words, reproduced in green, below the pictures.
 
     
   
  The Phoenix Tree, a 'sculpture' by Hans Knorr, on display at the roadside in Myrtleford.  
     
 

The mythical phoenix bird, rising to new life from its own ashes, is depicted in the top centre of the sculpture and gives the work its title.
The various creatures down amongst the roots are, like man, dependent on the tree for survival.
On one side of the trunk the form of a bulldozer blade shows man's interference in nature but on the other, Halley's comet represents his part in the cosmic system.
The wonderful rings of time at the end are our moment in the universe.
Sculptured, flowing, musical lines from trunk to root bind all together in a symphony of life.
The whole great tree symbolizes the importance of the renewal of forests the world over.


Hey, if you know where there's an uprooted tree you could become a sculptor too. Just slice a few chunks off it and sell it to the local council as art. Of course, you'd have to wax lyrical about it but that can't be too difficult. Let's practise. I'll have a go at expanding the description (above) to encompass some of the tree's surroundings.

The concrete pads below the tree represent man's anchor to the earth that nurtures him.
The sail overhead, with its delicate flowing curves, shelters and shades the tree from the elements,
a function that the tree itself once so graciously fulfilled for us.
The floodlights around the tree remind us that though the sun may sink each evening, the trees have not gone away.
Though our eyes may no longer perceive them they await the next dawn with infinite patience.
The toxic fumes from passing traffic emphasise how the tree's leaves once cleaned the air for all living creatures.
The graffiti on the nearby bus shelter . . .


Enough! Stop! It's just an uprooted stump. (And there wasn't really a bus shelter anywhere.)

 
     
  Lake Buffalo near Myrtleford.  
     
  Lake Buffalo was created by damming the Buffalo River; it supplies drinking water to Myrtleford. We drove across the dam wall on a well-maintained bitumen road and on along the far side of the lake. The road drifted away from the lake but we continued along it. A road must go somewhere or there wouldn't be a road there, that was my theory. Eventually the bitumen ran out and the road became dirt. We left dense clouds of dust swirling in our wake. We shifted into four wheel drive and drove on through a forest of tall trees, the road narrowing and becoming rougher. Turning back was always an option but when you've already gone that far . . . so on we went. A notice advised us that the road ahead was unsuitable for motor vehicles in wet conditions but conditions were dry. It became darker as the trees crowded in on us and the condition of the track forced us to slow down.

Consulting our GPS seemed a sensible idea - for a while, anyway - but the roads it showed that would take us towards home just didn't exist. Other times a fork would be shown on the screen but the the purple line indicating the recommended route went both ways! Talk about hedging your bets. Finally we abandoned the GPS which repeatedly squarked, "Off route. Recalculating," and just followed the track. About ninety minutes later, having made several wrong decisions, we emerged back near Lake Buffalo. God only knows where we'd been, but we were back on bitumen with Myrtleford only a half hour away and Happy Hour only an hour away.
 
     
  Back in Porepunkah Pines Caravan Park.  
  As we lounged outside our caravan reminiscing on our (for 'our' read 'my') foolhardiness, two neighbours stopped to chat. We have seen many different slogans painted on the back panel of people's caravans but theirs amused us more than most . . .  
     
   
  The slogan on the rear of a neighbour's caravan.  
     
  Smoke in the valley sends us up to Falls creek.  
 

We set off to visit the Mount Buffalo National Park, however a 'burning off' operation some distance from Bright combined with an atmospheric inversion to fill the Ovens Valley with smoke. As there wasn't a breath of wind to disperse it, it just lay in the valley.

We set off west for Mount Buffalo but it was apparent it would be a wasted day, the remarkable, rugged landscape was substantially hidden by the smoke. We did a U-turn and backtracked past the caravan park, through Bright, and turned off towards Mount Beauty. As we zigzagged steeply up the ridge the smoke gradually thinned. By the time we reached the summit the air was clear. We descended into Mount Beauty, refuelled, and took the road to Falls Creek.

Immediately we were again climbing steeply on another switchback. Again poor Pam was terrified by the unguarded drop at the side of the road.

 
     
   
  An example of a steep drop at the side of the road. Typically, this road has been sliced out of the mountainside.
Atypically, however, there is a safety barrier along this section. What the picture doesn't show is just how far the slope falls.
 
     
  Falls Creek is another ski resort like Hotham but, at five thousand feet, not quite as high up. Without snow it was just ticking over. We found a nice coffee lounge open but we were the only customers for most of the time. Built into the steep mountainside there was a small village incorporated with the skiing centre which had a post office and one or two shops.  
     
Left: Falls Creek Ski Resort from the carpark on the opposite side of the road. To the right of the camera is a heliport.
Right: Looking in the opposite direction there are thousands of dead Mountain Ash trees covering most of the landscape.
     
   
  It doesn't look right but there was no indication that this ski lift support stanchion was falling over.  
     
  Back home in Porepunkah.  
  We arrived back just in time for Happy Hour. As there was some sun penetrating the lessening smoke haze I took a couple more photographs. The first, as you can see, is our Jayco parked under the trees to stop the leaves and bird poo from making a mess on the grass. Our car is behind the caravan and the amenities block conveniently opposite.  
     
   
     
  A dozen or so paces from our 'home' flows the Ovens River. To cross the river we have a lovely little suspension bridge which is just wide enough to walk across. Pam won't have a bar of it; she doesn't 'do' bridges that sway and wobble.

From the middle of the bridge, the yellow sun was reflecting off the ripples on the surface of the water.
 
     
   
  The pale sun reflecting off the surface of the Ovens.  
     
  Major john ovens.  
  I briefly mentioned Major Ovens on the last page. It isn't his life that sticks in my mind but his death in 1825. Or after his death, really. The death itself wasn't noteworthy other than it occurred when the poor chap was only thirty seven. He was ill, he died. It happens. The details are all taken from The Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition.

It appears that Major Ovens had a very good friend, a judge named Ellis Bent, who had died in 1815 and was buried in the George Street burial ground, presumably in Sydney. Ovens requested that his remains be interred in the same grave as Ellis Bent. And so it came to pass. What if Mrs. Bent (who had five children to the judge) had wanted to be buried with her husband? Presumably the coffins would be stacked vertically in the grave. If so, Major Ovens would have been the meat in the sandwich, as it were.

According to the biographies of both Ellis Bent and John Ovens, their remains were moved to Garden Island in 1825. Ovens didn't die until 7th December of that year so if the records are correct, he must have been back in the fresh air before he was even cold.

That wasn't the end of the two corpses' travels, however. They were exhumed yet again at a later date and buried at St. Thomas's in North Sydney. There they remain to this day - no pun intended. Are they both still in the same grave after all the cavorting around? Who knows.

Though the biographies of Ovens and Bent concur on the two re-interments, there's no mention of Ovens anywhere in the biography of Judge Ellis Bent.
 
     
   
  Hands up anyone who CAN'T see anything wrong with this notice.  
     
  The smoke clears, we go up mount buffalo.  
  A day of heavy rain finally doused the remaining fires and washed the smoke out of the atmosphere. The weather brightened up and we set off up the mountain. The Mount Buffalo climb was very similar to the ascent to Hotham and Falls Creek. Hairpin bend after hairpin bend, fabulous views and millions of dead Mountain Ash trees near the smmit which was over five thousand feet above sea level. Again we saw snowfields with the usual ski lift apparatus.

The name Buffalo was bestowed by explorers Hume and Hovell around 1824 because the mountain's shape reminded them of a sleeping buffalo. We couldn't see it ourselves but we didn't know from where they viewed it. There is a car park at the summit from where you can walk the final one and a half kilometres to the Horn - the actual peak. The views from there were breathtaking . . .
 
     
   
  The view from the Horn at the summit of Mount Buffalo. We were not far below the dew point where the moisture in the warm
air thermals condensed. Note that all the cumulus clouds have billowing tops but you can almost draw a straight line along their
bases. That's the dew point level. The shadows of the clouds were scattered across the mountains. You can also see a swath cut
through the trees starting at the lower left corner of the picture, disappearing behind a ridge before reappearing as a line
running up the right side of the picture towards the horizon. They can't be seen on the photo but there are pylons supporting
high voltage power lines strung along the path through the trees.
 
     
  On the way back down we stopped to look at features that we had noted on the outward journey. Features like . . .  
     
   
  Torpedo Rock . . .  
     
   
  . . . and some small falls in the Eurobin Creek.