Page 106: So much to see - more of the alps
     
  Wandiligong  
  Wandiligong, or "Wandi" as we locals call it, is a little township close to Bright. Oh, speaking of local names, we also have an abbreviation for Porepunkah (which is a bit of a mouthful). The place is known as "Punka". That’s easier, isn’t it?

But back to Wandi. I think Wandi is the prettiest little place I’ve ever visited with so much history and so many features of interest.
 
     
   
  What, I wonder, is the function of this elevated water wheel?  
     
   
  The Chinese Bridge, Wandiligong, crosses Morse’s Creek close to where the Chinese used to dig for gold in bygone days.  
     
   
  The water in Morse’s Creek was sparkling clear. It flows into the Ovens River in Bright, then on to Punka.  
     
  Leaving Wandi we came across some para-gliders landing in a roadside paddock. By the time we’d stopped and disembarked, the last one was just touching down so I was too late with the camera. Another time, perhaps. They were launching from a nearby hillside. For about $100 we could fly down in tandem.

On our way home we needed to call at the supermarket in Bright but before we arrived Pam spotted a sign to Huggins’ Lookout. We’d been disappointed by Bright’s other vantage point, Tower Lookout, as it was too far from the town and the ’tower’ was an electricity pylon. The view was spoiled by heavy power cables looping down towards the town.

Huggins’ Lookout was an altogether different proposition with a spectacular view over Bright and the surrounding landscape.
 
     
   
  The little town of Bright seen from Huggins’ Lookout. What is that grey-blue rectangle sticking up like a drive-in screen?
It’s actually the very steep gable roof of a church.
 
     
  Righteous indignation  
  I forgot to tell you. While on the summit of Mount Buffalo, Pam was descending from the Horn some way ahead of me. A bloke in a sleeveless pullover passed her and she enquired whether he’d seen a man in a red T-shirt.
"You mean the old man?" he asked, "Yes, he’s not far behind me." The old man! The OLD man!!!
 
     
   
  That’s him, in his sleeveless pullover. He called me an old man. Do I look old? Come on, be honest. Do I look a day over 45?  
     
  Out of the mouths of Babes . . .  
  As Easter approached, the tourist park at Punka filled up. One morning a group of youngsters was running past our caravan when one shouted to another,
"Jason’s not coming. He’s put a nail through his foot."
It was Good Friday.
 
     
  A trip to the buckland valley.  
  Yes, it seemed like a good idea. You just drive past Porepunkah Airfield and carry straight on. Well, driving past Punka Airfield didn’t work because there were several gliders on the field so a short diversion was inevitable.  
     
   
  This glider, a Puchacz, was a type I flew often back in the day. Here it is seen taking off, towed behind a Piper Cub.
Built in Poland, these are very popular aircraft. Never being sure of the correct pronunciation of Puchacz, we usually
referred to it as ‘the Pooch’. In Poland a Puchacz is a type of owl so the registration, VH-OWL, is appropriate.
 
     
  Eventually we left the airfield and drove on towards the Buckland (River) Valley, Mount Buffalo away to our right. We passed through orchards and vineyards and eventually the sealed road surface gave way to gravel. If you’re thinking that this story sounds familiar, you’re right. On and on we drove on the assumption that a road must go somewhere. Then we decided that, as we’d come this far, we may as well carry on.

If ever you are in Victoria, never assume that a road ‘must go somewhere’. It just isn’t true. And never justify going on ‘because you’ve already come this far’. Remember those two vital rules and you should be okay. Oh, and throw your GPS through the window.

As in our previous experience at Lake Buffalo, the road became a track which became progressively rougher, only this time we frequently had a sheer drop on one side. Mostly the track was so narrow that if an oncoming vehicle had appeared, one of us would have had to reverse for some way to find a place wide enough to pass. But nobody else was up there and that should have told us something! We were climbing into the Great Dividing Range and as we got higher we came across the multitudes of dead Mountain Ash trees again. This time many had fallen across the track and been sawn off in such a manner that the trunks protruded from the bank on the high side of the track. Then we came across one that must have fallen recently . . .
 
     
   
  The view ahead. One trunk was across the track, too heavy to shift,
too low to drive under and, it appeared, too close to the edge to drive round.
 
     
   
  The view behind. Manoeuvring around the tree in this picture hadn’t been a problem.
Reversing back around it was less inviting. There is one l-o-n-g drop if the verge gives way.
 
     
  We drove down to the offending tree and I got out and surveyed the options. There was no way I was going to shift it - it extended too far back up the hill. I noticed tyre tracks going around it. Somebody had chanced it successfully. Well, if they could, so could we. I had Pam get out and walk ahead then slowly edged around with her guidance. Then on we went.

We were now about fifty kilometres into the ranges on a road that demanded four wheel drive and second gear for most of the time. We were not getting anywhere fast and time was moving on. We stopped and looked at the map. It was hard to tell where we were, due to lack of any reference. The GPS, we already knew, is just a blatant liar but if it could be believed, the next human habitation was about ninety kilometres further on. The condition of the track ahead was completely unknown and nobody knew where we were. The mobile phone had no signal and worse, Pam was getting cranky.

So, there was only one option; turn back. If you want to know what the return journey was like, read the above backwards. The airfield at Punka was still busy but if it came to a choice between aircraft to the left or red wine straight ahead, there was no contest.
 
     
  Christmas Island Detention Centre Overcrowded? Try the porepunkah pines tourist village!  
  The Easter holiday has brought about twenty thousand Melbornians and their wretched children to the area. The park management has packed them in so tightly that we can hardly breathe. Our Pajero is reversed under the ’van awning as there’s nowhere else to park it.

These new arrivals seem to have come in groups, the adults of which gather around a wood fire all day and evening. There’s no need for a fire during the day but the damn things are burning all around the place so there’s no escape from the smoke. This seems to be a Victorian thing; you can't camp without a fire.

The kids do what kids do, riding bikes much too fast, throwing balls much too hard and shouting much too loud. And their parents seem oblivious to it. They allow dogs in the park too. Pam was watching campers washing dishes in a sink placed there for the purpose. She was debating whether to tell them that the last user washed her dog in the sink. She decided ignorance is bliss.

Actually we shouldn’t complain too much. There is a gap in the age range between pubescent kids and young parents. Missing are the obnoxious older teens/early twenties crowd. Though the younger ones are boisterous and noisy, there’s no rowdyism or bad language. Neither, I have to admit, have I seen any doggy poo or been bothered unduly by barking. S’pose I’m just a grumpy old bugger.

And while I'm being a bit honest, I ought to mention that our GPS is really a marvellous piece of technology that will pinpoint our position any place on earth within a few metres. The problem lies in the other half of the technology - the electronic maps that have been programmed into it. They are frequently hopelessly inaccurate and you need both parts of the instrument to work correctly for it to be reliable and accurate. Worse, many, if not all the satellite navigation systems seem to use the same "WhereiS" maps.

 
     
  What we don't always tell you.  
   
  The other side of camping. Puddles, mud, soggy leaves, drizzle . . .  
     
   
  . . . and clouds down to tree top height.  
     
  Anyway, after a week the rain disappeared and we were back to blue skies. We took to walking and our path took us across the small suspension bridge which I mentioned earlier. Pam had said she doesn't 'do' bridges that sway and wobble but provided I stayed off it until she reached the other side, she relented.  
     
   
  Pam crossing that bridge. She promised me she wouldn't jump or dive from it. Beyond are the caravans.  
     
   
  Ladies and Gentlemen, the grand metropolis of Porepunkah. Beyond the bridge is the CBD. The garage is to the right,
the part-time café is hidden by the garage and the pub is straight ahead. The post office and general store are
just off the left of the picture. The Temperance Hotel is long gone; the sign marks the site.
 
     
  One day we stood on the bridge and played 'pooh sticks'. You each drop a stick into the river then run across the bridge and see whose stick comes through first. What does that tell you about us?

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