Page 134: Over the mountain and back to porepunkah
     
  We Live and learn  
 

Back on page 43 we walked up Mount Kosciuszko, known as the highest peak in Australia. On that page I wrote:

. . . 11:30 saw us standing on the highest point on the Australian mainland. (I saw it so described somewhere. Is there a higher point in Tasmania, or on another Australian island? I don't know.)

Well, now I do know. On Heard Island in Australia's Antarctic Territory there is a volcano called Big Ben. It's highest peak, Mawson Peak, rises to 9,009 feet above sea level, nearly 1,700 feet higher than Mount Kosciuszko. I have added a note to this effect on page 43.

Also, on page 124 I commented on the lock numbering on the Murray River:

If there are only thirteen or fourteen weirs, how can the one at Torrumbarry be Weir N° 26? The short answer to that question is, I don't know. If you do, please tell me and I'll edit this page accordingly.

Huw G. wrote to let me know the reason so I have edited page 124 accordingly. Huw also notified me of a broken link on the same page. That has been rectified. Thank you, Huw.

 
     
  The caravan park invaded  
 

One day a big bus pulled up in the park and about two dozen lovely young ladies streamed off it. They were in their mid to late teens and all wore short shorts revealing tanned, shapely legs - and they all looked super fit. It turned out that they belonged to the rowing team of Melbourne's Methodist Ladies College.

These young beauties were billeted in the park's cabins all around us. After a few hours there was drool all over the inside of our caravan windows. Should a poor old bloke be subjected to such exquisite torture? Is it fair?

 
     
  Would this be the 'A Team'? They only get one oar each.  
     
   
  These ladies had two oars each. The cox's job looks relaxing.  
     
  Retailers complain about internet purchasing  
 

We've heard that retailers are unhappy about customers passing them over in favour of internet purchases. This was our experience:

We wanted to buy the box set of DVDs covering all nine series of the television programme, "As Time Goes By". Collins, the local bookshop, was out of stock so I ordered the set and one other item. That was on 4th January. The next day I looked on eBay to see if I could buy the box set a bit cheaper. A bit cheaper! Collins wanted $199. On eBay the same set, plus the two Reunion episodes, plus freight, were available from England for $95.41. So what do you do, pay more than double for less?

I cancelled the Collins order but not the other item. Eight days later the package from England arrived in good condition. Two weeks later Collins still doesn't have the other item I wanted. We leave Bairnsdale in five days. If my order hasn't arrived before then it will be "Hello Internet" again. I'm sorry for local traders but sometimes life is a bitch. The 'net is here to stay.

Footnote: The other item, a computer version of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary arrived just before we left town. Did they phone to let us know it had come in, as promised? No, they didn't. It was just luck that we happened to call and enquire the day before we left. What's more, after paying $74 for this CD I discovered there are bugs in the programme. Was there any notification of this? Not a thing. I had to search the web for information and found a 'fix' for two errors. As there is a fix available, why are they not recalling the faulty discs? Or at least informing purchasers where to find the download? Worse, this software is not fully compatible with Windows 7; they don't tell you that either.

For all that, I already love having this facility on the laptop.

 
     
  We leave bairnsdale for swifts creek  
 

One Sunday morning we broke camp and headed for the mountains. It wasn't a long journey - about 95 kilometres - but with a lot of climbs and descents. We stopped overnight at a teeny place called Swifts Creek. (Swift was a gold miner of long ago. The possessive apostrophe has been officially deleted from all Australian place names.)

 
     
   
  The centre of Swifts Creek, a fairly isolated community of very friendly people if our experience is any indication.  
     
 

In the little town of Swifts Creek the stream of the same name joins the Tambo River which flowed just behind the caravan park. The park was hardly more than a grass strip between the river and a parallel road with a toilet and laundry block added. It was very quiet and for $14 per night, payable at the general store, we were more than happy with it.

 
     
   
  Here we are at the Swifts Creek Caravan Park. Behind us was the Tambo River;
you can see the road bridge on the far left of the picture.
 
     
   
  Unlike so many rivers currently wreaking havoc in Victoria, the Tambo was slow and peaceful. Pictured from the road bridge.  
     
   
  In fact, children were happily playing in the water.  
     
   
 

We took a walk around the town (ten minutes) and ended up in the pub (surprise) which reflected Swifts Creek's history of
timber production. Saw blades of all shapes and sizes decorated the walls and ceiling, along with about six hundred caps.

 
     
 

There were two other campers at the caravan park. Our neighbours had been there a month due to an unfortunate motor accident which had resulted in their car being taken to Bairnsdale for repair, Bairnsdale being the local "big smoke". Every time they believed they were on the point of recovering their car, the repairer found more damage, so there they were, stuck on the banks of the Tambo River ninety five kilometres away from their towing vehicle.

 
     
  A 6,000' climb up mount Hotham towing three tons of caravan  
 

In fact, we climbed considerably more than the heading implies as many times we crawled up a long gradient only to descend again on the other side. We reached the highest point (about 6,200') after passing through the Mount Hotham ski resort, then it was low gear and dabs on the brake pedal all the way down the steep, winding, narrow descent into Harrietville. This stretch of road involves negotiating continual hairpin bends, most with steep drops on one side. On those hairpins a speed much over a crawl would be inviting disaster.

To be truthful I had wondered about the wisdom of towing the large caravan up Mount Hotham but finally decided to attempt it very gently. Thus I manually selected the gears, changing down as soon as there was a hint of strain on the engine. We were down to first gear on one long incline but we had plenty of time and the road was fortunately deserted. My eyes constantly flicked from the rev counter to the temperature gauge to the altimeter and back to the road. My ears were tuned to the sounds from the engine and alert for the distinctive noise that the transmission makes when it gets too hot; a noise I didn't hear all day. Good old Mitsubishi, they make a great Pajero.

We received a wonderful welcome when we rolled into the caravan park at Porepunkah. We were met with a huge smile from Theo (pronounced Tay-oh) and a lovely hug and kiss from lovely Lynette, Theo's wife; between them they run the park. Even Julie gave us a warm welcome; she does a fine job of keeping everything clean. The park was full but "our" spot, the one we parked in last time, was vacant and waiting for us. It was like coming home!

 
     
  Mount Buffalo Chalet - the interior  
 

If you remember, we touched on the history of the Chalet on page 109. Well . . . nothing has changed since then. There are still attempts to find someone to lease the place and renovate it. The expression pigs will fly comes to mind and we saw no evidence of pork in the treetops.

This visit to the Chalet was for a tour of the interior. We were guided by two very nice rangers, Gina and Andy. Gina was very Irish, though that is of no relevance whatsoever.

Due to time constraints and safety considerations the tour was limited. Gina led the way and gave an excellent commentary enhanced by her lovely Irish lilt. Andy brought up the rear in the role of sheep dog.

 
     
   
  Typical views of the long corridors and stairs within the Chalet. The timber panelling was nice though basic and detracted
from the half-hearted attempts of the small chandeliers to provide illumination. Many of the incandescent light bulbs had
blown and they are no longer obtainable. Here and there we saw large, old-fashioned radiators which were intended to heat
the Chalet in winter - a lost cause if ever there was one. The red carpet had been plush once upon a time.
 
     
 

 

 

 

A view of one of the Chalet's tiny bedrooms with just enough room to squeeze in two single beds provided they were vertically stacked. This room would share a bathroom/toilet with nine other rooms.

 
     
   
 

Left: Ten standard bedrooms had to share one bathroom like this between them.
Right: The view from the bedroom windows perhaps made up for a lot.

 
     
 

So where does the Chalet sit today, apart from twenty kilometres up a narrow, precarious road at an altitude of 4,500 feet? If it were to open again as a viable hotel it really needs rebuilding from the ground up to comply with current regulations relating to fire safety, emergency exits, disabled access, heat insulation, sanitation, hygiene, etc. The cost of bringing an electricity supply up the mountain is estimated at well over a million dollars. The current diesel generators are not economical. The building has no suitable water supply nor an adequate sewage disposal plant and it was built of wood over 100 year ago. Some of the timber cladding is marked for replacement.

Everybody loves the Chalet and nobody wants to see it demolished but there seems to be no practical solution. If nobody will take it on, the Parks Department of Victoria will continue to carry out minimal maintenance and the dear old Chalet will go on marking time.

And here it is, once again, the Mount Buffalo Chalet known locally as the Grand Old Lady of the Mountain . . .

 
     
     
 

The Chalet sits on the edge of a plateau overlooking a deep gorge. The prevailing wind blows up the gorge from the valley far below making the edge an ideal hang glider launching point. A steep ramp has been constructed so the fearless pilots can run down it and launch themselves out over a thousand metre drop, the rising air carrying them upwards.

We have never been at the site when a hang glider launched but I took a picture of the ramp from a nearby lookout point so you can imagine what it would be like to run and jump off, trusting your life to what amounts to a big kite. Any takers?

 
     
   
  The hang glider launching ramp high above the valley far below. It wasn't until I looked at this picture later that I realised
that there is a person in green near the bottom of the ramp. I think he must be one of two rock climbers we had seen earlier.