A River Somewhere

Spot and I have been away for a few days enjoying camping next to a lovely fishing hole along one of our remote Victorian mountain rivers. This small trip has highlighted for me more than anything else how much I need a new knee. Though it was only 6-8 trackless kilometres each way over fairly rough ground it was actually very tough going and was not undertaken without Panadeine Forte! Of course I spent a couple of days wandering around down there too, so another 20 km or so…

Only a couple of years ago I would easily make 30-40 such kilometres in a day – and enjoy it, without pain. Old age is definitely not for sissies! Still, I am glad we went, as from now on the weather will be too warm and it has been practically our only opportunity to get away up the mountains for months mainly because of absurd government restrictions on going anywhere even by yourself.

I had often seen this large deep hole in the river from up high and canoed past it a couple of times too without giving it serious investigation. There are thousands of such spots along our remote waterways which vehicle based campers will never enjoy – thank goodness!

From above as well as from the river it doesn’t look as if there is a suitable camping spot (on ‘my’ side of the river) even though the vast width and depth of the hole would make it an excellent spot to catch a few large trout – or even a couple of crays for one’s evening meal, I imagine.

It also appears from on high as if it could only be approached by a fairly precipitous descent – but looks can be deceptive, and as it turns out there is a modest sloping ridge which leads right down to it and underneath a steep bank there is quite a long flat bench mostly above flood level where indeed several tents could be set up (after a little ‘improvement’). On the other side there is a pleasant grassy flat and even a nice beach.

First we had to cross this lovely stream. Then we walked along a bit then down again.

The bush had a wonderful green springtime tinge to it.

On the way down I encountered one of those small ‘perched valleys’ (‘cirques’ might be the correct word) one sometimes encounters in the mountains. This one comprised a small grassy flat on the side of the ridge of about an acre in area surrounded by quite dense undergrowth and out of the worse weather from the North and West.

If you sometimes wonder where all the deer have gone on a wet, cold day look no further than such a place. I tried to take a photo of it from above but alas, I failed. This is what I got. It is down there somewhere through the trees. It is curious how I can see things because I look through the vegetation whilst the camera just sees the vegetation. You have to train yourself to this trick. See Sambar Deer Stalking 101.

We passed this emu cock and his clutch of carefully guarded chicks on the way. After over forty years wandering the Victorian mountains this is only the third emu I have encountered in the forest, though I often see sign of them, and I have seen literally thousands of deer.  Every trip I manage to see upwards of a dozen deer – yet there are people who doubt the existence of even rarer kinds of wildlife than emus. I have spoken to reputable hunters who claim to have seen the large black cats, though I never have.

I have seen what I took to be a thylacine once but I now realise it might have been a striped dingo having seen another which definitely was. Someone I know claims to have shot a thylacine (near Gelantipy) in 1972 and says he still has the skeleton – though I have not seen it.

During the gold rushes someone shot a ‘crocodile’ in the Wonnangatta River. Its stuffed body was apparently on display above the bar in the Traill’s Waterford Hotel for years until it burned down.

I have twice seen a creature which looked like a large dun otter, but not anywhere near water. I guess it was an as yet unidentified kind of quoll. ‘No-one can say water babies do not exist as no-one has ever seen one not existing’ as Charles Kingsbury said in the book of that name.

Beautiful views on the walk in. Some very steep country about.

As you an see I found a suitable private bench by the river with lots of laid on firewood and completely out of sight from every direction – even to canoeists, not that there ever are any except myself.

Spot appears to have settled in for the night enjoying the westering sun on my sleeping bag.

There are other tent sites like this right nearby so a couple or three tents could be set up, but I prefer to be alone.

A hopeless attempt at a selfie. Steve Intent again.

Nothing cheers so much as a lovely fire.

Here it is in moving pictures, as they say.

This is rather a poor picture of the effect of the moonlight and shadows on the tent. It was quite awesome in reality and I wish I could figure out how to capture such numinous phenomena.

And here is the beautiful swimming hole in the morning. Downstream.

Upstream.

Look how that vine has overtopped all the lower saplings.

My tent nestled amongst the trees back there.

There is the beach I mentioned on the other side. Some good hunting there too I’d say. An ultralight packraft (such as Klymit’s) might be a good idea to safely cross and recross this pool to access it.

Swallows would love those cliffs.

And how many creatures have called this old guy home?

View from the other side of the pool looking back towards my tent. This pool must be nearly seventy metres across and is very deep and cold in places. I saw numerous bull trout working around the edges or splashing in the water.

Walking about…

Tried to grow one of these ‘Happy Wanderers’ at home but it died. Not enough rocks perhaps!

Some other wildflowers.

A perennial charm of the Australian bush. Daisies seem to be able to grow anywhere.

Some Clematis putting on a brave show topping this prickly coprosma. An old  hunter’s billy hanging in a lower branch.

Some native violets.

A beautiful flat grassy valley which stretches for miles. When I have my new knee I will explore all the way up there and may even make a Wilderness Hut in the very top of it.

Some great deer paths abound. Not all are as easy to follow as this.

One cannot resist propping a found deer skull on a branch beside the path (in front of the tree). It never seems to deter them from using them though.

A splendid wallow by the river.

And a well-used ‘gladiatorial’ patch nearby.

There were fresh deer prints of every size and shape. Of course being a full moon not so many deer were about low down during the day though Spot did put several up.

A second smaller wallow nearby. This is usually the case.

You will often find a cast antler like this one by a wallow. This one had been cast a long while ago. Surprising someone hadn’t souvenired it really.

It is degrading back into the landscape and looks like it might almost be made of wood.

Lunch on the Trail. Vita Wheat biscuits, cheese and salami go down well. Spot licks his chops in anticipation. That is a Columbia wool shirt. Seriously the only suitable garment if you don’t want to stink like an old billy goat!

Packing up ready to leave.

Going, going gone. More Nuts to Leave No Trace (for the perfectionists) but I have left a fine camping spot. The ash will fertilise the bush and soon passes away. Many interesting plants come up in such a small hot fire-bed (native orchids especially) which seem not to thrive elsewhere – evidence of how the biota has adapted to 100,000 years of human occupation.

A couple of interesting snippets found near camp – a very small wallaby’s lower jawbone I guess.

And these interesting tracks where I was doing my washing up. See the tiny hand-prints? Clearly not a bird. I would say a water rat has enjoyed the crumbs of my left-over couscous! I have rarely seen a live one since myxomatosis hit back in the fifties. Before then they were common. I used to pass several along Tucker’s Creek near Paterson where I grew up on my walk to primary school in the early 1950s. I think the fox now claims too many of them, but it is good to see that they are still about.

Back then they had the very most expensive fur. My uncle, Ken Jones used to make a sideline out of trapping them with floating rat traps set with pumpkin seeds. I sometimes gave him a hand. No doubt there is some rich elderly widow somewhere who still has such a rare coat in her ancient closet. They have the very finest, sleekest fur, moreso than any otter or seal – but the foxes will need to be reduced first.

Here is a little video of the wonderful fishing hole to whet your appetite to get out more into our wilderness areas. Warning: There is a wonderful amount of birdsong happening. Good to see it returning after our recent disastrous bushfires.

No doubt you will be wondering about the fish? Della was good enough to buy me some non-stick Alfoil. How much modern technology has perfected this wonderful native method of cooking fish! Alas, I forgot to bring any with me. Also when I went to get my fishing tackle out it was all tangled having not been properly separated into small snap lock bags as it should have been, and I had a small dog keen to help me untangle it! As I had not desire to add a fish-hook embedded into the ball of my thumb to the agony of this sore knee I just decided, ‘Another time’.

The trout are still there, and will wait.

 

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