A minor inconvenience occurred this morning when Joey and I awoke in our tram to find that we had forgotten to extract money from the ATM in the pub last night, and after paying for the accommodation had less than $10 between us for breakfast! Pure carelessness, an indication to the degree with which we all rely on the availability of electronic banking — until we find ourselves in a country town where they don’t have any!
Toasted Ham and Cheese sandwiches are nice and cheap, breakfast in Neerim South had now depleted our combined funds to a grand total of $3.70.
After a brief exploration of the main street of Neerim South, we drove off to visit the Tarago cheese factory, and although the smell was still available to the public, the visitors centre and shop were closed. Visitors with being directed to go and buy the cheese from various local — and not so local — supermarkets. Very disappointing, since the cheeses are worth a visit, and the tourist brochures for the area all say to visit!
Neerim South, Neerim, Neerim Junction — we didn’t get to visit Neerim East or Neerim North, but all the others came and went in the twinkling of an eye. Neerim Junction was able to provide fuel and money to aid us on our way. A pause at Noojee for a coffee at the Red Parrot Café, then on up the Latrobe river valley…
The old railway trestle bridge was popular this morning, about half a dozen cars were parked at the base, and quite a number of the people walking around were wearing their souvenir t-shirts from the weekend’s chilli festival. I think its the last surviving trestle bridge on the old railway line, all the rest have either been dismantled or lost in bushfires, I hope this one lasts…
Back on the road, we decided to visit Mount Baw Baw, since neither of us had ever been there before. A twisty road through magnificent forest the entire way, tree ferns along the edges, mountain ash and beech towering over us. Signs periodically warned us to beware of log trucks, and enormous stacks of logs at the side of the road were being seasoned, reminders that logging is just about the only industry in this area, any comments regarding conservation will be instantly equated with unemployment.
We had our own minor logging adventure at one point. A tree had fallen across the road and half a dozen cars stopped while everyone pitched in to try and clear the road. Nobody had a chainsaw — its not something I often carry with me — so it was slow going with a handsaw and many hands. With impeccable timing, one of the management staff from Mount Baw Baw turned up just as the broken end of the log had been removed, giving a gap just wide enough to squeeze a car through. Two minutes work with a chainsaw and he cleared the entire road — it probably hadn’t been worthwhile anyone even attempting to remove the broken piece!
Once up at the Mount Baw Baw village we parked the car and got out to walk around and admire the view — and hopefully to find some lunch. Lunch was out of the question, not one of the shops was open, in fact the only signs of life was a group of guys from a bucks party sitting around with an inflatable sex-toy drinking beer, and a couple of people painting a ski-lodge.
Compared to many ski villages in the summer time, Baw Baw is quite attractive, there’s none of the bare wasteland of concrete and gravel that most of them seem to turn into — I guess since the main attraction is cross-country skiing, there isn’t the range of down-hill runs. Even so, there was building works a plenty, with the whole village given a desolate air by the complete absence of people.
We were not really dressed for an alpine trek — even the 2km walk to the summit of Mount Baw Baw and back on the fire trail should probably have required more than my t-shirt and Jo’s sandals, but we headed off anyway. Maybe it’s the famous last words as left by other dead people, but I guessed that even if an impenetrable fog appeared from nowhere and the temperature dropped, we were on a well marked road less than a kilometre from the car-park! As it was, we’d only just left the summit when it did start to rain, so the return to Baw Baw village was at a quicker pace, and we headed straight back down along one of the ski-lifts rather than circle around on the road.
The summit of Mount Baw Baw is barely noticeable as a higher point on the track, like most of Australia’s alpine peaks, it seems to be merely higher than the surrounding land. There’s a large stone cairn with the remains of a surveyors’ trig-point, a faded wooden sign stating “Mount Baw Baw, 1576m,” and then towering over them all, a collection of radio masts and communications dishes belonging to Telstra.
Summer time is maintenance time on the tracks — there’s a pair of picnic tables just before the summit of the mountain, and then a clearing to the northern side, with more picnic tables and a magnificent panoramic view to the north.
We made it back to the car just as the rain turned heavier, unfortunately it then simply stopped, leaving just enough to keep the roads slippery, but not enough to top up any of the farm dams. Driving back down the mountain was a careful task, the four motorcyclists in front of us being even more careful through some of the dips and turns.
Eventually we made it back to Noojee in time for a very late lunch at the general store — the fantastic hamburgers more than made up for the wait. Contented, we sat on a park bench making a mess with the hamburger juices, and watched and listened as a group of ten motorcyclists strutted around telling each other tales of manliness and cornering heroism. They were still there when we left, but passed us shortly afterwards, 30km/hr over the speed limit and the last few forcing on-coming traffic into the gravel in their haste to get past to stay with their mates.
There’s not much to do the rest of the way but to drive home. Gradually the traffic grew thicker and thicker along the Yarra valley. More and more people heading back from their weekends away, or their Sunday drives. Eventually we made it home, pleased with the weekend’s events and explorations, but content to sit down and relax now that we were home.