Monday, February 23, 2009

The Great Alpine Road

The Great Alpine Road - 20th – 23rd February

Great Alpine Road Victoria Australia
From Alpine Road

We weren’t sure whether to drive this road as we had already been to the Snowys and thought it would be similar scenery, but everything we read said it is one of Australia’s great drives, so we had to drive it. And boy are we glad we did, the scenery was amazing, we were completely blown away. From the start the scenery was great.
We started at Bairnsdale, driving through farming countryside and followed a river up into the mountains. We decided to stop at Omeo and had a little look around the old gold mining village. We got talking to a great character at the museum who had lived in the town for 15 years after retiring here. He showed us around the historic Justice Precinct for free (normally chargeable). They had an old gaol made of logs he assured us we would not see another like it in the whole of the country! Apparently they had 10 inmates to a tiny cell at ‘busy’ times for up to 3 months. Hard to imagine as they had one cell with 2 beds in it and it was full! We were very surprised to hear that the gaol was still being used up until 1981! That seems shockingly recent to me!

Omeo - Log Gaol
Omeo Victoria Australia
From Alpine Road

After the impromptu tour of the Justice precinct including courthouse and old courthouse the friendly curator proceeded to tell us about some scenic drives we could do and the old goldmines up the mountain a little farther. Whilst describing the drive to one particular lookout point he told us about a tree that has Wild Dogs hanging in it. These dogs have been shot by a local and are hanged there to show people how many there are and the size of them. The curator stressed that they were not Dingoes but a new breed of ‘Wild’ dogs. He told us a story of how he had come across 5 of them snarling at him in Tom Groggin. (For those of you that are following – yes we have been there!). He said that if you slipped and fell or hurt yourself the dogs wouldn’t hesitate to have a go at you! This scared us a bit – we were going to stay at a free rest area in the woods but decided it might be better to stay at a paid one for the night. Help us to forget the horror stories!!

Wild dog tree
Dog Tree Omeo Victoria Australia
From Alpine Road

As it turned out we were very glad that we decided to stay at the local caravan park. The owners (who had friends staying on the site that night) were very friendly and invited us to join them for a drink and a chat around the campfire. We stayed up until 11pm talking away, it felt really good to socialise with a few people. We thought we would meet more people on our trip but not as of yet (Still early days!!).
When we got up in the morning the place did not seem anywhere near as sinister as it did the night before and we set off early, continuing our way up The Great Alpine Road. Just as we left the campsite we saw our first wild Echidna, we were very chuffed to have seen one of the natives in the wild. (Echidnas are like oversized hedgehogs for those of you who don’t know)

After Omeo the road continues to rise into the Alps to 2 ski resorts, Dinner Plain and Mt Hotham. We arrived at Dinner Plain first and stopped off for some lunch (a sandwich made there and then!). On the way up we had seen some breathtaking mountain scenery and had been to visit a distant waterfall.

Dinner Plain, Ski Resort
Dinner Plain Victorian Alps Australia
From Alpine Road

Ski resorts in summer are obviously very quiet places and we had a little drive around looking at all of the very expensive looking chalets. Some of the views these places had were awesome!
After Dinner Plain it was off to Mt Hotham, this was a short drive in distance but we stopped off at lookouts and messed about taking pics with the tripod.
Mt Hotham did not appear to offer as much accommodation as Dinner Plain. It was more ski slopes and ski lifts. We stopped to take a few pics and continued ever upward!
We stopped a few more times taking pics, never knowing if what we might see next would be better than what had gone before. I can’t express just how truly amazing these views were!! The day was perfectly clear and it was hard to comprehend just what we were seeing. Just when we thought we were on our way down and that the views we had seen were unbeatable we stopped at a place called ‘Danny’s Lookout’. Not sure if anyone has ever heard of this place but Oh My God. It beat everything we had seen before easily, row after row of mountain getting ever a paler shade of blue as they went off into the distance. The sky had a few clouds and then went from a pale ‘Sky blue’ all the way through to almost a deep ‘Royal blue’. Breathtaking doesn’t describe it and I have run out of superlatives! We took a load of pics and kept the very best ones, they don’t do it any justice though. You’ll all just have to get up there and see it for yourselves!!

Danny's Lookout
Danny's Lookout Victoria Australia
From Alpine Road

After this lookout the road began to head down the mountains and we entered a valley. The temps down here were at least 10-12C hotter than they were up in the mountains! We stopped for a few supplies and fuel and pushed on to the town of Wangaratta and the end of The Great Alpine Road. Wangaratta (what we saw of it) was a functional country town with all the shops the region required and not a great deal else. We found a reasonably priced caravan park and stayed for 2 nights – this would give us chance to explore the area for one day before moving on.

Our one day her saw us explore the historic town of Beechworth. This little town reminded me very much of the older little towns back home - Kind of a small Cirencester if you will. We wandered around the shops for a while and took in some of the ‘History’ of the place.
At this point it seems like a good idea to point something out about Australia. Something here is considered ‘Historic if it is more than a hundred years old. Unless you are from Milton Keynes ‘Historic’ in the UK, means a lot older than that. For instance the aforementioned Cirencester has a church that was started way back in the 1200’s and a Roman Amphitheatre and wall from BC! That said Australians are much more enthusiastic about their history than us Brits – I think we just take it for granted.

Beechworth Bakery
Beechworth Bakery Victoria Australia
From Alpine Road

The bakery in Beechworth seems to be quite famous in Victoria. We popped in for some lunch and a loaf of bread. It is the biggest bakery we have ever seen and it was very busy. The food lived up to its reputation and was good. After Beechworth we briefly spent some time in Glenrowan. This is the town where the infamous outlaw Ned Kelly had his last stand clad in armour. Well having seen enough of the countryside for now we are headed off to the big smoke tomorrow.

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