The alpine landscape of Victoria’s High Country is deceiving - what you see is only a quarter of what you get. Bev Malzard reports on a beautiful and bountiful region of Australia.
I’m not much of an adventurer. In fact I’m a bit of a sissy when it comes to rugged outdoor activities, but I can get caught up in the spirit of things out of curiosity. I feel like I’m missing out on something important if I don’t try.
And thereby hangs the tale of whitewater rafting on the Mitta Mitta River. Before the adventure though, there was a gentle amble into the High Country of Victoria.
This historic region tells many tales from the past to the present day; some gold rush towns are still flourishing and the gold they yield today is the tally of tourists who arrive; some have become sleepy inhabitants in areas that are more blip than boom. These pieces of the region appear disparate but they have one thing in common: combined, they provide one of Australia’s richest discovery experiences.
North-east Victoria is best explored via the Great Alpine Road, a 380km route that extends from Wangaratta in the north-east to Bairnsdale in the heart of the Gippsland. The highest year-round accessible road in the country winds through craggy mountains, valleys, thick forests, elegant vineyards, small farms and introduces lovely towns and villages and off-highway experiences where you can sample fine local food and wine, fish in crystal clear rivers, cycle, climb, walk or – go whitewater rafting.
I began my journey in the High Country from Albury Airport. We drove through the towns of Myrtleford, Ovens, Eurobin and Porepunkah to Buckland Valley near Bright and the foothills of Mt Buffalo.
We settled our gear into individual habitats, the Buckland Studio Retreats, which are the coolest, most stunning accommodation. Beautifully decorated by our host, the creative Sabine Helsper, the eco-sensitive luxury suites with a view of the vineyards were hard to be separated This historic region tells many tales from the past to the present day; some gold rush towns are still flourishing and the gold they yield today is the tally of tourists who arrive; some have become sleepy inhabitants in areas that are more blip than boom. These pieces of the region appear disparate but they have one thing in common: combined, they provide one of Australia’s richest discovery experiences. A Buckland studio Good dogs! At the top of Mount Hotham. 42 Get Up & Go www.getupandgo.com.au Destination Victoria from. We drove to nearby Villa Gusto, an Italian-style restaurant serving hearty Italian food matched with local wines.
After a cooked breakfast the next day, we were on our way to Mt Buffalo. Reminders of the devastating bushfires that consumed much of this area early in 2009 was in stark evidence during the drive but nature’s tenacity is apparent with the sprightly regrowth appearing.
On Mt Buffalo you can enjoy views, walk around the edge of the sheer granite rock faces, rock climb or aDave Chitty of Adventure Guides Australia is a tough bloke who’ll take you through the steps to having the exhilarating experience of abseiling. He’s a local legend.
Later, we cruised slowly through Bright, one of the prettiest towns in Victoria. It really shines in autumn when the host of deciduous trees show their true colours; elms, poplars, chestnuts and scarlet oaks are the star attractions.s some of my companions did – abseil. I didn’t.
Dog day afternoon
The drive took us to Mt Hotham on a crisp, blue sky day. With snow still on the mountain, it was ripe for snowball making. We drove into Dinner Plain, a tiny alpine village that is a great drawcard for visitors to indulge in spas, good restaurants, skiing and the magnificent view across to Mt Feathertop.
Amid the snow gums at Dinner Plain we were treated to dog sledding. There was an excitable pack of dogs yelping, and squealing to be let loose to drag the sled. This is fantastic. Three of us piled onto a sled and our dogs took off through the snow. It wasn’t the fastest trip in the world and when I mentioned this I was told that the dogs were a little weary – they had been racing the previous day. Bless their furry paws.
After a brilliant dinner at Graze Restaurant we hotfooted it to our beds at the Snug as a Bug Motel in Omeo, a sleepy town with a faded gold rush past. It’s quiet and quaint, and the motel is excellent value for budget travellers.
Breakfast up the road at Mesley’s Restaurant that lived up to its ‘culinary oasis’ reputation. The big breakfast prepared me for the next adventure. The river.
Linton Harris and partner Tracey Lonard were our travelling hosts and were buttering us up for whitewater rafting. Linton’s business and indeed mission in life is to introduce people of all ages to the joy of whitewater rafting, and to introduce them to the beautiful Mitta Mitta River and the country it inhabits. The river snakes sensuously through the Mitta Mitta Gorge and in parts, collides with rock clumps in the river where it bubbles and boils, and then the fun starts.
Actually the fun starts in the safety instruction, which is thorough and comprehensible. We practised quickly shifting from one side of the raft to the other, in full wetsuit, helmet and life vest – unless you are a lithe individual, you (or to be clear, me) get a little clumsy. I learned to paddle like crazy, when to slow down and to take instruction.
We split into two groups and I must confess, armed with my new skills I went for the shorter, easier option on the river.
Nonetheless, another novice and I managed to almost fall out of the raft, came near to passing out with laughter and whooped and hollered when we managed to get through the rocky, foamy obstacles. There aren’t that many and in between we slid gently along a river that seems untouched, with virgin bush along the banks and sheer granite ravine walls. It’s an exquisite spot.
At the end of the river trip my adrenaline was up and the experience had given me a natural rush – and in my world of rush, rush, rush, maybe I found the genuine article.