Following on from my explorations of Yangobilly caves I headed up the remote, desolate, gravel Long Plain Road which winds its way north across Long Plain to take you to the wilderness areas including Bimberi Wilderness and Blue Waterholes where I had planned to camp for the night.
Long Plain is a plateau at 1200m elevation but is relatively treeless as it is a frost hollow landscape with cold air subsiding into it from the surrounding elevated areas creating a Cold Air Drainage grassland with an inverted tree line. This plateau is the start of various rivers such as the Murrumbidgee River and is dominated by mobs of wild brumbies roaming freely. Huts can be found on the peripheries of the plateau, mostly facing the north-east to catch the morning sun. Some of these huts are now locations of camping grounds although as is the case in most alpine areas, the huts are not for sleeping in except in emergency conditions.
The first hut and camp ground is on the left, Long Plain Hut, a former homestead, is in great condition and the camp ground appears to have some nice flat areas amongst trees.
The next hut is on the right, Cooinda Hut and also has a nice campground.
But my destination was to take the Blue Waterholes Road, which takes you past Cooliman Homestead where you cannot camp and then onto Magpie Flats Camp Ground and then to Blue Waterholes camp ground. The road is steep in places and after rains even 4WD vehicles will have difficulty getting back out on the slippery steep track. It is not suitable for caravans.
After exploring Cooliman Homestead I parked at Blue Waterholes in late afternoon to embark on my 1.5-2hr 5km return through Clarkes Gorge and hopefully to the Caves Creek waterfall which was said to be “when you think you have got to the end, keep walking a little bit further” – sounds a lot like some Irish directions and which proved to be not that helpful as I got deeper and deeper into long grass with minimal tracks and the ever present risk of a fatal snake bite.
There are 3 main species of snakes in this region – the generally docile Copperhead, the dangerous Eastern Brown and a local species the White-lipped snake of which I know not a lot but it is a small, rarely seen, elapid snake of south-eastern Australia and Australia’s most cold-tolerant snake and which grows to only 16 inches long and feeds almost exclusively on skinks of which I saw many. The first two species can give a fatal bite if you cannot get to medical help with antivenom in a timely manner – and out here, even if one called for help via the radio beacon, it could take many hours before help arrived and delivered you to a hospital – so the key is DON’T GET BITTEN! Hence enclosed shoes and gaiters and the use of my trekking pole to further alert any snake to my presence – the main risk for being bitten is accidentally stepping on a sleeping snake. Most snakes on detecting your presence will slither away to safety. Some people get bitten by being stupid and trying to harass , capture or kill them. That is not me, and killing snakes is against the law as they are protected species.
The gorge is narrow with steep tall limestone cliffs on either side and a crystal clear cold stream at its base – a stream which I ended up having to cross a dozen times and giving my runners and gaiters a thorough soaking, but my trekking pole saved me on many occasions slipping on the very slippery rocks and giving my camera gear an unexpected dunking, or worse, fracturing my ankle – of course I took along my radio beacon EPIRB as there was no way to send for help otherwise and many ways to have a misadventure.
The many dangers and time pressures of night coming and possible storms nearby made the walk an adrenaline pumping affair.
In parts one had to cross the cliff face high above the water with only the occasional foot holes – and on this occasion, a frill necked lizard had decided he was going to block my progress and stand on the only foot hole that would allow me to pass – I had to give him some encouragement to leave his favored position – perhaps a game he plays with every hiker!
Above is the section of cliff I had to negotiate and if one looks closely, one can see the lizard blocking my way.
Frill necked lizard – this family lives at the highest elevation in Australia for such a lizard as it can escape into the limestone caves during winter snows.
Cave creek past the gorge.
I continued on and when I came to this lovely cascade with no evidence of the waterfall and minimal evidence of further tracks I decided to end my trek before it became dark or storms let loose:
After safely returning back and a short drive, I set up my camp site at Magpie Flat and made some dinner with kangaroos watching on. Then as darkness fell had just boiled up a nice mug of tea which promptly spilled onto my lap when a black stallion brumby suddenly announced his entrance to my camp site. Even with my powerful LED head torch, he was hard to see at 30m in the dark – just his eyes occasionally staring back at me … after munching on some grass he was gone.
I hit the sack and quickly fell asleep after my exhausting hike and long day of activities and some 30 minutes later in deep sleep I was suddenly awoken by something breathing on my neck – it was the black stallion back, this time poking his head under my tent fly and inches from my head separated only by the tent insect mesh. When I rolled over to see who is breathing hard on my neck, the stallion was spooked and ran off thankfully not dragging my tent with him. For the next hour as I tried to return to sleep I could hear the brumby mob all around me chewing on grasses.
Finally, I was asleep… only to be awoken at midnight when the moon was setting by howls of dingoes through the night air. This did not help my sleep at all as I felt quite vulnerable in my little tent. Nevertheless with the long day’s drive ahead I forced myself to a broken sleep… broken by the descending cold on a star filled night requiring repeated layering of clothes to keep warm.
Next morning I awoke to the swooping noise of kookaburras flying over my tent, and after a much needed breakfast, again accompanied by kangaroos, I packed my thoroughly wet tent up in the cold fog and headed back up to Cooliman Homestead for some shots before the fog lifted:
Cooliman Homestead given the vintage sepia look.
Brumbies on Long Plain.
All images shot with Olympus OM-D Micro Four Thirds cameras.
And then it was the long 7+ hours drive back to Melbourne via Tumbarumba.
More information about the snowy Mountains and helpful links on my wiki page