A Smashing Good Time in Castlemaine : Australia Day Weekend

Edith Fullalove & Michael Dale

Thursday 21st January
Thursday: Meredith and Sandy headed up to Mt Alexander, Leanganook Camp ground, to assure we got a good place to camp for the weekend. Thanks ladies.

Friday 22nd January
Meredith had to return to Melbourne to attend to a personal issue and returned to Mt. Alexander with Mike.
Graham, Kerry, Darryl, Alan, Edith and Peter arrived Friday at different times during the day and evening and setup camp.

Saturday 23rd January
Saturday morning started with a 4km walk along the West Ridge walking track, a section of the Great Dividing Trail which links Castlemaine and Bendigo. Meredith ferried everyone who wanted to go on the walk to the chosen starting point (the telecommunications towers which was the highest point of the walk) and the trail would take everyone back to the camp site. While the name of the track suggests a walk along the ridge, it in fact takes you along the side of the mountain, in and out of gullies and scrambling over rocks and fallen trees. It was a great walk, passing Shepherds’ Flat lookout and Dog Rocks.

Paul arrived while we were out walking and set up his tent.

When we all got back from the walk we had lunch and waited for Tim and Jack to arrive and set up.
We then headed out for an afternoon drive, taking in some of the local sights of Mount Alexander. The first stop was Langs’ Lookout (next to the communications tower) which had magnificent Northern views of the area. We then went to the top of an old granite quarry (there are over a dozen quarries on the mountain), and then drove down into the quarry itself for a look around the site and the old abandoned equipment still there.

We then headed to The Oaks for afternoon tea via a track which was a tiny bit overgrown in places which allowed for the adding of memories to some of our cars. We did get out and do a bit of manual pruning of overgrown branches at one point. The Oaks was initially a plantation of Valonia oaks to supply tanning material to local tanneries. However this variety of Oak could not be established due to insufficient draining and a variety of other Oaks were planted (Holly, Cork, English, Algerian and Bristle Oak). The arrival at The Oaks was met with a chatter of talk from a group of Chaffy birds. Meredith and Edith soon managed to silence that racket, with one of their own!

The Oaks

The Oaks

On our way back to camp we had to stop for an echidna that was crossing the road and some good pictures of the spiky ant eater were obtained.




On the return back to camp a little confusion happened for some when Edith and Meredith changed vehicles. Some thought it sounded funny that Tail End Charlie was telling the convoy which way to turn and the directions were being acknowledged by the Trip Leader.

In the evening we had dinner at the Five Flags Hotel in Campbells Creek. Here Stephen joined us.

Sunday 24th January
Sunday morning was an early rise as we had a big day ahead of us. The aim was to make our way along a series of tracks to the Chocolate Mill (just North of Dalesford). One of the trip leaders had procrastinated on exactly which tracks to take due to various reasons (too easy, too out of the way, too overgrown with a 6m tree in the middle of the track!). Finally he bit the bullet and took a gamble on a series of mostly un-named tracks (off White Gum Track) which should provide some interest. In this he was correct!

The first was a bit of a faux pas by the driver of the lead car - their usual roles having been swapped as only Mike knew the planed route and was hence navigating. While climbing a short steep hill the navigator realized the convoy needed to turn right at the top of the hill, and told the driver as much. The driver misunderstood this, assuming it was a directive to move to the right of the track, and thereby taking it as a slight on her driving abilities and the line she was taking, decided to let the navigator know what for. It was alas at this moment that the navigator, not really focused on anything but the map, decided to pass these instructions on to the rest of the convoy. The driver not realising the send button was down on the radio, had a few choice words broadcast to anyone in range of a UHF CB radio!

Never the less the convoy progressed until a track intersection was encountered which was not on the map. This caused a bit of confusion and some scouting. Some errant fence wire was picked up by the vehicles of Mike and Meredith, and Peter and Edith. The later requiring some tools to safely remove it from the underside of the car. Continuing along the un-named track, the intrepid trip leaders finally found their way back to White Gum Track.

The convoy then made their way South along White Gun to Telecom. This was a great track with some nice climbs and descents. Towards the end of Telecom track there was a particularly steep and rocky descent, with each vehicle taking their turn to descend. At some point during the descent we hear Kerry’s voice over the radio, “our oil light has come on”. They made it down to the bottom without incident, and Graham proceeded to investigate the issue. Despite his efforts (and yes the car had plenty of oil in it), the oil light would not turn off. It was decided that Peter and Edith’s Pajero would tow the Outback to somewhere a bit more convenient for further investigation. So morning tea was had on the side of a 2WD road while further investigations were done. This however still amounted to naught and a decision was made to tow them into Vaughan Springs and leave their vehicle there for the rest of the day, and pick it up later and tow it back to camp. It was this towing that allowed Peter and Edith ‘fine immunity’, which as you will read about later, came in handy.

Lunch was had at Vaughan Springs and those that wanted to try out the giant slide had a turn. We then had a group photo around the slide.

We headed out of Vaughan, to Guildford where we climbed up the lookout which had 360degree views of the surrounding area. We then headed to the Chocolate Mill, where it was time for chocolate and afternoon tea. Chocolate was purchased, drunken or eaten or all three. Yummy! The lamington’s that Paul and Stephen had sure seemed rather large.

After leaving the Chocolate Mill we headed into Leslies Road, Sawpitt Gully Road, Porcupine Ridge Road, Helge Track, and Italian Hill Track where we stopped for a second afternoon tea and a play on the hills. It was pick your poison? There were five different hills of veering degree of difficulty for vehicles to be tested on. Lots of dust was produced by all and a fun time as well, “Dusty” (Peter and Edith’s Pajero) lived up to his name on the hills and poor “Shiny” (Stephens silver Forester) got covered in dust. Daryl broke a water bottle on one climb and water poured out his tailgate. We got a group shot with cars and their drives.

 Line up

The Drivers with their vehicles

The convoy headed back into Vaughan so we could get Graham and Kerrie’s car back to camp. At this point Stephen left us to head home. Tires were aired up, Peter and Edith towed Graham and Kerry, while Alan and Sandy went ahead to let us know of oncoming vehicles or road hazards. It was also noted around this time that Paul’s car was making a high pitched noise when breaking and it was nick-named “Squeaky”

Mike, Meredith and Paul picked up some wood for a campfire that evening.

Monday 25th January
The Monday morning saw Graham on the phone to Subaru to sort out his car. The conclusion was that it would be safe to drive into Bendigo to have it checked out. The rest of the group went to meet Martin at Eureka Reef for a walk around the old mining site. The trip leader failed to find the correct turnoff (as about only 1 in 5 streets on his map were signed L) and we had to call Martin for directions.

Martin had downloaded the pod cast of the walk and he was happy to play tour guide. The walk retraces the steps of the diggers who experienced life on an 1850’s gold field. The walk took a little over an hour and was very enjoyable and informative with the audio commentary.

We then headed to the Garfield Wheel which contains the stone foundations of one of the world’s largest water wheels. The 24-metre diameter water wheel had 220 wrought-iron buckets and revolved once every 55 seconds. It was constructed in 1887. Peter managed to climb up to the top of the foundations.


The Foundations of the Garfield Wheel

Tim and Jack headed home, while the rest went back to camp for lunch. We heard from Graham and Kerry that their car was fine, and now with a new name, “Oily”. Paul, Sandy and Alan packed up to go home.

That afternoon it was only Mike & Meredith and Peter & Edith that was motivated to try some tracks. Mike decided he wanted to checkout another un-named track (off Railway Dam Road). This was a nice track that climbed then followed a ridge with spectacular views. We then met White Gum Track and then onto Reservoir Track, followed by Morgan Track. Morgan Track was a narrow windy track, pretty much unmaintained , and at times coming very close to the aqueduct. We stopped for a late afternoon tea and to correlate the GPS coordinates with the map to ensure it didn’t become a night drive. Towards the end of Morgan Track it formed a T intersection that had a large ravine in front of it. To the left it ended up driving down into the ravine, to the right it skirted the ravine and back onto a main gravel road.

We then followed Jacobs Track and found an area that was out of bounds. It contained a large area of toxic mine tailings, with signs saying no swimming or drinking! We caught glimpses of a large body of water, but didn’t have time to investigate a good viewing position. We drove down an un-named side track where we met a gold prospector weighing his finding for the day. He had 0.1 grams of gold, worth about $4 with the current price. We followed this track until it stopped at a shed on someone’s property. The owner came and had a talk with us (very friendly – no issue there). Apparently Parks Victoria had closed the track at his property (no sign of road closure earlier), so there was nothing left to do but back track.

We decided to check on what Graham and Kerry were doing for dinner. They had been sightseeing on their way back from Bendigo. We said we would meet them at a hotel in Castlemaine for dinner. Mike however decided to check out one more track first, The Monk Track. We only had a very short time, so we didn’t explore any side branches.

We met Graham and Kerry just as they arrived at the hotel, which was alas closed. We then went to another hotel in Castlemaine which was also closed. While we were discussing (over the radio) what to do for dinner, a third party recommended the Five Flags Hotel in Campbells Creek. Having been there two nights earlier, it didn’t take much convincing, so we headed there for dinner. Meredith rang them to ensure they were open, and they remembered her from before. So we got a booking and headed there for another great meal in their outside dining area.

Tuesday 26th January: Australia Day
After breakfast we all started packing up. Mike, Meredith, Peter and Edith then decided they had time to go back and look at The Monk Track again. We said our goodbyes to Graham, Kerry and Darryl who were still packing up.

We arrived at the bottom of the track; M & M unhitched their camper for the track. Peter and Edith went up the track to see if the Forester would be able to get up the track. We tackled this track from the other end to what we had done yesterday. At the top Peter had a little accident turning his vehicle around and backed into a broken tree branch, breaking his rear window. We removed all the glass and headed down to the bottom. When we got down M & M helped us cover the window with a tarp. Mike decided he wanted to have a better look, so Peter offered to take Mike up in his truck, and who is Peter to say no when it comes to tracks. It was decided that it wasn’t suitable for the Forester due to a large hole in the track which could not be avoided without driving into an even larger hole. So we then all drove around to the other end of the track and went to the top of The Monk. There you could see the start of the channel that relayed water down to the aqueducts. Peter and Edith came down the hard way and M & M took the easier way back. The camper was hitched up again and we headed off for home.

The unfortunate result of reversing into an over head branch

Trip participants
Michael and Meredith (Forester)
Peter and Edith (Pajero)
Sandra and Alan (Prado)
Kerry and Graham (Outback)
Tim and Jack (Landcruiser)
Paul (Forester)
Daryl (Landcruiser)
Stephen (Forester)


Additional Trip Photos