OVER several days in March, Buckland and Beyond, a not-for-profit event sponsored by Four Wheel Drive Victoria and supported by affiliated 4x4 clubs, offered guided tag-along tours to a range of Victorian High Country destinations.
Operating from a base in the Buckland Valley near Bright in north-east Victoria, the occasion provided an enjoyable get-together of local 4x4 club members, and it also sought to introduce interstaters and local members of the public to the High Country’s tracks and scenic attractions.
Many attendees at this year’s inaugural outing belonged to 4x4 clubs, and while it might seem unusual that club members would be willing to pay for something they can otherwise do for free within their clubs, Buckland and Beyond offers its own special benefits. For instance, club trips don’t normally provide an elegant meal around a campfire that someone else has cut the wood for. Nor do they take you on tracks closed to the public, or bring along local historians to explain the legends and history of the places you visit.
The Victorian High Country is a place where local knowledge can be handy, as many tracks that start out looking harmless have a sting in their tail. And it’s wise to travel in the company of others – something Buckland and Beyond’s overnight trip into the beautiful Wonnangatta Valley demonstrated. All tracks in and out of the Wonnangatta are steep, so the last thing you want to hear halfway up a climb is a radio message from someone who’s in trouble. In this case, the trouble was a lack of drive accompanied by a sound like marbles in a washing machine emanating from the drivetrain.
Towing a dead 4x4 up a steep track to a point where it can be recovered is challenging enough, but in this instance the beast was a 4500kg Iveco ScrubMaster. Fortunately, two 4x4s joined together had enough grunt to do the job. The ScrubMaster had to be trucked away, and Buckland and Beyond’s experienced trip leaders quickly and safely secured the vehicle. Apart from the ScrubMaster’s demise, the drive from Buckland into Wonnangatta was a delight.
Following high ridgelines near Mt Selwyn through dense stands of tall mountain ash, the occasional clearing permitted panoramic views of forest-clad ranges. Our route then took us across Riley Creek to Wonnangatta Track and a somewhat rough and rocky 300-metre descent to the valley floor. After a very dry summer, the tracks were dusty and there was little water in the river crossings, but with the deciduous trees near the old station ruins just starting to assume their autumnal colours, the vista across this lush valley was spectacular.
Looking at the heavily grassed valley floor surrounded by almost impenetrable mountain ranges, it’s easy to see why Wonnangatta was such a successful cattle property in its day. Surprisingly, being the last day of a long weekend, the valley was all but deserted, ensuring the Buckland and Beyond group was spoilt for a choice of campsite. A secluded grassy bend in the all-but-dry Wonnangatta River near Wombat Gap provided an ideal place to overnight.
Buckland and Beyond also included a day trip to the Mount Wills Historical Area by way of Mt Battery Track from Dinner Plain. Parts of this track are privately owned, but special permission was obtained by the event’s organisers. This visit included a guided tour to a restored engine used to drive machinery at one of the old mines. Now the only remaining engine of its type in Australia, this nearly 100-year-old relic has been lovingly restored and is about to be started for the first time in 60 years.
However, the undeniable highlight of the day was a leisurely lunch in a swank dining room overlooking a lush and leafy garden at nearby Payne’s Hut. The meal was laid out by proprietors Greg and Tess Payne and wouldn’t have been out of place in a top city restaurant.
Lake Cobbler and Blue Rag were among other guided trip destinations. The latter is a must-do, with its 360-degree views and its amazing access track along a narrow ridgeline with precipitous drops off either side.
For four-wheel drive owners who don’t belong to a club and would like to spend a few days exploring High Country tracks they mightn’t be prepared to tackle on their own, Buckland and Beyond provides an opportunity to do so in the company and security of other like-minded people.
It also allows anyone planning a big off-road adventure to obtain a better understanding of the capabilities of their vehicle (and themselves), while seeing first-hand how other seasoned 4x4 owners set-up their vehicles for remote-area touring.
Buckland and Beyond 2016 was an exceptional experience, and the organisers are planning an even bigger and better program for 2017 – one every 4x4 owner should put in their diary.
Buckland and Beyond was based at Beveridge Station campground in the Buckland Valley, 45km south of Bright; which in turn is 300km north of Melbourne and 650km south-west of Sydney.
This event is planned to be held each March.
The registration fee of $60 per person ($5 for children under 15) included a barbecue dinner on the first day of the event. Lunch at Payne’s Hut was $50 per person. Participants needed to be self-sufficient in respect to their own food and water. Bright is the nearest town where food and fuel can be purchased.
Participants are required to make their own camping arrangements. Tents, camper trailers and off-road vans are all welcome. Toilet facilities are provided. However, pets are not permitted.
The organisers ensure all vehicles (and their drivers) on any given trip are capable of the conditions they will encounter. Any four-wheel drive in standard trim could undertake all the trips on the 2016 program, subject to them having a minimum of All-Terrain tyres with 50 per cent tread or better.
Buckland and Beyond
Phone: 0457 641 282
Four Wheel Drive Victoria
Phone: (03) 9857 5209