Sunday, June 30, 2019

Walhalla Railway Reserve Circuit - June 2019

Nice scenery along the Walhalla Railway Reserve.
What do you know, today didn’t turn out exactly as I’d envisaged! My original plan for today was to head down to the Thomson River near Walhalla after work and check out the Chinese Tunnel and Coopers Creek. Somewhat unusually for me I even went to the trouble of doing a quick interweb search earlier in the week to make sure everything was open, there were at least 3 big bushfires in the area last summer so I was a little concerned that the country might still be off limits. My googling came up blank when it came to restrictions though, so I was mildly confident that access wouldn’t be a problem. Yeah, mildly confident until I’d walked 5 metres from my ute towards the Thomson River Station on the tourist railway, where upon I came across a temporary sign declaring that the Thomson River Trail was closed until mid year as a fish ladder was being built near the Chinese Tunnel, hmm. The mid year timeline gave me some hope though, so I decided to do the responsible thing and push on and see what things looked like on the ground out there!
Setting off this morning things looked promising...
....for around thirty seconds. Hmm, this was less then ideal.

After chatting to some of the volunteer workers as I made my way through the Thomson River Station my hopes were lifted a bit when they said that they thought that the fish ladder had been finished, all good then. Things are a little vague getting through the station precinct on this bit of the walk, the go along here is to stay on the track closest to the river, avoiding all the work sheds and fenced compounds with all the no trespassing and authorised access only signs, it all feels a bit wrong but it’s the right way. Once past the last shed I climbed up onto the old railway alignment and set off towards the Chinese Tunnel…and then almost immediately climbed again following a foot track as it climbed around the head of a gully to avoid an unsafe old railway bridge.
Thomson River Railway Bridge.
After getting through the station precinct I climbed around the head of a gully on this walking track.
The track by-passes this old bridge.
Once around the old bridge picked up the railway alignment again and started to make some forward progress. As you’d assume this old railway formation makes for very easy walking as it contours its way around the steep hillsides high above the Thomson River. The forest along here alternating between dry Eucalyptus with a fairly open understory on the northern aspects mixed in with damp forest and a lush understory where the track contoured in and out of the gullies. It didn’t take me long and I started to walk through areas that had been torched in the bush fires last summer but things were still looking good as far as access goes, we’ll for around another 5 minutes anyway! Rounding a corner I came across a safety fence that seemed to stretch on for ever, now normally I can be a little caviller when it comes to this kind of thing but the amount of work that must of gone into installing this fence gave me reason to pause….maybe they were fair dinkum? Trudging my way a little further along the old railway my fears were confirmed when I got a look down the steep slopes to the Thomson River and saw lots of heavy earthworks still going on. Scratch the Chinese Tunnel.
The old railway alignment makes for very pleasant walking.
Hmm, this looks serious! 
Looking down to the Thomson River from the old railway...scratch the Chinese Tunnel off today's walk.
The views across to the dry ridges on the other side of the Thomson River are sweet.
Shuffling my way along the old railway towards the old Platina Siding I was now was faced with a pretty short and easy walk if I headed down to Coopers Creek and then returned to the ute. While easy did hold some appeal for my ageing Feral body the effort involved in getting down here really had me wanting a walk that would at least raise my heart rate a bit. In the dim dark recesses of my mind (now that’s a scary place!) I had a vague recollection of reading about a circuit walk leading out from the Thomson River Station and looping up through Rawson before dropping back down again in one of John & Marion Siseman’s old books. Arriving at the old Platina Siding I dropped my pack and had a bit of a squizz at the old Tyrone Thomas mud map I was carrying. Now the mud map I had was dated back to 1998 which was bad enough, but I was thinking Mr Siseman’s old description would of gone back even further than that….and besides the book was safely back at home in my bookcase.
It's not all dry, open forest.
The road bridge at Platina.
If you poke around the old Platina Siding a bit there's a bit of history scattered about the bush.
Platina Siding.
I'm thinking that this open shed at Platina Siding would be welcome on a rainy day.
Of course I did what any responsible walker would do, yes I avoided Mt Thomas’ walk down to Coopers Creek and set off on what I guessed was Mr Siseman’s route. After a close look at the mud map and a scroll through my GPS topo map it looked like I’d found a circuit walk that would eventually drop me back down to the Thomson River a little bit up stream from the station, which may or may not have been the walk that I remember Mr Siseman describing. Avoiding the track down to Coopers Creek I continued on along the railway reserve as it contoured away from the Thomson River into the Nelson Creek Valley, crossing numerous ferny gullies as I made my way to Knotts Siding.
Heading towards Knotts Siding above Nelson Creek the track gets a little damper.
It was a cracker of an afternoon.
There an information sign at Knotts Siding beside the Walhalla Road.
Knotts Siding was the spot that I’d decided to leave the old railway and climb up to the Rawson township, in hindsight this was the least inspiring section of todays walk as I climbed the grassy verge beside the bitumen road. While the walk up to Rawson wasn’t great it wasn’t terrible either, the grassy verge was wide, the road almost deserted and climbing higher the open paddocks allowed for the longest views for the day. Entering the Rawson township I followed a series of back streets as I made my way towards Depot Road. Rawson is like one of those towns that are scattered around Australia in that it started life as a workers town, in Rawsons case the town was built to cater for workers building the Thosmson River Dam in the late 1970’s and early 80’s. The old workers houses now home a mixture of weekenders and local residents.
Climbing towards Rawson wasn't the worst walking that I've ever done.
There is a nice grassy verge to walk on.
Meandering my way through the back streets of Rawson.
After meandering my way through the backstreets of Rawson I successfully emerged onto Depot Road, so far so good, now I just had to find my way back down to the Thomson River. Initially at least all was pretty good as I headed out of town along Depot Road, the road soon changing from bitumen to dirt and them slowly deteriorating into a 4wd track. According to my maps Depot Road would become Old Depot Road and that was the track that should take me back to the ute, it'll all sounded pretty easy…suspiciously easy actually! The first sign that I had that things might not be as straight forward on the ground as they appeared on my maps was when I shuffled passed an extensive trail bike unloading area, speaking from experience when trail bikes are using the forest it normally means numerous tracks heading of into the bush at all tangents, and so it was this afternoon.
Leaving town on Depot Road.
Reaching an un-signposted three way junction I headed down here, keeping to the right of Depot Hill. I'm guessing that this is Old Depot Road.
With numerous un-mapped tracks I was paying close attention to my GPS and the local topography along this section of the walk, so it goes without saying that my sometimes recalcitrant GPS choose this time to drop a cog! Probably because I was keeping a close eye on the topography and direction that I was heading it meant that I picked up the error pretty quickly, and re-booting the unit all was sweet again (check out my map and you’ll see the spot). It wasn’t only that the tracks weren’t appearing on my maps that made things a little vague it was also the fact that none of then had any signposting. I kind of expected the occasional un-mapped track but I was thinking that the one track that was on my maps, Old Depot Track, would of been signposted occasionally.
I stayed right here and kept descending. 
Old Depot Track in the late afternoon winters sun.
There are one or two switchbacks heading down Old Depot Road.
Still progress was still being made in vaguely the right direction and the mid winter afternoon was a cracker so really I didn’t have much to complain about. When the track started to drop in earnest I was confident that I’d picked the right route and when the Thomason River valley came into view through the trees I was sure of it. After a switchback the Old Depot Track crossed a damp ferny side gully and met up with a walking track which came in from the left, this is the track that I’d walked on my Walhalla Tram, Train, Trail Walk a couple of years ago. Now I was back in familiar territory I knew that the walk was as good as over, rounding a bend on the 4wd track the Thomson River road bridge suddenly came into view and a moment or two later I was back at the ute taking my boots off.
With the Thomson River Valley coming into view in knew that I was on the right track.
The Pink Heath is out.
There is an old mine shaft right beside Old Depot Road.
The Dirt.
According to my GPS I walked 13.5 kilometres and climbed 288 metres on this medium grade walk. The main issue with this walk was navigating my way back down to the river, there are a lot of un-signposted and un-mapped tracks although keeping a close eye on the map got me back down without any geographical embarrassment this afternoon. When I got home I checked out some of Mr Siseman’s old books and found this walk written up in his Melbourne’s Mountains book, while the book dates back to 1993 the notes are still accurate enough, while a lot of the tracks aren’t on his old mud map they weren’t on my newer GPS topo maps either. This walk features a bit of history in the old railway, river and forest views and the opportunity for a feed or a drink up at Rawson near the halfway point. I’d probably avoid the Depot Road/Old Depot Road section of the walk on weekends and public holidays if you aren’t keen on my two stroke brothers and sisters shattering the peace.

Relevant Posts.
Walhalla Train, Tram Trail Walk, Walhalla Historic Area, 2016.
Walhalla Town Walk, 2017.
Walhalla to Mushroom Rocks, AAWT, Baw Baw National Park, 2017.

The walking track to the Old Steel Bridge meets Old Depot Road here (it's a little overgrown in the centre of the photo).
With the Thomson River road bridge coming into sight through the trees my walk was over.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Ko Samui, Thailand - December 2018

While it was a pretty vanilla day for the most part, the sunset was outstanding.
Our visit to Ko Samui was part of our South East Asian cruise that Sam and I did back over Christmas. at the back end of 2018. The day before this we’d spent checking out the stunning Ayutthaya World Heritage UNESCO site in Bangkok, on what turned out to be a fairly busy 12 hour day. Today things promised to be a lot more relaxed on Ko Samui, we were basically going to a resort to lay on the beach for the day, reading and swimming for a day is right up my alley!
We had another tough day in front of us today.
With a day of swimming in front of us I was pretty happy to wake up to blue sky and sunshine streaming in through our window. After a short tender ride from our ship that was anchored off shore in the Gulf of Thailand, we came ashore at Nathon Pier in Nathon Town. Jumping onto a bus we then headed up around the coast for 25 minutes to the flash Peace Resort, now I’m thinking if you were staying in this resort your day just got a little darker as two busloads of tourists suddenly darkened the doorway to your peaceful resort (well I wouldn’t of been overjoyed, that’s for sure).
Ko Samui from water level.
The Peace Resort had set up deck chairs and umbrellas for the boat people though, and we had our own little slice of the steeply sloping beach reserved for us. We were allowed to use the resorts pool and facilities but weren’t allowed to use the sun loungers around the pool, which was fair enough I think. Now like I mentioned the beach was fairly steeply sloping, it was also fairly narrow as well, so with our sun lounges laid out three deep we were almost blocking off the whole section of the beach. This road block proved a good thing for the numerous beach touts that were plying their trade trade on the sand and they appeared to do a roaring trade with the cruise passengers.
The locals turned up to sell their wares.
This bloke was lugging his collection of inflatable toys up and down the beach.
My back had been giving me a fair bit of grief for the last few days (probably something to do with eating like a pig, sleeping 10 hours a day, laying by the pool and doing bugger all exercise) so I was keen to do a bit of swimming today. The swimming on the ship is really limited to just soaking in one of the pools to cool down, I couldn’t really use them for any real exercise even if I’d felt inclined. Now though I had an ocean in front of me and I made good use of it, spending a lot of time out in the tepid water. Speaking of water it wasn’t your typical crystal clear blue water here, the water was fairly cloudy. It wasn’t until I swam 50 metres off shore to a buoy that I worked out why the water was a bit murky, diving down 3 or 4 metres at the buoy I reached the bottom to find slimy black mud, no wonder things were a bit murky. Thinking about it a little it looks like the slopping sandy beach is reclaimed land, it probably use to be mangroves, the coarse sand has probably been trucked in and doesn’t go too far out into the bay. Unfortunately on our trip through South East Asia we saw a lot of low coastal mangroves areas being reclaimed for development and I guess by us frequenting these spots I’m now part of the problem….?
The swim today did my back the world of good.
The water here is a little on the murky side.
Ko Samui
One thing I need to mention about our day at the Peace Resort was the superb Thai lunch that they put on. While the choices weren’t as extensive as some places we’d visited the Thai food was delicious here, easily the best food we had on our 22 day cruise, if you ever find yourself staying at the Peace Resort in Ko Samui you are in for a treat when it come to the food I think.
Peace Resort, if you are lucky enough to stay here then you are in for a treat when it comes to food I think.
Waiting for our tender back to the ship Sam and I checked out a few of the local fishing boats.
Sailing away from Ko Samui tonight.
All good things come to an end and all to soon it was time to retrace our journey back to the ship. Now while today had been pretty good, in a low stress kind of chilled out way, tonight provided the highlight. After getting everyone back onboard we set sailed off towards Singapore beneath one of the best sunsets on the cruise. It always amazes me on those cruises how few punter bother to go up on deck and check out these sunsets, if they are on deck they are inevitably looking inwards towards the pools, bars, other punters or the big screen and not off the ship at natures show. Today was no exception as we shared the sunset with less than a handful of other guests.

Oh, before I log off, the swimming fixed my back so that was another bonus of our day on Ko Samui!

The Dirt.
Sam and I visited Ko Samui on a Princess cruise. We booked a ship tour called Samui Retreat Resort & Beach Getaway which set us back just under $70 US for the day. I was looking to just chill out on the beach, doing a bit of swimming and reading so I suppose everything worked out as planned. The beach and water weren't exactly what I was expecting but the great Thai lunch was better than I'd imagined, so I think everything evened out, so to speak.

Relevant Posts.
Ayutthaya, Bangkok, Thailand, 2018.

Sailing out into the Gulf of Thailand tonight the sunset was simply stunning.
Sunset, Ko Samui.
Sunset, Ko Samui.
It constantly surprises me how few punters come up on deck to check out those beautiful sunsets.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Mt Timbertop, Mansfield State Forest - March 2019

There are some gnarly old Snowgums up on Mt Timbertop.

The Bluff from Mt Timbertop.
Mt Timbertop is one of those walks that I tend to drive past quite often but never actually get around to stopping and doing the walk. While the climb up Mt Timbertop is reasonably short it is still a tough little walk as there is a climb of over 400 metres involved over a pretty short distance. I suppose that is the reason that I always seem to pass by the track head as I’m either shattered after some far flung epic or I’m preparing to head off on another tough walk and wanting to save my energy a little - hey I’m old remember! Today though there was no excuses really, I’d spent the morning walking along the Howqua River so I wasn’t already rooted tired, the weather was good and I had a fair bit of time up my sleeve.
There is no easing into this walk.
Pulling up at the car park on Howqua Track at Timbertop Saddle I was out of the ute and on my way. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve been up here but after leaving the carpark I was back in familiar territory, climbing steeply up the flanks of the mountain. It looks like the track builders have been busy up here though, instead of the track basically climbing straight up the side of the mountain, it now climbs via a series of seemingly endless switch backs.
The track climbs Mt Timbertop via a what can seem like a never ending series of switch backs.
It was a pretty warm afternoon so I was happy for a bit of shade where I could get it.
Climbing higher I started to get some views down through the trees towards Mansfield.
Initially I was climbing beneath a good canopy of trees so the edge was taken off the afternoon heat a little. After half an hour of sweating my way up the mountain the track suddenly emerged out of the forest onto a grassy shelf and I now had some extensive views to take my mind off the steepness of the climb. Being out of the trees also meant that I was now copping the brunt of the late afternoon sun and there was a bit of sting in it today, although happily for me there are plenty of Snowgums around up here that were giving me some shade.
The Eucalyptus forest is pretty nice up here.
The climb suddenly breaks out of the forest onto grassy shelfs.
I really enjoy this kind of walking.
Mt Timbertop
Apart for making for great walking the grassy shelfs also signalled that my climb was getting close to its end. The final section of my ascent had me climbing up through a band of rock, this is probably the crux of the climb and I suppose you’d call it easy scrambling, although the use of hands was really only for reassurance more than anything else. This track is named Timbertop Track (on some maps) and the track actually continues straight over the summit and down the other side of the mountain to eventually meet up with Doughtys Road. Just before the final climb to the summit I had to avoid a freshly cut track that looked to be contouring the northern flanks of the mountain, which I’m guessing rejoined the summit track on the other side of the mountain…maybe?
I'm guessing that this new track has only been cut in the last year or two.
The older more direct climb is still obvious in spots.
Climbing higher I was into the Snowgums.
Looking back towards Mansfield on my climb.
There is a short, easy scramble through this cliff line.
The summit of Mt Timbertop is really a long crest with a a few high points along it. The highest spot was just as I finished the scrambley bit I think, a spot that is crowned by some very nice Snowgums. It’s worth wandering along the track on the summit ridge of a few minutes as there are some nice views through the avenue of Snowgums that the track passes beneath. The views up here stretch from Mt Stirling all the way around past The Bluff and across to Mt MacDonald, although trees prevented me getting a view of Mt Buller.
Mt Stirling from Mt Timbertop.
The summit of Mt Timbertop.
The top of Mt Timbertop is a Snowgum covered ridge.
I could easily see the burnt country where the Jamieson bushfire went through.
I'm thinking that is Mt MacDonald....although that could be a Feral fact.
Once again the late afternoon sun wasn’t helping my photos to much today. Dropping back down through the small band of cliffs I meandered my way across the grassy slopes to the southern flank of the mountain. The view from down here was arguably better than from the summit itself, Mt MacDonald and The Bluff drawing my eye, as well as all the country that had been burnt in the recent Jamieson Fire. From where I was standing it looks like Mt Sunday might have been torched in this one, so I’m imagining the AAWT will be closed for awhile.
Heading back down the views continued.
The track is a lot easier (and longer) than it use to be.
I'm guessing that this track on the left that looks to be contouring the side of the mountain must rejoin Timbertop Track on the other side of the summit.
I'm thinking that is Mt Clear, although once again I've done zero research into that.
Eventually I decided that it was time to leave my lofty view point and I dropped back down into the tree line. Like my climb early this afternoon, my decent was made fairly easy by the amount of switch backs in the track now, so it didn’t seem long before I spied the ute coming into view through the trees below me in Timbertop Saddle. Arriving at the ute I pulled my boots off and settled in for the fairly long drive home, fairly hot and sweaty but happy enough after another great day out in the bush.
The weather was getting a bit unsettled now (I copped some big storms on the drive back to Melbourne).
Snowgums on Mt Timbertop.
Back in the forest.

The Dirt.
According to my GPS I walked 5.8 kilometres and climbed 415 metres on what I’d call a medium grade walk. Whilst the distance is only fairy short there is a fair climb involved, although now days at least the track rises a little more gently than it use to. This walk is a nice one if you are in the area and have a couple of hours to spare, that said I’m not sure it’s worth going too far out of your way for, although having said that I think a walk up here in the snow could be worth the effort. As far as I know this walk has only been written up by Tyrone Thomas in some of his old books, although his old notes and map don’t accurately reflect the newer alignment to the track. To be honest though you don’t really need extensive notes or good maps to climb Mt Timbertop as the track is obvious.

Relevant Posts.
The Bluff Circuit, Alpine National Park, 2019.
Ritchies Hut Loop, Alpine National Park, 2019.
Rumpff Saddle to Low Saddle, AAWT, Macalister State Forest, 2017.

The late afternoon light wasn't hurting my photos.
Timbertop Saddle has just come into view.

Mushroom Rocks, Baw Baw National Park - June 2016

I mentioned in my last post that I was heading out and doing a snow walk next and indeed that's how it turned out. The weather in Me...