Otways - 31st January - 1st February, 2004
Saturday 31st January 2004
This was both Henric's and my first trip to the Otways, well at least our first trip off road. I'd been this way many times travelling the Great Ocean Road, but had never really ventured inland, let alone off road inland. So this was pretty much an exploratory trip. We headed inland via Winchelsea and then onto the coast at Lorne. From here we followed the Great Ocean Road to Wye River, where soon after crossing the river we headed off the main road and up a steep narrow residential street climbing the hillside. We then found the start of Kennett Wye Jeep Track.
We continued along the top of the ridge and through a burnt area of forest, soon coming to our first bog hole. We passed through uneventfully and continued on along, soon coming to further bog holes, all traversed without any incident.
As we continued, we passed Wye River Falls, which would have been some 750 metres from the track through the thickets densest impenetrable scrub and bush. There was no obvious walking track or other sign of it's existence, apart from it being marked on the map.
As we neared the end of Kennett Wye River Jeep Track, the bush opened up more and we saw a number of Black Faced Wallabies jump across the track out of our way. We drove to the car part for Mt Sabine Falls. The original plan had been to walk to the falls, but the distance was much further than thought (3.6km, 2.5 hours return), so we setup for lunch and left the walk for another trip. There had been extensive logging on the East side of the road, which though giving views to the sea was a most unattractive sight.
We backtracked along Mt Sabine Road and made our way to Curtis Road, which I had heard much of as a 4WD destination. The track was a bit scratchy at the top of the hill, and the descent down to the river certainly was on the steeper side of steep. Not a track to be happily tackled in the wet.
There was a small river crossing at the bottom of the track across the Cumberland River and the track back out of the valley was of a totally different standard; a 2WD car would be able to pass along easily. We also saw a few more wallabies along the track as we continued our ascent.
We stopped of at the site of the Curtis Homestead, which was a beautiful location; huge trees, lots of greenery and a mystical feel to the area. There was one huge Myrtle Beech tree, and I'd have liked to spend more time exploring the forest here.
We turned off into Thompson Track; the plan being to drive down to Lake Elizabeth. However the side tracks were gated. A number of cars were parked at the gates, indicating walkers had continued on but that was not our intentions today. Thompson Track was a good quality track, pretty well OK for 2WD which travelled through reasonably open Eucalypt Forest.
We found a side track not marked on the map so decided to follow it to see where it went. We were hopeful it was a shortcut to our intended campsite at Lake Elizabeth. It did take us down to the Barwon River, near a small weir. A very scenic, peaceful and isolated place. A Rufous Flycatcher darted in and out between the ferns and down stream, too quick for a clear photo.
We setup camp at the Lake Elizabeth camp ground. This is a very nice campsite with good clean toilets. A few other people shared the site, including a girl from England who was travelling around Australia in a hired campervan. We set up camp, and relaxed under the tarp wasting away the rest of the afternoon. The campfire took a number of attempts to get going with little suitable wood that wasn't damp, but diesel is a wonderful versatile fuel.
Sunday 1st February 2004
In the morning, we headed out on the walk to Lake Elizabeth, which is a reasonable distance from the campground; approximately a one hour return walk. There were a number of birds to be seen along the way as we continued upstream of the Barwon River. The walk was generally quite flat, but nearing the landslip site the path meandered up the mountain side, through tree ferns and amongst the tall timbers. Lake Elizabeth was discovered by an exploratory party sent upstream to investigate why the Barwon River had stopped flowing. Unusually heavy rain in 1952 resulted in a huge landslip which dammed the river creating the remote lake in the Barwon Valley.
We packed up camp and headed down Noonday Track, which is truly a most beautiful track with huge trees and lots of greenery as it gently weaves through the forest. There were a number of muddy bog holes along our journey as we continued along No 1 Spur Track and West Barwon Track. The original plan had been to drive down Fork Paddocks Track, but the only turnoff that appeared to be the right track was too narrow, slippery and included a 1 metre drop off into the river. The track was pretty badly churned up by some true dirt pigs, who we nearly came to grief with as they came screaming up the hill. I was able to stop quickly as they came flying around the corner; the leader however slid right off the track, luckily harmlessly into the long grass on the track verge.
We then visited Stevenson Falls, an easy walk from the car park to the base of the falls which were in good flow. We found a nice spot along the Gellibrand River for lunch and then turned off the main road onto a 4WD side track up the hill side. We explored around the forests, basically doing a loop along Upper Gellibrand Road, Bridge Track and Sayers Track which with some very tight manoeuvres between trees on slippery mud brought us back near the falls. The campsite here was quite popular, with new toilets and large trees to provide shade in summer. Time was against us now, so we headed on home uneventfully through Forrest and back along the freeway.