Back at Karoonda Park camp kitchen we were again treated to wonderful hospitality, this time in the form of a big brekkie hosted by the owner Judy and her daughter. We fixed up the tab, loaded up the bikes and headed north up the Gelantipy road towards the Snowy River National Park. Jeff changed over his front brake blocks which was sensible given the amount of long descents and braking we would be doing over the next days. The old ones were…lets just say rooted!!
Jeff’s brake blocks – probably needing to be changed!
The ride out of Gelantipy rises gently through rolling high country farmland with sweeping views of the ranges to the east. We arrived at a place called Seldom Seen where there used to be a roadhouse, which closed, but the owner remained on the property…that is until he passed away more recently. The rumor is that he died due to drinking brake fluid on his way back from Buchan. His house and yard were once spectacular, with shit everywhere, including an impressive bicycle sculpture straddled between two trees – It’s all gone, cleaned up and its even been fenced. His quirky and unhinged collections of random objects are now lost..the likes of which are unlikely to be seen again – Seldom Seen now rings true here!
The now ‘extinct” Seldom Seen roadhouse bicycle sculpture – an image from a previous ride in 2012
At the Snowy River Rd junction we decided to turn right to take the 30k side trip to Little River Falls and Gorge.
Little River Gorge is the deepest in Victoria – with breathtaking views across the escarpment that would rival anything you would see in the Grampians or other iconic Australian (or international) landscapes.
We did the obligatory things that you do in this situation…we yelled cooooeee and laughed out loud at hearing the echo repeat…yep we yelled it again and laughed again (you get the picture!) We piffed a few stones into terra nulla below and yep you guessed it we laughed out loud… and piffed a few more.
Little River Gorge – The deepest in Victoria
Among all the yelling/piffing/laughing we did stop to note a quite remarkable population of a small eucalypt called the Suggan Buggan Mallee – a long way from the mallee lands we thought! It’s a gorgeous plant… and a bit of a treat to see it in the wild.
Eucalyptus saxatilis – the Suggan Buggan Mallee
We rode back to the Snowy River Rd and headed north to Ballantyne Pass and the last serious climb for the day. Just beyond the pass the view to the east revealed the full extent of wilderness associated with the Snowy Mountains…to the horizon was range after range of untouched wilderness.
View from just beyond Ballantyne Pass across the Snowy wilderness
The descent from the top of the range into Suggan Buggan was truly spectacular, the road snaked its way down into the valley wayyyy below…
The tiny white dot in the middle of the pic is Jeff!
As we descended the vegetation changed quite radically – the eucalyptus forests and woodlands at the top of the rise were suddenly replaced with pure stands of Callitris Pines…it was a landscape that looked more like we were in the north American wilderness than in the NE corner of Victoria!
Native Pine – Callitris woodlands
We arrived at Suggan Buggan campsite at 6.30 after what was a pretty long day in (and out of) the saddle. Jeff and Mark had dreamed of getting to Suggan Buggan since they first got their driving licenses – some 20 years later they had indeed arrived…not by car but by bicycle!
Made it to Suggan Buggan!
3 older blokes who had set up camp at the far end of the campsite (probably a tad bemused at the 3 of us turning up on pushbikes!) advised us to “watch out for the meat ants…there’s a dirty big meat ant nest over there” – and indeed there was so we set up our tents well clear of the little buggars!
Our home for the next couple of days – well short of the meat ant nest!
We cooked, ate, went for a little night-time walk and hit the sack at about 10.30.
A day in the life of Suggan Buggan
The day started (and pretty much ended the same) with Jeff feeling crook…really crook! We were not sure if it was the 4 stock cubes and mega serve of noodles that he devoured for dinner the previous night, or if he picked up a bug drinking the water from the Little River falls the previous day. Anyhow Jeff was in no state to ride so we decided that Suggan Buggan was to be base camp for the day – and what an interesting day it turned out to be…
The 3 old blokes who warned us about the ‘meat ants” turn out to be locals and all cousins. Lindsay, Brian and Chris Hodge. Lindsay was born in a place called W Tree, just out of Gelantipy, Brian was Gelantipy born and bred and Chris’s grandmother attended the old Suggan Buggan School House! The trio now live in town (Orbost) and get away camping whenever they can. Lindsay was a plantsman and owned a native nursery for years.
Chris was involved in the restoration of the old schoolhouse that his grandmother attended..he was a proud Suggan Buggan man…
Brian, Lindsay, Chris and Mark (L to R) they sat and yarned with us for a good while.
Aside from the fact they had 4WD’s and a generator and a caravan this felt somehow archetypal…a bushman’s scene…these blokes were tending the fire and yarning over billy tea. This really WAS happening and we were privileged to be able to share such a moment! They headed back to Orbost around mid morning.
Suggan Buggan is reasonably remote…few folks venture this way and those who do seemed all to be interesting people. There were the apiarists who were moving their bee hives from one flowering forest to the next – there was Alex the solo bicycle tourist from Canada who remained a little elusive and stopped for the shortest of chats before tackling the big climb out of Suggan Buggan to the pass and beyond – there was Clive the Pistachio farmer who tracked us down from bicycle wheel marks that Johnno and Mark left on his property earlier after searching (in vein) to see if there were any Pistachios to buy – there was the couple in the flash Iveco 4WD camper who we had been leap frogging for the past few days (we got to know these people a little better over the next day or two) – and then there was Jayson!!!
Jayson was a unit!! He was up here to ‘help’ his dad who was a brumby wrangler (wild horse catcher). Jason rolled into campsite after booz’n and cruz’n his way from south Gippsland earlier in the day – He arrives beer in hand – stops for perhaps half an hour at camp and downs a few more…at one point he asked us “do youse want a beer”. We felt obliged to say yes…it was a bloody hot day too so a beer was actually a very appealing proposition! Jeff still feeling green even felt compelled to partake in the VB on offer.
The wranglers were met by a local farmer Chris, and his entourage of 8 working dogs. It was quite a scene wranglers – horses – dogs – beers – 4WD’s and us with our tiny tents and bicycles! The Iveco van passed by and a few minutes later tentatively made its way onto the campsite. They needed matches, which we helped them out with. The owners of the Iveco were Trevor and Anne Marie, they pointed out that the welcoming party was ‘impressive’ and quite humorous given that there were signs out the front saying no horses or dogs permitted!!!
Jeff was still feeling pretty crook. We were even contemplating how he might get a lift to Jindabyne if he didn’t start to feel better…we were thinking contingencies at this point. One plan (that was never actually in the mix) was for Jeff to jump in with Jayson and the wranglers – Johnno suggested this would be too close to playing out like a scene in the classic Australian novel and movie “Wake in Fright”.
A scene from ‘wake in fright’ – a confronting testimonial to a ‘not quite lost’ culture
Jayson and his mate drove off – crossing the river bed in their 4WD rather than taking the bridge…Our friends in the Iveco had a two way radio and they were listening into Jaysons movements…we found out that later that day he got completely bogged trying to get his 4WD onto a sandbar in the Snowy River. Apparently unperturbed he waded out the island – got out his camp chair and knocked over a few more cans until his dad arrived to winch him out…Ahh Jayson!
The wranglers moved on…as did the Iveco. Suggan Buggan campsite was quiet 3 tents – 3 bikes – 3 blokes – one fire – we had a gentle rest of the day in among the apple box, the callitris and the beautiful Suggan Buggan River!