THE ROOF OF VICTORIA.
ACROSS THE BAW BAWS.
SNOW ON CHRISTMAS NIGHT.
By GEO. R. BROADBENT.
The track across the Baw Baw range of mountains, recently completed by the Public Works department, has attracted a large number of tourists of late, all of whom consider it a picturesque tourists' route, and were agreeably surprised to learn that Victoria possesses such magnificent moun-tain and valley scenery within easy reach of Melbourne. The route proper com-mences at the railway terminus at War-
burton, and ends at Walhalla, a total length of 71 miles. From Warburton, the main Wood's Point road, along the Upper Yarra Valley is utilised for 20 miles, where, at Walsh's Creek (better known, it seems as McVeigh's) the road is left and the new track followed. This track goes up the Yarra practically to its source, and for the first 14 miles the sinuosities of the winding stream are traced by the narrow pathway cut along the hill sides. Grace-fully skirting the miniature spurs it dips into beautiful fern gullies, and crosses clear, rippling rills in their leafy recesses. At the end of this stage (14 miles) is the first shelter shed, or hut, erected by the department for the convenience of tourists. There are in all three of these huts, each containing two rooms. Besides several spring-folding stretchers, each hut contains cooking utensils, cups, plates, knives, and spoons, but no bedding; hence travellers must carry wraps and rugs with them, as the nights are fairly cold. Visitors making use of these tenements are requested to leave the platter, &c., clean for the next comer, and to replace the dry timber in the hut for firing.
A short distance beyond the first hut the Falls Creek is crossed—so called from the several waterfalls which mark its course—and which at one time was thought to be the main stream. There is one large waterfall, and higher, a series of five cas-cades, one above the other, presenting a pretty and fascinating spectacle. A side tract has been cut along the creek for the benefit of those who desire to view the falls closely, and do not mind the extra exertion and time such a climb entails. Further along the main track a very comprehensive view of the falls is obtained, for the path, shortly after crossing the creek, leaves the valley, and climbs a very steep spur be-tween the Yarra and its tributary, and for a distance of five miles the country traversed is particularly heavy. After crossing a ridge the road drops down into the watershed of the Thompson, which flows into the Gippsland Lakes. Climbing out of this valley the rise to the Mount Baw Baw plateau practically begins. The range, generally known as the Baw Baws, con-sists of several peaks besides Mount Baw Baw (5,130ft)—Mount Phillack, the highest by 10ft.; Mount Whitelaw, Mount Erica, &c. — each affording commanding and im-pressive views of surrounding country. We—that is Mr. Claude Hall and myself— had reached the plateau on Christmas night by means of cycles, walking where we could not ride, and utilising the machines to carry spare clothing, sleeping rugs, and food. Up to the first hut we made good use of the bicycles, wheeling about three-parts of the way, but over the next section of 15 miles to the shelter-shed, on the edge of the plateau, we im-proved very little on the pace of a walker. Necessarily matters had to be taken leisurely, the one's energy conserved in every way, while much time was devoted to the superb scenery passed through.
Rising from the Thompson we passed through fern-clad valleys, then miles of wild oats, rising 6ft. to 8ft. high, and most exquisite of all the charming glades of a forest of beech trees. In places it was a veritable fairy land. Yet the expansive views from Mounts Baw Baw, Phillack, and Erica, appealed to us equally as strongly.
Looking southwards, we felt as if we were on the roof of Victoria, and all Gippsland below, a lovely front garden. Presently a misty cloud would float along, sometimes above, sometimes below, and again around us, shading and perhaps showing certain spots the more advantageously, obscuring everything absolutely.
We spent one night on the plateau, stay-ing at the second hut near Mr. Whitelaw's, having left McVeigh's early on Christmas Day in beautiful mild weather, even so early as 6 a.n. We were very lightly clad, and warm enough throughout the day, but towards evening the temperature fell gra-dually, though without affecting us. Soon after gaining the hut, 29 miles, about 7 p.m., the cold increased, and building up a huge log fire we made things as comfort-able as the cold blasts of a high wind which had risen would allow. Donning extra cloth-ing and drawing the stretchers feet-end to the fire, we kept only tolerably warm through the night, for the gale occasionally drove small particles of water between the shingles, giving us a cold spraying. When we arose in the morning the cause was evi-dent. Snow lay thick in every corner and on every ledge, and it was the light flakes which had been driven indoors that preci-pitated themselves on us in cold sprays. Snow at Christmas-time we did not expect, and on commencing our next day's journey we slipped on all our extra clothing, which, with the exercise of riding and walking, kept us at a reasonable temperature, except our feet.
The snow had frozen, and was clinging to the bare branches, which swaying in the wind, rattled down cakes of ice upon us, and for nearly eight miles, to the Mount Erica shelter-shed, we crunched over the snow and ice, walking fully as far as we rode, reaching the hut for a mid-day meal.
Here, we found a man and his three sons encamped. They were on a walking trip and had come from Brighton by the route traversed by us. Their objected was Walhalla, whence they were to retrace their tracks. Here, practically, we were at the end of the plateau, for after crossing a morass we began to descend the face of the mount on a steep gradient. For fully three and a half miles we swung down the track, using the machine as much for balancing as for retarding the pace, as our brakes could be applied whether we rode or walked—a great advantage in cycling through hilly country. After half down the main grade we encountered the "Rocks"—a field of huge fantastically shaped and poised monoliths—through which the track led; indeed there was no other path, and the ground above the "Rocks" is used as a sort of sanctuary for cattle, which are driven to the mount in summer to feed, the entrance being closed with slip-panels. Further below a mag-nificent forest of mountain ash was passed through, the timber being beautifully clean, some of the trees reaching a height of 300ft. After four miles the descent was less steep, and we coasted swiftly down the spurs or swung round the curves at an easier pace. Passing through several pad-docks of bracken and over an undulating section for a distance of two miles, we reached the wonderful valley country for which Walhalla is noted, the town being six miles distant, and over that length we were either descending or ascending steep hills, or threading deep valleys, right into the township. Here we were met by Mr. S. Barnes, of the local Mountaineering As-sociation, who expressed surprise at our getting through with bicycles, and said we were the first tourists to do so. As a mat-ter of fact, we used our machines because we desired to continue the trip further eastwards—to Bairnsdale and the Buchan Caves. The trip across the Baw Baws, though difficult, is a fine experience, though we do not recommend it for cyclists. However, we are fairly well seasoned to rough riding, and can find pleasure in con-templating rugged splendour, as well as
scenic beauty, for
"To him who, in the love of Nature, holds communion with her visible forms, She speaks a various language.
Cycling over the Baw - Baw
To the editor of the Argus
Sir, - In a recent article descriptive of a trip from Warburton to Walhalla via the Baw Baws, Mr. Geo, R Broadbent states that he and his friend Mr. Claude Hall, were the first to do the trip by bicycles. To this statement Mr. George McDonald, whose letter appeared in your Saturday's issue, takes exception, and he claims to have made the journey on bicycle as far back as the Christmas of 1900. It is unfortunate that Mr. McDonald is not very explicit regarding the topography of the region through which he cycled and his statement that "instead of making Walhalla direct, we headed for Aberfeldy, 26 miles north of Walhalla". suggests grave doubts as to whether he ever got into the real heart of the Baw Baws. I take it for granted that if he came up the Yarra Valley to it's headwaters, and , mounting the highlands, continued on to Aberfeldy track, which is crossed by the new tourist track to Walhalla at a point some three mles west of Mount Whitelaw. This is the only track from the so called plateau to Aberfeldy, and if Mr. McDonald followed the same as I presume he must have done, then he could not have got within ten miles of Mount Baw Baw, and consequently escaped the rugged mountainous country, negotiation of which constitutes Mr. Broadbent's claim to the distinction of being the first cyclists to cross the Baw Baws. In any case Mr. McDonald cannot justify charges of inaccuracy of statement on my part, for the simple reason that I merely told Mr. Broadbent and his friend Mr. Hall that they were the first to make the journey from McVeigh's to Walhalla with ( I must not say on ) bicycles. Mr. McDonald, however chooses the rather eccentric method of refuting my statement and claiming priority of honour by saying that he did the same trip on a bicycle eight years ago - at the same time admitting he never got within 26 miles of Walhalla. As a matter of fact at the time mentioned by Mr. McDonald - namely Christmas 1900 - I was camped on Baw Baw, and a week or so later traversed the country between Mount Erica and the trig station - about seven or eight miles of the roughest country a man could possibly travel through. There was absolutely no track, nor had there ever been one, between Mount Erica and the trig station on Mount Baw Baw. The only way of reaching the "trig station" by anything in the shape of a decent track was from the Tangil - the first, I understand that is made to Mount Baw Baw. I feel sure however that if Mr. McDonald saw a few photographs of the so-called "track" between the foot of Mount Erica and the "cairn" on Baw Baw, taken on the occasion referred to, he would never think of making any further claim to having cycled across the Baw Baws during the Christmas vacation of 1900.
Yours S. Barnes Shire President Walhalla Jan. 4.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE AUGUS.
Sir, — Mr Barnes seems to have taken
from my letter a meaning different from
what I intended. He says we were not
within twenty-six miles of Walhalla.
What I wrote was that instead
of making for Walhalla direct we
headed from the plateau of the Baw Baws
for Aberfeldy, 26 miles further north. Mr.
Barnes must, of course, know of the road
from Aberfeldy to Walhalla, but evidently
he thought we did not use it.
I am quite prepared to take his word for
it that the road over the Baw Baws to Wal-
halla is more difficult than that to Aber-
feldy, but that does not invalidate our
claim to being the first cyclists to cross the
Baw Baw Range even though we did not
traverse Mount Baw Baw itself. Messrs.
Broadbent and Hall may be congratulated
on being the first cyclists to make the jour-
ney from M'Veigh's to Walhalla direct, al
though we started from the same place and
reached the same destination, crossing the
same mountain range eight years before.
With regard to the difficulties of the under
taking, I am quite confident that very few
people who saw photographs of the
"track" would admit the possibility of any
one encumbered with a bicycle getting
through it, and I am quite certain that a
horseman would have required to make
very frequent use of the axe to pass the
timber that lay at short intervals across
the narrow shelf that served for a track
along the precipitous slopes. At Aberfeldy
(which claims to be the second highest
township in the state, first honours being
claimed by Matlock, a few miles further
north), the opinion was unanimous that we
would never reach there and a watcher was
stationed at the top of the path leading
up from the Thompson River, to give notice
of our approach so that, on our arrival, we
were met by the whole of the inhabitants