Book 12 – Omeo to Healsville and the end!

We had a week off in Omeo at the lovely caravan park. We re-shod ponies, went to the Omeo show which happened to be on, were looked after by Sandi and Lou and the rest of the campers at the caravan park! A special thank you to the lions club from Trafalgar who looked after us so well, and even invited us over for a coffee on our way through to Melbourne to do some jobs! They were brilliant and we really enjoyed chatting and learning from them. We had Mal and Shirley and some family arrive and it was nice to have some backup and company for a while!

We got everything sorted and packed, backup vehicle supplied with REAL food and took off into book 12. Thanks to John for all the advice about the area – it was invaluable!
Short day to Upper Livingstone creek, nice and flat and a stunning campsite with mountains of grass… it doesn’t get much better! Then a small climb up to Dogs grave which was a lovely camp with a hut but didn’t have a lot of grass…. its amazing how good having hay in the vehicle feels 🙂
The next day was a little more challenging as we dropped down into the upper Dargo river – the motor home got to the bottom of the hill in a cloud of smoke from the brakes but survived – lucky it didn’t have to come down the stock route as it dropped off the side of the hill – it would have been a quick trip down! The trail then wound along the river – a lovely ride, but beware of the 4WDs and motorbikes on the road! Camp was another good one, great grass and water, so we took the chance to have a rest day and fill up the horses as we had heard from here, the feed gets poor. I could think of worse things that sitting in the bush, with good company, reading a book!
Mal and Shirley left us as we headed onto proper 4WD tracks, but we would see them later on again down the trail! The day across to Talbotville the boys ate up. A big climb up, then down the otherside, it was our first day with big views of the high country and it was spectacular. We were surprised to find good grass at camp! Another good little camp, National parks Victoria have put a lot of effort and money into maintaining and setting up these great camps. We did a quick reccy of the shortcut which was totally overgrown, so the next morning we set off early as we had 40+km to do, up and over a 1000m climbing, and it was fairly verticle. We hit Wonangatta station at 3pm and we pretty tired from the day. We met lots of 4WDers who were brilliant and pulled over where they could and were always up for a chat! The temps had started to rise and the creek was lovely and cool – the first time I have been able to get fully in the creek since we left!!!
We were due for a rest so the next morning we said goodbye to our backup crew and pottered around finishing jobs. It was very windy and hot all day and into the night. We  knew a cold change was coming – we just didnt realise how quickly it would hit us.
The climb up to Howitts hut was a steep and rocky single track, but again the boys showed how fit they were and climbed like champions. It started out warmish, but about 3/4 of the way up, it started snowing. It was so hard I had to put my sunnies on to stop it from hurting my eyeballs! At the top we had 2 choices – camp out on the plains or turn left to head for the hut. Because of the weather, we opted for the hut, and I am so glad we did. When we arrived, we met Julie and her mule who had been stuck there for 6 days already with a stone bruise. We chatted all afternoon whilst we kept the fire going. The poor boys were outside in the wind and the cold, but at least there was brilliant grass to keep their energy up. It would have been lovely for a rest day, but we pressed on to try and get out of the awful weather.
Butchers country spur is a rough little track and we had been told there was no water and we should expect to do 40km. Luckily, Pine Creek was running and there was snow grass, not the best camp, but not the worst and better than doing 40km! Down the spur was pretty rough and I ended up with a bruise on my backside as I hit the deck a couple of times walking down the hill. The McAlister was lovely, but we made a rookie mistake of passing what was a possible campsite – it was a small area but there were no more camps suitable with a horse further down the river. We pressed on to Rumpfs flat, and were rewarded with lots of grass – we later found out that National parks were on strike and not mowing campgrounds…. Lucky for us!!!
After a rest day, we headed off up Lazarini spur. We found middle ridge track and got 750m before it became overgrown and hard work. So we turned around and headed out along the road which was definitely the long way. About 8km from camp we hit the Barkley River Jeep track, which is the rockiest, roughest 2km of the trail. After making our way up it, we came away unscathed – I was suprised to find no cuts on the horses legs at the rocks were pretty sharp. Onto Lazarini spur and found camp, which was awful. Small area, and minimal grass that was underneath weeds, and the camp was 1km down the track in a small spring. Having already done 36km we toughed it out and stayed there, knowing there was grass at tomorrows campsite at Knockwood. After dinner, we were suprised to see Ailenor and her horses with backup arrive! It was lovely to meet her and trade stories! We even had a glass of champagne with her which was fitting, as we hit 5000km that day 🙂
Dropping down Lazarini spur was the day I started loosing things – i left reins on the side of the hill (lucky they ride in a Halter!), I lost my jumper on Mt Terrible, which was not so terrible, and 2 fly masks along the way – It will be like a treasure hunt for Sue and Bob as they come through!!!
Big river horse camp has no grass and bucket water, so we found a campsite to stop for the night. Not alot of grass but the horses scavenged well. We knew it was going to get warm, so we were up at 4, leaving at first light to beat the heat. Lucky we did. We arrived at Royston River to find not one blade of grass – swapped the pack and off we went to Kepples hut. 53km and we arrived to find the grass around the hut had been mowed that day. What were the chances!!!! A lovely little hut not far from Marysville, where again, the picnic table was the mobile phone reception area – if in doubt in Victoria, Stand on a picnic table and you will get reception. It has to be something they have planned!
With no grass for a rest day, we headed into Marysville where we were re-joined by Mal and Shirley with their motorhome and hay! We were tired from the last 3 days, having covered 120km with minimal grass. But the boys proved again how tough they were, maintaining their 5km average for the 120km (that includes all our stops for drinks, wees etc and the hills). Once we hit Marysville, we were able to start relaxing. We had put a finishing date on our trip so family could make it out … we had a week to ride 50km! So we rested, rode 5km to Andersons mill, rested, rode 17km to Jo and John Kaschs where we had such a lovely time and really enjoyed getting to know them and had 2 days off while family and friends arrived. It was so nice to relax before our final day into Healsville.
We woke up on the 12th of December, saddled the horses, then rode off into the early morning. It was 0 degrees on top of the hill and was very cold! My brother, Mal and Shirley walked out with us, then sent us off to finish the day by ourselves. It was a strange feeling know it was our last day on trail, but at the same time it was just another day!
We didnt rush along, and stopped to pack up the packhorse, so our family could see how we rode the whole way. We dropped down the ridge towards the finish line and the temperature started to increase which made us happy! The we wound down to camp where we could hear people chattering away and we knew we were almost there. We popped out to find a group of people waiting for us and we climbed over the finish line (which was quite high!) to greet everyone. I was fine and wasn’t teary until every single person there was choked up and that set me off! It is such a hard emotion to explain – happiness, relief, pride and gratitude towards everyone that helped us along our way, especially towards our boys who had no idea what they were doing, but walked every single day ( mostly without complaint)!!!
The other day I was asked if I was lost without the BNT now we had finished. My answer was no, but I’m sure I will be missing the lifestyle in a couple of months. The trip has been one of a lifetime, and we have thoroughly enjoyed the challenges it has presented. I have learnt SO much, and the trail has changed both of our lives for the better.
We have to thank every single person who helped us along the way, from a smile and a wave, to a hot meal and a shower, to those who did back up for us and those who went way above and helped shift horses and gave us a place to live. The trail wouldn’t have been the experience it was without meeting every single one of you and we are lucky to have made some lifelong friends along the way.
Thank you to the BNT and those who give up their time to volunteer for the cause – the trail wouldn’t be there without you, and all of the help and information is vital to keep the trail open.
At the finish
Julie and Wendy
Howits hut
Butcher Country Spur
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Mc Alister River
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Out of Rumpfs                                              Barklay River Jeep track
Top of the jeep track
Kepples Hut
Feed time
The morning of the last day