MOUNT BUFFALO PLATEAU

4 Mar 2021

“You really need to trust the engineering!” I said peering through the glass floor of the viewing platform, teetering over the cliff-edge.

We preferred the old Bents Lookout perched up on a rock. We stayed in the, now closed, Chalet in 2004. At dawn, we walked down to Bents Lookout to watch the sun rise over a sea of rose gold clouds. Today were under a another clear blue sky and a gentle breeze. 

The Gorge Heritage Walk followed the cliff edge, down through the forest and into a dramatic gorge. Huge round granite boulders piled on one and other. A tea coloured stream draped around the rocks. 

Information boards introduced us to Guide Alice who lived and worked in this area in the late 1800’s. An etched photograph showed her in her skirts, healed leather boots and large originate hat. I looked down at my Lycra running pants and grippy trail running shoes – how on earth did she climb in a dress and heals?

Today, the Fire Rescue Service Team were training in the Gorge. Friendly uniformed officers clinked past us trust up in their climbing gear. What a brave vocation. 

The track lead around to another precarious lookout Pulpit Rock. Today, there are steps cut into the granite boulders and handrail at the dangerous edge, an easy climb. But we found etched photograph of Guide Alice, in a dress, lying on her stomach looking over the edge. 

We were surrounded by spectacularly steep cliff-faces crowned in Alpine Ash overlooking Ovens Valley. 

Continuing through the forest, Dave sniffed the air. “I love that smell…It smells so sweet! Sweet, buttery, like wattle…summery” 

“Okay it’s time to run!” 

We picked up the pace and settled into a gentle run as we joined the Underground River Track through a grassy forest and down into a gully strewn with boulders. As we approached the bottom of the gully the sound of the river echoed around us, and yet we couldn’t see the river anywhere. 

Dave climbed through a dark gap in the rocks to take a closer look.

“Where are you going?” I called over the noise as he disappeared down into a dark gap in the rocks. We’d just read a sign that said not to go canyoning with less than four people, without the gear or a guide. 

“David Pickvance, I’m telling your Mum – You’re canyoning without the right gear!” I was only half joking. I mean yesterday he poked a Brown snake. 

I scrambled over the rocks to see into the hole. 

“Oh, okay…” He hadn’t gone far. We could see into the space under the boulders where the river was rushing between rocks in the dark, the sound filling our ears.

“We were just taking a sneaky look at the Underground River…” I explained to the a pair of walkers that reached the path, just as we were clambering out from under the boulders. I noticed they climbed straight into the hole from which David emerged.  

Scrambling out of the gully, the path climbed steeply over boulders, tree roots and steps decorated with delicate piles of Wombat poop. Winding around huge boulders the path emerged onto a fire trail leading to the Lake Catani. 

We heard the kids kayaking on the lake before we could see them, their laughter carried through the trees. The Lake was framed with reeds and stretched out to a campground on the far side.  Keeping an easy pace we jogged around the lake, leaving the kayakers behind.

Running alongside Lake Catani

The trail steered us around the lake and opened into a meadow of grasses and wild flowers. 

“Wiggly Sticks!” Dave called out as a reminder. So we slowed and walked through the meadow paying particular attention to where we stepped. 

The Lakeside Track joined to the Monolith Track. It’s sandy path was difficult to run but then turned to a soft green grass as we climbed back through a eucalyptus forest. 

We soon reached the base of the Monolith, with a short but steep climb and then up a ladder to reach the top of the rocky outcrop. 

“What a view!” Dave breathed as I was reaching the stop of the ladder.  Indeed. Expansive views of both the plateau and the Great Dividing Rage. It’s David’s Mum’s birthday today, so he tried to call her from this spectacular spot. (No answer.)

“This looks like a good spot for lunch!” He said pointing to a comfortable looking patch of grass. 

We soaked in the view as we ate: bright red kayaks on the lake, a 4X4 sailed along a winding dirt road, magnificent outcrops of granite, an unusual cloud. 

“Hey look, a Skink!” 

“Are you sure it’s got legs, Dave?” He laughed. “Why don’t you poke it?” The lizard lifted it’s head looking at us, before scuttling back into the shade of a rock.

It was an easy finish to the walk through a forest, around boulders and eucalyptus trees shedding their bark, back to the Chalet. 

The Horn is the highest point on the Plateau and about 13 km further into the National Park. My cousin Woolly  mentioned it and we thought we should check it out. 

The road headed out past the Lake Catani and the spectacular Cathedral Saddle. 

“Wow!” We said in unison as the two towering mounds of granite filled our windscreen. 

“It’s like something extraterrestrial.” Dave said leaning forward and looking up at the formations, while navigating the windy road. 

At Cresta Valley, a broad golden meadow framed by granite hills, a gravel road continued snaking through the fire damaged valley. Soon the gravel road turned to a super fine dust, with pot holes and corrugations.

Dave engaged the 4WD gravel setting and the Everest took the rough conditions in its stride.  I grabbed onto the handrails as we swayed and rocked around the corners. 

“She can take it” I said wobbling against the window.

“I love this car” purred Dave, more than once. “There’s no way we could do this in the Mazda 3!”

The hike to the lookout was only one kilometre – of stairs.  On tired legs we pushed on up the rocky climb, distracted by the landscape around us. 

Bushfire damage had killed off the original Alpine Ash, but they were springing back to life with delicate and colourful leaves everywhere. 

The view stretched 360 degrees and laid out the entire great Dividing Range, so it felt.

‘That’s Kosciusko,” said Dave pointing to the horizon “we were just there”. He dropped his arm around my waist. 

“Wow….we are having a great day!” I said  

“There’s Mount Bogon, but I can’t tell which one is Mount Feathertop” I didn’t think the drawing of the mountains matched the reality close enough. 

It’s a strange landscape. Alien almost. Smooth lumpy granite piles, spooky tree skeletons all black and white scratching the sky. And yet the regrowth softens and brings colour to the place. 

There is nowhere like it. 

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