The Empty Esky Tour, Day 18 – Towong Flat

Day 18 Monday 9/3/20 Burrowye Bend to Towong Flat, sunny mid 20’s

After the rain it was a warm night but very relaxing, the only sound to be heard was a couple of growling possums. Perhaps they were fighting over last night’s rice that had been flung far and wide by the storm.

At sunrise the cows were on the move again and vocal. Like Kergunyah, it’s hard to leave this place too. As I’m cleaning my teeth, Woody calls out that he is “just moving the van off the ramps”. Thanks, I’ve got a mouthful of toothpaste. With my false teeth in one hand, I grip the basin with the other and brace my bum against the bathroom doorway and off we go. A little like waterskiing but not in the river.

We’re seeing the devastation of the fires now. Volunteer Blaze Aid crews are out and about rebuilding fences. The wild bush is burnt and blackened yet farms look green. This is an illusion as wild weeds have sprung up carpeting the paddocks where once lush pastures were. Useless weeds. We marvel at how quickly the government has repaired melted road tar, replaced critical road signs and replaced power and communications.

Crossing the river into New South Wales we check out the Jingellic Camping Reserve which is perfectly situated beside the Bridge Hotel. This is a spot well worth a return visit but not suitable for Toothless’ roof mounted solar panels as it is too shady.

Back on the Victorian side, we stop just down the road at Walwa where we notice that the big old Walwa Pub sells cheese and chicken for bait. We later learn that Murray Cod prefer a good mature cheese. We pay $20 for a $6 slab of drinking water and grimace as drinking water has probably been in short supply here of late. We use the dump point at the footy ground and feed a few carrots to the horses in the paddock. As we wander the main street we meet up with a rather eccentric dealer of Aboriginal art who has an astonishing collection of truly eye catching works. He is quite a character, The Prado’s and I could lose ourselves in here but the others are getting toey.

At the Jim Newman Lookout we get a better handle on the bushfire situation. Already the tourist facilities have been replaced, interpretive signs and gardens too, yet the smell of fire still lingers. A Bogong Moth sculpture reminds us that it is in this region where people once gathered to feast on the large Bogong Moths which are a symbol of summer in Victoria.

A melted sign and charred earth says it all
Bogong Moth sculpture, fuzzy regrowth on the eucalypts behind
Jim Newman Lookout, Tintaldra, Vic

We top up with water at tiny Tintaldra and being early morning the well-known Tintaldra pub isn’t yet open for business.

Farran’s Lookout has superb views of the Murray River with the Snowy Mountains beyond. The lookout structure here is still to be repaired having been damaged by fire.

Farran’s Lookout awaiting repair
Murray River with Snowy Mountains in the distance at Farran’s Lookout
…and looking the other way

We make camp at Towong Flat Campground on the NSW side of the Murray (pronounced Toe Wong). Wide and grassy in a bend of the river beside an old wooden bridge. There’s a grove of Planes and Poplars that must be 100 feet tall, willows dip in the fast-flowing river. This is a fisherman’s haven. The river although normally crystal clear this far upstream is brown and dirty with ash and fire refuse. On the hill across the river several houses have been lost we marvel how they managed to save those that they did.

Towong Flat Campground, NSW
Towong Flat Campground, NSW

Our neighbours are keen fisherfolk from Adelong in NSW, they too were evacuated in fires then came down here to volunteer delivering food parcels. As we watch they catch and return a too small cod and explain the use of cheese for bait.

Paragliders land in the paddock next to us. This is a favourite spot. Toothless cooks lamb shanks in the camp oven. We try to estimate the height of the grove of trees and I marvel at the quality of the light up here.

Today we’ve seen the devastation of the fires. The paddocks now are green after two good drenchings of rain, but of course the green is from weeds not pasture. It’s easy to spot paddocks that haven’t been burnt as they are lush with grasses, daisies and widlflowers. How any home survived this inferno is impossible to imagine yet somehow the firefighters have managed to save many. We feel awful to be witnessing this devastation, twisted sheds, lone chimneys. We feel like gawkers, rubber-neckers yet the government has asked that everyone who can visit these areas come, and spend some money to aid in their renewal. Visit, picnic, stay, spend a few bucks to keep these communities afloat. Our government has copped a fair bit of flack in recent weeks yet the work that has been done here must be praised. New powerlines, roads cleared, repaired and made safe, rest areas rebuilt, burnt signs replaced. We realise how much has been done when we see the damage to lesser road signs that have melted on their poles. We can only guess as to how long it will take for the mountain ranges to regrow as they’ve been under such intense heat that in some parts little remains but blackened trunks and rocks. Here in the river valley the eucalypt regrowth is rapid as is normal for these trees.


Accom $0

Utilities: a drop toilet so bad that the boys won’t go near it, hey that’s the price you pay for serenity

Fuel: $0

Towing Kms: 61Kms

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