Early winter


Early winter came this year in mid-May. Snow fell here at Spring Spur Homestead and blanketed the paddocks much to Lin and Clay’s delight who both took advantage of the back hill with their snowboards.
The horses were a bit put out though and wondered what had happened to their pasture. Spring is arriving slowly and the “daffs” are blooming and buds are already on the fruit trees. The shaggy coats of the herd are being left in big patches in the paddocks and we are looking forward to riding amongst lots of summer snow drifts this year as it has been an exceptional year for the winter ski season.


Mount Bogong access 2000-2001


Packing-off-FainterThe Mighty Bogong is still on the itinerary for this year 2000- 2001 after a long political battle! Thanks to all the letters of support from so many of you.
The Victorian Minister for Tourism John Pandazopoulos said our issue had attracted more letters than any other in their 9 months in Government. It’s been a long drawn out battle for us though, never knowing from one year to the next if we have access to the “Jewel in our Crown” Mt Bogong and Eskdale Spur.
After 3 months of correspondence from past riders, the replies did not look promising. So the Baird “political machine” went into action. After 3 weeks of intense lobbing of local shire Councilors, the State Government and circulating a petition we were finally granted a meeting to discuss issues. We proposed an alternative route which allows us to continue riding from Taggell point across to the top of Eskdale Spur to Hells Gap and then at the tree line turn right down Granite Flat Spur. The old 4×4 track on Granite flat spur is hardly ever used and we believe this is a fair compromise and will allow the peak riding experiences of Bogong Horseback to continue.
We met with Rosemary Barker, Chief of Staff for Minister Sheryl Garbutt. After a frustrating and sometimes heated debate, we left with an assurance that this year’s permit would be considered. It is now official we have been granted another season to traverse the mountain. A review panel will be set up to decide on our future access. It is critical that this process is a democratic one, something sadly lacking in the past, and that they at least read our submissions and give us a chance to put our case! The Chief Ranger Chris Rose has assured us we will be included in discussions. It would seem we have a long way to go to change the attitude of Park management. There is a place for sustainable tourism. Our rides are low impact and we are continually mindful of sensitive areas. The reluctance of Parks Victoria to communicate their concerns has frustrated our efforts at minimizing impacts. Continued use of Long Spur up and down (shared with public horse riding access) is asking for environmental impacts. A “Guides Only” policy (an issue not yet proposed) not only secures the economic sustainability of tourism businesses and the communities they support but also ensures impacts can be fairly monitored and addressed.


In the Desert




Up the Desert Steve has been driving for Diamantina 4×4 Tours this winter and has been away more than he has been at home. He has seen Lake Eyre full of water and has crossed the Simpson Desert many times.
The Trips he does with Andrew Dwyer are not the usual 4×4 Trips, sometimes following the paths of early explorers on compass bearings and seeing the outback literally off the beaten track. Steve has met many characters; he describes as needing lots of space! Andrew’s outback menu is sensational. Steve has been camp 2nd chef and has learnt some new tasty dishes to try on our high country travellers. Steve is working hard out there driving for miles and then setting up camp as usual, something he is familiar with but at least the 4×4’s stand still when you are loading them!


Weekend packages



Our Long Weekend Riding Packages will offer great riding escapes during the part of the year when we are not running our pack trips. Make your way to Arbie’s lodge on the evening before the ride for accommodation.
Our Long Weekend Riding Packages will offer great riding escapes during the part of the year when we are not running our pack trips. Make your way to Arbie’s lodge on the evening before the ride for accommodation.
We will provide you with a cooked farmhouse breakfast on the following morning from 7am in Kath’s Kitchen at Spring Spur Homestead, before commencing our usual 2-day weekend ride program. The middle night, (Saturday) can be either camping out or Lodge accommodation. After two days of riding, bush picnics and local food and wine, you return to Arbie’s for dinner and another night of lodge accommodation.
Breakfast the following morning will again be at you’re leisure `continental style.’ All in all, 3 nights lodge accommodation (or 1 nights camping), and two days of riding make up our long weekend package.

The men who blazed the track



“And we only ride with the flowing tide
as we follow the blazed line back,
so we drink the toast of the vanguard host
And “The MEN who blazed the Track!””
Will Oglivie: “Saddle for a Throne”
Many roads and tracks we use today have been in existence for more than 140 years. The history of these tracks is itself a history of the great Aussie high country icons, which are the attraction of the experiences we provide.
The first recorded journey to the Bogong High Plains by a white man was by John Mitchell in 1843, who crossed the Murray River near Thurgoona and made his approach up the valley of the Kiewa River in the company of friendly aborigines.
Jim Brown and Johnny Wells, two skilled bushmen, first cut the track from the High Plains to the northeast along the spur, which leads north from Mt. Fainter towards Tawonga. They also pioneered the route that leads over Mt. Hotham into the Ovens Valley and this early track was much used in the early 1850s by gold miners travelling to the Omeo fields.
In those early days Jim Brown and Johnny Wells had the Bogong High Plains to themselves, and they visited every part of it naming most of the prominent features. Mt. Feathertop,The Fainter, The Niggerheads, The Razorback, Blowhard, Bucketty Plain, Rocky Valley, Pretty Valley, The Rocky Knobs and Mt. Jim were all named by the two stockmen. Local cattlemen went on to cut tracks up many of the access spurs to the lush summer pastures, many of which are still used today for the cattle musters.
The Victorian High Country was noted by Hume and Hovell in 1825, and explored by Strezlecki, thereafter travel along the Mitchell and Dargo Rivers and ascend Mt. Hotham. From there he explored the upper Mitta Mitta, Mueller’s Peak and Mt. Kosciusko, thereafter returning via Buchan, the Snowy River and South Gippsland to Melbourne. Thus by 1855 the whole central part of the Australian Alps had been botanically and geographically explored by this “solitary wanderer in the most perilous and lonely regions’ as he described himself. With little equipment he would set out on horseback, accompanied by only two packhorses.
Having actively promoted the extraction of gold in the rugged vastness of alpine Victoria, the Government found its aims hampered by lack of communications and transport routes. Accordingly it fitted out a track cutting expedition to provide permanent ways for commerce through the wild country, and appointed as leader Angus McMillan in 1861.
The expedition cut 220 miles of tracks during its twelve months’ existence, extending from the Wonnangatta to Dargo, over the Snowy Plains to the watershed of the Macalister and Moroka Rivers, and to the Barkly Range at the head of the Goulburn. Further tracks were cut from Dargo to Harrietville, from the Wellington to the Moroka and to the Macalister, and from the Jordan to Mt. Tamboritha.
McMillan carried on to cut the last track in the Dargo area alone, a sick and broken man, but determined to carry out his duties. The end came quickly. His packhorse missed its footing and rolled on him. Mortally crushed, he struggled towards Bairnsdale, but died in Gilleo’s pub at Iguana Creek on 18th. May 1865. Even the high country’s own bushranger played a role in opening the region to European settlement, treading many routes between Gippsland and the Murray as he gave the law the slip. In the course of his profession “Bogong Jack” pioneered numerous routes between Gippsland and the valleys of the northeast. Bogong Jack, whose real name was John Payne, was originally a drover concentrating on the mountain routes between Gippsland and Omeo. In the 1850’s he turned to cattle duffing and later to horse stealing which he found more profitable than droving.
The police eventually captured him but, as nothing could be proven, he was set free. He then retired to his hut near Mt. Fainter and soon after this was not seen again. Whether he turned to gold prospecting or whether he was murdered for the fortune he was supposed to have amassed whilst a bushranger, is not known. Dungey’s track takes its name from Detective Dungey who cut this route in his constant quest for cattle duffers in the 1860’s including Bogong Jack. As early as 1898, organised walks were conducted in the Bogongs. They must have been more like an expedition than a bushwalk. Large organised parties of those times tended to employ packhorses to carry their food, clothing and shelter, and invariably the use of packhorses meant the employment of a packer to manage them. A horse was generally counted sufficient to carry the needs of two walkers, and the packer, often a local cattleman, served as a guide for his party.
Maurice Harkins a member of the Melbourne Walking Club and later Director of Tourism in Victoria established the Skyline Tours under Railways management. These lasted from 1935 until World War 2, and were organised each Christmas for periods of a week to 10 days. They were horse riding and walking trips, provisioned and assisted by cattlemen, and were restricted to all-male parties, generally with a maximum of 25 members.
The trips were quite extensive. For example, the 1935 Skyline Tour started at Mansfield and journeyed towards Wangaratta via Mt. Cobbler, the King River Hut and Bennie’s homestead. All equipment, food, tents and saddles were provided and the initial charges were eight pound ten shillings (8/10/-) for walkers and twelve pound for riders.
The consistent theme running through this rich cultural history of the high country is the reliance on packhorse travel. The mode of transport we employ, the tracks and camps we use, and the types of gear we use are all a continuation of the tradition.

Mount Fainter and Mount Bogong



This year we have designated Bogong and Fainter trips so you can choose which trip you prefer to do.
Both routes offer 5 days of spectacular and varied riding, with a selection of great campsites.
The ride over Mt Fainter travels through the catchment of the West Kiewa River system, which includes up close views of Mount Feathertop, viewed Mount Fainter, The Yitmathangs and the upper reaches of the Cobungra and Bundarra Rivers.
The Mt Fainter ride features some notable cultural heritage sites with visits to beautiful old huts and yards, and usually gold mining, brumby running and cattle duffing places.
The climb onto Mount Fainter climaxes with some of the best views in the Victorian High Country. From Bogong to Buller, from Buffalo to the Bluff.
The Bogong trip is further to the east, and travels through the catchment of the East Kiewa River and the Big River.
This ride includes the highest horseriding available in Australia with a traverse of Mount Bogong massif at Audax Point well over 1950 mts (6400ft). The Bogong ride also features some spectacular tracks, some of them cut 140 years ago for access to remote goldfields.
Many of our adventurers ride both mountains over a couple of year’s period.
However if you are keen to see the lot, then our feature ride this year will be visiting both peaks and some wonderful country in-between. These rides all travel in remote and mountainous country and occasionally itineraries may change on short notice, due to weather, fires, track closures and other unforeseen events. However we do guarantee a spectacular mountain riding experience.
We have lots of new ideas and recipes for the feasts around the campfire, with some wine to be provided with your meals. We are now taking ten riders only, so get in early and don’t miss out.
Shine up those riding boots, harden that rear end and join us for the trip of a lifetime!

The Yiatmathangs



Traditional Aboriginal life in the Alps included an annual migration of some thousands of people from the valleys and foothills up to temporary summer camps just below the treeline.
Its focus was the seasonal harvest of cori, or Bogong moths (Agrotis infusa). The moth season was the focus for great gatherings of neighbouring tribes, summoned by messengers within a range of 160 kilometres. It is possible that even tribes from south Gippsland took part. Five or six hundred people in each campsite would hold corroborees lasting six days before feasting began, when songs were exchanged, trade and initiations would take place and betrothals and arguments would be settled. The early settlers named the Niggerheads because the mountain’s rocky formation resembles an aboriginal head, especially from the West Kiewa River. Although many say the name didn’t intend to be racist one can’t help but to be sceptical given the atrocities the indigenous people endured.
After many years of lobbying, Kath finally succeeded in finding an appropriate name for these majestic mountains near Tawonga Huts. With the support of Eddie Kneebone aboriginal coordinator at Wodonga TAFE, Elder of the Pangarang people of the Goulburn Valley and Sandy Atkinson Elder of the Yorta Yorta people of the Shepparton area, the new name the Yit-Ma-Thangs was born! It is a fantastic name and acknowledges the original inhabitants of the Bogongs the Yit-Ma-Thang people. These people lived all year round in the area and had a gathering of many different clans in the summers to feast on the Bogong Moth. The men would hunt the moth found under rock ledges and shaded areas. Cooking the moth involved searing the wings off over hot coals and making them into patties that could be kept for periods of time. The moth was a very high source of protein and for the indigenous people and was an essential part of their diet.
In the Year 2000 with reconciliation issues so prominent this is a small step in the right direction, finally recognising the original inhabitants existence, with a respectful name for the mountain which may help to rekindle interpretation of their culture and history that has sadly been lost.
The place names committee has accepted the name change after many reminders from Kath and although the process has been slow and sometimes tedious we may be looking at the official change happening soon! The bureaucratic wheels turn very slowly! Don’t we know it!

Accommodation package



What has in previous years been described as a 5-day ride, will now be a 6-night package. You arrive on the evening before the ride for lodge accommodation at Arbie’s Lodge opposite the Bogong Hotel
We recommend a meal at the pub (where a complimentary drink is waiting for Bogong Adventurers with the purchase of a meal) Roi’s Diner is also just across the road and the meals are delicious. The meal the night of arrival is not included in the package but a cheese platter is provided when arriving at Arbie’s Lodge.
A cooked farmhouse breakfast will be waiting for you at Spring Spur Homestead, in Kath’s Kitchen at 7am on the morning the trip departs, before commencing our usual 5-day (or 10 day) ride program. Spring Spur is only a 5 minutes drive (4kl) from Arbie’s Lodge straight down Mountain Creek Rd, turn left into Freda’s Lane and come up the track through two sets of blue double gates. On arrival follow the smells of freshly brewed coffee, home made bread and more!
After breakfast we then prepare you for your pack horse trip — rolling up your bed roll or swag and meet your trusty mountain steed who will carry you through the mountains on your journey of a lifetime!
On the evening of the 5th riding day, we return to the property. A testimonial dinner will be arranged, and it’s time to reminisce and relax with newfound friends in the spacious lounge area or have a quiet beer on the deck overlooking the mountains!
Breakfast the following morning will be provided at Arbie’s `continental Style’ and will be available at your leisure, as after 5 days in the saddle a `sleep in’ is well deserved. All in all, 2 nights lodge accommodation, 4 nights camping and all meals make up our 6-night package.

Staff news 2000



Our youngest son, Clay, and Nerida, who now runs the half-day rides, both went over to the USA this winter to work their summer packhorse season at Rock Creek pack station in California.
Clay has rung home with many stories of bears raiding his kitchen camps, and is giving whip-cracking lessons to the American clients he and Nes are entertaining. The Americans love having the Aussie contingent helping out at Rock Creek.
Mick Griffiths is joining Bogong Horseback this year. Mick is a builder, bull-rider, horseman extrordinaire and his handsome smiling face will be refreshing to see this summer so, girls! Beware!
Wayne is still the reliable jack-of-all-trades around Spring Spur stables and will be on the track this summer.
Lisa is staying on for another year to help Nerida and BHA. She has overcome her shyness and has found her calling. Her gentle manner is a quality the horses, clients and guests respond to. Lisa is hoping to go to America next winter, as is Mick, who needs some horse time instead of being in the building industry.
Clem has stuck with his job in Queensland, working with kids at risk on a station near his hometown of Beaudesert and, I think, has proven he isn’t at risk himself anymore. We miss his wild ways down here in Victoria’s High Country.

Mountain Legends



Bogong Jack, bush ranger, horse thief and mountain explorer is credited with blazing stock routes across the Alps from Gippsland to the Kiewa Valley. He “backloaded” his stolen stock, profiting on both sides of the mountains.
He was last seen at his mountain hideaway, Bogong Jacks Yards on the Fainters, before his mysterious disappearance.
Baron Von Meuller, is greatly respected as an explorer of the High Country, traversing vast tracks of country with his packhorses in the 1850’s. He gathered and identified much of the known native plant species of the High Country, was responsible for the creation of the State herbarium, built the Melbourne Botanical Gardens and was made a Baron for his services to science. It has also been suggested that he was responsible for the introduction of blackberries to the High Country, planting them as a ready source of wild food. Evidently he didn’t foresee that they would thrive so in the mountains.
Eugen Von Guerard made several journeys to the High Country to paint the grand mountain landscapes. To get some idea of how the country looked before the valley’s were cleared, take a look at his “Spring in the Valley of the Mitta Mitta”, housed at the National Gallery of Victoria.