An Excellent Long Weekend!

On Thursday morning an old mate from Perth, Paul Lawrence (Lorro) flew in to Melbourne, to spend 5 days here ski-ing and diving and generally having a good time. He arrived at 5am (ughh!) and I met him at Tulla and we grabbed his stuff and headed home.

My housemate Richard, also a keen cross-country skier (and importantly, owner of a Land Rover!) was still asleep when we got home to the trip HQ. Lorro and I organised a few things, and then we managed to pry Richard out of his slumber, and get moving. We picked up skis for those two (I have my own) out at Box Hill, and then headed for the hills!

We were planning on ski-ing at Falls Ck and the Bogong High Plains, as I'd been up there before, and it's usually got the best snow cover. The trip up, with three of us crammed in the front of the truck, was pretty good, as much as long drives up the Hume can be anyway. After a while we set up the back as a bed and Lorro had a snooze (he'd flown over on the graveyard flight, all night from Perth).

At about 5pm we got to Falls Ck and parked the truck. I knocked up dinner for the lads (pasta & chilli tomato sauce) and then we threw on the rucksacks and headed off. I know a good snowcamping spot at the start of the Mt Nelse track, which is about 5 km from Falls, and with headlights on the three of us skied out there.

Ski-ing at night when the conditions are good is a magical thing. All you can hear is your skis and your breathing, and the snow sparkles in the light. It's cold, but since cross-country ski-ing is pretty good exercise, you don't get cold (until you stop!). We took about an hour to cover the 5km, set up the tent and I decided that I wanted to sleep outside. The other two slept in hte tent, but not before drinking a cleansing ale, and putting the rest of the beer we'd lugged up there in the fridge.

I lay in my sleeping bag watching the sky, it was a cloudless night, and the view of the stars was magnificent. Every few minutes a meteorite would burn up, and to that view I slept.

As expected, it was cold in the morning, and we all lay in until the sun was high enough to warm us. Lorro had been pretty cold overnight, as his sleeping bag wasn't quite up to the job, but otherwise we were all in good spirits. We knocked off a breakfast, and then packed our packs with lunch and wets, and a good layer of sunscreen, and off we went.

The trail we were on leads up around Heathy Spur and over to Mt Nelse and Mt Nelse North, and that's where we were off to. The snow was soft, almost spring snow conditions, and very nice to ski on.

We stopped for lunch at Edmonson hut, did the usual blister thing, munched on cashews, and then pushed on up to Mt Nelse North. The view from here was superb. IT was clear and we could see all the way to Mt Kosciosko (sp?). Mt Bogong looked icey, and we sat on the summit for a while enjoying the view and contemplating the 400m downhill we'd get to do to get back to the tent! We stopped off at Mt Nelse's summit for a peak-bagging exercise, before Richard barreled off down the hill.

Lorro and I skied after him, and we all met up after a great run down the south slope of Mt Nelse. The rest of the trip down to the hut was fun, the snow was great, and it being almost all downhill, we got back to the tent at around 3.30pm, feeling fantastic. This would have to be one of the best days I've ever had ski-ing. Richard was heard to say "if you whinge about today, you're walking home", or words to that effect. It was great!

We cooked up another big feed of pasta, and then decided that we'd better drink that 2 litres of port, and the rest of the beer while the sun set. As the weather looked like changing, I decided to sleep in the tent, and we all piled in. I lent Lorro some of my spare clothes to sleep in, and we were all warm as toast.

We woke early on Saturday to see ugly black clouds rolling up the Kiewa valley, and a 10-15kn wind. It looked like the weather was going to turn nasty, so we decided to ski back to Falls and play around there a bit rather than stay out in the back country.

We packed everything up, loaded up the rucksacks and off we went.

The trip back was good, although windy over the Rockey Valley Dam, and we stopped off at the Falls Ck Nordic Bowl and played around there for an hour or so before heading off down the road to thetruck.

There's a pub in Ovens called the Happy Valley Hotel, and they do fantastic steaks, right up there with Vlados and LAzars, and that was dinner! (along with a pint or two of Guinness, of course ... it being on tap!). Then, off back to Melbourne, long trip, we're all tired ... and glad to get home at about 10.30pm on Saturday.

Lorro and I were booked on a few dives on Sunday, and we left early on Sunday morning to the dive shop to hire tanks and finalise details. The forecast was for big northerly winds, and that's good for diving outside the heads (which we were going to do, dive the 27m WW1 submarine off Collendina). But, it's not so good for getting boats out through the heads. After we got to Sorrento, we met Warwick from the dive shop, who told us it was cancelled! Bugger! Because it was a big northerly, the Sorrento back beaches were divable (most unusual) so we went for a shore dive on a reef, hunting for crayfish.

It was pretty cold in, and Lorro has an old hood that needs reploacing, so we only dived for about 35 minutes at about 6 metres, and we found a few crays, but the conditions (and our lack of cray-catching skills!) meant that we couldn't get any to take home.

Still, it was an interesting dive, lots of kelp, lots of reef fish.

We then decided to have a dive on the wreck of the Ozone, at St Leonards. We threw the car onto the ferry, and rode across the bay, before I showed Lorro a bit of Queenscliff, Pt Lonsdale and Ocean Grove.

Then down to Portarlington and St Leonards. It was blowing a gale. No dive.

Back to Melbourne, and we had dinner at the Vege Bar and talked about plans to have big holidays in Perth & Melbourne next year, and what we were up to on NYE. I don't normally plan much in advance, but NYE this year may take some organising!

On Monday we had a look at the Cerberus with views to doing a stealthy dive on it, but it was too rough, and Lorro had left his regs back at my place. We retruurned our hire gear and then I took him up to Mt Dandenong and out to Gembrook and Emerald for a look, before dropping him off at Tulla for his flight home.

I had to race hoome, as I had a game of ice hockey at 7pm in Ringwood, and had to battle traffic to get there on time, but motorcycles are good through heavy traffic. We didn't win our game, but I played a pretty good one and was pleased with my performance. After that, my co-driver for the Rally this weekend and I did a few laps of hte GP track practicing pace noting, before I went home and colapsed into a much-needed sleep!

How's that for a long weekend? - I need a holiday!

Copyright Carl Brewer
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