When we went: Sunday April 5
How we got there: We drove up from Melbourne. O’Briens Crossing is about 90 minutes from Melbourne via the M8.
Activity summary: Beautiful wild river walk on sometimes confusing tracks (including a bit of scrambling) followed by a ridge walk with some steepish sections on clear open track and/or 4wd track. We took about 5.5 hours + a stop for lunch. (Note that some of the guides we read described the whole loop as 4 hours – it took us 3.5 hours just to walk the East Walk/river section.)
What we did (the details): We arrived at O’Briens crossing at around 9am, to find the place pretty busy – both with camping and a fair few walkers heading off in various directions. (The site has changed to no-camping site since our visit, not sure how policed that will be.) Despite the bustle at the crossing, we saw no other walkers on our hike.
We headed off along the East Walk track. As it was early Autumn, the river was beautiful, but fairly low. There were a few sections where we walked on the rocky dry river flood plain area – but there were lots of spots where you could see tracks formed for diverting during wet times.
The track started off fairly clearly, but often we needed track markers to help us find the way. The disappearing track wasn’t really an issue – in that you won’t get lost if you keep next to the river – but we wondered later if at some point we were walking on the WRONG track, given that we were fighting the terrain/scrub sometimes, and given that it was supposed to be two hours to the end of the East Walk track and it took us 3.5 hours. When we got to the end of the track and the lunch clearing before the Cowan track turn off there were two track signs with times. An old one said that it was two hours back to O’Briens Crossing – but a newer sign said 3.5 hours. We were left bemused.
Anyway, despite the confusion of trail times, the trek down the river is spectacular. We walked it just as the sun was hitting the west side of the bank, and saw (and heard!) lots of birds in the tops of the trees. We also saw (and heard!) kangaroos on the west bank bounding off through the forest. The place would be magical in the spring.
Another highlight of this section was the most amazingly huge log jam that formed part of the track. I really regret not getting photos of this section of the walk. (Hiking Fiasco has some great photos though, linked below.)
We arrived at the clearing before the Cowan track turn off at about 1pm, and stopped for lunch on the logs laid out for the open campfire spots. As we sat quietly eating, the clearin came alive with bird life. A family of superb bule fairy wrens hopped around us foraging in the leaf litter. White throated tree creepers swooped down and were working their way up the trunks as we watched. An eastern robin appeared off to one site and watched as we ate. This spot was a definite highlight of our walk.
After lunch and a drink, we set off up the Cowan track – and with a bit of huffing and puffing we reached the top off Upsall hill. The forest here is very different in character more open and exposed, less bird life – but we did see a scarlet robin which was a lovely surprise.
Cowans is pleasant ridge walking once it passes the Upsall hill peak, climbing gradually up to the point it meets O’Briens road. A small amount of walking along the road and we found the gate to Short Cut track on the left, and down we head back towards the crossing. And down. And down and down. The short cut track was too steep for too long to be an enjoyable descent. It doesn’t cut THAT much off versus just walking along the road, next time I think we’d probably just walk along the road…
We arrived back at our car around 2:30pm.
We’re still not sure if we followed the right track. 🙂
Birds we saw: White throated tree creepers. Our first! And there were lots of them when we went. What beautiful creatures they are, too. Superb blue fairy wrens, eastern yellow robins, scarlet robin, crimson rosellas (lots!), sulphur crested cockatoos (lots!)
Books: The walk is described in Victoria Top Walks by Melanie Ball (except as noted, we too almost two hours longer that she describes).
Parks Victoria page: http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/lerderderg-state-park
Parks flyer, includes a (slightly fuzzy) map of the walks in the area:
Hiking Fiasco’s blog post on this area with MUCH better photos of the place:
http://www.hikingfiasco.com/2013/09/east-walk-lerderderg-gorge-victoria.html I admit to being moderately relieved that he took a similar amount of time to us. But I *still* think we may have lost the track…