Celebrating a Century of Victorian Adventure
Remember that great Rolling Stones hit from the '60s, "You Can't Always Get What You Want"?
Well, at Victoria's Mount Buffalo National Park, someone obviously forgot to tell the people who run the place.
Look around you. Just over to the right, about a dozen or so intrepid hang gliding enthusiasts are preparing their fragile-looking craft for a headlong plunge over the side of a half-mile high gorge. Not far away, her edgy nerves calmed by a patient instructor, a college student from Brisbane is about to rappel for the first time down another face of the same cliff.
Down the road at Lake Catani, a family is lighting the barbecue near the shoreline while their teenage children glide past in a canoe. A photographer is composing a photo of an imposing rock feature called The Monolith with the sparkling waters of the lake providing the perfect foreground.
Over at The Horn, a couple from Hong Kong work their way up over massive boulders to a summit lookout with majestic alpine views. Another couple, meanwhile, is enjoying a relaxing flat stroll past clumps of alpine daisies to the attractive little Dicksons Falls on the edge of the gorge.
So, whether you prefer your day's activities to be heart-pounding or soul-soothing, at Mount Buffalo you can indeed get what you want.
That's never been truer than in 1998, the park's centenary year. Park Victoria rangers have joined forces with staff from the park's accommodation centers, Mount Buffalo Chalet and Mount Buffalo Lodge, to offer a remarkable year-long array of stimulating activities ranging from special nature walks to art exhibitionseven a black tie ball and an outdoor operatic concert.
The action doesn't stop when the warm weather ends. The plateau that forms the bulk of this park takes on a completely different character with the arrival of snow. An enchanting winter playground, Mount Buffalo has been delighting skiers and snow lovers for more than 60 years.
Cresta Valley boasts eight downhill runs served by five lifts. It doesn't matter whether you are a rank beginner, reasonably skilled, or in training for this year's Nagano Winter Olympics, Mount Buffalo has a run with your name on it.
If the gentler cross-country skiing experience is more your style, take advantage of the five and a half miles of marked ski trails. Last winter a family from Perth who'd never experienced snow before spent a delight-filled day skiing amongst the bright orange poles marking the half-mile beginners practice trail at Bogong Plain. Meanwhile at Dingo Dell, youngsters on plastic toboggans squealed with joy as they hurtled down the gentle slopes of the valley.
When it comes to accommodation and services on the mountain, visitors are getting exactly what they expect and want when they stay at the impressive and very historic Mount Buffalo Chalet, or the versatile Mount Buffalo Lodge, catering to families and backpackers alike.
Built in 1910, Mount Buffalo Chalet is ideally located for visitors who want to do the park's most popular track, the one hour awe-inspiring Heritage Gorge Walk. Do the walk at dawn, when the sun's first rays turn the cliff face to blazing orange, then reward yourself with a sumptuous breakfast. The buffet lunches and a la carte dinners are equally satisfying.
Nestled in a valley near the park's southern end, Mount Buffalo Lodge (formerly Tatra Inn) is right at the foot of the ski slopes and very convenient to some of the park's most impressive tracks. Like the Chalet, the Lodge also provides everything you'd want in the way of meals. (For more information about accommodation in the national park, call 1-800-037-038.)
Visiting this very special place is not a new idea. Before European settlement, the area was a special destination of the Minjambuta people, who would come up from the surrounding valleys in summer to collect Bogong moths to eat. This was also a time of ceremonies and socializing.
The site was named by explorers Hume and Hovell in 1824. Looking at it from Glenrowan, they thought the mountain resembled a resting buffalo. By the 1850s, with gold fever rife throughout Victoria, the valleys were filled with prospectors, some of whom climbed to the plateau out of sheer curiosity. Local farming families also began grazing their cattle on the high plains in summer. Two esteemed botanists from Melbourne visited the plateau in 1853 and classified many new species, some of which were unique to the Alps.
By the 1880's, Mount Buffalo was being marketed as "the Switzerland of Australia" and several small cabins were erected around the Gorge area to provide rustic accommodation. This was also the time that miners and timber cutters began moving into the area. Reacting to this, the Bright Alpine Club began lobbying State Government to have the core tourism area of the plateau, Eurobin Falls and the Gorge, reserved. Their efforts met with success on 4 November 1898 when 1152 hectares around those two sites was set aside for reservation with the name Wandilgong National Park, one of Australia's earliest. Soon after, it changed to its present name, Mount Buffalo NP.
One of 35 national parks managed by Parks Victoria, Mount Buffalo NP is especially treasured as a classic example of alpine geological formations created over millions of years of weathering and fracturing. The park is also a haven for native animals including swamp wallabies and wombats, birds such as cockatoos and superb lyrebirds, and a rich diversity of summer wildflowers.
The park is a four-hour 200 mile (320 kilometer) drive on excellent roads northeast from Melbourne. For a new free brochure on Mount Buffalo National Park, call Parks Victoria at (03) 13 1963.
Photo copyright © Down Under Answers
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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