Butcher Country Trip Report
For me, travelling in the high country for more than 20 years, driving Butcher Country is one of those tracks that has to be in your list. I’ve done the iconic tracks but for some reason or another we always have to drive other challenging tracks like Butcher Country.
We really wanted to show that anyone can do the high country, and there is no need to shy away from those harder tracks, no matter what you drive. We had 7 different vehicles on this trip – most did not have lockers, big tyres and every other conceivable bolt-on accessory; correct and careful driving techniques can get you through the tough stuff without damage – and if one person decides to give it a go because of this trip, then we have succeeded in our goal.
The club met at Epsom Bunnings at 6pm Thursday night and drove in convoy up to Mansfield where we grabbed a bite to eat and met up with Rus, Jim and Deb. The trip was planned over the Australia Day long weekend and we were escaping the 40 degree heat of Bendigo to tackle Butcher Country along with some great camping locations and scenic views of the Victorian high country.
After fueling up in Mansfield we headed out to Snakes Reserve on the Mansfield-Woods Point road meeting up with Paul, Fiona and family who had reserved a camp for the club. Camping spots along the Goulburn River were full by the time we got in (around 10pm) so we were lucky to have an area reserved. Being a long weekend it was a popular time for a weekend escape.
After settling in and catching up with a beer someone asked what time it was.. 1am.. think it might be time to get some sleep in because we had a big couple of days planned, and 38-39 degree days forecast.
Day 1 – Snakes Reserve to Macalister River
We were up early on Friday morning, as everyone was keen to hit the tracks, we headed off at 8.30am and started on Snake Edwards Divide Track and our first creek crossing over the Goulburn River, which was shallow and rocky but can be very deep after rain. Snake Edwards was easy going, and then Holylands Link Track which has some nice down hill parts ending with a very steep descent back across the Goulburn River again. The track had a good surface – steep and lots of fun with first gear low and hard on the brakes for the last steep bit.
Lazarinis Spur Track had 2 river crossings at the start and then climbs steeply over a few rock steps. The drive is reasonable easy and then the track flattens out across the spur with some nice views. We took a short side trip to check out crows hut, which was a little hard to find (there is a rough track about 2 kms from the Heyfield-Jamieson Rd) and had morning tea at the hut nestled in fairly dense bush.
The track took us on to Heyfield-Jamieson Road where we took N21 Track, it starts out good and then gets steep heading straight down to Middle Ridge Rd and turning right we found a nice spot for lunch on the river (and would have been a great little camp). The track is a bit rutted. From there we kept following Middle Ridge Rd which winds around down across a bridge and then up and around a rocky out-crop with views, and then you get an intersection, turning left onto Bull Plain Road and travelling along to Black Soil Gully Road which is steep with clay sections (and could be slippery after rain).
Getting to the bottom we turned left on to Macalister River Track (short steep sections, following and crossing the river). We found a camp for the night after negotiating several rocky river crossings with a couple of interesting steep exits. We found camp at the 4th crossing, it didn’t take long before we were all in the river enjoying a well deserved swim in the cool water with a beer to get the dust off (it was very refreshing).
By the time we finished our swim it had cooled significantly and we had dinner. A bit of rain came through that evening and more overnight, just enough to settle the dust.
Day 2 – Macalister River to Picture Point
We were up early and on the tracks again at 8.30am, no dust made travelling so much nicer. After another 3 river crossings we got onto the Butcher Country Track, turning right it’s straight up into a steep and rocky climb (with the sun in our eyes). It’s a very steep and rocky track, and picking the right lines allowed us to make it up with relative ease, while having a lot of fun at the same time. We were at the top after about an hours driving, and we took Short track (which meets up with the main track again).
The rest of Butcher Country track has sections that cling to a narrow ridge line with great views down to both valley’s, views of Square Top, Macalister Spur and Mt Clear (1695m). One section of the track was very rutted and we ended up winching 3 vehicles and snatching 1 vehicle over this section. As you reach the final 3 kms of the track it gets muddy and boggy, and could be quite difficult after rain, however we made it through with no problems at all.
At the end of the track you reach Howitt Road, and we took a quick detour right in 2wd to Howitt Hut for lunch. This is where Jim and Deb left the trip and headed home, the rest of the group went back along Howitt Rd and on to King Billy Track, passing the Rock Scree. King Billy turns into quite a rough track, and it’s become very rocky and slow, the track reaches the top at King Billy Saddle, and we turned right onto Bluff Track, which is also now very rocky and slow with some real hard sections.
We made it to Picture Point and set up camp with one of the best views in the whole high country, and with the added benefit of a cooler climate at around 1,500 meters, we enjoyed a nice night around the camp fire.
Day 3 – Picture Point to Sheepyard Flat
We got up early for the sun rise across the awesome views. 8.30am we were on the tracks heading along Bluff Track and stopping at Lovicks Hut and Bluff Hut (where we took a group photo).
Then travelling to Bluff Link track, Paul, Fiona and family left the group, taking 16 Mile Jeep track and headed for home. We went along Bluff Link to Refrigerator Gap where we ended the trip.
Tim, Brett and Steve headed for home via Sheepyards, Andrew and myself went along Refrigerator Gap track and checked out Upper Jamieson Hut, staying another night and setting up camp on the corner of Brocks Road and Low Saddle Road at the bridge. It was a nice relaxing day by the river swimming, as it got very hot that day.
Monday morning saw us heading home via Sheepyards and out to Mansfield. Rounded off at the Golden Square hotel by 1pm for a counter meal to official end the trip.
- Russell (105 Series Land Cruiser)
- Andrew (Mitsubishi Triton)
- Jim and Deb (Jeep)
- Tim (GU Patrol)
- Brett (Toyota Hilux)
- Paul and Fiona (80 Series Land Cruiser)
- Steve (Toyota Prado)