LE TOUR DES ALPS – 3rd – 6th November

ARTICLE 1.
The 3 lucky couples, Glenn & Pam Campbell, Phil & Judy Barnard and Ian & Carol Mallows who took up the invitation by Malcolm and Anne Irwin and booked early for what promised to be a fun weekend, arrived as planned at the coffee shop in Palmerston St about 9 am Saturday, downed the regulatory coffee and had some small chat with locals and unfortunates who had decided not to come.
About 10 am we departed for the first leg to Maffra along Old Sale Rd, then Willow Grove and Yallourn Nth. Some slight confusion resulted in 3 cars catching the 4th one at Maffra but without too much drama due to the forward planning by Anne and Malcolm to include 2-way radio contact between cars. This became a very handy device through the twisty mountain roads as Anne kept us informed on traffic hazards (slow drivers or oncoming traffic etc).
Ian and Carol discovered on the first leg that the tyre pressures in the Elan were critical to handling twisty roads so a brief stop at Tyres (coincidence) to add some air to the rears and let some out of the front which helped, but did not remove the “white knuckle” experience that was to follow. It became quite obvious that cornering at recommended kph was ok, but when using mph for the advisory signs was a different story. Ian will be arranging some wheel alignment and shocker service before the next trip to the Alps to reduce the over-steer issues.
After a Maffra coffee stop, we proceeded through Stratfordand into Bengworden Rd which is always a pleasant detour off the main highway cluttered with all the holiday makers and their boats or caravans. We stopped at Bairnsdale for fuel then on to Bruthen for lunch at a new brewery/café on the right as you enter the town. Apart from some discussions with the owners as to why anyone over 10 cannot have a Margurita pizza, the meals and service were great and this place will be on our ”must stop” list on future trips through East Gippsland. It was only the knowledge that the winding road to Omeo was beckoning that we departed this fantastic place and turned north on B500, following theTamboRiver. A brief stop at Swifts Creek to stretch legs then turn left to take in the nice road through Cassillis to Omeo which is now sealed and a great road compared to some of the others we encountered, arriving about 4pm.
It was beautiful top-down weather and even though the lush farms of West Gippsland soon disappear past Stratford, the undulating hills and steep gullies with swift flowing water are still pleasant viewing for passengers game to look sideways.
We all showered and rested up till our pre-arranged rendezvous at the Hotel on the hilltop for dinner. It was here that we realized it would have been better to order meals before chatting around the table as the pub was full of locals and visitors due to a wedding at the Grand Central Hotel in the centre of town, and our meal took quite a while to arrive.
Sunday morning we met at Twinkles for a pre-drive coffee then off northwards again along more great scenic roads interspersed with pot holes, to the Blue Duck Inn at Anglers Rest for a brief photo shoot.
From here we followed theCobungraRiverabout 20 km to Shannonvale where we turned off onto a very sharp hairpin lefty and up a steep rise onto theBogong High Plains Roadto Falls Creek. This road is still in excellent condition and apart from a few motorcyclists enjoying the great roads, there were not many vehicles to share the roads with. We stopped for another photo shoot and walked into Wallaces Hut which survived the recent bush fires. What a great place to shelter from severe conditions.
Onwards and upwards to Falls Creek village where we had another rest stop and then began the brisk decent down to Mt Beauty which was surprisingly devoid of the large number of slower vehicles we expected, only the rare bicycle going down as most of them were still peddling up the hill.
We fuelled up at Mt Beauty and enjoyed a light lunch at a near by café ready for the next short leg to the icecream shoppe at Harrietville. From here we traveled up quite sharp twisty roads to the summit of Mt Hotham for a quick look and then onwards to Dinner Plains resort for a leisurely stroll before heading down the hill to Omeo.
Tonight we dined at the Olden Age hotel and even though we ordered early it still took ages for the meals to arrive. Not that this was a problem as we chose to sit outside on the verandah and enjoyed a couple of hours of pleasant chatter.
Monday morning it was coffee again at Twinkles the off back through Dinner Plains,HothamHeightsand down through Harrietville and Bright to Myrtleford for our morning tea stop and refuel.
Ian and Carol detoured through Wangaratta to visit family for lunch, then caught up at Mansfield Motel. The road through Whitfield and Tolmie is another brilliant touring road but keep an eye open for native animals.
The meal and service at Mansfield Hotel was excellent as was the accommodation at the Mansfield Motel.
Tuesday morning we travelled down to Jameison then across the newly sealed and very twisty road to Eildon for a picnic lunch, then onwards to Black Spur Hotel for a coffee break with friends of Malcolm and Anne.
We all said our goodbyes and made our separate way home through a few light showers. We are pleased that the roof didn’t leak and the wipers worked on the Elan.
P.S. I have found that the rubber bushes on the anti-sway bar had disintegrated which would have caused the Elan’s handling issues.
Many thanks to Anne Irwin for the brilliant Rally Guide we were all presented with at the start of this wonderful trip.               Ian and Carol Mallows

ARTICLE 2.
At the outset I must thank Anne & Malcolm Irwin for the detailed planning they put into making this a thoroughly enjoyable and very successful event.
The four couples who participated in this run all met at 9:00am in Warragul at the usual coffee haunt “Coffee Central” on Saturday morning for a quick tour briefing and the distribution of tour notes containing very detailed maps, historical notes on the major towns on the route and travel brochures of the alpine region. Malcolm also arranged for each vehicle to have a ‘walkie talkie’ to facilitate communication as we traveled en route. These were a great addition to keep the group together, communicate rest breaks as well as advising each other of traffic conditions and warnings.
Day 1. Leaving Warragul the group headed the back way to Bairnsdale via Tyers, Heyfield, Maffra (short comfort stop here), Stratford, Bengworden onto to a fuel stop at Bairnsdale. The first trip was reasonably uneventful except for sudden braking and swerving in various directions to avoid running over an echidna ambling across the road.
We took our lunch break at Bruthen and had a very enjoyable meal on the decking of the Bullant Brewery in what was becoming a beautiful sunny day. On completing lunch it was time for the hoods of the roadsters to come down as we headed up the Great Alpine Rd to Omeo. Travelling up this road whet our appetite for the magnificent countryside and driving roads we were to indulge in over the next three days.
Following a brief rest break in Ensay, the group arrived at Omeo in the mid-afternoon allowing time to book into our accommodation and a walk around the Omeo Township. Ending our first day we all got together at the ‘Hotel on the Hill’ for a pleasant meal and good conversation.
Day 2 . The route today was a big loop from Omeo to Falls Creek down to Mount Beauty across to Harrietville up to Mount Hotham & Dinner Plain then finally back down to Omeo.
Once again the weather was just perfect for driving. The views and the roads on this loop were just stunning. On the way to Falls Creek for a coffee break we stopped off to visit ‘Wallace’s Hut’ and one of the many photo opportunities. Lunch was at Mount Beauty before we headed back with driving breaks at Harrietville, Mount Hotham and Dinner Plain.
Notwithstanding the magnificent scenery of this region, the roads are driving heaven, which is why it so popular with motor bikes and car clubs. There was a bit of traffic on the Falls Creek to Mount Beauty leg with a bicycle event and 4×4 clubs but mainly going in the opposite direction, but where there was traffic the use of the ‘walkie talkies’ assisted greatly with safe overtaking manoeuvres and the relaying of impending traffic hazards.
Day 3. Today’s leg was from Omeo to Mansfield via Mount Hotham, Bright and Myrtleford,
Once again the weather was fine and sunny as we departed Omeo for a second indulgence in the exciting drive up to Mount Hotham and down to Bright where we stopped for a coffee and purchase food supplies for a picnic lunch. Refreshed we headed off to our picnic destination located at the idyllic La Cantina winey in the King Valley.  As the roads straightened out and there was more local traffic driving became more sedate and less ‘white knuckled’ as we passed through Myrtleford and Milawa on our way to the winery.
Following a very pleasant lunch the group headed to Mansfield via the Whitfield road which was another driving treat with beautiful country equally matched by the great driving roads. Arriving in Mansfield in the mid-afternoon allowed time to settle into our accommodation, walk around the shopping district of Mansfield and all get together over a bottle of and some local cheese before heading off to the Mansfield hotel for an excellent evening meal.
Day 4. The final day’s route was from Mansfield to Jamieson then to Eildon then to the Black Spur Inn at Narbethong for a final coffee together before heading home.
The day started pleasantly again with a quiet run on reasonably straight roads giving time to soak up the wonderful scenery, arriving in the very beautiful and tranquil town of Jamieson for a comfort break. We next set off for our lunchtime destination of Eildon on a road that has only been sealed in recent times, and it turned to be the perfect climax to the magnificent roads we have driven over the preceding days. I believe this road must put down as a ‘must to be driven’ by any sporting or classic car enthusiast who appreciates winding roads surrounding by the beautiful Australian bush.
Lunch overlooking the Lake Eildon was followed by the final drive to the Black Spur Inn at Narbethong, where we reminisced over the four of great driving roads surrounded by such majestic mountain scenery.
Glen and Pam, Ian and Carol, Judy and Phil thanked Malcolm and Anne for all the planning they had put into organising such a great four day driving event.
My recommendation to all other GSCCR members that if the club organises another event on the roads of this region is to jump at the opportunity, as you’ll be served up with great driving roads, magnificent mountain vistas and excellent camaraderie.
This has been the best multi-day organised driving event that I’ve participated in and would recommend it to anyone.
Phil Barnard

Pictures by Phil and Judy Barnard

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Pictures by Malcolm and Anne Irwin

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