TWO-DAY ALPINE LOOP

In Victoria, motorists are suffering increasingly restrictive, ridiculous speed limits coupled with draconian enforcement for doing nothing more than enjoying a spirited drive on what has previously been deemed to be a perfectly safe piece of road that just might have a few bends in it. There?s unprecedented weekend traffic congestion and then there?s the ever-growing number of lumbering caravans and sluggish SUVs that clog up some of the best driving roads in the state. Driving enthusiasts have now started joining together to organise pre-dawn runs on a weekend as a way of enjoying unhindered drives along some of our more spectacular roads that pass through the closer forests and mountain areas around Melbourne.

Unhindered by work commitments and determined to enjoy some enthusiastic driving, a group of six retired gentlemen from the Sporting Register exercised their sporting vehicles during the working week recently, on two-day romp through Victoria?s high country. Regular participants Glenn Campbell (BMW M3), Ray Youlden (Mercedes C63 AMG), Rob Morley (Mercedes 350SL) and Steve Schmidt (BMW Z4 35i) were joined by Paul Mogensen (Mazda MX5 NC) and Stephen Hoole (Porsche Boxster S).

Smoke from a planned burn mixed with early morning fog, making visibility a bit tricky as we ventured north through the Noojee State Forest to Yarra Junction and on to Healesville for morning tea. Appetites satisfied; it was on to Toolangi using some nice back roads before joining the Melba Highway for the run into Yea. A boring run along the highway through Merton and Bonnie Doon eventually brought us into Mansfield for lunch prior to a magnificent run over the ranges through Tolmie to Whitfield. We then followed the King River north through Moyhu to Oxley before heading east through Millawah and Murtleford to Porepunkah. The twists and turns of Mt Buffalo beckoned, so Ray, who has strong family associations with the mountain, led us on a clear road all the way up to the old Chalet which unfortunately remains closed to the public. After some photos and a look around, it was back down the hill and into Bright for our overnight stop.

Day Two dawned bright and sunny, so after breakfast at the River Deck Kitchen overlooking the Ovens River, it was off to Harrietville and up over Mt Hotham on a road that is simply breathtakingly beautiful, smooth and a delight to drive. It is also Victoria?s highest sealed road reaching a little over 1800 metres in elevation. We caught up to several vehicles on the way to the summit, but each one saw us coming or eventually noticed our presence and pulled over to let us pass. This was really appreciated and we acknowledged their consideration with much waving and tooting of horns as we overtook. After some photos at the village, we headed out to Dinner Plain towards Omeo, but turned off and took the Cassilis Road through an old gold mining area before joining back onto the Great Alpine Road (GAR) at Swifts Creek, where we paused for morning tea. From there we followed the GAR all the way to Bruthen and Bairnsdale before turning off towards Lindenow and Briagalong, stopping at Maffra for lunch. We were dogged by roadworks, rain and caravans after lunch as we passed through Heyfield, Toongabbie, Tyers and Yallourn North on the way to Willow Grove and then home along the Old Sale Road. At several stages the rain was heavy enough to warrant erecting hard and soft tops on the four convertibles, but by keeping moving at a reasonable pace we all stayed dry and left the roofs stowed away.

During the two days we covered 920km. Paul?s 2-litre MX5 blitzed the field in the economy stakes with 6.9 L/100km, next it was the Z4 and SL350 with about 9.3, the Boxster and Glenn?s M3 with about 10, and finally Ray?s 6.2 litre V8 AMG using about 13 litres per 100km. All the cars performed brilliantly and we all enjoyed those fantastic mountain roads that are yet to be afflicted by 80kmh speed limits.

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