Aug 19

In the middle of a cold Victorian winter, I have a week off, so Michael and I headed to the Grampians.  One of my favourite places in the world.

Leaving Caitlin and Tomas at home in Melbourne, with Shadforth Wilbury Sheep tucked away, coffee and stove, we headed westwards, though Ballarat, Ararat and finally Halls Gap.

DSC_4977.JPG It was late in the day by the time we arrived, I could feel the stress melt away as we rounded the bend into the little township.  Halls Gap is a rather timeless place.  It’s pretty much the same now as it was in the 70’s when I first started visiting it.  The little main street has the same shops, although now there is a new area down by the creek.  I’m pretty sure that the same family has been running the newsagency for well over 40 years.

We’re staying at Boronia Peaks Villas.  The one bedroom self-contained unit is a bit tired after years of use, but it’s comfortable and warm.

We made the short trip to Lake Bellfield. Over many years the lake has been fairly empty.  In fact, when Michael and I first came to the Grampians we where able to drive a fair distance into the lake reserve. Now however the lake is full.  The trees that we walked amongst before are now dead and underwater.

The dry lake

 

The full lake

As we walked along the bank listening to the sound of the bush, feeling very satisfied to be among the trees hearing the many bird calls.

DSC_4924.JPG We continued along the road to Borough Huts, there were no campers, we drove around the camping area, watching some wallabies and kangaroos.

The Swamp Wallaby is very distinctive with its dash of red on its head and it’s darker hands and feet.  We watched for a while as the wallaby grazed on the grass, unfussed by the two humans in their little blue car.

A major reason for me coming to the Grampians is mountains.  I like to get to the top of them.  The first was Boronia Peak.  It’s a pretty small peak about a 3 hour walk above Halls Gap.  The track takes us over Fyans Creek, it’s looking pretty disgusting, and we slowly start to climb up and find ourselves on a fire trail that runs parallel to the creek.  It doesn’t take long before we’re diverted off the wide sandy track onto a narrow winding trail that begins to climb steadily upwards. The track is sandy and rocky, behind us is the valley and then beyond that is the Serra Range, as we continue up we begin to head northwards until we get to the end of the little range we’re on.  The track then swings around southwards and we continue to climb.  We’re both not as fit as we’d like to be and the sweat is pouring off us.  DSC_4990.JPG There’s a few other people on the trail, most of them heading down and giving us words of encouragement.  I’m tempted to throw rocks at them.  As we head southwards the view to the east is of Lake Fyans and Stawell.  Mostly farm land.  Gradually the sand gives way to more rocks, less trees and a clay track of red.

Finally we reach the summit and with a spring in my step I jump across the rocks and perch myself on the top and soak up the view.

This is where I need to be.  On the top of a mountain.  Removed from my everyday environment.  I love it.  I catch myself grinning as I survey the view of the Grampians.  I feel I know them so well.  Mount Difficult Range to my north, the Mount William Range to the south, and across the valley floor is the Serra Range and the Wonderland range.  I can see Stawell to the east sitting out among the trees on what seems to be the flat plains of the Wimmera.

DSC_5002.JPG Now for something new.  There is always some place in the area that I haven’t been to.  We visited two places that I hadn’t seen before, both near Stawell, which to be fair is just outside the Grampians, so no surprises that I didn’t know about them.  The first stop was the Deep Lead Nature Conservation Reserve.  This lightly wooded forest has some significant eucalyptus trees.  We did a short walk around the reserve.  The reserve is a place where the locals bring their dogs to roam freely around.  I’m not sure I think that’s a good idea as the area is supposed to have some endangered species and some plant life of interest.

It was a short drive then to another new place for me.  The Black Range Scenic Reserve.  I found this a bit confusing, because I know there is another Black Range on the other side of the Grampians, near Cavendish and Balmoral. This new Black Range is a small outcrop of rocky hills.  Just a short walk from the car park is a shelter. In that shelter is some rock art.  The Aboriginal art is of their god, Bunjil. Bunjil is the creator deity of the Boonwerung people. The age of the art work is unknown and over the years since the Europeans arrived, it’s been painted over and vandalised.  It wasn’t until the 1960’s that a fence was placed around it to offer some protection.

The painting is of Bunjil and two dingoes.  It’s hidden in a small hollow at the base of a huge rock.  It’s unfortunate that it has to be protected by a cage to keep people away.  I did enjoy the moment of gazing at this image that may have been here for hundreds of thousands of years, painted by people who have long gone from this area.

DSC_5005.JPG Leaving the shelter, we headed up to the top of the small hill.  As we walked I caught glimpses of the Grampians out to the west.

Here at the top was another moment for me.  I could see Mount William, the Major Mitchell Plateau  and the Mt William Range. I hadn’t seen this view before.  It was late in the day and a bit chilly.  However, I wanted to sit and look at the scene before me. Again, soaking up the time and the place.  This feels like home to me.

Our evenings consist of lighting a fire in the open fire-place in the cabin, we watch a bit of TV. Sometimes we went out to one of the many local restaurants, and sometimes we ate in. It was always a relaxing end to the days activities.

DSC_5048.JPG A visit to MacKenzie’s falls was in order. It had been a number of years since I’d been there.  We drove over the mountains to the falls.  Much has changed here.  Gone is the little bush track I used to walk along to get there.  Instead we have a big car park with a kiosk, picnic tables and mowed lawns.

We begin the descent into the valley.  I can hear the roar of the water. It doesn’t take long before we are at the base of the falls. Michael takes lots of photos and I explore the area.  As I cross the little creek I stand on wet slippery rocks.  From here, with my face to the falls I can feel the spray of water as it crashes into the pool.  This generates a wind and I’m directly in its path as it comes up from the surface of the water and rushes past me.  A sweet smell, covering me in a fine mist as the trees behind me rustle in this local wind.

DSC_5087.JPG After we’ve been somewhere like this a cup of coffee is in needed.  We drive around and find a scenic spot to set up my little camp stove – a single burner gas ring.  I pop my espresso coffee pot on it and brew up a cup.  This trip we get a locally made small loaf of multi-grain bread each morning.  It’s great for our afternoon snack, lightly toasted and spread with local honey. This little ritual quite often happens as the sun dips below the mountains, so in the cool of the evening, there’s still an hour of daylight left as we huddle together and sip coffee, eat toast and listen to the settling noises of the bush.

While there in Halls Gap I take the chance to do some walking of my own.  Early in the morning while Michael is still sleeping I get up and rug up and walk along the creek.  It’s very cold, sitting on 0°.  There’s frost on the grass and it crunches as I walk over it.  A fog hangs over the mountain tops as the first ray of sunlight hits the red rocky outcrops high above me making them glow.  I’m surrounded by grazing kangaroos, flighty emus and ducks. The air is still with the sounds of kookaburras, galahs and cockatoos.

DSC_5033.JPG This is my spiritual home.  This is where the batteries get re-charged.  My life exists of running from one job to another.  I sit at a desk looking at computer screens, I go home and look at computer screens or watch the TV screen.  I go to bed and read on my tablet, I sit on the toilet and look at my phone.  I’m surrounded by the technology.  I love it.  I really enjoy that.  My mind is continually challenged by what I read and see on my technological devices.

I also enjoy this.  I enjoy being surrounded by mountains, I enjoy the sounds of nature.  The smells of the bush.  I enjoy the sights I see before me.  I am one with the world.  I am at peace.


Michael takes great photos. Be sure to check out the galleries on line. Click any of the photos above to see them in all their glory.

Below are the galleries.

Wildlife – Swamp Wallabies, Emus and Kangaroos

Boronia Peak Walk

Bunjil Shelter

MacKenzie Falls

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Jan 21
  • Michael and I took a four week holiday in August 2011.  We spent our time at Mallacoota in the far east of Victoria.  This is another of my journal entries.  There are others here.

Mallacoota is great during the day, there’s so much beauty all around, but that’s only part of the joy of being somewhere remote.

The world takes on a whole other aspect as the sun sets, and then when it’s dark. We’ve been lucky to be here at a time when the moon is mostly hidden from the night sky. This has let us see some terrific night scenery.

Double Bay Sign

Click to see more great photos by Michael

Let’s start with our trip to the Double Bay nature trail. We’d walked around this very short trail earlier in the day in broad daylight. It’s an interesting walk that follows Double Creek along a valley and into a remnant of rainforest, the track then winds its way upward and into a sparsely wooded area. There’s plenty of evidence of wildlife around. We returned just before the sunset, about 17.45.

We walked around to a seat we’d seen earlier and sat as the sun set and twilight descended. At first it was quiet, but with the increasing gloom the bird life began to settle down for the night. Suddenly the forest erupted into birdsong as each bird laid claim to its roosting spot in the trees. It was near impossible to pick any one bird call among all the sqwarking. The birds were already in the trees when we arrived, so we didn’t get to see to many of them, and those we did were silhouetted against the darkening sky. As it gradually got darker the birds made less noise. The sky was now turning from its daylight blue to black, casting an eerie effect across the forest. The sound of the birds all but dying away was replaced with the noise of insects who starting chirping their nightime songs. Up in the tree tops we could make out a bat flying around in a large circle and beyond that the first stars of the evening began to appear.

All was tranquil now. We sat in the dark listening to the creaks and groans of the forest, until it was completely dark.  There’s plenty of wombat poo around, and I was hoping to see one waddle past, maybe even a possum or small marsupial might scurry along the forest floor.  There were faint sounds, and every now and then, I’d do a sweep of the trees with my torch, but we didn’t say anything apart from fleeting glances of our friendly bat.

After an hour of enjoying this unique experience we grabbed our lights and made our way out.

The Moon

Click to see more great photos by Michael

The night skies here are dark, and it is a great opportunity to get out and do some star gazing. The night we went out at about midnight was cloudless and clear. We headed down to Bastion Point. Nobody else was about, Mallacoota is a real quiet country town in the off season.  The galaxy, and indeed the cosmos was spread out in front of us. From here we are close to the head of the Mallacoota inlet, off in the distance we can see the light house of Gabo Island, we can make out the top of the Howe Range mountains and then the stars.  There’s the sound of waves crashing and every now and then the distinct noise of a hopping kangaroo.  The milky way is in full flight, stretching its hazy light across the sky. I can make out the Southern Cross, which is quite low in the sky, there’s Canopus and Altair. I can make out the constellation of Pegasus and Scorpio. Then the crowning glory of of viewing.  Jupiter.  Low in the eastern sky, the brightest object we can see.  Its just cleared the horizon and is casting its faint, and yet bright light across the water leaving a beam of light  rolling on the waves.  I’ve never seen the beaming light of a planet dance across the water before. We’ve all seen the light of the setting sun or moon across the water, it’s only in a really dark place that you can see reflection of a planet in the water. Simply stunning.

Never to be one far from technology, I have with me my Acer tablet computer, with it I have Google Sky maps, a great addition to star gazing. Long gone are the days of the 1980’s where I had a sky wheel, a cardboard chart to dial up the time of day and time of year to get an approximation of the night sky. Then I’d have to try and handle a torch with red cellophane over the lens to diffuse the light, hold it up to the sky and orientate yourself. Now the tablet app can work out where in the world you are and deliver a pretty good representation of the sky.  I revel in the technology, scanning the night sky with my eyes and comparing it to the chart in my hands.  Finding the names and making out the constellations.  Picking up my binoculars and looking at stars for a different view.

It’s a little damp, and getting a bit chilly.  We have our beanies and gloves on.  The sky is ablaze with light as we talk about our place in this rather overwhelmingly large universe.  It’s a great chance to sit and reflect.

Finally after a couple of hours we called it quits and headed back to the warmth of the inside world, leaving the moon to make its own way across the night sky.


  • Michael takes great photos, be sure to check out his galleries here.

Enjoy these images from his gallery, Double Creek Nature Trail & Gipsy Point.

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Sep 04

Mt Imlay is just over the border and into New South Wales, our pre-reading indicated that it was a hard walk, but the reward was stunning views of the coast and mountains.  The day was postcard perfect, bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky and the forecast for about 20°C

All properly prepared, we jumped in the car and headed off.

DSC_0097.JPG

It’s a quick drive up the highway from Mallacoota to the turn off at Burrawang Forest Rd.  As we drive through the East Boyd State Forest it’s clear that this whole area has at one time or other being logged.  Just to confirm this government has provided us with nice signs that tell us when it was logged, 1977 and 1978.  The natural bush land is growing back, but it’s a slow process and will take many years.  The road is gravel it’s evident that its made for log trucks to thunder along.  Michael’s little Golf manages to weave it’s way over large rocks, deep pot holes and the odd branch.

After 10 kilometres on the beaten track, we arrive at the picnic ground, consisting of one picnic table, a display board and a toilet.  There’s a tank off in one corner for those that forgot to bring water and a little boot cleaning station.

DSC_0098.JPG The information board gave us some additional information about the park, we’re warned to wear good boots, not take children, and be prepared for cold wet conditions on the mountain, even if the weather is fine down here.  It tells us that the lower slopes are 450-500 million years old and was once the ocean floor, the mountain top is much younger, only 350-400 million years, and it is made of much harder stuff.  Not surprisingly the area was (and probably is) also sacred to the local indigenous population, we are asked to treat it like a church,  and to respect and protect the whole area.

We’re looking forward to this walk, even though all the research we’ve done says that it’s a steep and difficult walk.  There are a number of rare things to see here, foremost in our minds is the endemic Mount Imlay Boronia (Boronia imlayensis).  It only grows near the top of the ridge, and it’s just into spring, with a bit of luck we’ll see it flowering.

There’s two other cars in the car park, but nobody else to be seen.  We don our walking boots, pack our lunches and water, Michael readies his camera, I’ve got my binoculars and bird book and plenty of water.

First stop is the boot cleaning station.  DSC_0108.JPG The National Parks are trying to stop the fungus phytophthora cinnamomi from getting into the forest. The fungus gets into the roots and causes them to rot.  The little boot station is a steel construction with three brushes to scrub your boots, two on the side and one for the sole.  Then a chemical solution wash for the soles, just to make sure you kill the little buggers.

We can see Mt Imlay in the distance, it really does loom above everything else in the area.  The first part of the track is wide and scattered with plenty of dead wood, it looks like it was a road once upon a time.  It’s steep, and long, within moments of putting one foot in front of the other my calves are screaming at me, my pulse is thundering making my teeth shake and sweat is pouring out of every pore.  Bent over, with my little back pack on, I manage to tilt my head upwards and can see the track continues to steeply rise in front of us.  We made slow progress.  Really slow.

The track evened out slightly and we found ourselves standing between some Austral Grass Trees,DSC_0113.JPG each tree was between one and two metres tall, and they were in the way!  We had to push our way through their long narrow and somewhat pointy shoots.  For a few minutes it felt like we were in the middle of some African jungle and needed a machete to punch our way through.  A small sign board said that the local aborigines used these trees in many ways, the long stalks made ideal spears after being harden in a fire, the sap was a glue for adhering shell blades to the end of the spears and the dried flower pods were an excellent burning material.  There weren’t any flower stalks visible, I’m guessing that no fires has been through this part of the forest in many years, and the trees need a decent fire to flower.

We now found ourselves in a small saddle that linked the small (but very steep) hill we’d just climbed to the base of Mt Imlay.  We skirted around the edge of the saddle, not dropping to far into the valley.  At times the track became nothing but rocks as we wound our way around, there was a clear drop to the valley floor, and I had the distinct impression that one foot in the wrong place would see me tumble towards the trees far below.  I’m sure it would be a spectacular fall.  The reality really being a knock on the head on some loose rocks that would stop me tumbling in such a spectacular fashion.  Still, the trail headed around the top of this impressive natural amphitheatre,  and shortly we found ourselves at the base of the mountain.  The relatively flat track around the edge had allowed us to recuperate, which was just as well as now the track began it’s slow climb up to the summit.  We could see it, along with the ridge that would get us there and the steep incline that we now had to tackle.

DSC_0129.JPG The forest was now mostly tall Silvertop Ash trees, these magnificent gum trees are covered in dark bark around their lower half, and the top half silver, crowned with a bush of leaves, up to about 30 metres tall, waving in the wind.  It’s quite an impressive sight to look up see a forest of these trees.   Silver ash also makes great timber, the trees grow tall and straight.  We started scrambling over rocks as we headed towards the peak.  It wasn’t too long before we got to the top of the ridge, the hard work was now mostly over.

The tall trees had given way to much smaller trees and shrubs.  The area abounds with a variety of wildflowers, so many colours, purples, blue, red, pink and yellow.

We were now on the razorback ridge.  I’ve seen worse!  The sides did drop away quickly to the valley far far below, but the ridge was quite wide. I can only imagine that the razorback it was named after was quite fat.  To the west was mountain after mountain, tinged blue as they faded off into the distance, to the right was the Tasman Sea, tinged blue as it faded off to New Zealand.  To the north was the peak.

DSC_0245.JPG Here we saw our first boronia, a delicate little white flower. We decided to get to the top and have time for photos on the return trip.  It wasn’t too much longer before we did reach the top.

There, 886 metres above sea level, was the peak.  A trig point marked the spot.  We had got there, the beauty was stunning, if you ignored the huge Telstra installation sitting right there behind you.

DSC_0154.JPG At the beginning of the walk we are reminded to treat this area with respect as the local aboriginal population regard it as sacred.  Bit hard to do with the solar panels, security fence, tin shack and multiple antennae belonging to Telstra, but clearly it’s treated just like a church that also has Telstra installations on the top.  I think the final disrespect is the dire warnings not to cross the fence line, dangerous radiation inside!  The communications array is of course very important.  It forms the last link to ensure continuous sea communication between Melbourne and Sydney for the ships out there on the water.

DSC_0155.JPG The view is simply breathtaking, the waters of the ocean are beautiful as they meet the wonderfully blue sky.  We can see as far south as Mallacoota, just making out the inlet, in front of us is Wonboyn and further north Eden.  The coast gives way to the rolling hills full of their magnificent trees. It’s easy to see why this part of the world has been slow to be ‘developed’ for pastoral needs, it’s remote and wild!  Not to mention hilly.

We eat our prepared lunches, drink some water and take some time to soak up the glorious sunlight, the superb views.  It’s now about 2 in the afternoon as we turn around and head back the way we came.

DSC_0171.JPGThis time the haste to arrive has gone, so we are able to take our time descending, this allows Michael time to snap the photos of the flowers we’d come to see.   Probably not as many blooming as we’d like, another couple of weeks and the area will be alive with the scent and sights of spring time.  The flowers are stunning.  The boronia blooms are a wonder to gaze at and Michael spends a lot of time and clicks of the camera to get some amazing shots.  Be sure to check out the Picasa Gallery.

The sounds of the forest are stunning.  All around us a cacophony of birds sing their tunes to themselves and each other.  We can make them out flying between the trees, but never still enough or close enough for us to recognise.  One call that we did stop to listen to is that of the lyrebird.  What starts out as the shrill call of a forest bird quickly changes to the raucous cry of a galah to a currawong.  A stunning repertoire.  I delight in it’s on-going call and the versatility of it’s voice.  All around us we can see the scratchings of the lyrebird, nothing fresh.  It’s ever elusive.  Lyrebird scratchings are accompanied by wombat poo.  We’ve noticed that the wombats like to poo on top of things.  So you’ll find a nice little pile on top of a log or a rock.  Very neat.

DSC_0283.JPG While the walk up the steep incline had tried our legs, the walk down now tries our balance.  The rocky areas are fine, as we grapple with lowering ourselves down, but the woodland path is downright dangerous.  Many years of leaf litter, twigs and shale make the downward journey very slippery, it’d be even harder if there was any rain! We stagger our way down, trying to keep our balance, and some how manage to get to the picnic ground without falling all the way over.

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Our legs are worn out and aching as we quickly take our hiking boots off, change into a dry shirt.  For all our hard work, we enjoy a really good cup of coffee and a mixed berry muffin each.

As we drive away from the mountain, a cloud descends upon the top.  There are no other clouds in the sky.

 

 

Michael takes great photos, the photos are all his work, check out the whole gallery.

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Aug 16

For the first time in many years, I’ve taken a four week break.

Michael and I considered many places to go, but in the end we decided on Mallacoota, in Victoria’s East Gippsland. [map:http://maps.google.com.au/maps?q=Mallacoota,+Victoria&hl=en&sll=-37.89892,145.054146&sspn=0.009939,0.01929&vpsrc=0&z=11]

14th August

Our first stop was at Metung, about half way to Mallacoota, we stopped at a delightful one bedroom flat called Pelican Perch.  We got in at about 4.00 p.m., unpacked and then took a walk along the board walk into Metung, about a twenty minute stroll along the edge of Bancroft Bay.  The water was pretty murky and for reason unknown there were a few bales of hay in the water.  Probably washed in by recent floods.

We walked passed Legend Rock,a plaque on the wall retells the local Aboriginal story of how greed will be punished1. When the fisherman didn’t share their catch with their dogs,

Legend Rock

Legend Rock - photo by John O'Neil

despite have more than enough, the women turned them into stone. Of course, in true Australian style, there is only one rock left, the others were in they way so they have been destroyed.

We walked into Metung, made a reservation for dinner then walked across to the other side of the narrow peninsula and watched the sun set over Lake King. We watched as a pelican skimmed across the lake so close to the water that it left a little wake as the tips of its wings hovered millimeters above the surface. A helicopter flew over us and seem to land close by, perhaps some sort of emergency we thought.  Alas, it seems the owner simply wanted a drink at the pub and flew in to land right next to it!  In the twilight we walked back to Pelican Perch to collect the car and then drive back into Metung for dinner.  We didn’t really fancy walking back in the dark!

Dinner was at Bancroft Bites, a wonderful little cafe with plenty of atmosphere and some funky music.  Duck for Michael and a steak for me.  Yummy.  We spoke briefly with a couple who were visiting from England. He was up for a chat, telling us about his trip and drive from Canberra to Metung, before heading off to the Great Ocean Road.  I like chatting with travelers, it’s good value.

15th August

Next morning we packed up and headed towards Mallacoota, a further 3 hour drive.  Stopping at a few of the towns along the way, through Lakes Entrance (which I’m sure is the best way to do Lakes Entrance) stopping in Orbost for a bite to eat at a local cafe.

We arrived at Mallacoota by about 3.30.  Our accommodation looks out over the Bottom Lake with the Howe Ranges in the background and Rabbit Island just off shore. The place is cozy enough, the view is nice and it’s so quiet!

We discovered the joys of rented accommodation, there’s a nice looking fire-box, loading with wood, but no matches to light it.  There’s a selection of tools to cook with but no can opener, there’s a wonderful array of crockery but no wineglass in sight.


  1. Check out the story on Wikipedia
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