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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.