I’ve just spent a few days in The Grampian Ranges bushwalking with my friend Bob. These rugged mountains are located to the northwest of Melbourne and are about 49,000 square kilometres in size. The national park there is one of Victoria’s largest. It has over 600km of roads, 200km of walking trails, colourful displays of wildflowers, spectacular scenery and a wide range of opportunities for outdoor recreation. It is home to almost one third of the State’s plant species, including 26 that are endemic, and a large percentage of the State’s animals.
We spent Tuesday morning travelling to Halls Gap, where we had booked a cabin for three nights. I’m sorry it say that we are getting too old to carry heavy overnight packs, although there are really no overnight walking tracks in the area. One is being built from the northern end to the southern end of the moon gains and it will eventually provide a 13 day walk through some of the most spectacular parts of the mountains. We were more interested in doing a number of day walks from a more comfortable base.
After lunch on our first day, we walked down to MacKenzie Falls. This area had been extensively burnt by bushfires over a year ago but the walking tracks have been reconstructed. The only remains of the old kiosk is a single brick chimney that stands on its own in an area that was once surrounded by trees. This area is currently very dry with lots of dry area plants and vegetation. The waterfalls here are the only ones in the entire area that we could find that are flowing. The others that we visited were either dry or were flowing with barely a trickle.
From there, we moved on to a feature known as the ‘Balconies’. These rock ledges are on an escarpment that overlooks the valley to the south of the mountains across to the Moora Moora Reservoir and Mt William. I have a photo of my parents at this site when they were here on their honeymoon in 1946. At that time, people could walk out not the rock formation but it is now fenced off for safety reasons. That didn’t seem to stop a couple of young German Tourists who were very adventurous. They told us that their mothers certainly would not have known that they were standing in such a location!
At night, the sky was completely clear so I had a go at taking some photos of the stars. I am not really happy with the results as there is quite a bit of electronic noise in these photos from the sensor in my camera. But they are not bad for a first time. The Milky Way was quite clear and I set up my tripod for a 40 minute exposure to see if I could catch some star trails as the stars rotated around the south celestial pole. As you can see, I was even able to capture the path of some satellites that moved across the sky in my longer time exposure. I have a new Olympus camera that makes it a bit easier to take this type of photo. It’s ‘Livetime’ and ‘Live Composite’ features let me see the photo ‘developing’ on the screen as I take it and I can determine when the photo is actually ‘cooked’ enough.
On our second day, we did two walks of about 4.5 kilometres each. The first was to The Pinnacle which is a lookout on an angular piece of rock high above the town. On the way, we came across a large snake – probably about 4 feet long. We propped in the middle of the track and waited (hopefully) that it would slither away, which it eventually did. There were some stunning views from the lookout and we spent a good time with a few dozen other people who were also enjoying the view.
After lunch, we walked to another peak (Sundial Peak) in the opposite direction. To reach it we walked a few kilometres across a very dry area and on a sandy and rocky track.. Some of the rock formations were quite stunning and created scenes that were reminiscent of some of the Khmer temples that I saw in Cambodia last year. If you squinted your eyes, tipped you head on an angle and opened your mouth in the right position, you could have imagined them to be similar.
Our final destination for the day was a walk to a virtually dry waterfall – the Silverband Falls. I would really like to get back to this area in spring after some rain and see the waterfalls in more of their glory. There would also be a lot more wild flowers out at that time as well!
On our third day, we walked along some tracks a little closer to the town of Halls Gap. One was to a set of rock polls that I had never visited before called ‘Venus Pools’. They were on a stream that was near a track used by Aborigines to cross the mountains to the west before Europeans ever arrived in Australia. Today’s road from Halls Gap to Horsham virtually follows the same route. Alas, Venus wasn’t present at the pools when we were their, and fortunately neither were any other tourists. We had a good while by ourselves to take some photographs and wander around unimpeded by others getting in our way.
For the rest of the morning, we walked a few kilometres around the Chittauqua Peak circuit which gave us some more good views over the town. We deviated to a very pretty little spot called Bullaces Glen where, in wetter times, water would have fallen over a rock face to make a waterfall. The fern enclosed grotto there was very tranquil but, again, it would have been nicer at a wetter time of the year. After a picnic lunch we drove to Boroka Lookout which has spectacular views across the southern Grampians. My recollection was that the road to the lookout was unmade but it is certainly a solid bitumen road nowadays.
For the final part of the day, we walked through the Grand Canyon in the ‘Wonderland’ area and enjoyed its rock features and steep outcrops. It isn’t quite as grand at the real Grand Canyon, yet in its own way is quite stunning. Most of the walk requires rock scrambling and steep steps although there are now a few sets of steel steps up some of the steeper part of the gorge. It is a popular location being very close to the town and with easy access by road. Nearby are some falls called Splitters Falls. This is where a logging camp existed at the turn of the 20th Century and loggers spit palings from trees that grew near the creek.
We finished our trip with a drive up the Mt William Road this morning before we headed back to Melbourne.