I’m travelling to Victor Harbor in South Australia for the bi-annual reunion of the unit (85 Transport Platoon) with which I served in Vietnam from 1969 – 70. I decided to travel through the Grampian Mountains and spend an afternoon taking some photos of waterfalls. I was up this way earlier this year but there was little water then and I thought that the various falls in these mountains might be a little more spectacular at this time of the year.
Driving from Ballarat to the little town of Dunkeld, I travelled through prime sheep grazing country – big properties with big farm sheds and lo/ts of sheep. Many of the location names here were given by the original Scottish people who settled in this area in the 1800’s. One of them is the little town of Streatham which I could remember being badly burnt out in a bushfire. My research told me that the fire was actually in 1997. That seems so long ago now but perhaps it’s a function of my more ‘mature’ stage of life that events like these stand out in my memory. Some of these little towns are sadly just a shadow of their former selves. Each has a number of shops that are closed and no longer functioning . Once these would have been an active part of the community and bustling with life. Now they are empty and looking sad.
I followed the road through Victoria Valley in the southern Grampians to get to Halls Gap. This Western District of Victoria produces some of Australia’s finest wool. We don’t quite ‘live on the sheep’s back’ anymore but wool from this area is eagerly sought after for some of the world’s best fashions. It was quite beautiful to see sheep grazing in emerald green paddocks with a backing of rugged mountains.
I stopped at the Silverband Falls and found much more water flowing over them than when I had been here bushwalking in March. I remember my parents having a photo of these falls from their old black and white honeymoon photographs. They are not very grand as waterfalls go but they are popular and access to them is easy.
The mountains here were created by deep layers of sandstone and mudstone being uplifted and tilted. The softer mudstone has weathered away to form large valleys while the harder sandstone provides rugged peaks and outcrops. There are some spectacular scenes. Some pf these will soon become more accessible once a new 13-day walking track opens that will take hikers from Mt Zero, in the far north, to Dunkeld, in the south, of the mountain range.
I made another stop at McKenzie Falls. This area was badly burnt in a recent fire so the old kiosk and picnic buildings are gone. There’s just a stone chimney left standing. However, the National Parks Service have built new toilets and erected new signage. The pathways to the base of the falls and to the lookout across the valley still exist. I ventured down to the base of the falls and found my wide angle lens to be very useful. The climb back up many steep steps was a tough climb for an old bloke!
I wanted to see a waterfall in the north of the ranges which David and I had to climb down on a bush walk many years ago. We were walking over Mt Difficult (which is very true to its name) when I sprained my ankle badly and could only hobble on with the aid of a stick. We lost the track and found ourselves on the top of a waterfall near the Troopers Creek camp site with no other way to go. Fortunately, there was a route down the side of the falls that we could use -partly walking and partly sliding on our backsides. We were lucky that some kind campers were prepared to drive us back to where we had left our car so that we could get home.
The area around the camp ground is currently fenced off because of serious fire damage so I couldn’t get to look for the waterfall. It was getting very late in the afternoon by then so I decided that I had done enough for the day and I was happy to move on to the town of Horsham where I planned to stay overnight.