The Grampians and Halls Gap

Yesterday, we transitioned to the Grampian Ranges and  the tourist town of Halls Gap. We explored a little family history on the way and visited some interesting places.

Near Hamilton, we came across two waterfalls on the Wannon River. The Wannon Falls are a bit of a surprise after driving across some expansive undulating lava plains. They plunge over a basalt lava cliff dropping into a large plunge pool 30 metres below. In the winter  / wet season (now) they can be spectacular, and at the end of the summer dry season they mostly shrink to a mere trickle. 

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A short drive away are the Nigretta Falls. The falls tumble over many rocky outcrops creating several streams of falling water and then drop into a large pool at the base before continuing a journey to the Wannon Falls some 10 kilometres downstream. In contrast to the single plunge of the Wannon Falls, Nigretta is a more interesting, multi-channel segmented cascade of smaller drops and bounces guided by patterns of joints in a much older volcanic rock.

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I spent a little time in Hamilton exploring the Main Street (Gray Street). My grandfather had a boot shop at (I think) No 100. Here, he and my grandmother raised eight children, apparently in a dwelling behind the shop. His business went broke at the height of the Great Depression in the 1930’s as he kept giving credit to poor people in the town so that they wouldn’t have to go barefoot. There might have been some development over the years as some buildings now appear to be located on multiple lots and I couldn’t quite work out where number 100 would have been. However, somewhere in this street was my grandfather’s business and my mother’s first home.

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We travelled through some extensive sheep grazing areas before reaching the Grampians. The flocks of sheep looked much bigger than I have seen in the past. This may say something about the rural economy, or perhaps, a few years of good rain.

The Grampians is a set of mountain ranges and national park located in the western part of Victoria . The Jardwadjali aboriginal name for the mountain range itself is Gariwerd. The ranges consist of a series of low-angled sandstone ridges running roughly north–south. The eastern sides of the ridges, where the sedimentary layers have been lifted are very steep.  In spring, the Grampians wildflowers are a large attraction. The Ranges are home to 975 native plant species.

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One can gain a good idea of the topography of these mountains from the road at the southern end of the Range at Dunkeld. Mt Abrupt certainly lives up to its name rather spectacularly.

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We reached our motel which is located a few kilometres south of Halls Gap and wee immediately surrounded by wildlife. The bird life around here is very extensive with a blue wren that kept hopping over the shiny surface of cars, a New Holland Honey Eater that was grazing on a red bottle brush shrub, and a Kookaburra. Perhaps first prize went to a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo that continually wandered along the front of the motel building knocking on all the glass doors looking for a treat.

Birds

Dozens of kangaroos graze around the motel grounds.

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After breakfast today, we stopped by the shops and I walked along the creek to a pretty little spot called ‘Venus Baths’. I had been here once before when the creek was a mere trickle but today it was flowing quite strongly. With some good luck,  I managed to have some time at the creek in between large groups of people so I was able to take my time with some photography.

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We drove on through the northern part of the ranges, stopping at a lookout for a view across Victoria Valley. We intended to drive down the road through this valley but it was closed for some unknown reason.

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I walked from the carpark to a feature known as the Balconies. Here, two rock outcrops protrude from the wall of the valley and create quite an impressive sight. I have a photo at home of my parents standing on one of these ledges when they were on their honeymoon. Now that we have a heightened sense of safety, our ‘paternalistic’ government has banned access onto these balconies. I don’t think anyone has ever fallen from them, but governments don’t want to be sued for presenting a risk. I rather prefer the old days.

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At nearby MacKenzie Falls, we avoided the emus that were wandering around the picnic area as I prepared lunch and made a sandwich for each of us. Their beady eyes and big beaks are quite intimidating!

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On the other hand, I made good friends with a magpie that I was  able to entice to eat out of my hand. It saved me a lot of trouble as when I stepped back from the picnic table, it made a couple of circuits picking up every crumb and piece of cheese that was left on the table.

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MacKenzie Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in Victoria. Flowing year round, the falls sees water cascade over huge cliffs into a deep pool, sending fine sprays of rainbow mist high into the air above a stunning gorge on a sunny day. Unfortunately, today was not one of them.

To see the falls, you can take an easy, one-kilometre path to the viewing platform at the Bluff and then go on to a steep trail to the base of the falls. Going down the 260 zig-zag steps was very hard on my knees, and I puffed like a draught horse climbing back out of the gorge and getting back to the car again.

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This season has been quite wet and cold. The overnight temperature for the last two nights in Halls Gap has been as low as 4C. I joked at dinner tonight that fridges weren’t really necessary here to chill the dinner wine – it only had to be left out on the window sill for a few hours. As it is Spring (supposedly) there are some emerging wildflowers along the roads and tracks. The early ones are making something of a show although I think that the wildflower season this year is a bit late.

Flowers

One thought on “The Grampians and Halls Gap

  1. Very refreshing .. have not been to Hall’s Gapp for 40 odd years. More excellent text and wonderful photos thanks Bruce.

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