Victoria 2006 – Part 2. The Grampians

Friday, Nov 17, 2006 at 10:33


We arrived at Halls gap via Avoca, Ararat, Moyston and Pomona. Along the way we stopped for lunch in a roadside clearing beside a seldom-used railway and again we found many wildflowers – orchids, grevilleas, ti-tree, and peas.

As we approached Halls Gap the legacy of major fires the previous summer became all too evident as we passed patches of big trees totally burnt and blackened. Our first stop was at the Visitor Centre to find out what roads and camping areas were open. Unfortunately because of the damage caused by the fires, many roads were still closed, including the main road south from Halls Gap, but the helpful staff gave us maps and advice on whereabouts in the park bush camping was permitted.

We drove up to the Mt Difficult Lookout for magnificent views east over Halls Gap and out across the plains. Then it was on to the nearest campground to settle in for what was turning out to be a cool and windy night. The campground was quite busy, with most visitors travelling in sedans. The facilities were not too flash – smelly pit toilets, water from the creek and only a few fireplaces.

We were away early next morning to see Mackenzie Falls where we walked the loop track through blackened tree trunks. Here and there we saw signs of regeneration as the gums sprouted new growth along their trunks. New ferns were starting to push through the ash on the ground. There were a few kangaroos about and lots of grass trees (or kangaroo tails as they are known locally) in flower, stimulated to do so by the fire. It was disappointing to see that many of the flower spikes close to the path had been broken off.

The road then followed the Mackenzie River west to Zumsteins, a house built by Walter Zumstein for his Scottish wife after WW1. Walter was a beekeeper and developed the house site by planting both native and introduced trees and shrubs surrounding an aqueduct-fed pool.The fire had spared this locality so we were able to explore around the old house and gardens and wonder about the isolated life they must have lived. A burnt out bridge on the creek flats limited our exploration, so we had lunch with some friendly magpies and currawongs, before moving on again.

We wound our way through the northwestern edge of the park finding plenty of wildflowers in this unburnt section. We found a big open bush-camping area near some old copper mines and gorge, and spent a pleasant afternoon walking around the area. Although there was no water flowing in the gorge there were plenty of wildflowers to photograph. We were excited to find three different ground orchids, a real treat.

Next day we continued north toward Mt. Stapylton, making numerous stops to photograph flowers. Mt Stapylton when we reached it was busy with mainly young people, some carrying climbing gear. That looked way too adventurous for us; instead we went to the Hollow Mountain Gulguru Manja shelter that has prints of children’s hands, although we were a bit underwhelmed by what there was to see.

From there we returned south until we reached Asses Ears Track where we turned west, going back into the burnt country. Here there were small forests of flowering grass trees, an amazing sight. We spent the afternoon exploring along the track and a few side tracks until we came to the Red Rock picnic area, which looked like a pleasant overnight spot. This was a beautiful area with views across a stretch of water to rugged hills beyond. We set up close to a picnic table but late afternoon wind saw us move across the road to a more sheltered spot, where we were immediately and viciously assaulted by swarms of hungry mosquitoes. So it was early to bed to listen to a chorus of waterbirds and frogs.

The next morning was cool and windy so we set off early, going first to Billimina rock shelter, where under an impressive rock overhang there were some small figures and “tally marks”. The walk to get there was pleasant, following a small creek through thick unburnt forest. There were a couple of waterfalls but with only a trickle of water coming down. The Manja shelter was similar with the addition of hand stencils. The walk in to the shelter revealed more new flowers, so the camera was busy all morning.

The scenery in this more southern section was impressive, especially around the Chimney Pots, and wildflowers that were quite new to us, like the metallic-blue tinsel lilies, had us entranced. As always we kept an eye out for a suitable bush camp, and before long we found a site back from a side road. Old fireplaces suggested that we weren’t the first to camp there. There was plenty of wood and water so after cleaning out a fire-pit we were able to enjoy our first campfire since the Murray River.

Next morning we were back on park tracks heading east until we left the park and travelled [Image not found]through some beautiful farmland that sits in a valley between the two southward extending arms of the park. Then suddenly we were back in the eastern section of the park and climbing through the Serra Range and its spectacular scenery. The road was sealed but very winding as it found a way through the rocky, rugged peaks. And as well as the flowering grass trees there were some different orchids to see, and once more we made quite a few stops to take photos. We were so impressed by this scenery that we decided to spend a bit more time exploring. We headed north along Grampians Road but this took us into badly burnt country, and a side-track along the Wannon River led to some beekeeping sites. Eventually we found a good spot for another bush camp, across a small creek, with a fireplace and plenty of wood – just as well as the night was cool.

From there we made our way south through the park, following the very scenic Serra Range which ended in spectacular fashion at Mt Abrupt and Mt Sturgeon at the southern end. We had a quick drive around Dunkeld before heading into Hamilton to stock up.

We really enjoyed this brief stay in the Grampians NP, despite not being able to see those large parts of the park that had been closed following the fires. Other parts that we saw had been badly burnt, but we still enjoyed the magnificent scenery and the spring wildflowers. It will be a place that we will want to return to after a favourable season to see the park at its best.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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