Thursday, November 22, 2012

Camping in the Grampians

Last week the House of Barr expanded to include Grandma and Pampa Barr for their annual grandparent visit. This year’s trip was at short notice so I hadn’t pre-planned an excellent adventure to anywhere and already had work booked in. Not to be deterred, I quickly did some reorganising and then pondered where to go for a shortish week or longish weekend of “me” time.

As usual numerous ideas popped into my head… I phoned Tasmania to see if there was any chance of joining the four-day Bay of Fires Walk at short notice (alas, no); I googled airfares to Exmouth in Western Australia to see Ningaloo Reef (more planning needed); I checked out the likelihood of sighting a great white shark off Port Lincoln in a shark cage in November (January seemed better); I contemplated road trips (in no particular order) to, Byron Bay, Batemans Bay or the Flinders Ranges and then crossed them off as too far in too short a time and really, road trips are a lot more fun with a travel buddy.

In the end I decided to catch up with Victorian friends at Terang and Hamilton and then spend a few days camping with my Tarptent, swag and a good book at Halls Gap in the Grampians National Park, a mere three and a bit hours from Barham.

After reading numerous travel reviews, I chose the Lakeside Tourist Park a few kilometres south of town and pitched my tent on soft green grass in amongst some shady trees that looked out to an open grassy area filled with kangaroos, emus and deer.
That first evening I sat out on my deckchair with a glass of wine and a packet of kettle chips to share with about twenty very friendly sulphur-crested cockatoos.

As they said in The Castle, I could feel the serenity.

When it comes to relaxing, a few days camping in the Australian bush is hard to beat… especially when the weather is in the mid twenties and flushing toilets and hot showers are a short walk away at the immaculate Lakeside Tourist Park amenities block.

The Grampians are a series of imposing ancient sandstone mountain ranges formed some 380 million years ago. While the Grampians have been attracting bushwalkers since the 1890s, human habitation in the area dates from about 17,000 BC. The first Europeans to the area were Scottish born explorer, Thomas Mitchell and his exploration party in 1836; he named the Grampians after the Scottish mountain range of the same name.

Tempting though it was to spend my days relaxing on my swag reading Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 novel “The Help” about African American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 1960s… the weather was too perfect not to get out and enjoy some of the walks readily accessible in the area.

Driving out to the Wonderland car park, I walked through Victoria’s version of the Grand Canyon and then along the Stony Creek to Turret Falls, where I admired the wildflowers and filled up my drink bottle.

The next day I headed back to the Wonderland car park and again walked through the Grand Canyon before continuing further up over rocks and the well-maintained track through areas of relatively thick bush to The Pinnacle (about an hour’s walk from the carpark). Looking out from The Pinnacle I was rewarded with a magnificent view across the Fyans Valley with Halls Gap at the bottom and further out to the various lakes on the eastern side of the Grampians.

Driving further along the road from the Wonderland car park heading towards Horsham, I came to the MacKenzie Falls. Situated on the MacKenzie River they are Victoria’s largest waterfalls and located about half an hour’s drive from Halls Gap. I opted for the relatively easy Bluff Walk, which gave me a spectacular view of the MacKenzie River Gorge and waterfalls.

Back in Halls Gap I discovered some excellent coffee at the Livefast Café and an even more excellent chocolate, macadamia nut and coconut slice. The perfect place to sit and write this week’s column…

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