Tag Archives: Grampians

September 10, part 3

Nearing Dunkeld, I saw Mount Abrupt for a moment, but then the clouds closed in, and the peak vanished amid the cottony grayness. I now headed for the coast, as the rain began in earnest.
I think my “short cut” across country ended up not saving any time, but I passed through a lot of very pretty farmland and still managed to reach Port Fairy by 4:30.

In Port Fairy, I headed down the main street, looking for accommodation. In short order, I hit upon the charming old (1855) Commercial Hotel. This place is a gem. Wooden veranda, heaps of antiques, leaded glass, and a bigger, nicer bedroom than at last night’s stop. This is a much smaller town (2,000 vs. Horsham’s 12,000), so I can only imagine that its location along the coast creates more income, making possible the better condition of the hotel. I was delighted with my gracious, antique-filled room.
Port-Fairy-Hotel-B

Hotel Window

Hotel Window


Despite my love of the older objects in the room, I was pleased to see an electric blanket was provided. It has turned quite cold, and that combined with the dampness makes this bit of modern technology rather welcome.

Not particularly interested in wandering the streets in the still pouring rain, I opted for dinner at the hotel. That proved to be a good choice. Because I was in a seaside location, I naturally ordered the seafood platter: squid, bay scallops, prawns, and whiting, all fried but all astonishingly fresh. I was the only woman and only American (accent keeps giving me away) in the restaurant, and wanderers from other lands always interest Australians. They like to make sure you see the best of their parts of the country, and two men at the next table were no exception. So, by the end of my meal, I had considerably more information about tomorrow’s onward drive.

Upstairs in my room, as I settled in for the night, I could hear the wind picking up. It was wild enough to bring to mind that this area is known as the “shipwreck coast.” The sound varied between mournful and threatening. I can’t imagine navigating these waters in that kind of wind.

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September 10, part 2

Back on the main road again, I continued to climb along the winding road, pulling off again when I reached the turnoff for Reid Lookout. Again, I parked and headed off on foot, hiking along narrow trails, taking photos of broad valleys and cloud-muffled peaks. It has begun to drizzle a bit, but this has not diminished the beauty of this dramatic place. (It has, however, made getting good photographs unlikely, at least of panoramas. Pretty dark and hazy.)
Grampians-cloudy-vista-B
Then onward, to Boroka Lookout–a bit farther off the main drag, down a road lined with wildflowers in white, a dozen shades of pink (including the lovely Common Heath, state flower of Victoria), and the familiar yellow of the wattles. Here, the view was down across Halls Gap and the Wonderland Range, and the avian delight here was a sparrow-sized bird with a brilliant orange breast.
Grampians-cloudy vista2-B

Common Heath

Common Heath


Half an hour later, I was winding down toward Halls Gap, through the Wonderland Range. This is a truly beautiful, craggy, wild area. (Which, besides being gorgeous, also makes driving “interesting.” Wet, winding road, and I’m on the “wrong” side. Definitely part of the adventure.) I passed the Elephant’s Hide and Indian Head (rock formations that really do match their names), stopping to admire them, and then dropped down into Halls Gap.

It was after 1:00pm, so I parked the car and walked along the main street to Stony Creek. The Flying Emu Café offered tables overlooking the creek, so I decided it would be a good for lunch. After eating, I popped into the craft store next door and bought a T-shirt for my sister-in-law. Then it was back to the car and onward.

Now I headed south, driving the entire length of the Grampians National Park, emerging an hour later at Dunkeld. On this stretch of road, I had the wilderness to myself. No other cars interrupted the silence on this dark, damp day. It was splendid: just me and the trees and the rain. I was delighted almost to giddiness by kookaburras, laughing and flying past, and kangaroos hopping across the road. At one spot, I saw a kangaroo hesitate and look back, and I read this as a signal that others would follow, so I stopped the car. A few seconds later, the first ‘roo was followed by several others. I waited until nearly a dozen kangaroos of varying ages and sizes had safely crossed the road before I continued on. Breathtaking.

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Tuesday, September 10

I woke to the sound of rain. Overcast, damp, and chilly outside.

Self-serve continental breakfast. Got my food and a table, then began looking around, admiring the old room. A man at the next table (bearded, probably mid-40s) noticed me studying the room and began talking to me. He was born and raised in Horsham, and he knew a fair bit about the hotel’s history–which he was delighted to share.

Built in 1872, the hotel originally had the graceful verandas and iron lace one sees on so many outback hotels, but the city council thought the veranda posts would be dangerous when parallel parking was established, since the posts were right at the edge of the sidewalk, and cars might hit them. So the posts were torn off and the veranda vanished. There is a group, however, trying to get the verandah put back. An old black and white photo of the hotel was produced, and it definitely was lovelier with the veranda. There were originally eleven fireplaces, several of which were destroyed when walls were knocked out to enlarge the public rooms. But the ones that remain are attractive and the wood paneling and great, divided stairway, with its broad banisters, are still handsome. With a little tender loving care, this could be a truly lovely place once again.

Then baggage back in the car and on the road again. Drove out of Horsham on the Western Highway. Before long, I could see the ragged edge of the Grampian Mountains rising in the distance, behind the rolling, green fields of the area’s many sheep properties. Except for the gum trees and galahs, it could have been Scotland. (Which I suspect was the inspiration for their naming, since I later learned that the original Grampians are in Scotland.)

Grampians in the Distance

Grampians in the Distance


Past Green Lake, I turned right and headed towards the mountains. The forest closed in around me, and the road began to wind and rise. Before an hour had passed, I reached Zumstein, a picnic and camping ground noted for the presence of large numbers of kangaroos (most of which hang out around the picnic tables, hoping you’ll ignore the “don’t feed the kangaroos” signs).
HopefulRoo-WithSign-B
Continuing on the Zumstein-Halls Gap Road, climbing ever higher, I soon came to the MacKenzie Falls turnoff. I parked the car and set off on the long, steep, wet hike to the falls. The first falls to come into view were the magnificent Broken Falls. I stopped to admire them, and then hiked on through the dripping, green woods and lichen-stained boulders.
Broken Falls

Broken Falls


The abundant recent rain has caused the rivers to rise dramatically, so half an hour into my hike I found the path completely submerged, and I had to turn around and head back without seeing MacKenzie Falls–though I hardly felt cheated, since Broken Falls were so lush. Plus the track itself was quite wonderful, with abundant greenery, wildflowers, and lovely little gray, brown, and white hummingbirds.

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