Forty five years ago a lovely Scots lady lent a young Aussie couple her little mini van on condition that we used it to visit Scotland. We just happened to share breakfast in a Sussex Gardens hotel and the loan was proffered over a cup of tea and crumpets. We drove north to Stockton-on-Tee and then on and up and parked on the side of a December snowing Grampians narrow road and woke up next morning covered in a twelve inch blanket of snow. There’s a lot more to that story but those Grampians are not my Grampians although they are in a little nook in my heart.
Although my Grampians see snow most winters on the tops of some of the peaks it is only enough for making a snowman.
Behind old redgum trees the sandstone rock formations known as The Grampians jut quite dramatically from the flat Western District plains.
Formed a couple of years ago by forces of continental drift the sand sediments were uplifted, faulted and folded to become one of Victoria’s best known tourist destinations. It is one of those places that attracts local Victorians as much as it attracts foreigners.
From Ballarat you have two choices to make – or three if you want to go somewhere else. One choice is to approach from the South (purple arrow).
This way the size is obvious.
From the North-east there is more native vegetation and they are not, in my opinion, quite as dramatic – they are often not visible from the road.
However yesterday I arrived from Ararat (Green arrow). The general idea is to base yourself in Halls Gap. This is where the information centre is. There are cafes and shops and maps and ice-cream and beer with toasted ham and cheese and more. And caravan parks.
This was terrifying the first time you come down because you lose contact with the rock face and have to dangle in space until you touch the wall lower down. But once that is over you are ready for much more difficult places.
But my climbing days are over and although I took more than a dozen class groups here and introduced them to the rock walls my knees and fingers don’t work very well anymore.
This time I went to the top as far as I could go by car.
And from Boroka Lookout the town of Halls Gap can be seen about 900 mt below. You can hike up but it is rated as ‘difficult’.
Some of the scenery along the various roads can be photographed but there aren’t always places to park just where you want them.
Each place you go to is a surprise – although I am assuming you are not jaded and hoping for some European Castle to pop up around the bend.
At the Reed car park I was suitably delighted. For two reasons. One was the view.
There was another reason to be delighted – for me that is. Most of you have read the story of the Firewatching tree.
But look what I found!
So this one is real. Not made up for the story.
And in keeping with being up to date it does have a helipad. From the helipad you can also see Lake Wartook.
But I got a lot more from this than a photograph. I met Jas. Jas is the National Parks fire-watcher at this spot and we got to talking and she wants to read my story and tell me if any of the technical details need changing.
It is the middle of Summer and we are always looking out for fires and there is plenty of evidence of past ones.
The amazing ability of the bush to recover from fire has been mentioned before. And it is a good thing because Jas told me that of the 1700 square kilometres that make up the Grampians only about 10% has not been burned in the last one hundred years.
what’s more the birds and animals and flowers seem to be able to survive.
Large populations of Emus are found throughout the lowland areas. Over 40 species of mammal have been recorded in the park. They include kangaroos, possums, gliders, echidnas, macropods, amphibians and koalas. The park supports populations of Red-necked Wallabies and Grey Kangaroos, a colony of Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies, and a growing population of Black Wallabies.
The reptile fauna of 28 species is particularly rich because of the diversity of habitats formed by the forested mountain range that extends from the cool south to the warmer, drier northwest.
Over 200 birds.
And forest pests like deer.
Now let me be honest here. I should have come back in September. That is when most of the over 1000 flowering plants are at their best.
This time there weren’t many on show and what were weren’t at their best. But I’ll show you what I got. I will try to name them if I can. I could have taken more but I wasn’t focused.
There was still more to see.
…..there’s not much green in Pomonal (Check the map – hidden by the black arrow) but it’s still cricket.