Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tue 6 Nov - Grampians VIC

We headed out from Portland just after 9am with some showers predicted and overcast, but again we got lucky as the weather cleared by the time we reached the Grampians region. We stopped on the way for a break at Hamilton, and fuel, and a short coffee break with a pastry from the local "french bakery" (run by chinese people). It was the only place open on Melbourne Cup day. BTW we still don't know which horse won (and don't care...)

At Dunkeld we popped into Visitor Centre where we wanted information on walks in the national park but the old ladies behind the counter had clearly not been bushwalking for a long time judging by their age, size and answers to our hike related questions and we realised we would have to buy walking maps pamphlets (cost $3) to get the information we needed.

Three versions for the three sections of the park: south, wonderland and north. We bought south and wonderland and headed into the park.

Shortly outside Dunkeld the road to Halls Gap splits - C217 and C216 and it's not clear which route you take. We unknowingly chose the "local farmer" route of C217 where most of the road is one lane strip of tarmac. We eventually joined back up to C216 where it became obvious by the improved road that we had taken the scenic route! The mountains are already spectacular.

The main parks centre is called Brambuk and is large and very flash. We paid our 3 nights camping fees (with showers predicted for Friday we decided not to extend) and discussed some walks with a knowledgeable park ranger who told us her favourite was in the north section so we had to buy another map - but this time cost of $3.30 (we got a discount in Dunkeld!) She said we could fit in the "must do" Grand Canyon and Pinnacle walk, which is about 4.5km return and the most popular in the park. We agreed and headed to Wonderland Carpark which was quite full with cars.

After a quick picnic lunch next to their carpark we headed out around 2pm. The walk is predicted to take 2.5 hours and Di soon realised that this time is required because it's uphill all the way (2.2km and quite a lot of stairs) but also because it's very beautiful. You stop along the way for photos and just to admire the canyon. You could not find a better track - very well mark and clearly often used.

We regularly crossed paths with a group of 6 young, fit and fearless Brazilians who were a lot of fun taking lots of posing photos on top of rocks (although really close the edge which gave Di the heebie-jeebies...)
Part of the walk is through a very narrow stone canyon called Silent street. Much is just shoulder width wide. Quite spooky - very Picnic at Hanging Rock aura but then you take some stairs up and break out onto large rock slabs which continue the path all the way to the summit.
WOW - amazing views and the parks office have created a lookout point that extends out on a rocky finger about 2 meters wide (fenced) which drops off hundreds of metres on each side. Scaredy cat Di did not cope terribly well especially when the Brazilians went to the unfenced sections (lots of it) and sat on boulders right on the edge and hung out for photos.
Hans was probably sick of hearing the Scout motto "1 body length away from edge" (yep!) and Di was happiest sitting on a rock slab about 3 metres (or more) from the edge.
We stayed, had a break and took lots of photos for about 40 minutes before heading back down (which of course was a much quicker trip but heavier going on the knees). All up 2.5 hours and well worth it.
It was 5ish by the time we reached our campsite for the night - Borough Huts. Lovely, a big site and hardly anyone here (about 7 cars/vans in total). We refreshed with a quick cold water "bush shower" (yes, it's standing in the nude in the bush, but felt great!) followed by some wine with the sun setting over the mountains. Sorry no photos!

Dinner was easy as we had our own set of picnic table and chairs and a tap with bore water for washing up. A great camp site and another excellent camp meal of bratwurst, mash, peas and more wine!

By 9pm it was very dark and we were in bed ready for an early start tomorrow.

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