11th March to 24th March
After doing a few odd jobs we finally left Warnambool just after lunch, arriving in The Grampians about 4ish. We went straight to the Information Centre to grab some maps and to see what are the ‘must do’s’ were whilst we are here. The gentleman at the info centre suggested a few shorter kid friendly walks which we laughed at, as we told him that the kids would in fact run rings around us on these hikes, it was our fitness, my bad hip and Nik’s bad knee that we were concerned about. We also wanted to check if the free camp we were heading to was in fact free as we had read some conflicting stories. With maps in hand and confirmation that our camp was free we headed out to our new home for the next week or so.
Via Wikicamps we chose to stay at ‘Plantation Campground’, which was on the north east border of The Grampians, in state park which was why it was free. Our campground had basic facilities, bucket shower and designated fire pits. After driving around and choosing a spot we set ourselves up and settled in for the night. We had setup near another Jayco van and soon met an English family who had been living in Newcastle for a few years and were pretty much doing the same route as us, just a hell of a lot faster. We laughed as she was a nurse and he was in construction and they too had all girls.
As it was Thursday and we hadn’t even started school for this week we decided to head to the library at Stawell to utilise their free WIFI. After a productive couple of hours we headed back to camp. The next day we did some more schoolwork then headed into Halls Gap. We visited the Brambuk Cultural Centre, had a coffee and went for a few short walks around the wetlands, which were unfortunly dry due to it being the end of Summer, however we saw lots of kangaroo, emu and even a few deers.
The next day we packed our bags ready to do the MacKenzie Falls walk. After a steep descent we arrived at some spectacular waterfalls, where we spent the next half an hour taking photos and having morning tea. But what goes down must come back up and the walk back up the stairs certainly got our heart started!!! We also walked around to the lookout and took some more photos.
We also called into the Reed Lookout and the Balconies, which again were pretty amazing. It was another little hike up to the Balconies, with areas of the walk being inundated with little rock cairns that were spread all over the place, which didn’t impress us as we much prefer for nature to be kept as it was. We also saw lots of tourists (more from overseas) going off the tracks provided and climbing over signs that read ‘Do not pass, revegetation in process.’ We took plenty of photos ourselves and all commented about how the mountains were very similar to the Flinders Ranges just without the red ochre of the outback.
Another walk we ventured on was the Venus Rock Pools, this was a little walk from the carpark in Halls Gap through the Botanical gardens. We took our towels (well the kids did anyway) as the lady at the info centre said we could swim there. We doubted there would be much water being the end of Summer but fingers were crossed. Fortunly for us whilst the pools were very low there were still a few pools that had running water going through them and were nice and clear and swimmable. Zoe, Abby and Jess all stripped down to their bathers and finally got in, the water was extremely cold but after a while they didn’t even notice. The girls then remembered that we had a plastic bag in our backpack and proceeded to slide down the rockpools on the plastic bag. There was a consistant stream of tourists, some dressed for hiking others dressed in skirts, dresses and slacks who all remarked that it looked like fun. I’m sure they were secretly thinking that the gypsy family with the feral girls sliding down the rockpools would just leave, whilst their kids dressed in their Sunday best looked on longingly…………
After another few days of school we did the ‘The Pinnacles’ walk from Halls Gap. This walk begins near the caravan park and goes via the rockpools, the Grand Canyon and onto the final steep rock hopping climb to ‘The Pinnacle’. The walk was pretty tame until we got to the Grand Canyon, where the steps and steep rock climbs began. The hardest part was the last 2km, upstairs and over big rocks. After much cajoling and reassurance with an upset and tired Jesse, we promised her that it wasn’t far and finally we made it. We took some photos and after having something to eat we then descended down the ridge along the Wonderland Ranges back to Halls Gap. The walk all up was about 9 ½ km, Jess struggled just before the top but was OK once we had freddo frogs and promised her sausages in bread at the park afterwards. We all really enjoyed the walk, as it was very interactive and took us through so many different parts, from ferns along the river, to rock boulders, then sandy tracks and grass trees. When we reached the park and all sat down, exhausted, it was Jess who ran over to the park and kept playing!!!
Over the next couple of days we spent a day in Horsham, tried to visit some Aboriginal paintings (they were all closed from the fires 12 months before) and ended up meeting some wonderful families. Before we were travelling, we researched a lot on the internet and found a few facebook pages of people and families travelling. One of these pages has a ‘Where are you Wednesday!’ post and we have been contributing to it since we had started travelling. So after Nik posted his selfie picture from the Pinnacles, it turned out that we were actually camping 20 metres away from another family, the Strickland’s and then another family, the Leed’s were at the local caravan park in Halls Gap. We ended up getting together one evening for dinner and a campfire, it was great to chat with people doing and experiencing the same thing, having the same problems but also enjoying the same highs. It was great to get and give different ideas and hear other people’s thoughts about how they ended up here in the Grampians. All the kids got on really well and kept themselves well amused on bikes and walkie talkies. Lots of laughs and fun was had by all, with future catch up plans in the pipeworks.
Our last weekend involved myself (Amy) catching a train back to Melbourne to fulfil my duties as ‘The Godmother’ to my laidback adorable nephew Angus. It was great to see everyone and I had lots of cuddles from Gus, but was not quick enough to pin down his older brotherJ. Whilst I was living it up in the big smoke Nik and the girls spent a day at the Horsham aquatic centre with the Strickland’s, as the weather was a beautiful 30 degrees.
I arrived home on the Monday afternoon where we proceeded to pack up around camp in preparation for our journey into our next state. We have finally reached the end of our prior commitments with family and friends and therefore from here on in we are on our own, heading into unchartered territory where we have not been before. From now on we will only see family and friends via skype, facebook or text unless they fly in and visit us. The rubber band that has been pulling us back has finally been cut and we are free to explore but of course will miss everyone. But adventure and exploration is calling out to us so off we head on to our next destination on our Ozlap……………..