A Travellerspoint blog

June 2018

Warrnambool to Mount Gambier

...we finally leave Victoria via Penshurst and the Grampians National Park

sunny 32 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Back to Oz on SteveJD's travel map.

Taking Denise's advice again, we took a short trip along the coast to Port Fairy which was every bit as pretty as she had said. However, the day we were there was Farmers' Market Day and the town was full to bursting point with so many cars parked along the street that we couldn't get a good photo of any of the more attractive buildings. In the absence of street photography, we had a lovely walk along the banks by the wharf before grabbing a cup of coffee and heading north.

The town was given its name in 1828 by the crew of the whaler Fairy operating in the area at the time.

The harbour area

The harbour area

Lobster pots by the quay

Lobster pots by the quay

Lovely old house near the harbour

Lovely old house near the harbour

The land we drove through was very flat, a volcanic plain, with the odd stump of a volcano visible here and there. We stopped in Penshurst (probably named after the town in Kent, England) which seemed like a ghost town. On the way in we had spotted a sign to the Volcanoes Discovery Centre, so we parked outside and went in. There was a lovely lady on duty there, a volunteer, and in chatting with her we learned that her daughter lives in Mullaloo in WA, not far from where we used to live in Kallaroo - it's a small world. She was very helpful and the centre was fascinating and well put together. It is well-designed to educate both adults and children without being overly 'kiddie-centric' - we have been to some places that are so 'dumbed down' to appeal to children that it is insulting the intelligence of the average child, so it was nice to see that here they had struck a good balance.

At the suggestion of the volunteer lady, we then took our picnic lunch into the Botanic Gardens. These are perhaps a bit grandly named but are very pleasant and we enjoyed our lunch there (watched by a greedy magpie) and a walk around the gardens and lakes. The latter are fed by springs which were, apparently and not too surprisingly, the cause of strife between local Aborigines and early settlers.

Hungry magpie, ever hopeful

Hungry magpie, ever hopeful

On our way in we had driven past Mount Rouse and thought it unremarkable but the volunteer had said it was worth visiting, so we backtracked and drove up this extinct volcano to very near the top then walked up the steps to the summit, from which we had magnificent views over Penshurst and the surrounding countryside. The whole complex consists of a crater, a tuff ring and a scoria cone and lava flows which extended over 60km to Port Fairy. The trees were too dense for us to see the dry crater lake clearly but we are assured that it is there! On a clear day you can see coastal dunes to the south as the land is so flat. Mt Rouse was first seen by Europeans when our old friend Major Mitchell saw it and named it, probably after his friend, pastoralist Richard Rouse.

Panoramic view from Mount Rouse

Panoramic view from Mount Rouse

View over the countryside

View over the countryside

View to distant peaks

View to distant peaks

View over Penhurst

View over Penhurst

We drove on to Dunkeld from just outside which we could get clear views of Mounts Sturgeon and Abrupt, the southern sentinels of the Grampians National Park.

The two mountains at the start of the Grampians

The two mountains at the start of the Grampians

Just before reaching Halls Gap, we stopped at Lake Bellfield which is a very popular picnic site and very attractive.

Dead trees in the lake

Dead trees in the lake

Finally, we reached our room at Mountain View Motor Inn. This was a decent size and comfortable although the 'mountain view' was perhaps slightly over-egging it! Once settled in, we had a walk through the bush at the back where there were kangaroos and emus and quite a few small birds although none close until we found a small waterhole quite close to the motel. We sat and watched as silvereyes, New Holland honeyeaters, brown-headed honeyeaters and white-naped honeyeaters dropped in for a drink and/or bath. Just near here, we also spotted a scarlet robin so were well pleased with our wanderings.

Halls Gap is named after the first settler in the area, Charles Browning Hall who arrived in the district in 1841.

Reflections in the waterhole (I think the duck is a decoy)

Reflections in the waterhole (I think the duck is a decoy)

From the left, silvereye, white-naped honeyeater, New Holland honeyeater and brown honeyeater

From the left, silvereye, white-naped honeyeater, New Holland honeyeater and brown honeyeater

Scarlet robin

Scarlet robin

The motel owner had given us a map and advised us to head out along Mt Victory Road so, obedient as ever, we drove out until we reached the turnoff to MacKenzie Falls. The ubiquitous Major Mitchell came across these falls and, as he was unable to find an Aboriginal name for them, named them after his friend, Captain MacKenzie. The main track is almost a kilometre through attractive bush with a variety of birds and other creatures as well as a few flowers, nothing spectacular at this time of year. The falls were good although they must be stunning after some rain. We walked back and down to another viewpoint which didn't give as good a view as the first. There is a further track which takes you down to the foot of the falls but we felt that we had a lot to pack into one day so drove out and then turned to Lake Wartook (derived from an Aboriginal name meaning 'his shoulder'). Other than seeing a swamp wallaby by the road on the way there, this was a wasted trip as it had to be one of the most boring lakes we have seen. No wildlife to be seen, no great vegetation and only limited space for picnics - with a view over an empty lake!

Bush by the path down to the falls

Bush by the path down to the falls

Very small wildflowers growing by the track

Very small wildflowers growing by the track

The falls from the first viewpoint

The falls from the first viewpoint

The foot of the falls

The foot of the falls

A mountain dragon posed by the track on our way back

A mountain dragon posed by the track on our way back

A juvenile crimson rosella near the track (thanks Australian Bird Identification group!)

A juvenile crimson rosella near the track (thanks Australian Bird Identification group!)

We now started on the return journey but turned off to Reed's Lookout which gave superb views over the countryside to the west. There was then a kilometre to walk to the Balconies - formerly known as the Jaws of Death! We had to wait a while for people to get off the rocks, having ignored fences and signs asking to avoid damaging re-vegetation as well as not risking life and limb. Some folk however must get 'that selfie' on the rock. No thought for the poor rescue teams who have to either collect a mangled body or try to extricate a badly injured idiot. However, as one Germanic girl said to us, it was up to her whether or not she took the risk! This, I guess, is the 'me' generation. Anyway, all that nonsense aside, the rock formations are pretty impressive with wonderful views from the lookout provided.

Panoramic view from Reed's Lookout

Panoramic view from Reed's Lookout

View from Reed's Lookout

View from Reed's Lookout


Judith, as usual, waiting for me to catch up

Judith, as usual, waiting for me to catch up

Wildflowers by the wayside

Wildflowers by the wayside

Mushroom-shaped rocks on the way to the Balconies

Mushroom-shaped rocks on the way to the Balconies

The Jaws of Death (aka The Balconies)

The Jaws of Death (aka The Balconies)

Wildflowers near the Balconies

Wildflowers near the Balconies

A closer view of the Balconies

A closer view of the Balconies

Correa flower

Correa flower

As a footnote, I have generally found the Aussie Towns website very helpful with the origins of place names but in Victoria I have often found gaps and only some of these are found with any ease by other means, all very frustrating!

After wandering back to the vehicle, we again headed back down Mt Victory Road as far as the turn off to Boroka Lookout (Boroka is derived from an Aboriginal word meaning 'breaking off'). Here we enjoyed views over the opposite (eastern) side of the range and could see past Lake Wartook to the north and south to Lake Bellfield, tucked in between two ranges.

Panoramic view from Boroka Lookout, Lake Wartook to left and Lake Bellfield to the right (middle lake could be Lake Lonsdale)

Panoramic view from Boroka Lookout, Lake Wartook to left and Lake Bellfield to the right (middle lake could be Lake Lonsdale)

View from Boroka Lookout over Halls Gap township and Lake Bellfield

View from Boroka Lookout over Halls Gap township and Lake Bellfield

For our final stop we drove down Mt Victory Road but turned off onto Silverband Road before reaching Halls Gap. This is a very pretty drive in a well-wooded area with plenty of birdlife. There are several stops but we headed on until we reached Silverband Falls. Here we had a lovely walk through the woodland to the falls which would have been better with more than a trickle flowing over. Still, worth the trip, especially as we saw a gang gang cockatoo on the way back. We took photos for identification (as if the creaking door call was not a giveaway) but they were not great as the bird was too high in the tree for either of our cameras to really do it justice, though Judith's photo is fine for inclusion here after a little manipulation. So ended our stay in Halls Gap.

Brown thornbill seen on the walk to the falls

Brown thornbill seen on the walk to the falls

Silverband Falls

Silverband Falls

Gang Gang cockatoo just seen on the way back from the falls

Gang Gang cockatoo just seen on the way back from the falls

Although the morning was a bit overcast, we decided to drive up to Mt William just south of Halls Gap (the mountain was named by Major Mitchell, what a busy fellow. Unfortunately the source of this information does not give the reason for giving the mountain this name - possibly after King William IV who was reigning at the time). This mountain is the highest peak in the Grampians and forms part of the Mitchell Plateau.

On the way up we drove through increasing and swirling thick cloud until we reached the car park where at times we could hardly see from one side to another. In view of the conditions (and particularly our levels of fitness) we decided that the 1.8km 'strenuous' walk to the summit would be foolhardy so drove on down and back onto the Dunkeld road.

Not Gorillas in the Mist, just us!

Not Gorillas in the Mist, just us!

The sun broke through as we were driving back down

The sun broke through as we were driving back down

We decided to detour through the Victoria Valley which was a good plan as the weather improved and we found more mobs of emus than we have seen anywhere else and, for a change, they didn't all run off at high speed as soon as we stopped!

Sheep keeping a wary eye on emus

Sheep keeping a wary eye on emus

Sheep with the 'boss' with more emus in the background

Sheep with the 'boss' with more emus in the background

A small mob of emus in a paddock

A small mob of emus in a paddock

A mob of emus

A mob of emus

We allowed Gladys her head and she took us to Cavendish, a nice little country town with a large waterhole complete with picnic facilities. This was a good place for a coffee break and to stretch our legs wandering around the waterhole.

The origin of the town name is unclear but it is suggested that it could have been named after the Secretary of the British Treasury, the Duke of Devonshire, family name Cavendish. It is also possible that it may have been named after the Suffolk village of that name.

We disturbed a flock of corellas

We disturbed a flock of corellas

Our route took us down the Henty Highway to join the Glenelg Highway just west of Hamilton and we then took turnings off to visit Nigretta and Wannon Falls, both good but as before, lacking in water so not quite as scenic as at other times of the year. The Nigretta Falls are also known as the Upper Wannon Falls but I can not find the origin of the name, possibly Aboriginal? However, Wannon, named by the tireless Major Mitchell, was named for an Aboriginal word meaning digging or throwing stick.

Nigretta "Falls"

Nigretta "Falls"

Wannon "Falls"

Wannon "Falls"

Along the way we have seen many signs to Historical Markers but have often not seen the marker or sign until too late. A little way west of Coleraine, we were on a high open stretch of road so had plenty of warning and pulled over to look at a marker which turned out to be a memorial to Edward Henty, Victoria's first settler. As we had left the Henty Highway, this seemed to be misplaced but it actually overlooked his first property. It is rather a pity that the memorial is not more explanatory as it starts with a quotation from the Henty Diaries "Throwing up their hats with a cheer they put their horses to the gallop and set off for the stations across the plains" - and then?

The Henty family (Edward was one of seven sons) played a large part in the early settlement of Victoria, having previously settled in Western Australia but deciding that the soils there were not suitable for agriculture and making claims in what was to become the state of Victoria.

Low rolling country near the Henty memorial

Low rolling country near the Henty memorial

At this point I would mention that when we lived in Perth, a five-week old kelpie X puppy was dropped over our fence. As we both worked, I said that we could not keep her but as the only option was the pound and euthanasia, she stayed with us and was a great joy. She had great character and was a lovely excuse to exercise. When we returned to England in 2002, we took her with us and she had a couple of years of bouncing through snow before her 17 years caught up. As a result of this little dog we have been great lovers of kelpies so when we reached Casterton, which claimed to be the home of the kelpie, we had to stop and saw a wide variety of kelpie souvenirs and pictures of kelpies many of which appeared to be almost identical to our little Blott (don't ask, it is a long story!).

Before leaving Casterton, we visited Ess Lagoon but at that time of day there was not a great deal of birdlife which was our primary reason for visiting, although it is pretty enough in its own right. Casterton is apparently named after the English town of the same name in Cumbria, possibly because both are surrounded by 'protective' hills.

Ess Lagoon

Ess Lagoon

"Man's Best Friend" - statue of man with kelpie, by Ess Lagoon

"Man's Best Friend" - statue of man with kelpie, by Ess Lagoon

Beautiful eucalypt by Ess Lagoon

Beautiful eucalypt by Ess Lagoon

Shortly after this, we left Victoria, re-entered South Australia and soon arrived at Mount Gambier where we checked into the Blue Lake Motel which did not have views of the lake as one may suppose but was nonetheless comfortable and well-situated for our needs. We checked emails and found that we had inadvertently, and pretty much unavoidably, driven through some toll roads in Melbourne so had fees to pay plus a disproportionate 'service fee' - c'est la vie! Our very good friend in Perth, Len, had been dealing with any mail and passed this information on to us by email.

The peak of the crater, home to the famous Blue Lake, was named in 1800 by Lieutenant James Grant who spotted the peak from the Lady Nelson. Lord James Gambier was Admiral of the Fleet so Grant was paying due homage!

In the motel room we found information about places to visit and one we had never heard of sounded interesting, Umpherston Sinkhole. We first had dinner at an Italian restaurant in town and then went to the sinkhole which was an amazing place, entered through a well-treed park-like area. It had been a limestone cave but ages ago, the roof collapsed leaving this very large hole. The hole and surrounding property had belonged to James Umpherston who made it into a garden in 1886 and Mount Gambier Council have since maintained it pretty much as it was originally. Umpherston was a farmer and politician, succeeding the Australian poet and politician, Adam Lindsay Gordon.

The gardens and hole are open each day from dawn to dusk and the walls of the hole are barely visible as they are covered with greenery, mostly cascading down from the rim of the hole. Within the hole are several terraces of gardens and at the side there are some caves and other niches, homes for a variety of flora and fauna. We were making our way down the steps at the side of the hole but stopped at a lookout where the foliage had been cut away to form a window. Here we met a lady who is a regular visitor and brings food for the possums which appear at dusk. On cue, as we stood there, one appeared from the hanging plants and accepted her treats. At the bottom, we walked around the lower gardens and into a cave in which more possums had made their home and were beginning to emerge. By this time, the light was not great for photography but it was a memorable experience.

Looking down onto the garden terraces at the bottom of the sinkhole with curtains of greenery covering the walls

Looking down onto the garden terraces at the bottom of the sinkhole with curtains of greenery covering the walls

Bees made good use of the niches in the limestone walls

Bees made good use of the niches in the limestone walls

A possum at the lookout poisition

A possum at the lookout poisition

The lush gardens at the bottom of the hole

The lush gardens at the bottom of the hole

Possum eating in one of the caves

Possum eating in one of the caves

Posted by SteveJD 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Great Otway National Park to Warrnambool

...via Port Campbell and the rest of the Great Ocean Road

semi-overcast 27 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Back to Oz on SteveJD's travel map.

The weather was kind to us and gave us a really lovely day for the Walks and Waterfalls drive in the national park. Our first stop, not very far along the Great Ocean Road from where we joined it from the Cape Otway road, was Mait's Rest. This was named after a former forestry patrol officer, Maitland Bryant (probably about 100 years ago). The nominal 30 minute short walk took us well over and hour as we found so much of beauty and interest. I hope our photos do it justice. Most of the time we have been able to identify birds using the Pizzey & Knight app (highly recommended) but some I simply couldn't be sure of, so I joined the Facebook group Australian Bird Identification and they have surprised me with some of the IDs.

Boardwalk into the forest

Boardwalk into the forest

Steve showing how large some of the holes in trees can be

Steve showing how large some of the holes in trees can be

A forest giant encrusted with ferns and other growth

A forest giant encrusted with ferns and other growth

Colourful fungi grow on some trees

Colourful fungi grow on some trees

Steve showing the size of one of the fallen trees

Steve showing the size of one of the fallen trees

Lush green tree ferns grow throughout the area

Lush green tree ferns grow throughout the area

Female Golden Whistler (per Australian Bird Identification website)

Female Golden Whistler (per Australian Bird Identification website)

Some of the older trees have twisted into strange shapes over the years

Some of the older trees have twisted into strange shapes over the years

From Mait's Rest we drove east on the Great Ocean Road, through Apollo Bay to Skenes Creek where we found a nice little picnic spot by the creek and took a break for lunch, accompanied by various birds. Skenes Creek was named by George Smythe after a fellow surveyor, A.J. Skene, who became Surveyor-General in 1868.

Red wattle bird

Red wattle bird

Now re-energised we drove inland along some winding roads, heading north then west until we found the turn-off to Hopetoun Falls. There we had a short walk through more beautiful forest down to the foot of the falls which must have a special little eco-system as there were evidently many insects. The birds we saw were numerous and generally very accommodating - thornbills, fantails, yellow robin, a rose robin (as best as I can make out from the poor photo we have) and others that we have not been able to identify. We spent far longer in this lovely spot than we had thought we would but what a gorgeous spot for relaxation and photography.

Hopetoun Falls from above

Hopetoun Falls from above

Steve on his way down to the bottom of the falls

Steve on his way down to the bottom of the falls

Hopetoun Falls

Hopetoun Falls

Female white-browed scrubwren (per Australia Bird Identification website)

Female white-browed scrubwren (per Australia Bird Identification website)

Irrestible trees with lush growth over them

Irrestible trees with lush growth over them

Grey fantail

Grey fantail

Judith waiting for me to catch up on the return journey

Judith waiting for me to catch up on the return journey

It was too much to hope that we could match this idyllic spot but we drove along to Triplet Falls. The steps weaved through the forest up and down so that we had some views but it was difficult to get a decent photo of these falls in their entirety but some of the 'steps' made for very attractive falls to photograph. We enjoyed the walk, again through fabulous forest and the falls were well worth the visit.

Steve on the way to the falls

Steve on the way to the falls

Part of Triplet Falls

Part of Triplet Falls

A remnant of the old saw-milling operations

A remnant of the old saw-milling operations

The return trip was via Laver's Hill (named after Frank and Stephen Laver, settlers from Gippsland who cleared a large amount of land in the area) which proved to be a lovely scenic route. We had hoped to see the lighthouse at Cape Otway and drove down to the cape but found that they had closed at 4:30 and closed meant closed - gated and fenced so that there was no chance to see the lighthouse unless we had hiked over from Bimbi Park. When we got back there we found ourselves involved in a debate with a Chinese gentleman who had parked his campervan outside our cabin, leaving us nowhere to go. He spoke no English but fortunately another Chinese chap nearby was able to explain and we duly parked for the night. By the time this was all resolved, it was way too late to contemplate a walk over rough ground to the lighthouse, so one sight unseen.

Scenery along the Great Ocean Road

Scenery along the Great Ocean Road

Panorama of hay bales in fields near Laver's Hill

Panorama of hay bales in fields near Laver's Hill

Part of dead forest between Cape Otway and Bimbi Park

Part of dead forest between Cape Otway and Bimbi Park

The following day was showery and blustery but we did manage to get the Landcruiser loaded in a dry spell. We drove out onto the Great Ocean Road and after a short while stopped at Melba Gully, a very pretty little picnic spot, apparently the wettest place in Victoria - this I can believe!. In spite of the weather we had a walk around until the footing became too slippery to continue. Here we had yellow robins all around us in the car park. It is believed that a former owner was a music lover who named the area after the great Dame Nellie Melba.

A glimpse of the ocean near Glenaire on the Great Ocean Road

A glimpse of the ocean near Glenaire on the Great Ocean Road

Lichen-encrusted handrail by path at Melba's Rest

Lichen-encrusted handrail by path at Melba's Rest

Eastern yellow robin

Eastern yellow robin

We drove on reached the Twelve Apostles and drove into the huge car park. It was mayhem here with little or no control over vehicle movements but we did eventually get parked and got to the Visitor Centre, in the face of driving rain and a strong southerly wind. We decided that iconic though the Twelve Apostles may be, we did not relish a one kilometre walk in these conditions. We had not come equipped for such wet conditions so drove out and westwards. We had intended to have lunch in Port Campbell but we found most of the restaurants were closed and what was open did not appeal, so drove on to The Arch where there was some stunning and easily accessible scenery.

The Arch from above

The Arch from above

Cliffs to the west of the Arch

Cliffs to the west of the Arch

Nankeen kestrel making use of the wind

Nankeen kestrel making use of the wind

The stretch of road from the Twelve Apostles to just west of Peterborough really lived up to the Great Ocean Road's reputation, in spite of really grotty weather. We had somehow missed Loch Ard Gorge so I can't comment on that but our next stop at London Bridge was another bit of great scenery, even if one span of the bridge had fallen down! We ate our picnic lunch here, in the Beast, before braving the weather to get some photographs of this feature.

London Bridge

London Bridge

Panoramic view of London Bridge and surrounds

Panoramic view of London Bridge and surrounds

The weather was a bit changeable!

The weather was a bit changeable!

We stopped in Peterborough to take photos of the wild weather in the harbour and then continued to the Bay of Martyrs just along the coast. In the absence of any help from the internet, I presume this town was named after the town in Cambridgeshire, England.

Bay of Martyrs

Bay of Martyrs

Bay of Martyrs

Bay of Martyrs

A bit more stormy weather

A bit more stormy weather

A hole in a rock

A hole in a rock

From there we carried on to the Bay of Islands, probably the best bit of coastal scenery we have seen, although some sun and a bright blue sky would have enhanced it all just a bit.

Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands

Panoramic view over the bay

Panoramic view over the bay

Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands

This had been quite a long day, not help by the weather, so we were glad to get our cabin at Discovery Parks, Warrnambool. However, we had thought an Economy cabin would suffice for just the two of us but it had the narrowest bathroom we have had yet and the bedroom too was cramped for space. There was no oven, the heater and air conditioning were limited in their effectiveness and the lighting was not great. That said, it was comfortable enough and in a great location so the comments are not complaints but rather caveats for anyone else considering staying here. Warrnambool gains its name from the Aboriginal word for a nearby volcanic cone. Rather confusingly, this name, according to Wikipedia, is interpreted to mean many things including 'land between two rivers', 'two swamps' or 'ample water'. Like many things, it probably makes more sense in context.

The following day we had to spend partly on admin but were delighted to meet and have lunch with Denise, Judith's friend through the 365Project. Denise was very helpful and gave us good advice - it is so good to meet up with someone with local knowledge. We had a drive around the town and then later on out to Thunder Point and Pickering Point. The weather had improved for yesterday but was still not wonderful for photography or, for fair weather walkers, wandering around. Nonetheless, we did have a walk around at Pickering Point (renamed from the original French name Cap du Mont Tabor after a surveyor, William Pickering), leaning into the wind or being hustled along by it when walking the other way.

Denise and Judith in earnest debate

Denise and Judith in earnest debate

Singing honeyeater at Pickering Point

Singing honeyeater at Pickering Point

Our last day in Warrnambool provided some better weather and enjoyed a walk around Lake Pertobe, just next to the caravan park. Lake Pertobe was a swampy area but has been made into a lovely large park with more than one lake, several walks and a children's play area, something for everyone. It seems that Pertobe was derived from an Aboriginal name meaning 'lake' so we have Lake Lake! In Britain, we did much the same with the River Avon as 'avon' is a Welsh word for a river. Back to business, we as usual went on the hunt for birds and saw a good variety. We stopped and chatted with another bird lover and he suggested that we go out to Tower Hill, which had been on our agenda, but first to go to Rutledge Cutting to see the endangered hooded plovers.

Black swan with cygnet

Black swan with cygnet

New Holland honeyeater in banksia

New Holland honeyeater in banksia

Grey shrike-thrush with insect

Grey shrike-thrush with insect

We couldn't find Rutledge Cutting but in the same area came on Beaufort Reserve where a short walk over the dunes took us onto the beach and close to the fenced off area where the hooded plovers were nesting. In this area we saw lapwings (which used to be called plovers) and plovers (which used to be called dotterels) as well as parents and chicks of the hooded plovers. These changes in bird names have occurred while we were
living in England, so please excuse the odd lapse into 'old' terminology, it is all very confusing for the layman. While in this area we had a picnic lunch in the shelter of the dunes as it was a bit breezy and chatted to a number of dog walkers who were surprised to come across a WA vehicle in this area.

Steve on the beach

Steve on the beach

Red-capped dotterel

Red-capped dotterel

Two hooded plovers

Two hooded plovers

Tower Hill State Game Reserve is about 14km west of Warrnambool. The 'hill' is the rim of an extinct volcano and the reserve is principally tucked down inside the crater around the crater lakes. The volcanic formation is the largest example of a nested 'maar' in Victoria, 'maar' being the name for a broad lake in a volcanic crater (this was all new to me, so I am just passing the information on!). Fairly soon after the area was settled by Europeans, much of the area inside the crater was cleared for farming and other non-sympathetic activities. Fortunately, an Austrian artist, Eugene von Guerard, had painted a view from the rim in 1855, before clearing had taken place. When the whole area was made a reserve in 1961, the Fisheries and Wildlife Department were able to develop a planting scheme using von Guerard's painting as a guide. Our first move was to drive around the rim, through the small town of Koroit (an abbreviation and simplification of the name of the Aboriginal people who lived in the area before European settlement), gaining excellent views over the inside of the crater. Koroit describes itself as an Irish village and certainly there is much evidence of Irish festivities and other activities. We continued round and drove down into the crater itself where around the lakes we found plenty of walking areas and were able to see many birds. At the centre of the crater is the Visitor Centre which is informative, sells much-needed ice cream and has emus and kangaroos roaming around, evidently habituated to the many visitors. On our way out, an echidna ambled across the road and up onto the embankment where it quickly disappeared. As the echidna appeared, Judith grabbed her camera but it had stopped working at that moment so we left with only a mental picture.

Panoramic view over the crater

Panoramic view over the crater

Part of the crater lake

Part of the crater lake

Heavily eroded face of part of the crater wall

Heavily eroded face of part of the crater wall

Black-headed stilt

Black-headed stilt

Field of sunlit teasels

Field of sunlit teasels

Cross-eyed emu by the Visitor Centre

Cross-eyed emu by the Visitor Centre

From Tower Hill, we drove back into Warrnambool to meet Denise for a cuppa and a walk along the breakwater where we chatted to several fishermen who had enjoyed varying degrees of fishing fortune. In the harbour we glimpsed a seal but it didn't come up to the boat ramp where Denise got a great photo some time after we had left the area. Most Friday's we have fish and chips and Denise recommended Parker's in the town. As usual her recommendation was spot on and we had a delicious dinner. Back in the park we had a treat as we heard some music and found in the camp kitchen that a group called The String Famly were giving a concert (in exchange for a free night's accommodation). They were excellent and we only wish we had known they were playing there as we only caught their last few numbers. Still, a lovely end to our stay in Warrnambool.

Breakwater and harbour

Breakwater and harbour

Pair of silver gulls

Pair of silver gulls

Denise and Judith on the breakwater

Denise and Judith on the breakwater

Very neat two-master moored in the harbour

Very neat two-master moored in the harbour

The String Family in the community kitchen

The String Family in the community kitchen

Posted by SteveJD 08:38 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Bendigo to Great Otway National Park

...via Kyneton, Ballarat and part of the Great Ocean Road

semi-overcast 31 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Back to Oz on SteveJD's travel map.

After a relaxing short stay in Bendigo, we made our way to Kyneton to see our friends Maxine and Nicky. It was Nicky who had an operation which resulted in a change to our plans. She was still recuperating but issuing instructions to anyone who would listen nonetheless! However, we and Maxine escaped to the paddock so that she could show us her little flock of rescued sheep which were very friendly.

Maxine's sheep see her and know food is on the way

Maxine's sheep see her and know food is on the way

Steve watching Maxine with her sheep

Steve watching Maxine with her sheep

Judith watching Maxine with her sheep

Judith watching Maxine with her sheep

Nicky relaxing - also just watching?

Nicky relaxing - also just watching?

Our friends' property is actually a little way out of town so we only got to see a little of the town passing through. This was a pity as it has some interesting history. The town's name may have arisen from the suggestion of the wife of an early settler that it be named after a family property in Kington, Herfordshire. I prefer, and find more likely, the idea that the name was adopted from the name given to it by prospectors 'Cow Town', in their dialect, Kyne Town (kyne being an old term for cattle) and thence Kyneton.

When we were travelling through Queensland, we found many references to places being named by the explorer, Major Thomas Mitchell. He also travelled through this area and gave the name Campaspe to the river he crossed at or near the site of the present day town. Campaspe was one of Alexander the Great's courtesans - very apt!

In 1859, the Kyneton Mounted Rifle Corps was formed, one of the earliest such units in Victoria and in 1870, Ned Kelly was tried at Kyneton Courthouse for robbery under arms. Apparently many of the old buildings remain so with those and the history (Caroline Chisholm also lived here) it would have been an interesting stop over had time permitted.

As it was, and as usual, we had too little time in the area before we had to wend our way through lovely countryside and pretty towns like Woodend and Daylesford, on our way to Ballarat. Here we stayed at the Big 4 Windmill Caravan Park and, apart from slightly tight parking, enjoyed our stay there. The name, Ballarat, is thought to originate from two Aboriginal words 'balla' and 'arat' meaning 'resting place'. From what we saw of the town, a very appropriate name.

The Beast tucked in nice and tight

The Beast tucked in nice and tight

A view of the eponymous windmill and the park area

A view of the eponymous windmill and the park area

Our only full day in Ballarat was spent at Sovereign Hill and we could easily have stayed longer. It was a pity, photographically, that it was overcast for most of the day but if it hadn't been, I suspect it could have been uncomfortably warm. For anyone not familiar with Sovereign Hill, it is a large area, on the edge of Ballarat, on which old buildings or recreations have been erected with some three odd streets running through, to give a picture of life around the mid-19th century. Along the street there is a variety of shops and manufactories typical of the era, mostly (cafes and restaurants excepted) demonstrating various craft and selling the produce. There are two mines, at one of which one can try panning for gold, and also a very interesting Chinese Camp. As if the buildings were not enough, there are many people who stage street theatre or give demonstrations of, for example, musket firing. It is a really interesting and educational experience.

Selection of old buildings

Selection of old buildings

Some of the characters we encountered

Some of the characters we encountered

The shops had a huge variety of goods for sale

The shops had a huge variety of goods for sale

On our way out of Ballarat, we admired their Arch of Victory with the Avenue of Honour or Remembrance Drive stretching away from it.

Arch of Victory, Ballarat

Arch of Victory, Ballarat

We then headed south towards the outskirts of Geelong and then to Torquay which had large signs proclaiming it to be the start of the Great Ocean Road but the road westwards then took us inland out of sight of the coast! Between Torquay and Anglesea, we turned off to Point Addis (named after Lieutenant Edward Brown Addis, an early Crown Lands Commissioner) where there was some quite attractive coastal scenery.

View from Point Addis

View from Point Addis

Bay and cliffs below Point Addis

Bay and cliffs below Point Addis

Beyond Anglesea (originally called Swampy Creek then named after the town in Wales), we started to drive along the Great Ocean Road actually with views of the ocean then on an inland stretch found a chocolatier where we had a good lunch and, of course, indulged in some chocolate buying.

Almost too good to eat

Almost too good to eat

Colourful display of amazing selection of chocolates

Colourful display of amazing selection of chocolates

The views as we drove along were beautiful but not quite what we had expected after all the hoopla about the GOR and, unfortunately, as it was mainly overcast we did not get the best experience - physically, emotionally or photographically! At Lorne (named after John Campbell, 9th Duke of Argyll and Marquis of Lorne, on the occasion of his marriage to Queen Victoria's fourth daughter, Princess Louise), we turned inland to see Erskine Falls which were very pretty, although I didn't get to the bottom as my knee was playing up rather painfully. Luckily, Judith soldiered on and took some good photographs. Our journey from Torquay through to the Twelve Apostles (next blog) was made less enjoyable by the traffic. We were surprised to find so many Chinese tourists, evidently new to touring as they tootled along at about 40kph seemingly oblivious of other traffic and clearly not used to driving on the left, hence the many signs we saw in English and Chinese exhorting drivers to drive on the left! . There were so many of them (Chinese tourists, not signs!) that we wondered if there was a Chinese holiday season into which we had driven!

Erskine Falls, near Lorne

Erskine Falls, near Lorne

Climbing the steps back up from the falls

Climbing the steps back up from the falls

We continued to just beyond Apollo Bay (named for the ship "Apollo" which moored in the bay in 1845, taking shelter from the weather) where the 'Great Ocean Road' then winds inland again through the Cape Otway area. We followed the GOR as far as the turn-off towards Cape Otway and our cabin in Bimbi Caravan Park (after Gladys had led us astray in the forest!). The cabin was a reasonable size compared with some places we have stayed but the water has to be boiled before consumption, there is no TV, no mobile reception and no internet. There are times when I would revel in being cut-off from the world but falling behind with the blog was a pain! The park was OK with some nice trees and shrubs but the roads were all fine dust, so a bit of a mucky place to be. In the early evening we went for a walk on the 'Bird Route'. We heard a few birds but caught only glimpses and the 'bird hide' turned out to be a rotting bench in a shelter in which the corrugated iron roof was rusted and falling through. At least it was a nice walk and when we got back to the beginning of the track we were directed by some visitors down another track where, with the help of some Chinese visitors, we saw a koala quite high in a tree. We went back to the cabin where thornbills and fantails were flitting around the cabin and nearby we spotted a woman with her camera pointed up - another koala, right above her campsite!

Cape Otway was named after Captain Albany Otway by his friend, Lieutenant James Grant, a Royal Navy officer and navigator who commanded the "Lady Nelson" and became the first person to sail through the Bass Strait. A replica of the "Lady Nelson" is to be found in Hobart.

The Beast outside our Bimbi Park cabin

The Beast outside our Bimbi Park cabin

The ramshackle bird hide

The ramshackle bird hide

The following morning, we both felt a bit under the weather (no, we had not drunk untreated water nor had we over-indulged in our consumption of alcohol!). As a result we had a bit of an 'admin' morning although we did get some photos of a koala in a tree behind our cabin.

Dozy koala at Bimbi Park

Dozy koala at Bimbi Park

The koala moved a tiny bit - really!

The koala moved a tiny bit - really!

We had a look at what there was to see in the area and decided to leave the local area until the next day and to take advantage of some finer weather to head inland to Colac and the Red Rock Lookout. A few kilometres from the park, just as we got onto the Great Ocean Drive, Judith had to stop as a koala was ambling along the road and then when our cameras came out, clambered up a roadside tree - a lovely close encounter. I have a nice little video clip of the koala but, annoyingly, despite trying to upload this several times in different ways, I have had no success so you will just have to believe me that they don't just sleep in trees!

Our road-running koala safely up a tree

Our road-running koala safely up a tree

Driving through forest and then out into open farmland, we found the drive interesting and the views from the lookout over the volcanic landscape really great. We had not expected to find this type of very different scenery in Australia as generally the geology is very old whereas volcanoes are relatively recent (big generalisation!). At the foot of the lookout we found an information board about William Buckley, an escaped convict who lived with Aborigines in the area for several years. Apparently, the expression 'you've got Buckley's', meaning no chance, arose from his exploits although I would say that having survived in the area with Aborigines and then being pardoned on his return to 'civilisation' showed that he actually had a number of chances! Maybe the expression is ironic? Other information boards provide details of the variety of volcanic activity that occurred and pointing out the ways in which the landscape has been formed by this activity - salt lakes, freshwater lakes, basalt hills, hollows etc.

Countryside near Colac

Countryside near Colac

Panoramic view from Red Rock Lookout

Panoramic view from Red Rock Lookout

View from Red Rock Lookout towards Lake Corangamite

View from Red Rock Lookout towards Lake Corangamite

View from Red Rock Lookout, showing some of the volcanic features

View from Red Rock Lookout, showing some of the volcanic features

The name Colac is believed to derive an Aboriginal word meaning 'sand' or 'fresh water' in reference to Lake Colac.

Having sunned ourselves at the lookout and soaked up the magnificent 360 degree views, we headed back into the town to a bird reserve which was an added bonus. There were lovely walking trails and a good variety of birds. We saw our first avocet (for this trip) and huge numbers of pelicans among the birds on offer. It was later than usual for us by the time we left and we stopped for a meal (pie & chips - ever the gourmets!) at Laver's Hill on the way back. The last stretch was in dusk and dark and we had to be very careful as there were quite a few kangaroos and wallabies close to or on the road.

Crested Pigeon

Crested Pigeon

Raft of pelicans

Raft of pelicans

More pelicans flying in

More pelicans flying in

Black-shouldered kite on the hunt

Black-shouldered kite on the hunt

Posted by SteveJD 14:08 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Merrijig to Bendigo

sunny 31 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Back to Oz on SteveJD's travel map.

As mentioned in the last blog, the reason for being in Merrijig, nice though it is itself, was to get to the Victorian High Country and Mt Buller so, after some early photos around the motel, we headed up the road to Mt Buller itself. Before continuing, apparently some people think that I took all the pictures but Judith took more than I did and her pictures form a large part of our blogs.

Our morning alarm call

Our morning alarm call

And all the others to make sure we don't sleep in!

And all the others to make sure we don't sleep in!

On the way up we passed a magnificent mountain ash tree which is apparently home to the Mountain Gnomes who look after the mountain pygmy-possums - why not?! Apart from highlighting the vulnerability of these lovely little creatures, the gnome stories and features offer a great diversion for old and young.

View from the lower slopes of Mt Buller on our way up

View from the lower slopes of Mt Buller on our way up

Mountain Ash by the road, home to the Mountain Gnomes

Mountain Ash by the road, home to the Mountain Gnomes

Gnome post box

Gnome post box

We also stopped to see if we could help a young couple who had managed to do an 'us' and flatten their battery overnight but what we had was not able to get them going so we carried on to the township of Mt Buller, basically a ski village. There several sculptures, or perhaps a broader term of artworks would be better, are scattered around the village making for some interesting walks; we particularly liked the Mountain Cattleman and the fairly new Totem Pole. Of course, at this time of year it was deserted and most places were closed but we did find one place where we were able to get a decent lunch. While chatting to folk inside, we learned that the road continued up to a car park from which there was a trail to the summit.

Roadside view on the way up

Roadside view on the way up

View over snowless ski slopes from the village

View over snowless ski slopes from the village

The Totem Pole

The Totem Pole

Part of the village

Part of the village

Mountain Cattleman sculpture

Mountain Cattleman sculpture

Having reached the car park, we saw a young couple toiling up a steep gradient and both agreed that it was probably a bit ambitious for us. After a pause for thought, I said I would just try and went up 40 steps then stopped to rest my leg before doing another 40 steps (these got smaller and smaller as we went up!). At the 'top' there was a plateau with some rocky uneven steps leading to the summit and we felt this was pushing our luck, so enjoyed the views from there. As we prepared to descend, a 'madman', George (unfortunately we didn't get his surname) came running down the steps and stopped for a yarn. He turned out to be an ultra-marathon runner who also coerced people into going just that bit further - he succeeded in persuading us to give the steps ago and we duly reached the summit, by which time he had run down to the car park and back up again! He was doing this run, after an initial run of several kilometres to the car park, ten times that day, just as training. We have no wish to emulate that but from then on whenever we came across a similar challenge we pushed ourselves by saying "What would George say?" - thanks George, wherever you may be! The views from the top were stunning and certainly made the effort (and pain!) worthwhile.

Part of the first ascent - it's steeper than it looks!

Part of the first ascent - it's steeper than it looks!

A lovely selection of grasses by the path up

A lovely selection of grasses by the path up

Still working our way up to the 'shoulder'

Still working our way up to the 'shoulder'

A view from the 'shoulder' - the mountains appeared to go on for ever

A view from the 'shoulder' - the mountains appeared to go on for ever

Panoramic view from Mt Buller

Panoramic view from Mt Buller

Lichens at the summit

Lichens at the summit

We Made It! Those are walking poles NOT walking sticks!

We Made It! Those are walking poles NOT walking sticks!

George - our motivating madman!

George - our motivating madman!

Alpine everlastings

Alpine everlastings

View from Mt Buller

View from Mt Buller


Looking back down from the 'shoulder' on our way back

Looking back down from the 'shoulder' on our way back

On the way back to Merrijig we stopped at a couple of picnic sites and had some enjoyable bird watching, even seeing the first kingfisher since we started out (not counting kookaburras). This was a sacred kingfisher and although we could see its beauty, it was just too far away for a decent photograph. At one of the sites, Judith stayed in the vehicle as the March flies made a beeline for her! She was wearing blue jeans and we later found that March flies are attracted to blue and other dark colours, not that they totally ignored me!

Creek running by picnic spot

Creek running by picnic spot

King parrot by one of the picnic sites

King parrot by one of the picnic sites

Our last sunset in the High Country

Our last sunset in the High Country

The following morning, we were up and ready to go in time to see a lovely sunrise. Our journey took us down from the High Country through areas with high rolling hills which gradually gave way to lower rolling hills (similar to English hills but mainly with a bleached grass cover rather than the soft green of England). The hills in turn dropped behind as we entered straw-coloured grassland interspersed with some craggy hills and granite outcrops.

Sunrise at Merrijig

Sunrise at Merrijig

Some of the high rolling hills

Some of the high rolling hills

A pastoral view as the hills become lower

A pastoral view as the hills become lower

The last of the rolling hills before the flatlands

The last of the rolling hills before the flatlands

It was time for a coffee break by the time we reached Euroa, where we found a lovely spot in a park which is dedicated to three local men who were awarded the VC, one in the Boer War and two at Gallipoli. The town itself seemed very attractive with some very pleasant and friendly folk living there, to judge from our all too brief experience.

A beautiful river gum in the VC Memorial Park

A beautiful river gum in the VC Memorial Park

The statues of the VC winners

The statues of the VC winners

Creek running through the VC Memorial Park

Creek running through the VC Memorial Park

After Euroa, the landscape, I guess all part of the valley or ancient floodplain of the Murray River, was very flat grassland with the odd tree left as shelter for livestock and occasionally a field of maize.

For many years, Judith has been in search of a combination of an old house, a water tank and a windmill which we see as iconic symbols of rural Australia. Many times we have found two acceptable items but never three together until travelling along this road, Judith suddenly hammered on the brakes as she had seen what she wanted. Individually, we have probably seen better examples of each but the combination of the three was almost ideal - cameras out!

The iconic image Judith was after

The iconic image Judith was after

Judith felt that sepia toning was appropriate - she does like to play!

Judith felt that sepia toning was appropriate - she does like to play!

Not far from our destination, Moama, we diverted to see Kyabram Fauna Park. Sadly, this did not live up to our expectations. Undoubtedly some people have put in a lot of work and it has been supported by Rotary but it is not as good as I am sure they all intended. it seems to be run by very keen volunteers, but clearly there is a lack of funds to take it up a level. There are some very nice areas but some which are more zoo-like and there is quite a good selection of interesting birds and animal. It just needs a slight lift and it would be a really nice Murray River 'place to go' but I would say it is a 'work-in-progress'. The following photos, except the last, are of animals in captivity, not our preferred way of seeing them but they did seem well cared for.

Koala

Koala

Cockatiel

Cockatiel

Bearded dragon

Bearded dragon

Red-rumped parrot (we think!)

Red-rumped parrot (we think!)

We crossed the border for our last foray into New South Wales and found our Big 4/Discovery Park cabin quite easily - close to the town, RSL and other eateries and with the river a short walk through the site. This was among the better cabins we have stayed in, with the air-conditioning on when we arrived but no fan in the bedroom, so a little warm but otherwise comfortable and a good base. We found birds liked the area just outside our cabin where a sprinkler had been left on and, on a walk down to the river, the local wildlife proved quite friendly.

Eastern rosella

Eastern rosella

Amorous crested pigeons

Amorous crested pigeons

Red-rumped parrots (we think)

Red-rumped parrots (we think)

Eastern grey kangaroo with young one

Eastern grey kangaroo with young one

Swamp wallaby (we think)

Swamp wallaby (we think)

Female superb blue fairy wren

Female superb blue fairy wren

The following morning, we crossed the river into Echuca and did the tourist boat bit of cruising on a paddle steamer. We were on the PS Pevensey (better known to our generation as PS Philadelphia from the TV series "All the Rivers Run"). As it was a hot day, the cruise was very welcome, sitting in comfort in the shade and feeling the 'coolth' of the river, all very pleasant with lovely scenery. I think it would be fair to say that this lived up to our expectations and possibly slightly exceeded them, well worth doing. The port precinct is also very attractive with plenty to keep the mind and camera busy and the scenic drive through riverine woodland is enjoyable - probably would have been more so if we hadn't gone the wrong way and had to edge very gently where the bank was washed away - we had not noticed a 'Road Closed' sign! Nonetheless we did find some quite friendly birds in the area, in spite of the heat.

Paddle steamer Black Shag

Paddle steamer Black Shag

PS Hero

PS Hero

Artefacts from "All the Rivers Run" aboard PS Pevensey

Artefacts from "All the Rivers Run" aboard PS Pevensey

Paddle steamer undergoing restoration

Paddle steamer undergoing restoration

PS Pevensey engine room

PS Pevensey engine room

PS Pevensey moored

PS Pevensey moored

Handsome old locomotive (now, sadly, diesel-powered

Handsome old locomotive (now, sadly, diesel-powered

Locomotive, barrels and log trailer

Locomotive, barrels and log trailer

Tour guide under lace parasol

Tour guide under lace parasol

Old gas lamp in historic port area

Old gas lamp in historic port area

Steve got hot and was glad to find the very pretty Wistaria Cafe

Steve got hot and was glad to find the very pretty Wistaria Cafe

Some of the lovely river gums on the Scenic Drive

Some of the lovely river gums on the Scenic Drive

White-plumed honeyeater

White-plumed honeyeater

Our last day was going to be an 'admin' day but we took a drive out to Five Mile Reserve, a little further to the west of the town and the park. Here we came across a good bird area but also had fun watching speed boats careering up and down the river, practising for a big event the weekend after we left - of course! The town was filling up fast so I guess we were quite lucky that we had booked ahead.

Another white-plumed honeyeater - singing away

Another white-plumed honeyeater - singing away

Sacred kingfisher (best I could get of this lovely little bird)

Sacred kingfisher (best I could get of this lovely little bird)

Jet ski on the Murray

Jet ski on the Murray

Our itinerary then headed roughly south west to Bendigo where we only had time for a coffee stop in a lovely park. We probably could have built one or two more days in so that we could have done places like Bendigo justice but we would probably still be travelling if we had tried that! Maybe next time?

Black duck portrait

Black duck portrait

Purple swamphen

Purple swamphen

Moorhen

Moorhen

Peewee or magpie-lark

Peewee or magpie-lark

Orange-bellied parrot (we think)

Orange-bellied parrot (we think)

If anyone has a different idea of any of the birds or animals, please let us know as we did struggle at times, in spite of having the very handy Pizzey & Knight app on Judith's iPad.

Posted by SteveJD 15:58 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

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