Last blog finished up in Warrnambool at a great little backpackers. We met several fellow tourists “ridesharing” around Australia. Mental note to remember this technique along with “couch surfing” and cheap van hire as affordable ways to travel.
The Warrnambool beach backpackers came with complimentary bike hire, so up we got at sunrise and zoomed around the scenic local headlands and beaches. First up was Thunder point where Penny found her thunder thighs to be goose pimpled in the crisp morning air (foolish girl). Then as the sun rose we headed towards the breakwater. A cool little story is that of Middle island, which has a resident population of Marmena chicken dogs. These golden shaggy dogs originally from Italy have been imported to protect the local population of little penguins from fox predation (neat aye!)
Further round the coast, past the towns sandy beach and across the Hopkins river, where we saw a big pelican land with a splash, is the Logans Beach Whale Nursey and viewing platform where you can see Southern Right Whales with their calves throughout the winter months. A mother and her calf were sifting around just out past the breakers, not easily photographed. Awesome to see though and I had a big yarn with the local whale man about the New Zealand Right Whales, including the population that calve in the Auckland Island's Port Ross, which he was interested to learn about.
Back in the car we had a brief look around Tower Hill, a wildlife sanctuary situated just outside of Warrnambool in a massive volcanic crater, pretty cool idea, sort of like jurassic park without the veloco-raptors. The Grampians were north across the plains and it didn't take long to spot them in the distance, sharp teeth rising out of the vast plain. It being a nice day we decided to test our legs on one of the heinous fangs and finding a carpark began a steady climb up through eucalypts and wild flowers of red, white and pink. From the carpark it was a steady 25 minutes to the ridge, then 20 further to the top of Mt Abrupt with its crazily crennellated summit rock formation. A wedge tailed eagle soared off towards the spawling ranges of the Grampians to the north.
The indigenous people of the area, the Jardwadjali, recognise the eagle as Bunjil, a great ancestor spirit. These people have occupied this part of the Grampians (or Gariwerd) for 1600 generations!! Feeling a bit weary after our descent we cruised through to Halls Gap to meet Zane, Lindyl, Scarlett and Charlie at the very plush accomodation we had booked. It was great to see them rock up, a big full family car! A couple of cute little magpies missioning around in their his and hers dressing growns.
The next day I made my first blunder of the holiday, locking the keys in the car :-( Luckily the rental agreement included roadside rescue so an hour or so later the man turned up and sorted it out for me, unfortunately though soon after the rain came and the babies had to be rested, the window of opportunity for sightseeing had been lost, despair, disaster, idiot. We had a go later in the day driving to the Balconies look out in the Grampians mist and howling rain, the kids had their little cheeks tested by the lashing winds and rain as we peered through the clouds, rewarded only by a rainbow. Cabin fever. Flight of the Conchords. Yarning with Zane and Lindyl about old times and new. Trying to define tourism and travellers.
It is hard always catching up with people, sometimes new histories need to be created. But always awesome to see people, and just like the ahi ka with places, to keep those fires burning.
Leaving Halls Gap yesterday we headed west briefly checking out the lovely McKenzie falls.
Then heading to the extreme north of the Grampians we stumbled our way up the bedrock massif of Mt Staplyton, and found chicken rock, it was a great view from the top back towards the misty mountains and out over the neverending plain to the north. The final climb to the summit was through a maze of ledges and as we summitted we disturbed a pair of falcons, who use this rocky throne to wreak havoc on their citizens below.
Then it was back in the white beast and on the way back to Melbourne, passing through showers and long slow undulations of dirt and eucalypts. We decided on Ballarat to stay the evening, splashing out on a backpackers again as Penny is trying to finish an audit for her paediatric course. Ballarat is a town obsessed with its past, maintaining facades (literally) of goldrush glory. Once you see past this it has a distinct dingy feel. Sort of like Dunedin if all you had was the city centre and South Dunedin without the beach. We had a romantic meal of fish and chips on the floor of our room next to the heater.
And to be honest, apart from the paddocks of snow encountered between Ballarat and Melbourne thats about it. Looking forward to the next step of the journey. As I speak Penny has just booked us flights from Singapore to Medan on the 11th (bit of a wuss out compared to my original ferry plan) which means we have two days to explore the history and food of Singapore.