Monthly Archives: June 2013

Anakie Gorge, Victoria

Last weekend I finally got to Anakie Gorge. It’s in the Brisbane Ranges National Park, around an hour’s drive west of Melbourne.

I tried about a year ago but the trails were closed because of flood damage. Things are fine there now and there’s little sign of what caused rangers to close this section of the park to walkers. I sometimes wonder whether rangers are too quick to close walking tracks because of so-called damage. But I suppose in today’s litigious society they have to err on the side of caution.

Anyway, I was there now with a couple of friends, on an icy Melbourne morning (apparently the coldest in 15 years) and looking forward to exploring a section of the park I hadn’t seen before.

Start of Anakie Gorge walk

Start of Anakie Gorge walk

We started our circuit walk at the Anakie Gorge picnic area, a nice grassy spot under the trees. The track was fairly flat and headed up into the gorge, following a mostly dry watercourse.

About 20 minutes into the walk we turned left at a junction and climbed up a steep rocky ridge to be above the gorge. From the top there were nice views across the tops of the wooded ranges and out to farmland plains. We continued along the top of the range, passing a couple of boot washing stations. The stations aim to prevent the spread cinnamon fungus, which attacks the fine roots of vegetation and kills the plant.

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Step one of cleaning boots – scrape boots on brush

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Step 2 – Wash soles

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Step 3 – Carry on walking

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Looking across the Brisbane Ranges

The trail turned back down into the gorge, passing under a dead tree that seemed to be a favourite of a flock of cockatoos that loudly screeched as we passed underneath. Back down in the gorge we had lunch at the Stony Creek picnic area, an open grassy spot with picnic tables that was a great spot for a little break.

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The cockatoo tree

From there it was a gentle, flat walk along the floor of the gorge back to where we started. Anakie was a lovely spot for a winter walk. And with other tracks and dirt roads to explore in the area, I’ll be back.

Franklin River

Rock Island Bend. Peter Dombrovkis' shot of this spot was used in the campaign to save the river

Rock Island Bend. Peter Dombrovkis’ shot of this spot was used in the campaign to save the river

A few years ago a couple of friends and I did a rafting trip on Tasmania’s Franklin River with World Expeditions. It was one of the best outdoorsy things I’ve ever done. We had eight days of unusually brilliant weather out of nine paddling down rapids and along serene stretches of calm water flanked by sheer rock gorges and ancient forests. We portaged around the more dangerous rapids and places where huge rocks blocked our path. We also spent a fair bit of time on the first couple of days pushing our rafts over parts of the river that were no more than a shallow ripple as the area had been without rain for a while.

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What made the trip even more special was knowing that we were experiencing something that was very nearly lost to a hydro-electric dam project in the 1980s. The then Tasmanian premier described the Franklin as nothing more than a leech ridden brown ditch “unattractive to the majority of people”.  Thankfully there were enough people who didn’t share his view and a protest campaign involving blockades of the river, political lobbying and a High Court case saw the dam project stopped and the river and its environment (hopefully) forever protected with World Heritage listing.

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I’ve always wanted to say “thank you” to the people who fought to protect the Franklin. It can’t have been easy in the cold and wet environment amid hostility from the government and locals directed towards conservationists. But thanks to their dedication, a truly spectacular wilderness area is still here for future generations to enjoy. True, only a small number of people will ever travel down the river themselves, but I think it’s nice to know there are still beautiful parts of the planet that are allowed to just “be”. So, in my own small way, through this blog post, I’d like to thank all those who stood up for the Franklin and express my appreciation for what they did. It also should remind us that the fight to protect the environment can be a long and challenging one, but one that’s ultimately worthwhile.

 

 

 

Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend

Whenever I go away on an overnight walk I always thoroughly research where I’m going. I read track notes, blogs, the weather bureau’s website, so I’m prepared as much as possible for any eventuality.

But for the recent Queen’s Birthday long weekend I didn’t think to apply my usual practice – unfortunately.

My fiancée and I rarely get a long weekend off together so when we learnt we both had the time off we made a snap decision to head to Beechworth, in northern Victoria to explore and sample the area’s wineries, especially at nearby Rutherglen, famous for its ports and muscats and durifs.

Main street in Beechworth

Main street in Beechworth

But when we got there, we learned that Rutherglen held its Winery Walkabout event on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. We were totally unprepared for it. Thousands of people in buses and cars descend on the wineries, with many dressing up in costumes – superheroes, animals or Wally of “Where’s Wally” fame – to guzzle their way around the cellar doors.  While we had no problem with that, what we were shocked by was being turned away from some cellar doors because we weren’t part of the Walkabout.

To join the Walkabout you had to buy a special glass for $25. But my fiancée and I didn’t want to do that because we only wanted to sample a few wines at a few wineries. We didn’t want to drink as much as we could and get smashed as it was obvious many on the Walkabout were there to do. But we were flat out told by a couple of wineries we were not allowed to taste their wines because we didn’t have a Walkabout glass. We were appalled that they or the organisers couldn’t think ahead that there might be some people in the area, tourists like ourselves, on this particular weekend that might not want to join in the Walkabout. It left us feeling quite deflated.

Fortunately we found a couple of wineries that did welcome us. Vintara, which was part of the Walkabout, was happy to have us. Olive Hills Estate wasn’t part of the event and actually felt like a haven for those avoiding the Walkabout crowds. They both had very nice wine and very friendly dogs to pat too and we’ll happily buy more of their wine in future.

Olive Hills Estate cellar door

Olive Hills Estate cellar door

Friendly dog happy for pats at Olive Hills Estate. She lost interest in us though when we finished eating

Friendly dog happy for pats at Olive Hills Estate. She lost interest in us though when we finished eating

So, the lesson I took from the weekend was, next time we go anywhere, we’ll check for events that might be on that could affect our plans.

Another lesson was to make sure any wine we buy is stored securely. I had a few bottles sitting on the back seat and at one point braked suddenly, causing them to roll onto the floor where one bottle smashed on the wheel lock I’d left there. My car now smells like a winery. Which isn’t that bad actually.

On top of Mt Pilot, on the way back to Beechworth after a day at Rutherglen

On top of Mt Pilot, on the way back to Beechworth after a day at Rutherglen

Organ Pipes National Park

I had every intention of going for a ride or big walk on Sunday. The weather forecast wasn’t the best but I’ve never let that stop me.

But when I woke up and heard the rain coming down, all my enthusiasm disappeared. That’s what a cold, grey, wet Melbourne morning can do to a person.

By the time I’d had coffee, breakfast and watched the morning current affairs programs, the clouds had started breaking up a bit. Not enough to think blue skies were around the corner, but enough to think a short walk might be in order.

The organ pipes

The organ pipes

It was then I thought the day might be a great opportunity to finally have a look at the Organ Pipes National Park.

It’s on the fringe of Melbourne’s northern suburbs and I’ve driven past its turn-off plenty of times on the way out of the city for a walk and on the way back again.

It’s an interesting little park. Formally farm land that was given to the Crown after the death of its owner, and then made a national park in 1972. It’s slowly being rehabilitated with native vegetation. Native wildlife have appreciated the changes with birds and wallabies returning to the area.

The main feature of the park is, obviously the “organ pipes” – 20 metre high basalt columns on Jacksons Creek, a sign of the area’s volcanic past. Other geological features include the Rosette Rock and Tesselated Pavement.

Rosette Rock

Rosette Rock

It’s a family friendly place, with plenty of picnic tables scattered about under the trees. The tracks are short, wide and flat. Unfortunately it’s not the most peaceful park, with the constant hum of traffic from the nearby Calder Freeway. It’s also near Melbourne Airport and planes were taking off directly overhead. I didn’t mind the planes so much though as I’m a bit of a plane spotter and can spend ages watching them take off and land. It’s the travel bug in me I think.

While the park may not be a wild wilderness, it’s still a nice patch of bushland close to the city and worth a visit.

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