Archive for the 'The Grampians' Category

by Squage
on Mar 9th, 2007

Catching Up Part 2: The Grampians!

What’s that?

Pat and Squage went to Scotland?

No, of course not – this is Australia, remember – and every street or mountain range here needs to be named after something or someone in or around the UK in the late 1800s :-)

After waking up slightly hungover in Melbourne at 7:00am, Pat begrudgedly threw his 20-odd KG rucksack on his back, his 5KG day pack in his left hand and 3KG Coles bag in his right, and trundled out of the doors of Urban Central ready for his 15 minute trudge to Southern Cross station, in order to grab the 8:08am to the small town of Halls Gap in the Grampians National Park.

He was greeted by the first rain he’d seen in about 3 weeks. Despite the fact that there had been (and still is) the worst Australian drought in recorded history and that the whole country was begging, pleading for rain, Pat still managed the awesomely selfish task of being pissed off that it was pouring down.

You can take the Pomme from the Whinging country, but you can’t take the Whinging country from the pomme… or the whinging from the country… or the… oh, whatever. Either way, Pat had a quite grumble and decided he’d sod the walk and go for a tram ride instead. It was only after paying $3.20 for the 2 minute tram journey that he realised his train ticket to Halls Gap covered him for Melbourne trams too.

It was going well, then.

Fortunately from this point on things started to get better… for a start the train he got onto had really comfy seats, allowing him to prepare for a nice doze (Pat can’t sleep on trains – barring the one time coming back to Essex at the end of a Uni term, whereupon he’d gone to bed at 5:30am, slept approximately 2 hours and woken up still drunk (and he wonders why he’s not 10 stone…)), was almost empty – making it likely that screaming kids wouldn’t be an issue – and was nicely air conditioned.

Also, as the train got further from Melbourne, the weather started to brighten up – and by the time Pat had got to Halls Gap it was a glorious, sunny day.

This oddly didn’t make Pat feel that great, as a bit earlier in the journey he’d swapped from the train onto a little minibus to get to Halls Gap (too small a town for a train station… in fact, too small for most things) and the driver spent a while explaining, as the bus went through the forrests towards the Grampians, how they had all been destroyed by bush fires a year ago in “similar weather to this”.

None the less, he made it through to the town without being incinerated and was really grateful to the bus driver for taking him and the only other passenger on the bus around the town to get bearings and point out the best walking tracks in the area.

The Awesome YHA Eco-Hostel In Halls GapImpressed with just how bloody friendly people were around this area, Pat wandered into the Halls Gap YHA and wondered what he was going to do with the 3 hours he had left before the 3pm checking. Yet again, friendly people were to the rescue and one of the hostel owners gave Pat keys to his room and just asked that he paid before 10pm.

That’s pretty much the story of the next few days: friendly people. Whereever Pat went, be it just to the hostel kitchen or one of the restaurants in the town centre, he ended up speaking with open, chatty folk who just seemed really chilled and friendly. ‘Twas great, and quite eye-opening, to speak to some people about the planet, governments, cultures and such like… the sort of stuff Pat never really took time to talk about when back at home.

Oh and by “such like”, what I mean is “the very real threat of UFOs”.

Yep, despite Pat having the 4 bed dorm he was in entirely to himself for half of his stay, for the other half he shared it with a 91 year old American guy called Paul… who’d spent the past 50 years researching UFO (oh, sorry, UAP (Unidentified Ariel Phenomena)) occurances and petitioning Governments to be more open about them.

He actually travels from Melbourne to the Grampians on a semi-regular basis, as apparently it’s a real hotspot for UFOUAP activity.

Ak! Ak!  AKAKAKAKAKK! [We come in peace]
In talking to Pat for only 5 minutes, Paul had given Pat no less than 8 documents to read about UAP sightings and experiences and a whole wodge of papers to give to flight attendants in order to pass onto pilots “As a matter of aircraft safety”, which explained about the (get this) National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena (NARCAP).

Yeessssss… despite Pat reading some of the stuff and admitting that, well, if these were true it would be bloody scary, he couldn’t quite bring himself to believe that he’d actually give a flight attendant something like that.

Perhaps it’s the sceptic in him, or perhaps that accepting this as truth is something that’d be dangerous for one’s state of mind… or perhaps it’s the fear of being laughed off the plane (possibly in cuffs) on attempting to pass that sort of thing to a pilot.

Anyway, aside from meeting lovely (and occasionally “odd”) people, Pat also managed to get some well-needed exercise in, doing several lengths in the public swimming pool and challenging himself to walk up various big hills/small mountains (he could never quite decide which category they fell into… perhaps “Smauntains”?) in order to burn off the calories.

He really enjoyed this on the whole (apart from the occasional feeling that he might be about to die of knackeredness) as despite the often hard slog up the last part of each climb (which usually involved scrambling up rocks rather than along paths), the views were always stunning.

Below are a few of the rewards Pat was given for his slogging:

Chaquata Peak:
Pat, Squage And The Elephant Rocks

Boronia Peak:
Pat And Squage At The (Boronia) Peak
Pat And Squage At The Peak Again!
Looking Down...

Oh and some of the meetings with the locals:

Oi You!One of the walks Pat did went through a field with lots of kangaroos in it. Having heard the warnings about their somewhat powerful kicking, Pat crept through attempting to be unnoticed. Amazingly, the sight of a rotund Essex bloke did *quite* go unnoticed.

I Nearly Stood On This!Trundling along the same walk at quite a pace, Pat noticed this fella at the very last second. There could’ve been one squashed lizard-type thing otherwise…

Lizard!This one was found at the top of Boronia Peak, and came to say hello as Pat was sitting down catching his breath from the rather b*stard-hard climb up.

Squage And The Echidna Of DestinyWhilst sitting chilling in the woods Pat heard a crunch of leaves and we noticed a rather cool looking thing wandering past – an actual Echidna! Aside from the fact that it wasn’t pink, didn’t have dreadlocks and didn’t have a bad attitude, it was pretty exciting for me to see!

Chook!The YHA Hostel has free range hens wandering around, who aren’t afraid to come right up to you to grab some scraps…

Also, in yet another example of Halls Gap being a Great Place To Visit™, there was a $10AUD, 3 HOUR trip around some of the non-walking-distance sights around the Grampians that was run by a hostel called Tim’s Place. Through getting on that Pat got to see some even more impressive sights:

Mackenzie Falls:
Pat And The Waterfall Of Despair Mackenzie Falls

The Balconies:
Pat And The Balconies
Grampians Ranges

Reed Lookout:
Reed Lookout Cliffs

Boroka Lookout:
Halls Gap From Boronia Lookout
I Can See The Pub From 'Ere

Pretty nice, huh? Well, that just about summarises the Grampians visit. Of course, after that Pat went back to Melbourne for an evening and then headed out to the Great Ocean Road… but more about that tomorrow!

For now, Pat’s dragging me off to get some food.