We climbed to the top of Mt William which is the highest peak in the park. Rising ever higher, I started to see plumes of smoke rising out of the Victoria Valley (where the main fires were). A gorgeous view point over the Grampians and also out to the plains of the east. It reminded me of Kananaskis country outside of Calgary with flat prairie one moment and mountains the next with the ability to see hundreds of kilometers across the prairie.
On our way to the campsite, we stopped at another lookout. This time we could see the fire moving through the bush on the other side of the range. Very slow moving, but still quite scary! As the sun sets, the heat from the fire created it's own lightening storm in the ever growing cloud of smoke. Then, after all the clouds have lost their glow from the setting sun, the smoke cloud glows an eerie red with the occasional flash of light from inside.
Our last morning, we tried to take advantage of our little bit of time in the Grampians before heading back towards Melbourne. We need to return the vehicle by 11:30am, so we really only have time to wake, pack, clean the car and drive back. Today is essentially our last day of camping.
We walked down to Mackenzie Falls which were quite large and impressive. Through we were
the only ones at first, shortly after arriving a hoard of people showed up jumping around in front of my photos. Oh well, it was tranquil while it lasted! On the walk back up, there was a wallaby, content as could be to sit beside the path eating. He probably gets missed most times as people are looking at the waterfalls. What harm do we do anyways? There's a railing dividing us, and the crazy humans only ever hold up a clicking box!
We took a drive up through the Grampians park rather than making a beeline straight towards our goal We were just talking about Australian animals we hadn't seen, when there were flocks (is that what they are?) of Emu in the wood beside the road! There were also huge flocks of cockatoos all feeding on the ground – by the 100's!
In the far north, we went to a native shelter with some rock paintings: Gulgurn Manja. Then we took a long climb up Hollow Mountain (full of eroded rocks and holes). It was our first real scramble and it felt great! It led us up to a glorious view over field to the north of the ranges, and more mountains to the south while sitting on iron red rocks. Even from such a distance, we could still see the smoke from the bush fires in the south.
Today was the day! We were heading into the Grrrrrrrampians! The fire is now about 24 000 ha. But someone put it into perspective for me today. The park is over a million hectares in size, so the fire is really only a small part. The main road through is open again and the whole north section is untouched. So we got to drive through and see the mountains and forests surrounding us. Every tree we saw had a blackened trunk from fire. But eucalyptus trees are very resilient and send out new shoots all along the trunk and left over branches almost immediately after a fire. Then it begins to grow out new branches again. Actually, most of the bush wouldn't survive without regular fires, so they are watched and managed, but not stopped.