The Grampians

Trip Start Nov 12, 2004
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Trip End Aug 28, 2005


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Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Grampians and The Goldfields (in our campervan still so continued from Gt Ocean Road entry)

Day 10 - Portland to Halls Gap

So we're now heading inland. We've both said how much we'll miss the
rugged coastline of the Great Ocean Road. But we're sure that the
mountains and the history of the Goldfields will be just as good.
The drive into the mountains was gorgeous. The sky was a clear blue
and the green of the trees and the colours of the rock were really
vivid.

We arrived at our campsite in the middle of the mountains to
find that we were surrounded by birds and kangaroos. The birds were
very "friendly" (ahem) as I'm sure you can see by the photos,
including a particularly amusing one of me having an Alfred Hitchcock
moment. (well, the bloody thing started flapping in my ears just as
Mark took the photo - I was happy and smiling just moments before!)
We spent the afternoon taking a walk through a forested area where we
got up close to kangaroos, emus (hilarious birds, funnier than
ostriches), wallabies, echidnas and kookaburras. It was great - you
can pay fortunes to get into wildlife parks to see all these things,
yet we did it for free, and had it all to ourselves! Depsite a brief
scary moment when we thought we were lost in the bush, it was a
fantastic afternoon.

Day 11 - Halls Gap to ..er.. Halls Gap

Well, our first 2 nighter! There's so much to see here that we
decided to stay put to see it all properly. Our intention today was
to drive up into the mountains and take some walks to some great
viewpoints to get views over the region, but unfortunately it was
raining and overcast when we woke up and we could barely see the
mountains through the mist! After umming and ahhing for a bit, we
started to take a drive around some of the surrounding towns, but it
didn't take us long to realise that they are all the same and pretty
non descript, so we opted not to waste the petrol and to chance doing
the walks, especially as it had already started to clear a bit.
So we took a long a windy road up the side of the mountain to our
first view point (I really can't remember them all off the top of my
head - bad planning Victoria! - I'll update when I've got it all in
front of me).

It was still pretty cloudy but we could make out the
view. One of the stops we made was known as "The Balconies". A 1km
walk through a wooded area took us out to a rock formation on the side
of the mountain which was exactly like a balcony (see photos) with
stunning views over the surrounding countryside. We then headed to a
waterfall (the name of which is on the tip of my tongue - how bloody
annoying) where we walked to all the possible lookouts we could except
the long and slippery climb down to the bottom (which would just be
asking for trouble). MacKenzie Falls! That's it - thank God for
that, it would have bugged me all day.

We then drove back down the mountainside and stopped off in Halls Gap
to do a bit of shopping (in one of the 3 shops that the "main town" of
the Grampians has!) before settling down for another night with the
kangaroos!

Day 12 - Halls Gap to Bendigo

Off on the gold trail now folks! Bendigo and it's surrounding towns
are some of the most famous in the history of Australias Gold Rush.
It was a long drive, but we arrived in time to catch the last tour of
the goldmine of the day. We were hustled straight through as we were
a few minutes late and before we knew it we were trussed up in hard
hats, batterypacks and headlamps and venturing 20 storeys underground!
Mark had a go on a compressed air drill which frightened the life out
of him because he had no idea what it was going to do! We saw gold in
the quartz reefs of the walls and were told exactly how the miners
would extract the gold and how hard it was to find. It was great fun
and I think I might make a hard hat a fashion accessory as they really
are VERY stylish.

Day 13 - Bendigo to Ballarat

After a morning tram ride in Bendigo and a visit to a wildlife park
where I got to pat a dingo and Mark got bitten by a cockatoo
(*fnarfnar*) we set off for Ballarat. Another long senic drive to the
town with not a lot in between and we were both pretty shattered when
we arrived. We stopped in the visitor information place and picked up
some leaflets on Sovereign Hill, the attraction that got us here in
the first place, promptly found a camp site and then crashed with a
beer or three!

Day 14 - Ballarat to somewhere else in Ballarat

Sovereign Hill day! Here's the lowdown - Sovereign Hill is a theme
park of a couple of acres. It's built exactly as the town of Ballarat
looked back in the days of the gold rush with wooden builings and old
fashioned saloons and shops. The staff are all actors and wear period
costume and get all the visitors involved. There is an option to go
down the gold mine, but been there done that so we didn't bother.
Instead we watched a blacksmith smelting gold until it becomes liquid
and pure, and then setting it into a bar of gold worth approx $54,000
AUD (about GBP 20,000). I tried to persuade Mark that it would be a
lovely souvenir but he was having none of it. Instead I got a
lollipop from the confectioners which was probably more enjoyable and
not so harsh on the wallet. We saw the confectioner making sweets and
got to try some of the toffee while it was still warm and before it
set hard to a boiled sweet. We saw a blacksmith reshoeing a horse,
candles being made the old fashioned way, brass candlesticks being
crafted - the list goes on and on. They had a street theatre and a
saloon where you could order a beer and feel like you were in a
Western. It was great - very touristy but very cleverly done and well
managed. We really enjoyed it!

Day 15 - Ballarat to Melbourne

Time to return Skippy back to base. What a great two weeks! We've
seen loads and really enjoyed being able to do it all at our own pace.
Apart from a few cross words over the odd game of Uno, we've got on
brilliantly (which is quite impressive given that our living space is
approximately 4 square meters). We're just glad that we're doing it
all again in 10 days time!
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