3 to 5 November 2019
Beachport to Hamilton, 209km
to Halls Gap and back, 212km
to Beachport, via Dartmouth and Glencoe, 215km
Early on in this trip someone had recommended a visit to the Grampians when we got to Victoria and with a couple of days to spare before Tick went to the menders we headed out of South Australia and up into the mountains.
Rather like any trip to the mountains of Scotland after which this range is named, we were accompanied by rain, an almost constant drizzle for our whole stay with occasional bursts of torrential. Properly dreich!
On account of the rain we abandoned the tent (it was still drying out after the downpour in Beachport) in favour of a cabin in Hamilton. With its dark stone Presbyterian Church and rose filled gardens the town could easily have actually been in Scotland.
For our only full day in the Grampians we had hoped to be able to climb one of its peaks but both Mount Abrupt and Mount Sturgeon were shrouded in cloud and with heavier rain forecast for later in the day we settled on a shorter climb.
The traditional owners of this land, the Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung people, call our chosen peak Bainggug and we will stick with that because the name given to it by the European settlers is offensive where we come from (despite what our Prime Minister might say). The slopes of Bainggug offered us yet another new ecosystem to explore and introduced us to the quirky grass tree known commonly as Black Boy but which we prefer to call Xanthorrhoea Australis! The lovely Swamp Wallaby with her joey were offending no one and even in the gloom the blossom was cheery.
The climb was short and steep and at the top offered views of both Mount Abrupt and Mount Sturgeon just about emerging from the cloud. As the drizzle got thicker we descended.
To escape the rain, we headed inside the Brambuk cultural centre, an Aboriginal keeping place dedicated to the preservation of culture, tradition and artefacts and the telling of history. The Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung people call the Grampians Gariwerd and they tell their story of struggle, resistance and survival in their country very powerfully. We knew, of course, about the many massacres of indigenous Australians by the European settlers but there was nothing like being confronted with a map of massacre sites in the State of Victoria alone. Photos were not allowed in this keeping place (objects from the past hold the spirits of the ancestors) but you can find the same sobering, shameful information for the whole country at the Guardian’s brilliant interactive map here.
In a torrential downpour we wound our way hopefully up to Reeds Lookout which promised panoramic views of the mountains. As we pulled up in the car park it looked unlikely that we’d be able to even get out of the car, let alone see anything, but the rain eased and I was able to walk the short way to the lookout without getting too wet!
At least all the rain meant that another short walk to Silverband Falls had a little more than a trickle of water. We found more water, and a relatively dry picnic spot, at Lake Bellfield, a major water source for 9000 local farms and 34 townships.
As we left the Grampians through the Victoria Valley, the cloud lifted and gave us a farewell view across the range.
Driving back to Beachport through vast pine forests and passed places like Dunkeld we were still confused about whether we were in Australia or Scotland. But we were about to get even more confused when a road sign pointed to Dartmoor. We had to go and find out more.
There is not much of the West Country about it. This tiny town is not much more than a general store (with a great new cafe) and a few houses. It is home to 263 people and an Avenue of Honour made of carved wooden sculptures by chainsaw artist, Kevin Gilders.
We stopped for lunch and a cup of tea to warm us up at an extinct volcano, Lake Leake, before we headed back to Scotland and a place called Glencoe!
We decided to stop in at the unusual Glencoe Woolshed. The stone shed was built by sheep farmer Edward Leake in 1863 and saw more than 50,000 sheep sheared by blade annually.
Inside the shed is as it originally was without mechanised shearing stations. It is still used for traditional blade shearing competitions which are, by all accounts, eerily silent compared with the noise of the modern process.
The Woolshed introduced us for the first time to Australian impressionist, Tom Roberts, a contemporary and friend of Van Gogh. His painting, Shearing the rams is so evocative of activity inside the shed. Completely coincidentally we later heard an ABC radio documentary about him and decided we should seek out his paintings when we find a national gallery.
But for now we needed to get Tick fixed and back on the Great Ocean Road…