Mt Gar, Briggs Bluff Traverse – The Grampians

Of the three multi-day hikes in The Grampians, the Briggs Bluff Mount Gar Traverse was my second choice. Like the Major Mitchell Plateau, it’s only an overnight hike.
While there are several ways to do the hike, I decided on a more direct route between the two – park the Pointy Brick at one end, walk to the other end and hitch/walk back. It could be done in one very long day, but for the enjoyment, I decided to do it in two – to give me more time to check out the wonders. Well it wasn’t to turn out that way…

I drove the long way to the Rose’s Gap to avoid all the dirt roads and parked the Pointy Brick at the car park. I donned my pack and headed off. The initial walk is 1.3km to the Beehive Falls and is a flat and wide dirt track. Once you reach the falls – which is only a trickle – the track changes.

wpid-dscn0574-2012-11-27-13-50.jpg

As I walked, I could make out the wind blown rocks above.

wpid-dscn0569-2012-11-27-13-50.jpg

The track then became a rock ledge climb. It wasn’t hard and in short order I made it to the top of the initial cliffs.

wpid-dscn0580-2012-11-27-13-50.jpg

Undulating ground almost like a plateau spread out before me, with the jagged teeth of the peaks across from me.
wpid-dscn0582-2012-11-27-13-50.jpg

I stopped for lunch and to dry off as the day had started pretty warmly. After lunch I walked along the plateau following yellow arrows and the occasional cairn.

wpid-dscn0587-2012-11-27-13-50.jpg

It’s easy to lose the trail as lines of flat rocks go off in different directions. At a certain point the trail heads towards one of the jagged peaks and climbs around the side of it. I gained a bit of respite as it clouded over and became cooler. From the higher vantage, I could see it was raining along the plains, but by the movement of the clouds, the rain didn’t appear to be heading towards the mountains just yet.

I reached a turn off to Briggs Bluff, the northern most section of The Difficult Range – Mt Gar is also known as Mt Difficult. I decided to walk to the bluff without my pack, so hid it in a small cave…

wpid-dscn0588-2012-11-27-13-50.jpg

…more to protect it from sudden weather changes than rampaging wallabies. An older German couple had just come back from the Bluff, so I stopped and chatted to them about the rest of the walk before climbing the 1.4km to the top of the bluff. The bluff is purely rocky ground, with plentiful steep climbs.

wpid-dscn0592-2012-11-27-13-50.jpg

I crested the top and sat for a while looking out across Victoria which was being lashed with rain. I headed back when I noticed that the rain was on its way towards the range. I had just arrived back at my pack when a small scattering of rain started. I put on my pack cover and headed out. It was only 3.4km to the wilderness camp.

Across the top of the traverse it seemed that the only way is up. If I wasn’t climbing a short steep peak I had a long slow climb along the plateau. The rain didn’t last long and I made my way across the spectacular low ridge line towards Mt Gar. It rained again briefly and looking out west, a lot more looked to be on its way. It was only an additional 4km from the camp to the base of the range so I decided to forego the camping.

I did stop at the Mt Gar Wilderness camp, leaving my pack under the protection of a Grass Tree man.

wpid-dscn0596-2012-11-27-13-50.jpg

I climbed the rocky face of Mt Gar, similar to Briggs Bluff, there were steep rocky walls to climb, but not difficult as the name would suggest. At the top, spectacular 360 degree views…

wpid-dscn0602-2012-11-27-13-50.jpg

…including that of Lake Wartook.

wpid-dscn0597-2012-11-27-13-50.jpg

With the rain due in short order, I hurried back down to my pack and continued. The rain began and didn’t stop for an hour. 4km will generally take an hour to walk on a fairly flat trail, but this trail was anything but flat, and it continued climbing slowly.

It climbed around the side of some of the steep rocky peaks with thin trails and plentiful boulders to climb.

wpid-dscn0604-2012-11-27-13-50.jpg

I took care because of the rain, but found my boots didn’t slip much. A hiker must trust his boots. If they can grip a 45-50 degree angled rock they’re great. If they can do that in the wet as well, they’re brilliant. Mine are brilliant. I love my boots.

I continued meandering around the cliffs, heading downwards occasionally only to find I had to climb again. At some places I had to crawl through low gaps in rocks, in others I had to take the pack off and haul it after me.

wpid-dscn0607-2012-11-27-13-50.jpg

Eventually the rain ended and the track decided it had had enough as well and headed down. I had to take care as there were several steep rocky walls I had to scramble down on my butt, and as the trail grew slowly less steep, I came to the bottom, a place known as the wind cave.

wpid-dscn0611-2012-11-27-13-50.jpg

It was only 500m to the road and it I don’t get a ride, 6km along a bitumen to my van.

At the bottom I met up with the German couple, who were sitting around a fire. They’d seen only one car on the road and had walked back – although they didn’t have full packs to walk with. They graciously offered me a lift to the Pointy Brick which I accepted. I arrived back at the caravan park exhausted and sore. I’m glad I decided not to camp on the range as violent electrical storms wracked the Grampians that night with plentiful rain.

After a couple of rest days, I’m heading off to the Brisbane Ranges near Melbourne to walk the Burchell Trail – a three day hike.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Advertisements

The Pinnacle – The Grampians

After finishing the Major Mitchell Plateau walk in the heat yesterday, I planned to do a short walk and see some of the sites of the Grampians without a pack. I headed off to Wonderland – the central portion of the Grampians where there are plentiful walks.

The car park is not far from Hall’s Gap and my intention was to walk up the Grand Canyon – a brief 100m climb through a canyon of rock.

wpid-dscn0534-2012-11-26-09-20.jpg

It was a fair struggle up the rocks in the heat – 31 degrees today – but the formations were awesome. When I came to a junction that offered The Pinnacle for just another 2km walk, I took the option (like I could have resisted!).

wpid-dscn0531-2012-11-26-09-20.jpg

The climb from there was arduous and didn’t seem to end, I passed various different rock formations and small caves…

wpid-dscn0542-2012-11-26-09-20.jpg

…resting like many other people were, in whatever shade I could find. In the end, it was not the steepness of the climb, but the heat that was the killer, sucking the energy from me as I climbed.

The Pinnacle is fenced off pinnacle of rock…

wpid-dscn0556-2012-11-26-09-20.jpg

…with brilliant reviews of the surrounding area including down into Hall’s Gap…

wpid-dscn0560-2012-11-26-09-20.jpg

…and along the ranges.

wpid-dscn0558-2012-11-26-09-20.jpg

While the walk back was all downhill and a lot easier. I’m am still thankful for the pool at the caravan park…

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Major Mitchell Plateau – The Grampians

The Grampians in West Victoria are a chain of mountains at the end of the Great Dividing Range which starts in Northern Queensland. It includes the Main Range National Park where I have enjoyed walking in South East Queensland and have documented elsewhere on this site.

The Major Mitchell Plateau is one of the handful of overnight hikes in the National Park and like the other two, is only an overnight hike. The Plateau is not a linear hike, meaning the beginning is not the end. I’m hoping to hitch a ride back to the beginning once I’m done. If I can’t, I’ll walk the 12km along the road back.

Day 1
wpid-dscn0460-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

The Major Mitchell Plateau begins at the Grampians Tourist road – the main road heading through the Grampians. The car park is about 10km south of Hall’s Gap. After a brief downhill, the trail begins its slow steady climb along a dirt track towards the Mount Williams car park with plentiful wild flowers along its length.

wpid-dscn0470-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

There are several creeks near the bottom where floods have destroyed the footbridges.

wpid-dscn0476-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

As you climb, you can see the jagged ridge line of the Serra Range across the valley.

wpid-dscn0478-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

I passed Cathedral Rock and continued on the steady climb, walking around the edge of a steep incline and passing many a rocky formation until I arrived at the car park. It was a warm day, so I took a break for lunch.

The climb to the summit is along a bitumen road at a brutally steep grade. The first couple of hundred metres are the worst and it evens out a little above that, but only a little. They describe the climb as relentless. I agree. I eventually made it to the summit with 360 degree views of the Grampians…

wpid-dscn0487-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

…and inland Victoria.

wpid-dscn0491-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

It was early in the afternoon, so I decided to ‘boots off and relax’ for a bit.

I eventually followed the trail to a radio tower then downhill towards a series of four knolls and finally down a very steep rocky path that sunk below the tree line…

wpid-dscn0499-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

…which bottomed out at a small forest at the base of the plateau cliffs called Boundary Gap. I rested for a moment to prepare for the coming steep climb. And it was steep. I climbed through the forest until I broke the tree line and continued up a rocky path to the base of the rocky cliff faces, pausing frequently to catch my breath. The trail lead me scrambling through rocks up through the cliff face, ledge to ledge until I finally struggled over the edge.

wpid-dscn0504-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

The top of the plateau has a lot of flat cascading rocks and plentiful hardy plants. As I walked the final kilometre to the camp, I came across an echidna with its head buried in an ant nest.

Just before sun went down and I retired to sleep, I noted the sky was red. Red at night shepherd’s delight.

Day 2

It was warm this morning when I awakened. I poked my head out of the tent and the sky was red. Red in the morning, shepherd’s warning. Now that’s confusing. Red at night AND in the morning?? I dunno. A delightful warning? Oh ho ho ho, it’s gonna rain!

After breakfast it started to spit. I don’t mind hiking in the rain, I just prefer to break camp first. The sky allowed me to pack and in short order I was ready to go. The trail headed further along the plateau’s undulating top, moving through rocky areas and skirting the often spiny plants that lived up here.

wpid-dscn0507-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

The path meandered along the top of the eastern cliff line and I stopped from time to time to stare out across the plains of Western Victoria spread hundreds of metres below. I had to brace myself as I stood there. While the wind was not strong enough to push me off the edge, I didn’t want to be party to a freak gust.

Across the top of the plateau, there are plentiful flat stony areas and it could be rather confusing to navigate. However, apart from the occasional yellow arrow pointing the way, there were cairns that helped me navigate my way. The rain did not stay away for long, but it was slight and eventually stopped.

wpid-dscn0514-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

At the end of the plateau there were a pair of cairns. I had been told that the descent was rather steep, but when I approached the edge it appeared fairly sedate. I descended to a ridge line that lead me to an unnamed peak where I stopped for a break and stared down the length of the Serra Range in all its glory. The sun finally poked its head out of the clouds and would cause the most annoyance; the day was forecast to be 33 degrees today.

wpid-dscn0521-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

The descent from unnamed peak, however, was a lot steeper and I had to take care as I climbed down, not only for the potentially slippery roots and stones, but also the gusting winds. I made my way down as the temperatures soared and the cool breeze became a hot wind.

wpid-dscn0523-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

At the base of the peak the trail met a 4WD track and a brief area of open grassy land. The trail soon converged with a track known as the Stockyard Track which continued on up a knoll to a former helipad site.

The rough track continued and I headed down the steep other side of the knoll towards a steep peak that stood out from the trail.

wpid-dscn0526-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

In the heat, I hoped that the trail didn’t want me to climb it and as I followed it went around and between a pair of peaks before heading towards the road. I picked my way along the trail for another couple of kilometres until it finally ended at the road. I changed my sweat drenched shirt and began the 12km trip back to the The Pointy Brick. After only 2 minutes I was picked up by an older couple. He had hiked the plateau on numerous occasions and others had picked him up when walking to the end. The Code of the Hiker. I was thankful.

wpid-dscn0458-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

Next, I’m doing an overnight hike around Mt Gar, still in the Grampians. It is also known as Mt Difficult. I hope it doesn’t live up to its name.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Naracoorte – South Australia

On the road from Kangaroo Island to the Grampians, I stopped at Naracoorte, a town famous for its world heritage listed fossil caves. Naracoorte has a system of 26 caves of various sizes and is one of the major – but not the only – caving systems in South Australia.

The day before I arrived, I had pre booked an adventure caving session. Luckily a couple had also booked, as there is a minimum number.

After a brief bit of training, we decided on a cave called the Blackberry Cave, because to has a lot of crawling around and tight spaces.

wpid-dscn0418-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

The three of us and our guide climbed into rooms of amazing rock formations. While it’s a short cave and not for the claustrophobic, there’s enough room to crawl around although even with the knee pads, I still sustained some bruising.

wpid-dscn0431-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

We got to the bottom of the Blackberry cave after a 45 minutes where we were told of a short tunnel that circled back into the chamber. It was tight and I went down first. I slid in head first as per instructions and prepared myself for the next part. I pushed through a tight gap, but my thighs caught and I couldn’t get through. Not prone to panic, I pulled back a little and tried from a slightly different angle. I was eventually able to shuffle through and up out the other gap.

wpid-dscn0435-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

Caving can be sweaty work even though there is a sustained 17 degree temperature down there. We scrambled back to the surface. A lot of fun. I’m looking forward to my next one.

wpid-dscn0436-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

The three of us were able to wander unassisted around a larger cave system known as the Wet Cave.

wpid-dscn0438-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

There will be the first of several instances of spelunking I’ll be doing on this trip, with plans to do some in every state.

wpid-dscn0441-2012-11-24-18-01.jpg

The Cave Wanderer

Kangaroo Island – South Australia

Adelaide to Kangaroo Island to West K.I. Caravan Park

The road trip to Kangaroo Island was a mad 90 minute dash from Adelaide to Cape Jervis. Getting out of Adelaide was the hard part, it seemed like the city might not wish me to leave. A water main had stopped traffic on the Main South Road, and when I took an alternative, a car broke down right in front of me. Adelaide has a southern Expressway, but it’s one way only and time dependant as to which way. In the afternoons, you can only use to to get into the city, so I had to take the alternate route was fairly quick .

I raced towards the cape – the most southern point of mainland South Australia – passing through a town with a name I’m sure my brother would love: Myponga. I didn’t smell at all…

wpid-dscn0300-2012-11-19-19-17.jpg

As I raced towards the cape, I could see the ferry growing closer. I made it to the car park with 10 minutes to spare before we were loaded onto the ferry.

wpid-dscn0306-2012-11-19-19-17.jpg

The ferry was a 45 minute ride to Kangaroo Island, and because of a pair of stock trucks on board, it smelled like cows. It arrives at the eastern end of the island and I had to get to the other end where I was staying, some 140km away. Yup, it’s a pretty big island.

wpid-dscn0313-2012-11-19-19-17.jpg

I was warned to be careful when driving at night or in the morning, as wildlife like to hang out on the road. I got to the caravan park without running anything over, but saw far more roadkill than I would have liked to.

Flinders Chase and Ravine des Casoars Wilderness Protection Area

wpid-dscn0324-2012-11-19-19-17.jpg

Ravine des Casoars

The western end of the island is a National Park and has many different walks and things to see. I chose the Ravine des Casoars hike, one of the hardest on the island. The start of the walk is about 45km from the camping ground and a two-thirds of that is over a very dusty dirt road with many areas of corrugation. This was slow going and took me over an hour to get to the site. I did stop briefly to watch a couple of Goanna’s fighting…

wpid-dscn0326-2012-11-19-19-17.jpg

The walk itself is along the side of a ravine, then drops down into the ravine to walk out to the beach. At the beach, there is golden sand and interconnecting limestone caves.

The walk itself was not difficult, but crossed several different types of terrain, rocks, stony ground, dirt and sand. The trail cut through trees for much of its way…

wpid-dscn0330-2012-11-19-19-17.jpg

…until it headed down into the ravine and then followed a stream out almost to the sea. One of the hardest parts was walking along the sand bank while trying to avoid falling in the water. There were plentiful Goannas along the trail, some more than a foot long, and far too many flies.

wpid-dscn0339-2012-11-19-19-17.jpg

The azure blue of the sea was lovely against the golden sand. The rock formations along the side were amazing. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about the caves until I was there and hadn’t brought a torch with me – something I will remember to bring on every short hike from now on.

wpid-dscn0348-2012-11-19-19-17.jpg

The caves were amazing, and disappeared into the darkness, some of them formed tunnels that connected with some of the other caves. If I had a torch and I would have explored further.

Admiral’s Arch

At the the southern most tip of the National Park…
wpid-dscn0368-2012-11-19-19-17.jpg

‘’’is the Admiral’s Arch. A natural arch of rock…

wpid-dscn0378-2012-11-19-19-17.jpg

Near the arch were several New Zealand Fur Seals. If I was here a couple of weeks later, many more would have been here. They are all off out at sea mating, apparently.

wpid-dscn0375-2012-11-19-19-17.jpg

Remarkable Rocks

Not far from the Admiral’s Arch are the remarkable rocks.

wpid-dscn0389-2012-11-19-19-17.jpg

200 million years ago, a magma boil broke the surface and cooled. Over the millions of years, the rocks have been eroded leaving the unusual collection of massive rocks. The look like an artist created them. Remarkable, really.

wpid-dscn0390-2012-11-19-19-17.jpg

Seal Bay Conservation Park

Along the south coast of Kangaroo Island is Seal Bay Conservation Park.

Walking along a long boardwalk, you can get right down near the Australian Sea Lions that have come to the shore to sleep .

wpid-dscn0409-2012-11-19-19-17.jpg

There is also the skeleton of a hump backed whale along the boardwalk also.

wpid-dscn0406-2012-11-19-19-17.jpg

Tomorrow, I head back to the mainland to Naracoorte for some Adventure Caving.

The relaxed on an island Lone Trail Wanderer

Yurrebilla Trail – 3 Days in the Adelaide Hills

The Yurrebilla Trail meanders its way through the Adelaide Hills and connects several different parks along it’s length. The 54 km walk crosses each of the parks and walks along the roads or properties that connect them. The hike can be completed in 5 days, but I decided to walk it in three, aiming to put in the biggest slog on day two as I wished to be back in Adelaide early on Saturday for my birthday dinner with my friends.

Day 1 – Bel Air National Park – Cleland Conservation Park

I parked The Pointy Brick (my van) at the end of the trail and walked 10 minutes to the nearest bus stop. After 25 minutes into Adelaide CBD, I walked to the train station and caught the train to Bel Air. 20 minutes later I walked into the Bel Air National park, the beginning of the Yurrebilla Trail.

wpid-dscn0163-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

As I left the train, I was not the only one donning a hiking pack. It looked like a class of schools girls and their class leader was also walking some of the trail. From experience, school girl groups tend to make a lot of noise, so I was determined to put some distance between us. The Bel Air National Park is a maze of tracks, and while the Yurrebilla Trail is pretty well marked,

wpid-dscn0167-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

there are a lot of tracks and it was confusing at some intersections. I soon came to Playford Lake and skirted around the edge, following the trail.

wpid-dscn0168-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

I continued up a creek trail which turned from stones to dirt. The trail led to echo tunnel, a water flow tunnel that was too short for me to stand to my full 189cm and with a pack on my back, it was even hard to stoop to get through. I had to walk stooped along the water channel – which was dry – to get to the other end.

wpid-dscn0179-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

Out of the tunnel, the real trail began and so did the climbing. I made my way up the trail past the occasional wild flower to the Lower Waterfall Lookout. The waterfall would have been lovely, no doubt if there had been water to actually fall from it.

wpid-dscn0185-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

The track split and I followed pressed on along the Yurrebilla. I was a short distance along it when I saw the girls head the other way. Silence! I continued up the hill and could begin to see Adelaide below me through the trees. I left the Bel Air National Park and headed along the road at the top of the ridge with the inkling of a view almost to the sea.

wpid-dscn0193-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

The trail began to descend slowly until we came to a steep embankment, where it wound back and forth 27 times before reaching the road at the bottom.

wpid-dscn0194-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

The road led around through The Brownhill Creek Recreation Park for a couple of kilometres, the flowers along the sides bright and colourful.

wpid-dscn0198-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

I split away from the park and headed up a steep path alongside a fairly new driveway. As I arrived near the top, I looked back at the full view of Adelaide spread out below me to the sea.

wpid-dscn0218-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

I disappeared back into the trees and descended before climbing another taller hill giving views to the north. I crossed a large conservation area and then a series of private paddocks, where the cows glared at me menacing before I arrived at a highway.

wpid-dscn0223-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

The trail followed the road for 2km, on a steady climb, until I reached the Cleland Conservation Park. While I was not allowed to camp in this park, I located a fairly hidden spot and erected my pirate camp. The hiking motto: Take only photos, leave only footprints. Tomorrow when I break camp no-one will know I was here.

As the night fell, I cooked dinner and as the wind picked up, watched the lights of Adelaide begin to shine.

wpid-dscn0227-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

Day 2 – Cleland Conservation Park – Morialta Conservation Park

I was up early intent on packing before I was discovered. I’d heard an Asian man’s voice during the night, but when I went up to investigate, there was no-one there. And in the dark, the tent was not easily seen from anywhere near the road. After a quick breakfast, I headed off along the path.

It had rained briefly overnight and the wind had been rather intense. It was chilly walking through the park until the sun finally came over the hill. The trail was initially classic dirt/rocky trail but quickly joined another sealed path. The sealed path went for almost 2km and was where the majority of ‘wildlife’ could be seen, most of them jogging by in their tight leggings and tops. The trail split away from the sealed path and I left behind the ‘wildlife’ and anything else any interest. Beyond trees, the Cleland Conservation Park honestly didn’t have a lot going for it. There is a Wildlife Park in the middle, but I was intent on walking, so did not stop.

The Heysen Trail merged with the Yurrebilla Trail towards the end of the conservation park. The Heysen Trail is South Australia’s longest trail, running 1500km from Cape Jervis – where I’m catching the ferry to Kangaroo Island in a couple of days – right up towards Central Australia.

I left The Cleland Conservation Park late morning, and headed along a major road making my way past some nice properties with great views. The trail led me up past one of them to the top of a ridge and a fantastic view right across Adelaide with the sea beyond.

wpid-dscn0235-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

I continued along the road and came to the top of the Horsnell Gully Conservation Park. I stopped for lunch before heading down the gully It reminded me of the Larapinta Trail on the thin rocky path, the hot air and the dry trees. Great! Near the bottom wildflowers were everywhere.

wpid-dscn0240-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

The trail bottomed out at a dirt road which turned east past the ruins of the house belonging to the regions first settler. The road steadily climbed the hill and I pushed on section by section towards the summit. Just before the top, the trail left the road and walked briefly through the forest before arriving at a busy road. I crossed and dropped down to another slightly less busy road and it until I arrived at the township of Norton Summit. This was originally to have been my stopping place, but it was only early afternoon, and in South Australia, the sun doesn’t go down until after 8pm, later than the 5.30pm I’m used to from Queensland. I decided to stop for a rest at the Norton Summit Hotel. There should be a pub mid way in every multi-day hike!

After a plate of wedges and a beer or three I continued on. With 4 hours to sun down I headed down the road and past some old barns from the 1850s. I had a brief chat with a Kangaroo on the side of the road before finally arriving at the Morialta Conservation Park. I headed in and along a dirt road. I caught up to a Koala walking along the trail before the trail dropped into a gorge near a waterfall where the Heysen trail split off.

wpid-dscn0258-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

I continued along the gorge near plentiful wild flowers and followed the path up the side of a hill, climbing to the viewpoint of a second waterfall.
wpid-dscn0278-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

I continued on until I reached the Deep View Lookout, which gave views along the gorge to Adelaide and back almost to the waterfall.

wpid-dscn0268-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

After a 23km slog I was growing weary and set about locating a suitable site for my camp. I continued along the trail for another kilometre before seeing an open area of grass below. I went bush to discover the grassy area was fenced off. I found a spot just outside the fence and set up camp.

The wind was gusting very strongly, so I had to tie the tent off well. As darkness fell I watched the lights of Adelaide below light up. It’s funny how digital cameras make the lights of a city at night look like it’s on fire. As winds continued to buffet the tent, I went down to sleep.

wpid-dscn0282-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

Day 3 – Morialta Conservation Park to Ambers Gully

Happy Birthday to me!

I awoke early, had breakfast and began breaking camp. My intention was to finish the final 13.3km of the trail by lunchtime so I could do a few things before dinner.

As I was climbing back to the trail, I saw a group go past. I followed and they were an older group training for a walk in Tasmania. After a chat, I headed off, wanting to put some distance between us – they were very chatty, and I wanted to get back to the serenity of nature. The rocky trail met a wide dirt road and I motored along it in the sun. The trail dipped and turned back on itself on a grassy open area which would have been good for camping if I had continued walking…

wpid-dscn0283-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

I walked past the Fox Dam…

wpid-dscn0287-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

…and up the Fox Hill Track to the summit and then back down again to a major road. The Trail led me along the road for a couple of kilometres, with racing cyclists going past regularly. With the jagged sides of the Black Hill Conservation Park left to go, I prepared myself for a rather hard climb. I was not let down, I started easily at a quarry and worked my way up a gentle slope that turned steeper. A kilometre in, I met a guy coming down, who told me he was going to be coming back up as soon as he got to the bottom.

wpid-dscn0290-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

The road grew even steeper as I went, and in the morning heat, I pushed on. It was one of those mountains, just when you get to what looks like the top, it keeps going up. I came to a point where a wire grate had been laid to help vehicles up the steep climb and again,

wpid-dscn0293-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

when I got to the top I was expecting the summit, but it pushed on further at the same steepness. I was close to the summit when the guy who I’d passed going the other way caught me. He too was training for Tasmania and walked this same walk every Saturday and Sunday morning. We walked the last 3km together, most of it downhill along the road and then down Ambers Gully along a dirt track and finally past Ambers Ruins – another old house left from over 150 years before. We passed a waterfall that my companion had never seen with water on it.
wpid-dscn0294-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

It was not long before we arrived at the car park where The Pointy Brick had been waiting patiently for me.

wpid-dscn0296-2012-11-18-15-48.jpg

Overall, the Yurrebilla Trail is a great hike with excellent view across Adelaide and plentiful wildflowers. It’s clever how it connects the several parks together, although it did feel like I was walking along main roads a little too often. A hike I would recommend to anyone.

Tomorrow, I set off to Kangaroo Island…

The Lone Trail Wanderer.

Road Trip! – Brisbane to Adelaide

As the first part of my three month adventure around the lower states of Australia, I drove across country to Adelaide, South Australia. To get there, I traveled 2,058km and set foot in four different States, all over the course of 3 days.

For the trip, I bought what I call a sleeper van. Henceforth known as the Pointy Brick.

wpid-dscn0110-2012-11-13-12-46.jpg

It’s a ’96 Mitsubishi Express kitted out with a bed in the back and storage under the bed for all my needs. I bought the van from a backpacking couple that had just driven from Darwin to Brisbane without issue. I picked it up 2 months early so I could get the feel of it, and get it prepared for the trip. Over the course of these prep months, I took it to various national parks around South East Queensland. I put it through its paces and it survived. 2,058km is a long way in an old van, so I had it serviced before I left, just to be sure. The one thing I’m aware of in the Pointy Brick is its small gas tank, meaning I’d have to manage my fuel and fill up often.

Day 1 – Brisbane to Coonabarabran

I headed out of Brisbane on the morning of November 10, 2012 in the pouring rain.

wpid-dscn0081-2012-11-13-12-46.jpg

Yeah, goodbye Brisbane, I know it’s sad that I’m leaving, but you don’t have to cry about it… I headed out onto the Ipwich Motorway, pointed myself west and drove. The motorway was pretty quiet as I headed along a familiar stretch of road heading for the Main Range mountains. The rain slowed as I passed through Cunningham’s Gap and headed on to Warwick. The spires of the Main Range were some of the few mountains I was to pass on this journey and I took a last few pictures as I drove through.

wpid-dscn0086-2012-11-13-12-46.jpg

I passed Warwick shortly after and continued west along a road I had not travelled before. While the weather kept up its farewell the Pointy Brick had no trouble dealing with the wet weather and didn’t leak. With music blaring, I continued on the Cunningham highway to Goondiwindi on the New South Wales border. By this time the rain had stopped, but the clouds still remained. The entrance to the border town had a yellow blossoms strewn across the road. I filled up and headed back out and across the border.

wpid-dscn0100-2012-11-13-12-46.jpg

In NSW, I followed the Newell Highway south and straight away noticed the change in road conditions. For the most part, the roads are good in NSW, wider and better maintained. The speed limit on the highway is also 110km – which is something I had only seen on 2 Queensland Motorways. 110km/h is a big number for the Pointy Brick. I’ve had it just over 120km/h, but since I didn’t buy it for speed and power, I was not worried. On either side of the road are large fields of wheat for as far as the eye can see. There is the occasional tree, but otherwise wheat all yellow and wavy. This is pretty much how it was for more that 200km as I drove through Moree to Narrabri. Near Narrabri are some mountains – Yay! – but only a couple. And if I was ever back this way I wouldn’t mind climbing Mt Kaputar.

wpid-dscn0103-2012-11-13-12-46.jpg

This is Australia and of course you see a lot of kangaroos. They are everywhere and I think I must have seen more than a hundred of them. It’s not as cool as it sounds, though as I only saw two that were actually alive. That’s right. The rest were roadkill. Some were months old, others only days. All of it sad.

After Narrabri theres a large forest and nature reserve, which was a change of scenery.

wpid-dscn0107-2012-11-13-12-46.jpg

I eventually arrived in Coonabarabran at 7pm, which is after dark in Queensland, but not so in NSW because of day light savings. I cooked dinner and settled in with a glass of wine and watched something on my laptop.

wpid-dscn0108-2012-11-13-12-46.jpg

Day 2 – Coonabarabran to Hay

One thing to know about small towns, the coffee is generally crap! Some coffee is better than no coffee though, so I put up with it. I headed off along the Oxley Highway towards Gilgandra and then back onto the Newel Hwy to Dubbo.

Today the weather had cleared and became warmer, plus the wind picked up. The thing about driving in a vehicle shaped like a brick is it gets blown around by the wind. And when you are screaming along at 110km/h and a road train goes past the other way, you have to hang onto the wheel to keep it steady. Don’t forget the constant fields of wheat.

wpid-dscn0116-2012-11-13-12-46.jpg

Dubbo is a pleasant large town in Mid-NSW although its coffee is crap too. Not long out of Dubbo I came across a sign that told me I was entering Bland Shire. It wasn’t kidding, between Dubbo and West Wyalong there’s not much to see: wheat fields and road trains. I travelled through Peak Hill, Parkes, Forbes and kept myself busy on the way to West Wyalong listening to an audiobook by Robert Rankin.

Beyond West Wyalong, the next sign announced I was entering The Outback, NSW. From there the landscape changed dramatically. It became wild and desolate. Hardy plants grew, but not much else in this wasteland.

wpid-dscn0125-2012-11-13-12-46.jpg

With it, the heat increased and as I shot across country in the Pointy Brick the air rushing past my window was hot. I continued nervously, watching my temperature gauge and it did increase, but not too much.

I arrived in Hay, mid afternoon and quickly located the Caravan Park, cooked myself a pork yellow curry before setting myself up for the night.

Day 3 – Hay to Adelaide

I set out early the following morning in hope of avoiding the heat, but the heat got up before I did. I headed across the barren Hay Plains along the Stuart Highway. The heat was high and the wind hot as I charged across the land. The temperature gauge sat warmer than usual, but still below half – I’d checked the water levels before leaving and all was good.

Past Balranald, the massive wheat fields appeared again. To the north beyond the horizon was Mungo National Park with its twin peaks, shame I would have liked to have seen it. Oh how I longed to see mountains. I filled up at Euston and continued along the Victorian border to the beautiful city of Mildura after crossing the Murray River.

wpid-dscn0136-2012-11-13-12-46.jpg

Coming in to Mildura there is plenty of colour in the trees and the surrounds, no doubt because of the river.

wpid-dscn0131-2012-11-13-12-46.jpg

I stopped for lunch in Mildura and found an amazing pastry shop. Then I was off again, across the Victorian countryside. The land to the south of the Murray river was still warm and had large crops of Lavender but was otherwise more of the same. The temperature gauge held steady and after an hour, I reached the South Australian border and was stopped at Quarantine where they looked through my food – of which I had little – but still confiscated my small bag of potatoes. You can’t bring fruity items into SA. I didn’t think my spuds would count, but they did.

wpid-dscn0140-2012-11-13-12-46.jpg

When you enter Renwick, just over the border, you know you’ve arrived in wine country. With the Murray River going through it, there are massive vineyards everywhere. The road wends its way through the lush green land. It becomes cooler too, with a cool wind refreshingly going past.

wpid-dscn0141-2012-11-13-12-46.jpg

The last couple of hundred km into Adelaide passed quickly in an obviously more fertile area. I was pleased when the hills of Adelaide appeared on the horizon, something not flat! There was a couple of interesting trees that I wish I’d had my camera ready for. The Shoe Tree with about 30 pairs of shoes hanging from it. Then about a kilometre further on was the Bra Tree. There must have been more than a dozen bras of different colours handing from the branches…

In Adelaide, Apple Maps sent me on a tiki tour of the central city – stupid Apple maps, bring back Google maps! – and I eventually arrived at my friends’ house. Overall, the Pointy Brick and I arrived safely with no issues. A good beginning to the adventure.

Next, after a couple of days in Adelaide, I’m walking the Yurebilla Trail, three days in the Adelaide Hills.

The Lone Road Tripper