Category Archives: Australia

Overland Track Day 2 – Waterfall Valley to Windermere Lake

Day 2 of The Overland Track is the shortest at only 7.8km. For this reason, many people merge the next two days together and walk all the way to Pelion Hut, 25km away, but this isn’t my plan. While you cook breakfast in the Waterfall Valley Hut, you can see the stark rocky face of ‘The Barn’ high atop the ridge. I wasn’t originally going to climb it, but I discovered a group – The Brits – were I decided to tag along.

The side trip to The Barn is actually longer than the official day’s walk but is done with only a day pack. I’ve heard different tales about climbing the Bluff, some say it’s easier than Cradle Mountain, while some say it’s harder. I’ll have to decide for myself.

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The start of the walk backtracked back up the zig zag hill to where the trail had split the day before and walked towards the bluff. Much of the walk was along wooden planks and steps and doesn’t really feel like hiking. Thankfully and unlike Cradle Mountain, there aren’t any day walkers getting in the way. We climbed a knoll before heading up a steep trail to where the real climbing begins. We picked our way across a large field of boulders from a rock fall some time ago.

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The climb looks rather menacing from a distance, but the closer you get the easier it looks. Through the boulder field the climb gets steeper as we make our way up the rocky face of the bluff following well placed cairns.

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The trail works it way up the side with some scrambling up large boulders and short dirt paths. There are some difficult parts, although I wouldn’t call it any more difficult than Cradle Mountain, only different. We eventually made it to the top and climbed across the large boulders to the summit point where we sat for a snack.

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With 360 degree views…

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Looking south down on Lake Will.

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The wind soon whipped up and we decided to head down again. The climb down was easier and the walk back along the track relaxing until we arrived back at the hut. We stopped for lunch before I donned my pack and headed off alone towards along the trail.

The day was overcast and as I walked, rain threatened, but didn’t eventuate. The trail climbed gently through bluegrass plains and across a ridge…

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…and through a small forest before levelling out when it came to a junction to Lake Will. I originally had planned to walk this side trip, but after climbing The Barn and getting a great view of the lake from height, I decided not to and headed on.

The trail descended briefly and as I walked along the boardwalk, I heard a rustle in the brush to the side, and watched as a Wombat wandered towards me. Unfortunately when it saw me it fled before I could get a photo.

The rest of the walk passed quickly through plains and I headed downhill past the lake where a couple of people swam.

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Arriving at the hut, I set up for the evening, and when The Brits arrived, we headed down to the lake.

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We stripped down to our smalls and leapt into the icy waters. Once you go numb, you don’t feel the cold anymore! Getting out was warmer and we sat around in the warmer breeze drying off before heading back to the hut.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Overland Track Day 1 – Cradle Valley to Waterfall Valley

After a cold night in my tent, Tasmania put on a brilliant day for this the first day of my hike. I headed over to the information centre to wait for the bus to Ronny Creek, having sorted out my hiking passes last night.

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Ronny Creek is the official start point of the trail although there is an alternative – Dove Lake – which is a little shorter. I signed the book and headed out across the plains via a walking platform.

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To protect parts of the national park, there are board walks and platforms to walk along in many places. This helps with regrowth and stops deterioration, but does take away the true sense of hiking.

Day one of the hike is said to be the hardest. After the initial plains, the trail climbed into the hills. There are steps to aid walkers. The trail climbs through the forest until it reaches Crater Falls – a short series of waterfalls flowing down from Crater Lake.
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I continued to climb and once over a crest, I came to an old wooden shed. As I went past, Crater Lake came into view surrounded on most sides by rocky walls. It looks amazing. Crater Lake is not actually in the crater of a volcano, it just looks like it. It’s actually formed by glacial movements, like most of the park.

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The trail skirts the eastern side of the lake, climbing to what is deemed the hardest climb of the trail – not including the side trails – up to Marion’s Lookout. There are even chains to help walkers climb the rocky ground to the top, while I don’t personally think they are needed, there are numerous day walkers climbing here that likely would.

As you climb to the lookout, the rocky fingers of Cradle Mountain protrude from the plateau a couple of kilometres to the south.

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The Lookout gives good views of Crater Lake, Dove Lake and the plains to the north. I stopped for a snack before heading on.

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A couple of kilometres later I arrived at Kitchen Hut, a two story hut with outer doors on both levels, the 2nd level door for when deep snow surrounds it.

I left my pack here and with my day pack I set out to climb Cradle Mountain. At a junction I see a number of other packs left out on the open. Walkers are warned about leaving packs in the open without covers on. The Currawong – a large black bird similar to the crow but with yellow eyes and a white tipped tail – are known to open zips in search of food. The packs I later found out belonged to the Brits from Sydney and on their return from the mountain, they found zips open and their contents littered around them.

I met a girl at the base of the mountain, and we climbed together. The first part of the climb followed the trail steeply to a rocky portion, then it was bouldering – climbing over large boulders – following the trail around and up to what we thought was the summit. When we got there we could see that the trail continued down a saddle and then up the other side to the true summit. Climbing down to climb up is a confusing concept. So, we climbed the first spire and sat having lunch.

Finally, we persuaded ourselves to climb to the summit and it was well worth it. The views were amazing.

After lunch I left my companion and headed down. At the bottom I donned my pack and continued along the track. After the climb, my pack seemed suddenly heavier. I walked on along a thin track cut through a tree covered hillside towards Barn Bluff, a tall rocky bluff that just begged to be climbed.

The trail split about halfway to the bluff and headed downhill before zig zagging down a steeper section to eventually come out at Waterfall Valley Hut.

The main hut is about 100m from the tent areas and most people decided to camp leaving only 5 of us in the hut that sleeps 24.

Tomorrow I’ll tackle ‘The Barn’ before heading further along the trail…

The Lone Trail Wanderer

The Overland Track – 7 days in the Tasmanian wilderness

The Overland Track is perhaps the most famous multi-day hike in Australia. It’s walked by more than 8000 people every year and runs approximately 80km through the Cradle Mountain Lake Saint Clair National Park in mid-west Tasmania.

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The Overland Track is set up as a 5-7 day hike, but has plentiful options and can be walked quicker or slower as you please. 34 people are allowed to start the hike every day from the Cradle Mountain Information Centre to balance out the numbers each night at the hut and camping areas.

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Each day on the track is different, and each ends in a hut with surrounding camping sites. The huts can sleep 24 although New Pelion Hut can sleep up to 60. Untreated water and toilets at each hut (bring your own toilet paper).

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The Overland Track itself is a fairly easy hike and is a perfect introductory multi-day hike for those interested in getting into the sport. Day one is considered the hardest, but for seasoned hikers it’s not that challenging.

What adds challenges each day are the side tracks, which you can choose to do or skip. Many of the side trips will have you climbing one of the many iconic mountains in the park. Most days on the trail have you walking approximately 10km not including side trips, so you’re not actually walking a lot.

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But while the hiking and the views are awesome, there’s more to the Overland Track experience. Because the track is booked out most days in summer, and you move from camp to camp, if you’re the sociable type most afternoons/evenings will be spent with the same groups of people. Groups can change when they skips a hut, but it evens itself out when a group that started after you skips your previous hut and spends the next days hiking to the same places as you. As I said, this was part of the experience and it truly added to mine. So, I’d like to thank the Brits, Greg and Kim and the Asian group from Sydney, the Victorian students, Annie from NT, the North Queenslanders, the Swiss couple, the Americans and everyone else who made this hike an experience for me.

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The next few posts then will describe my day to day journey across the Overland Track…

Mole Creek Adventure Caving – Tasmania

About 100km from Cradle Mountain is a place called Mole Creek. It’s known by many as Australia’s best Adventure caving region, and while I can’t dispute that, I’m happy just to go do some Spelunking.

I’d prearranged to do a full day adventure caving session, which takes us through only 2 of there many different cave systems. The group I organised through is Wild Cave Tours and can be found at: www.wildcavetours.com

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The difference between Show Caving and Adventure Caving is how the caves have been set up for tours. In Show Caves, tourists wander through pre lit caves, often with steps carved into the floor and just have to walk or perhaps stoop a little. In Adventure Caving you don the overalls, clip on a helmet with a head torch and crawl, scramble, wiggle and slide around the caves. It can be dirty but fun…

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As it was raining and cold outside the three of us Spelunkers chose Honeycomb Cave and Sassafras Cave. If the weather had been better we’d have likely chosen caves that were more challenging, but rain makes cave entrances slippery and river caves very cold.

Honeycomb Cave
As the name would suggest, there is a honeycomb of tunnels on multiple levels with various different limestone formations…

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…some that needed to be squeezed through…

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…some with interesting coloration…

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… scolloping…

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and the occasional daylight holes contain relict rain forests.

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Sassafras Cave
This was a different style of cave than the honeycomb. It was a long and low ceilinged with many glow worms along its length, most of them with their tell tail hanging strings.

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At one stage, in a grand cathedral cave, we turned off our lights for quite some time, and sat in the dark as our cave leader played the flute. Not only are the acoustics great, but glow worms seems to respond to the sound. Very meditative.

The tour comes with morning and afternoon tea and a great lunch. Well worth the money if you’re in the area and not too claustrophobic.

Next I’m off to do Australia’s most famous hike…The Overland Track.

The Cave Wanderer

Montezuma Falls – West Tasmania

My trip to Tasmania has been rather interesting. I’m sure there’s an Aboriginal name for it which likely means: ‘Land where it rains, oh and some mountains’. That sure wraps it up for me so far!

After spending several days in Hobart, it’s time to move on. As I’d driven along the east coast to Freycinet then the south coast to Hobart, I figured I should go see the west coast. So, I pointed The Pointy Brick west and drove.

Strahan is a tourist port town on the west coast set on the north side of a large harbour. It and the raging sea to the west – 8000km to Argentina – is beautiful.

There are places to climb on this side of the state, but as I don’t climb in the rain, I looked for something else to do. Rain tends to make waterfalls look awesome, so I decided to go find one of the biggest in Tasmania. In the rain, I drove 50 km inland to the turnoff and then 6km further to the car park.

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The trail to the waterfall is 4.8km and is graded easy. The first thing I came to was a bridge across the river to the main trail.

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The trail was stony, although with all the rain, it was often waterlogged and muddy. Thankfully I’d decided to wear my hiking boots, so my feet remained dry.

The trail meanders through the rainforest, following the river. In places along the route there are smaller waterfalls…

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This one only as tall as I am…

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This area of the mountains used to be an old mining area and the trail itself is where the old tram line used to run.

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Towards the end you are able to enter an old mine shaft for a short distance…

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Then with the roar of water ahead, you reach a cable bridge heading out of the undergrowth.

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Halfway across the bridge is the best place to see the 104m falls that flows under the bridge and down along the valley…

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While it was a long walk to see a waterfall, it was worth the effort. A beautiful place in Tasmania worth visiting.

Tomorrow, I head to Mole’s Creek where I’ll be doing a full day Adventure Caving in the caving capital of Tasmania.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Mt Wellington – Hobart – Tasmania

I’m in Hobart for the next couple of days. As I drove into the region I couldn’t miss the Wellington Ranges sticking up as a block above Hobart. While it doesn’t have the same jagged rocky look that grabs your attention like the Hazard Range in Freycinet National Park, it’s almost three times as tall. And of course, the moment I first lay eyes on it, I wanted to climb it.

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As it turns out I was lucky to see it at all, as it’s usually surrounded in clouds. I looked at the different walks in the ranges and wanted to do a walk known as Cathedral Rock, a 6 hour steep climb up the side of the ranges. But after checking the forecast – rain for much of my stay – I decided to get a shorter walk in before the weather turned. I chose the Organ Pipes walk instead – a 3 hour round trip.

I’m told it is generally 10 degrees colder on the range than in Hobart – it’s even forecast to snow on Sunday, in December! Yay for Summer! – so I packed for warmth.

I drove up the long winding road towards the summit and stopped at a car park called The Springs. Then I found a problem, because of the number of walking tracks on the ranges it’s easy to get confused. In most cases, the tracks are well marked, but sometimes too much information can lead you astray. I did eventually find the start of the walk and headed along the sandy trail through the trees.

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The sand didn’t last for long, turning very quickly to uneven rocky trail that continued to cut through the trees. The Springs is 700m up Mt Wellington with the highest point of my walk being The Chalet at exactly 1000m. The trail climbed from the start point up the rocky trail.

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This was perhaps the hardest part of the hike and while not steep, it was a steady climb that got the heart pumping. From time to time I could see the city, harbour and surrounding landscapes unfolding behind me thought the trees.

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The track climbed through an area of large rocks that would have been dangerous in the wet, but a good location for the photos. Hobart is a beautiful city surrounding the harbour. In the distance I could see the Tasman Peninsula where I had stayed a couple of days ago. On the other side of the harbour, the islands and the bay were amazing although would have been better on a clear day.

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Looking up the mountain I could see a good view of the organ pipes – an area of vertical stone formations similar to, but not as well defined as those in the Organ Pipes National Park in Victoria.

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The wind grew harsh and the rain sprinkled briefly, so I continued walking through open rocky ground and the forest until I emerged at The Chalet – a small building on the side of the road set up as a picnic area.

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I crossed the road and headed down through the forest. There weren’t many views along this particular part of the trail, although from time to time I came to a stone cabin that had been converted to a picnic area. There was a short side track to a place called Sphinx Rock, and while I’ve no idea why it’s called that, it gave good views of the mountain.

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My walk ended as I returned to The Springs.

Since I’m likely not to get the chance to climb to the top during my visit, I decided to drive up there instead, and I’m glad I did. The temperature at the top was icy and the westerly wind scathing, even in my warmer clothing, but the views were amazing both along the range and across Hobart.

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The panorama feature of my phone is great to capture this…

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In a couple of days I head to the township of Strahan on the west coast…

The Long Trail Wanderer

Mt Amos – Freycinet National Park – Tasmania

I had originally planned to walk the Penguin Cradle trail, rest for 3 days and then walk the Overland track. Well, after some contemplation, I decided to see more of Tasmania than just spend 18 days hiking and 3 days resting in between. So, I decided to do a tour of Tasmania instead. And my first stop is the Freycinet Peninsula.

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As I drove across Tasmania, I discovered there are mountainous national parks dotted all over the place. I could spend months here just walking all the wondrous places here.

On the east coast, I glared out to sea and as I rounded the coast, I came to Bicheno, a small town with some small smooth granite hills and rocky islands in the bay. The Freycinet Peninsula is, perhaps, 20km south of Bicheno and I wasn’t expecting what I saw when I arrived at Coles Bay on the peninsula.

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On the far side of the bay from the village is a line of granite mountains. I just sat there in the van with my mouth open. I had to find out more, so I drove to the Information Centre and discovered the walks in the region, and that there’s another set of taller mountains on the other side. If I’d spent more time researching, I’d have stayed longer and explored more.

It rained overnight and there are plenty of warnings about climbing the mountain when wet, or should I say, to not climb. It was clear in the morning but decided to climb the most popular mountain – Mt Amos – in the afternoon once it had dried out a little. In the photo above, Mt Amos is the second one from the right. Not the tallest, but the most accessible even though it’s still described as being an arduous climb.

After paying the rather expensive park entry fee, I drove in and parked at the car park that is the beginning of most of the walks in the region. The rather large car park was almost full, but I was hoping that as Mt Amos was the hardest in the area, most people would take the easier walks.

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The trail started up a fairly easy sandy path that wound through the forest, but I soon came to a sign that warned of the arduousness beyond that point. I headed on and while the initial part wasn’t difficult, I could see why they would warn not to climb in the wet.

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The fairly smooth rock ledges would indeed have been slippery, even to grippy hiking boots. But there were some interesting colours in the rock.

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I climbed, with awesome looking boulders of various sizes dotting the mountain side.

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Behind me, as I climbed, the growing sight of the bay and the township of Coles Bay.

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As these mountains tend to do, the climb became rather steep and with the slippery rocks, the trail followed small gaps created by water over the millennia up the side of the mountain. Even then, it was still fairly slow work. When I came to the top of this steep section, the area at the top of Mt Amos levelled out, well as flat as a rocky mountain top…

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Mt Amos is fairly flat at the top, although there are several taller rocky areas. The trail led me to the highest one on the far side of the mountain. The view was amazing. A small spit joined the peaks I was on – known as the Hazard Peaks – with the larger set of peaks on the far side, the tallest one being Mt Freycinet. Between the two sets of peaks is the horseshoe shaped beach of Wineglass Bay.

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I climbed to several of the other spires, finding lesser known trails or just finding my own way as I’m prone to do. The views from all sides were simply amazing.

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I descended, taking the steeper sections on my butt, but found no troubles getting back to The Pointy Brick and the caravan park.

If this one walk is anything to go by, I want to return here one day. On this trip I have walked some amazing places in Australia, and this has to be one of the better ones. A great place in the world, The Freycinet Peninsula, South East Tasmania.

Next I’m off to Port Arthur to see what the Tasman National Park has to offer.

The Lone Trail Wanderer.

Organ Pipes National Park – Victoria

This evening I catch the Spirit of Tasmania to Australia’s southern most state. The Spirit of Tasmania is a cruise ship sized vehicle ferry and will take nearly 12 hours overnight to travel the 450km to Tassie. But that’s this evening… Until then I decided to kill some time and check out the Organ Pipes National Park.

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The Organ Pipes NP is 25km North West of Melbourne and is rather small. There is less than 2km of track, so yes, pretty small.

A road leads downhill to a short dirt trail which opens out on the Organ Pipes themselves – a set of vertical stone rods formed when lava flowed off the edge of cliff, hardened but doesn’t erode like the rock around it.

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Further down the trail is a rosette rock…

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… and a tesselated pavement complete with a shift couple getting busy in a hidden away spot at lunchtime on a Friday.

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But not much else.

After a brief chat to a pair of kangaroos, I was back in the van and heading off to wait for loading of the ferry.

Tomorrow, after arriving in Tasmania at 6.30am, I drive to Freycinet Peninsula.

The Short Trail Wanderer

Mornington Peninsula – Victoria

Today is a warm day in Melbourne and without any great plans, I pointed The Pointy Brick towards the Mornington Peninsula to see what I could find there. On a Great Ocean Road trip a few years back I stood on Queenscliff, on the other side of the harbour, and looked across. So, I wanted to look across from this side. It’s only 40km, so why not?

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Half way along the peninsula is a hill known as Arthur’s Seat. I drove up for a look. It gave good views down the peninsula…

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…and back the way I’d come.

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It had been a bit wet and the low cloud prevented a distant look at Melbourne across the harbour.

I drove on along the peninsula towards a little township called Portsea and the Point Nepean National Park beyond. Portsea is your typical beach township, but a cafe there makes the best Waygu beef cheese burger. I drove on to an information centre and further on to parking spot. There’s a 3.8km walk to Fort Nepean at the end of the peninsula, so I put on my walking shoes and headed out along the sandy trail.

During WWI this peninsula was fortified for war and the first actual shot of that war was fired from Fort Nepean. It said so on the information board.

The initial couple of kms cut through vegetation until I came to an old bunker.

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This was to be the first of many dotted along both inner and outer coasts.

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When I got to the first of the forts, I could walk into some of the rooms but others were closed off. Next was a set of barracks including a myriad of tunnels…

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…bunkers and gun emplacements.

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At the end of the peninsula…

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…the fort itself was complete with tunnels and gun emplacements at various different tiers.

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After checking out everything I could, I headed back to the van and back to the caravan park. Sometimes you have just got to get out there an explore, you just don’t know what you might find…

The Lone Ruins Wanderer

Burchell Trail – Brisbane Ranges National Park – Victoria

The Brisbane Ranges National Park is approximately 50km North West of Melbourne in Victoria.

The Burchell Trail is a linear 38km trail that can be completed over 3 days, although I only consider the first and last days as half days due to their shortness. If there was a centrally located camping spot I would do it in only two days.

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Day 1 – Boar Gully to Little River – 10.5km

Today the temperatures rose into the low 30s – thankfully not the 40 degree heat from yesterday – and the afternoon looked to have a shower or two. Because of the shortness of the day and the late sunset I wasn’t in a hurry to get started. I left the caravan park and headed into Bacchus Marsh to kill some time and wait out the heat of the day.

In the early afternoon, I drove to the Brisbane Ranges. Unlike the Grampians, which stand out against the plains with their jagged teeth, the Brisbane Ranges aren’t visible at all. I found my way to the Boar Gully camping ground and killed some more time putting together my food from the stash in my van. By mid-afternoon I was ready to go.

Most of the Brisbane Ranges is dry Eucalyptus forest and the trail follows either a wide dirt 4WD track or a two lane dirt road. I followed the trail as it meandered through the ranges for several kilometres going back and forth between the two different track types until it came to hill. If I sound a little excited, it’s because the hill was a change from the fairly flat and monotonous terrain. I climbed the other side and again wandered through the forest via the trail until it came out at a road that then opened the Little River Camping Ground. The weather had showered briefly during the afternoon, and was looking to grow worse. I pitched the tent, cooked dinner and set down for the night.

Day 2 – Little River to Old Mill – 17.5km

I was awakened by storms twice during the night. Once when I had just dropped off to sleep and again at about 3am. I had prepared the tent for heavy rain and watched as the water rolled down the outer sheet. It was too noisy to sleep, so as I waited for the storms to recede I read and watched for potential tent flooding. Thankfully, very little water got into the tent.

With the forecast today for high 20s, I packed up and headed out. The first tricky part was deciding what trail to follow. There was no marker at the camping ground telling you which way to go. I checked the map, and it suggested I follow the gorge to the left, so I picked one of the handful of trails and followed it along. Eventually I did find a marker several hundred metres away.

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The gorge was something different from yesterday and had a water running in it – no doubt from the heavy rains. I cross-crossed it for a kilometre until the trail climbed a hill to a road which then meandered through the forest again with the occasional small hill. Through the trees I caught the occasional view of plains towards Melbourne but nothing worth taking a photo of.

The trail changed in the early afternoon, heading downhill towards the Lower Stony Creek Reservoir. It headed down along a rocky trail – my first of this hike. After a time, I came to a part of the trail that was cordoned off by a red mesh fence and a sign: “Track Closed”. Apparently there had been some flooding and fire damage to this section. With few choices, I climbed the fence and continued. Along the trail, there were four cobbled fords on the path that were overflowing with quick flowing water from the reservoir. While I wouldn’t have recommended casual walkers try to cross, the crossings shouldn’t cause experienced walkers much issue. I found my way across each of them and while the bottoms of my boots got wet, they weren’t sodden, so I continued. On the other side, I came to the reservoir and stopped for lunch – and yes, it was worth taking a photo…

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After lunch, I climbed the hill along the reservoir road to a main road – a sealed one! – then across and along a dirt road for a few km until the camping ground appeared. Again, another nicely set out campsite. I lay my tent out in the sun to dry and hung out for the rest of the day, occasionally hearing people at the Fridays Camping Ground 500m down the hill. Fridays is the finishing point tomorrow, the walk taking me on a 10km round trip of the end of the National Park and bringing me back.

Day 3 – Old Mill to Fridays

I woke in the morning to rain, again. It let up long enough for me to cook breakfast and break camp. I headed uphill along the 4WD trail, across a dirt road and along another 4WD trail. The rest of the trail wandered through the National park, and for the most part was flat. Occasionally, it had a short dip and climb back up again. At one point, it walked along the side of a shallow gorge, then back to more of the same.

This last part of the national park was once a gold mining area, and near the end of the trail, I began to see some signs discussing areas where the mining had occurred. Not long after, I came out to the road a short distance from Fridays Camping Ground. The trail still had 500m to go and headed into the forest again. I guess I could have walked the 100m up the road to the end, but I like to finish things, so headed on. For half of the remaining trail, it headed downhill to suddenly start climbing back to Fridays. I honestly didn’t see the point – perhaps something happens seasonally here, but it seemed more like a, ‘go on, make them climb one last hill’ part of the hike.

I stopped for lunch at Fridays, happy to be finished then headed out along the wide road on my way back to the Pointy Brick – 18km or so away. When I got to the sealed road I got a lift 10km to a junction by a guy who used to do a lot of hiking in his younger days. From there there was only 4km walk along sealed roads to the Pointy Brick and the drive back to Bacchus Marsh.

I was disappointed with the Burchell Trail. It’s not a terribly exciting walk and there are few sights to see and thus the lack of photos. Also, while the topographic map is of very high quality, the poorly defined trail markings had me spending too much time wandering along trails hoping to find the next marker. Having a marker point into an intersection but not defining which way to follow is just frustrating.

On the plus side, it did provide a useful training hike for my coming 8 day hike in Tasmania, but I would not recommend this one beyond that.

Next, I have a few days off in Melbourne to visit friends and then off to Tasmania and a trip down the east side.

The Lone Trail Wanderer.