Monday, June 12, 2006

The Grampians

This weekend, I celebrated the Queen's birthday with a trip to the Grampian Mountains. (This is neither the date nor month of the Queen's actual birthday. This is the only Queen in the last, say, 50 years- there was a king before her, so they've got it wrong from the start AND it's on a different day in Western Australia. Go figure.)

Anyway, Gen, Max, Lorenzo and I piled into Lorenzo's Land Rover and made our way north west early Saturday. The drive from Melbourne to Roses Gap can be summed up with one word. Sheep. OK, two. Sheep and cattle. But there were way less cattle. It was actually very pretty, pastoral landscape with large fields seperated by lines of eucalypus trees, some rolling hills, and very few towns. It kind of reminded me of Wisconsin, except it had eucalyptus trees and... sheep.

Four hours later, we arrive at Roses Gap, which is really just a trail head with a recreation center and a few cottages, one of which we've rented for the weekend. Just for the future, if you ever see "cottage" think "summer". Think "small". Think "no heat". Winter in Victoria is not cold by American standards, but yikes! Luckily there was a wood stove in the living room that we could all huddle around.

Since there were a few good hours of daylight left, we took off to the aforementioned trailhead and started the first hike. We were located in the Difficult Range (that's the name of the mountains, not the class of hike!) and we hiked to Beehive Falls enroute to Mt. Difficult.

Turns out that Mt. Difficult was a half-day hike and we had only a few hours. So after some exploring the trail, we turned around and made our way back to the cabin. The good news was that Peter and Julie were on their way and we would have quite good group to hang out with. In case you've forgotten who all these people are, the important thing to note is that they are all from Canada or Europe. I was the only person that speaks only one language fluently. It was all very multicultural.

However, since I was the only American, I continued my teachings of American culture, this time complete with dance lessons. See, the owners of the cottage were kind enough to provide us with music, but it was a bit limited. So... Backstreet Boys look out! (See? I'm in a fleece, sweater, and hat inside and you thought I was exaggerating about how cold it was.)

Well, we survived the evening and a very focused Gen and Max left at dawn to conquer Mt. Difficult. The rest of us slept in and then enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before heading our seperate ways. Lots of tea and nutella had by all. Over breakfast we saw our first indigenous animal- a parrot! At one point there were eight in the yard at once!

Lunches packed, Lorenzo and I headed to Mt. Stapylton, a hike reccomended by Julie and Peter. (Julie and Peter had been to this park before and so were off to see the Little Desert.) The plan was to hike Mt. Hollow and then cruise over to Stapylton along the ridge line.

Here's a very tired me on top of Mt. Hollow, which is named (I'm guessing here) for all the little hollowed out caves created by wind erosion. It was really windy.

Turns out you can't just walk the ridge line to Mt. Stapylton- there is a really big crack in between the two mountains. Instead of giving up, we trekked back down a bit to see if the trail split somewhere and we missed it. (We didn't- it's not there.)

On our way down, we found another, larger wind cave that had so many caverns all connected, you could walk up them like a staircase. I'm lying on the cave floor to snap this photo of Lorenzo, but the photos cannot do it justice. By far my favorite bit of the weekend.

At the base of the mountain was a aboriginal rock art site, where they dipped children's right hands in egg and something orange and painted hand prints all over the wall.

Feeling very content with the day, Lorenzo and I decided to drive around a bit in search of some good views. Here's one: a field of roos! We learned that the difference between wallabies and kangaroos is their tail, face, and ears. Wallabies have rounded ears, smaller faces and skinnier tails than kangaroos. By the end of the weekend, we were all experts.

As we made our way around the southern half of the park, we could see the scar of a huge bush fire that made its way through last summer. It was pretty bleak for a lot of kilometers. The cool thing was how the ferns and eucalyptus trees were bouncing back so quickly. Instead of looking like really big broccoli with leaves only on the top and ends of branches, (work with me here) they had started sprouting leaves all over the trunk and larger branches and looked like big fuzzy pipe cleaners.

Monday I decided that I hadn't had enough vacation to my vacation and so I stayed back while the others tried to tackle Mt. Stapylton for the second time. I spent some quality time exploring the back yard and the hill beyond, lazing in the hammock (until I got cold!) and reading under a blanket on the couch. It was a very needed break. When the others returned, we piled back into the Rover and made our way back to the city.


K said...

I just shot coffee out my nose!!! The picture of you teaching your friends to dance ran through my head in a live action sequence so funny I had tears rolling down my face (mixed in with the coffee coming out my nose, nice visual huh?).

Stop having so much freaking fun down there. You have to come back here so you can visit me. We can import more sheep if they are that important to you.

Trina said...

I love saying the word, "parrot." Glad you're having fun!