Saturday, September 02, 2006

Adventures on the Calder Highway

Today is the first Saturday of Spring in Australia. (They start seasons on the first day of the month, instead of on the equinox or solstice.)

In honor of the beginning of my favorite season, I grabbed the ute we rented for DTP and headed north on the Calder Highway to Kyneton, about 83 kilometers out of Melbourne. This weekend is the beginning of the Kyneton Daffodil Festival, 10 days of festivities in order to mark the changing season.

The Festival was written up in the Sunday paper way back in July, so I was pretty excited to see what it was all about. Unbeknownst to me, Kyneton is not the most populous city, and their definition of Festival was a bit different than what I was used to. Just to give you an idea about the size of this metropolis, here is a photo from the stoplight in town. The only stoplight in town.

Having come to terms with the fact that this was indeed a smaller event than I had imagined, I parked the ute and took to the streets to see what the festival was all about.
Apparently, it was about an antique fair inside the Town Hall, random busking bands on the sidewalks, and meetings of the Victorian Ferret Society outside of the Senior Center/City Archives/Kyneton Lawn Bowling Club.

Now, I'm a fan of small towns and all, but it didn't take me long to see everything.

With the rest of this beautiful day calling, I headed back towards Melbourne to see some guaranteed interesting sights, both geological. (C'mon, you knew I had to sneak it in there somewhere.)

The first stop was Hanging Rock State Park, where a volcanic neck was exposed and had become the highlight of this area. This is also where a scary movie Picnic at Hanging Rock was filmed, and sadly you see more references to the movie than to the actual place.

I hiked to the top and found a great view of the area farms and ranchland. Lots of good boulders to climb around on and little nooks and crannies to explore. If I had actually worn the proper shoes, I would probably still be there climbing all over the rocks. Instead, I went as far as my city shoes would take me and then made my way back to the base.

On the way up, I had noticed these skinny little trees full of yellow flowers. On the way down, I took a minute to look them over and discovered that they are fairly close to the acacias that we have in southern Arizona. A bit more thought and I realized that this must be the Golden Wattle, the official tree/shrub/flower of Australia and the source of all their yellow and green regalia. It was full of pollen so I didn't get too close, but I did notice a bit of a sweet, nutty, grassy scent to the air, so that's probably what it smells like. Being the start of spring and all, I guess that could really come from any number of things, but I choose to think that was definitely the Golden Wattle.

Next stop south and it's the Organ Pipe National Park. Not exactly the Organ Pipes I know from the Sonoran Desert, but something even better, columnar basalt.

Volcanoes in the region spewed enough lava to fill this ancestral river basin. When the lava slowly cooled into basalt, it made hexagonal cracks as it cooled. The river found its way back to this area and as it carved its way through the basalt, the columns were exposed. Pretty awesome.

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