Sunday, October 15, 2006

Two Poms and a Yank

Sounds like a punch line, eh? Actually, it was Richard, Dee and me as we toured Southern Gippsland and camped at Wilson's Promontory National Park.

Gippsland stretches from the suburbs east of Melbourne to the New South Wales border. It makes up the south eastern bit of Victoria and is known mostly for agriculture and mining. We saw plenty of rolling hills with cattle, dairys, and some wineries along the journey.

Wilson's Promontory, affectionately called "The Prom" is a National Park in the southernmost tip of Victoria- the southernmost tip of mainland Australia, actually.

After a four hour drive (which included a brief and unintentional detour to Hastings) we arrived at the Prom. A mere $17 for a campsite at Tidal River and a two-day pass (what a bargain!) and we set up camp in what was possibly the most beautiful public camping area ever. Since it is not yet high season, we were relatively secluded from other campers and had a nice quiet area all to ourselves.

After settling in, we were off to our first hike. We crossed the Tidal River and made our way through the heathland in the hills that seperate Norman and Leonard Bays.

Our first sight of wildlife: a kookaburra. These birds of prey are all over the place in the Prom and as we learned while making dinner later in the day, they are not too shy of people! One sat atop a branch over our dinner table and waited until we had our backs turned to swoop in and steal food right off the plate! When Richard tried to scare him away by running at him and thowing water, the bird just stood there, and even opened his beak to catch the water Richard had thrown. We soon learned that the maniacal laugh of the kookaburra (kind of sounds like the monkey noises kids make) is really them laughing at us tourists while they plan thier dinner!

Back to the first hike of the day though, and as we decended upon the beach, we found an echidna feasting on an ant hill. He was really shy and about the size of a house cat. We didn't get too close.

Back to the track and we finally arrived at Squeaky Beach. Yep, the beach actually squeaks- it makes that squeak noise that you get with wet shoes in the supermarket. The sand only squeaks when it's dry, and it squeaks because the (very fine grained, well rounded, well sorted) quartz sand is sized just so and rounded just so that it's like a bunch of marbles squeaking against each other. I have to say that this was probably the highlight of my weekend. I loved it.

On our way back to the trail head, we found a wombat grazing on some grass near the beach. He seemed pretty used to people, but when Richard went in for a closer photo, he scurried off. He basically like a giant guinea pig, really, though he had super huge claws like koalas do. Earlier in the day, the park ranger told us that we have to keep all of our food locked in the car so that the wombats don't scratch through our tents in the night looking for goodies. After seeing the size of those claws, I didn't even bring my chapstick to my tent!

After Squeaky Beach, we made our way to Pillar Point, the tip of land that seperates the two bays. It was really, really windy up there (so windy I almost couldn't hold my camera straight!). I snapped this photo of Richard looking pensive, but I'm sure he's really just gathering the courage to come back up to the trail from that lookout.

Back on the trail, and we decided to finish out our day hikes with the Tidal Overlook Circuit. This trail had some more amazing views, but instead of hiking through the forests of tea trees (sometimes ti trees) we went down a slope that had a recent burn. Much of the park had suffered from a controlled fire gone bad in 2005, and the revegetation was amazing.

Wild orchids, she-oaks and grass trees (sometimes called kangaroo tails) covered the slopes.

We made our way back to camp and other than the excitement with the kookaburra, not much happened. Since it is still officially spring here, the temperatures weren't quite warm enough for my taste, and I had to snuggle myself into my tent in order to stay warm. By the morning, I was sure they'd have to shear me out of it all, I was wearing so much fleece. But, morning came, and the sun was out, and so we continued our exploration of the park.

On the plate for today: Mt. Oberon. I was a bit hesitant after reading the brochure that said "a subtle uphill climb, which is noticably constant." Yep, they really should have said 3.4k of sheer uphill torture. OK, so torture is maybe too strong a word. It was actually quite manageable. I did, however, give into my frustration once by stomping my feet and declaring that I would not continue, no matter what. That only lasted a few seconds though, since I didn't want the family with small children that we had just passed to pass me back. Soon enough, (but after the stairs) we reached the summit. It was well worth the trip, and as Dee was so fond of saying "all downhill from there!" We had amazing views of Oberon Bay, Norman Bay, the Tidal River, and even Leonard Bay and Squeaky Beach.

After returning to the Tidal River ranger station for some lunch, (I will never understand the need to put not only bacon but a whole egg on top of burgers here!) we decided to walk off some of the grease overloading at Lilly Pilly Gully. (This gets the vote for the best name ever!) This track took us through a tea tree forest (flowering tree to the right, also what the kookaburra was hiding in) and into a moderate rainforest.
We were told to expect quite a few koalas in these parts, but despite walking with heads up most of the way, we didn't see a one. What we did see were lots of banksia trees in bloom- they smelled like honey.

Most photogenic person of the day- me! OK, so maybe that's a bit of an overstatement. It's not my fault that Dee said, "Oh, I hope there are no spiders in this tree," right before Richard took the photo. I think they planned it.

Final tally: 19k over two days. No wonder I slept so well Sunday night!

Vocab of the Day
Woop woop: the middle of nowhere, the bush, the outback. Also the name of an Australian wine available in the states. (I haven't seen it here.)

In a park as large as Wilson's Prom, it's easy to feel like you're hiking through the middle of woop woop.

1 comment:

grahamanda said...

That is a lovely picture! I know you are not a homophobe, opps I meant arachnophobe! 23 more days and counting...