Here, there, and everywhere


Over the last few weeks, with 2 weeks of Annual Leave, the family and I did the following…

Friday 28th October
Finishing work at 1pm, Zoe and Eli and I were on the road by 1:30. Destination: Hotel Granya, beside the upper reaches of Lake Hume. By 3pm, I was all booked into my accommodation there, and Zoe and Eli were driving back home. Granya is in a mobile phone black hole – about the only place I had mobile service was way out in the bush, about halfway to the Mt Granya summit. So that basically means no internet until sometime on Sunday. But I’m wasn’t going to let that bother me. There was too much interesting stuff to do.


After I was unpacked, I hopped on the bicycle and headed up. Because that’s what most of the roads at Granya do – they go up. After exploring some side roads in Granya township, I decided to try and get to the top of My Granya. Until Cotton Tree Creek it was fairly easy going despite the steepest section of  asphalt road I encountered today being in the town limits. After Cotton Tree Creek the track went up, and down, and then again, and again, and again. And then there was a 2km section of relentlessly steep and slippery 4×4 track . And that was by far the hardest part of the ride.

Eventually I got past that section and onto Mt Granya Road. But by this time it was about 5:30 and I decided it would be best to head back towards the hotel. As I was soon to find out there was some more up hill, but after the really steep 4×4 section those hills were a breeze! And then there once I got to the asphalt road at Granya Gap it was super easy for the rest of the ride as it was downhill – O the joy of the downhill.

On arrival back at the hotel, I decided it was time to fill the fuel tank, so ordered some Moroccan Pumpkin soup, which was delicious, and some potato wedges with sweet chilli and sour cream. Not long after the Sun had set behind the Granya mountains and so it was Sabbath. So I spent a bit of time listening to some music (Steve McConnell, if your interested), and then mulled over an idea for a sermon I am due to preach on Christmas Eve. And then… bed.

Sabbath 29th October
Sabbath. The very word suggests rest. But rest from what? If one believes in the Judeo-Christian understanding, as I do, it means rest from doing business. That is, employment. And so on this Sabbath, as with every other one, that is what I did. And so today’s main activity was to be a mountain bike ride up to the top of Mt Granya. After riding hills of varying levels of difficulty I found myself at the aforementioned destination. And by that time I was due for a rest. After a bit of a snack to replace the energy I lost on the climb I sat quietly for a while and listened to the serenity. Lyrebirds, kookaburras, and some other unidentified birds could be heard. The silence was punctuated only by the sounds of nature. The view was amazing – down into Georges Creek valley, across to the alpine national park, and Mt Bogong with snow. But I had this feeling of dejavu, like I had been to Mt Granya before. Maybe I have. But it was still a first – the first time I had ridden a bicycle up it. After a decent rest, and because a few cars of people arrived, I decided it was time for a good downhill roll. And a good downhill roll it was, too.


Later in the day, around 6pm, I thought it would be nice to go for a trundle (that’s a ‘slower than usual’) bike ride along River Road and enjoy the views out over Lake Hume. And the views didn’t disappoint. I could have shot a lot more photos than I did, and the temperature had dropped a bit from its warmest temperature a few hours before. The only bad thing was the bugs – I swallowed a few, my beard collected a few, and some almost got in my eyes. By the time I got back to the hotel the sun was dropping over the hills. Sabbath would soon be gone for another week.


Sunday 30th October
I had an idea of what I was getting myself into when I read the weather forecasts for the day, and they all said roughly the same thing – rain probability high, 10+kph winds, possibility of a thunderstorm, low temperatures. Well, all of it happened, except the temperature was a bit higher than forecast. I left Hotel Granya around 6:30am, after a hearty breakfast of muesli with soy milk and an Up-N-Go, and a large banana. I had some snack foods to nibble on during the ride – nut and yoghurt bars, an orange, and some fruit and nut mix. I also had two ’10 Mineral’ drinks – a kind of sports drink without a lot of the nasties.


So there I was, riding into the north westerly wind more or less, for the first 16km. And then a turn southward starting with a grueling ascent to possibly the highest point on the ride. I am thankful that this ascent was early on in the ride as if I had to traverse it later in the ride I might have given up and called Rebecca up on the phone to tell her where to pick me up. As it was I felt decidedly low on energy by the time I got to the top, and took a decent rest before continuing. But then I heard some rather loud thunder rumbles in the hills above where I was, and I decided it would be better to keep moving down into the valley rather than feeling like a sitting duck on the high point I was on. After that high elevation, I had a long descent into Old Tallangatta – a real pleasure, even with the intermittent rain, after the tough climb I had endured not long before. The rain was one of the other variables on this ride that I have not had to experience on rides of similar length – rather than saying there was rain here and there, the ride could be better described as being doused by various intensities of rain. Sometimes it was light drizzle or a few drops here and there, other times it was bucketting down, and other times it was somewhere in between those extremes. I didn’t know whether to wear the raincoat, or not, as if I put it on then I felt too warm but if I didn’t wear it I got wet. In the end, it was just easier to not wear it!

By the time I got to Old Tallangatta, which was roughly the half-way point of the ride, I was feeling a little refreshed by the long downhill stretch through Georges Creek and was looking forward to the Yabba Road section. On Google Maps the Yabba Road seems fairly flat, especially when compared with the first half of the ride. Either Google Maps gradient profiles aren’t that trustworthy or I misread it, or something, because it was tougher than I thought it would be with a number of short but steep climbs, although the climbs weren’t anywhere as bad as the “grueling ascent” mentioned earlier. Yabba Road was a bit over 30km long, and by the time I turned onto the Omeo Highway I was really ready for a rest. It’s funny how when you drive a car over a stretch of road that it is totally different to when you ride a bicycle over the same section. I really don’t remember all those hills on the approach to Eskdale! But eventually I arrived at Eskdale, a beautiful small town nestled on the side of the Mitta Mitta River valley. This was the place where I was to meet Rebecca, Jesse and Eliana. It wasn’t long after I had started feeling human again that they arrived. We had some salad rolls, and a donut (I know, donuts are not exactly healthy food, but after 84km of cycling, well, you know where my logic headed). Then the bike was put on the bike rack on the car, and we drove another 2 hours south to the picturesque town of Omeo and booked into the Omeo Caravan Park which was to be our home for the next few days.

Monday 31st October
While snoring and generally drowsiness was the condition of the family, I was up early at about 6am, had some breakfast (again, healthy muesli and a banana), and a little later I went for a bike ride. No long bike ride – at about an hour in duration and about 13km long it was a lot less exhausting that the one the day before. But Omeo being in a valley, if I wanted to go anywhere I had to climb hills. So not long after I started the ride I found myself climbing up towards Mt Hotham but I soon decided that was not what I wanted to do, and took a turn to the left along lane called Cousins Lane. It climbed up pretty high too, but I knew it wouldn’t climb anywhere as high as the Mt Hotham road did, and besides when I turned onto Cousins Lane the Hotham road was starting to descend I didn’t really want to have to ride up that descent later.

Cousins Lane didn’t disappoint. The views across to the mountains was spectacular, and once the lane levelled off I enjoyed riding along it. Then there was a steep descent and ascent before it turned sharply to the left, then over one more hill, and then it was downhill as far as the eye could see all the way into Omeo. Well, almost. That’s how I like my rides to be – all the tough stuff in the first half, and then the ‘reward’. When I am riding around home and the wind is strong I always try and ride into the wind for the first half so that I can have an easier return back home. Riding into strong winds is just like riding up hills, except that they don’t show up on the gradient profile. But the effect on the rider is roughly the same.

After I returned back to the caravan park the family was up and we decided to walk into the township and do some exploring. There are an abundance of historically interesting buildings in the town and we saw a number of them – the courthouse (inside and out), the justice precinct with it’s Log Lockup, the Post Office, an old bank building, and some others.

Then after lunch we went driving. First it was out to have a look at the Hinnomungie Bridge in the Omeo Valley. This bridge is the only surviving wooden multi-truss hand hewn bridge in the state. It was particularly interesting to see ripped steel in structure of the bridge. That might be partly why the bridge was replaced by a more modern concrete structure. Then we drove along the Hinnomungie Connector road which goes up and over the Blowhard Lookout, a very aptly named locale that gives great 360 degree views of the surrounding area. But it was too cold to stay there, as the wind was blowing hard (surprise, surprise). In the distance we could see Lake Benambra, and so we headed towards it and skirted around in before arriving at the quaint and peaceful village of Benambra.

From there we headed north, and after missing a turn-off we finally arrived at our next stop – Taylors Crossing. This is a crossing of the Mitta Mitta River. It’s main point of interest is a sturdy looking steel suspension bridge for walkers to cross the river. This crossing is part of the Australian Alpine Walking Track, a long distance walking trail that traverses the Australian Alps between Walhalla and the Australian Capital Territory. After having a look around there, we drove back to Benambra and then headed north east towards the McFarlane Lookout NFSR locality on the map (don’t ask me what NFSR means, as I don’t know). I didn’t know what we would find there, but there were signs to a “Historic Marker” so we followed those signs, and found the remains of the Pendergast family home erected in the 1860s. All that remains today are 2 stone chimneys, but one of them had a hearthstone so big that they had to excavate a substantial hole underneath it from it’s locale in the neasrby hills, and then back the bullock wagon under it before toppling the hearthstone into the wagon to transport it to the site of the homestead. All the stones for the fireplaces for the building were granite brought down from the Bulgaback Range.

From there, we went back to the Caravan Park, where it was time for dinner and some evening relaxing.

Tuesday 1st November
Up early, again. Same reason – an early morning bike ride. This time the ride was from Omeo to Cobungra and the Victoria Falls. I jettisoned as much of the extra weight as possible from my bike touring kit. And then I was off on a bike ride that I knew was going to involve some climbing. The ride was uneventful, as is often the case. But the road was one of the steeper ones I have ridden, and the higher I got or the more exposed the road was, the stronger the headwinds. And it was a cold wind too. But I was prepared. I had 3 layers on – the cycling jersey, a polar fleece jumper, and an almost-wind-proof rain coat. I could feel the cold of the wind a bit, but not so much that I was worried about getting a chill or anything worse.

Pretty soon after leaving Omeo the main climbing started, and for approximately the next 8km I pedalled slowly up the hill. Near the top of the climb I arrived at Kosciosko Lookout, which was a bit under half way along the ride. And had a bit of a rest. But I felt the road calling me on. And I was on a bit of a timetable. I had told Rebecca that the ride would take me 2 hours to reach the Victoria Falls Historic Area, and so I couldn’t linger in any particular place for too long. So on I pedalled. Then I reached the top of the main climb and there was some downhill. But the downhill didn’t last as long as I thought it would. It teased me into thinking there would be a lot of downhill, but before I knew it I was climbing again! Then there was some more downhill, then some more climbing. And then the wind… This was the most exposed part of the ride, along the sides or tops of hills, and the wind made even some of the flat and downhill sections seem like climbs.

Eventually I made it to Cobungra, and the Victoria Falls Road. At Cobungra I had mobile reception, and so I sent an SMS to the family to let them know where I was and where I was going. After a little more downhill I found the picnic area, rode on a little further to see what was further a long the road, then after a while I turned back to the picnic area to wait for the family.

The Victoria Falls Historic Area is the location where the first hydro-electric power scheme in Victoria was built. Not to serve residential or commercial customers, but to provide power to one industry – a large, power hungry mine which was finding it increasingly difficult to source firewood for it’s boilers. So it was decided to convert the mine from steam powered to electric powered. Quite innovative for it’s day. There is not much left there today – we saw a dam wall that was destroyed in a flood, and another old dam further along at the end of the road. There are apparently more things to see, but some ambiguous signage that said “private property”, and then had a “walkers and management vehicles only” (which suggests state / public land) sign a bit further on made me wonder whether it was a good idea to explore further. In the same area is the Victoria Falls, a fairly spectacular set of cascades, made more so by the over-abundance of rain over the preceding months. We stopped at the lookout overlooking the falls and enjoyed the sight and sound of the falls roaring down the canyon.

From there we headed up to Dinner Plains, an alpine town with architecture reminiscent of the cattlemens huts that dot the Victorian alpine area. There was also some interesting pieces of art – a shiny metal emu and horse, and what looked like a giant gear and pedal set for some super huge bicycle. From there, we went even further up to Mount Hotham. There was still a lot of snow around, although I don’t think it would have been very ski-able. It was only just on the right side of zero – 1 degree according to the big clock / weather sign in the Hotham village. And the clouds were rolling in, and so it was possible that more snow could fall. But none of the ski-lifts would be operating if more snow did fall as the ski season finished officially almost a month ago.

We headed for the shelter of the day centre, and heated up some soup, and soon we had forgotten how cold it was outside. But then we had to go out in it again to get to the car. No matter. From that stage it could only get warmer. And the lower down the mountain we got the warmer it got. On the way back we stopped briefly at the Kosciosko Lookout, and then on to the Oriental Claims area to explore it. This area is named after the name of the company that worked the site for about 30 years in the late 1800’s / early 1900’s in search of that elusive yellow precious metal, gold. There are a large number of exposed cliffs towering above the various walking tracks. These cliffs were created by miners pointing high pressure water jets at the cliffs to wash the soil into sluicing areas, from which the gold was then extracted. The whole process would seem to be a good way to get to the gold in the soil, but the problem with the method is that it creates a lot of pollution problems even 100’s of kilometres downstream. A similar mine at Mitta Mitta also created similar water pollution problems during it’s operation.

By the time we had explored the Oriental Claims area, it was around 4pm, and so we decided we to go back to the caravan park, and engaged in less than interesting activities – dishes, cooking, showers, etc.

Wednesday 2nd November
Today’s early morning bike ride was a sedate affair when compared to the ones earlier in the week – about 26km long, and a little over 400 metres of climbing, and the average speed was almost 20kph. The destination and meeting point for me to meet the family was the Cassilis Historic Area in Tongio West, about 25km south of Omeo.

The Cassilis Historic Area was once a gold mining area, similar to many other places in the region around Omeo. And it has a lot of gold mining relics including old machinery and mine adits (the holes in the sides of mountains that the gold bearing rock is extracted through). The Cassilis Historic Area has 3 adits, collectively known as the Mount Hepburn / King Cassilis Mine. Each adit has it’s own name: “House of Horrors”, “Main Adit”, and “Boatmans Mine” – two of those names being very interesting names for a mine, and suggesting a story behind the names. After exploring the various mine remains on the loop trail, and enduring a certain child’s complaints of being tired and sore, we arrived back at the car. Then it was on to the village of Swifts Creek.

I had this picture in my mind of what the town of Swifts Creek would be like based on many other small villages I have visited over the years – very quiet main street with the occasional truck thundering it’s way through town, a sawmill, and a collection of buildings that had seen better days. Apart from the occasional truck thundering through town it was nothing like I envisioned. The school was in the middle of playing a game of “rounders” (I think). There was a cafe (which we had lunch at), another cafe, a pub, and a small supermarket, as well as some other community centered organisations. A quick read through the local noticeboard revealed a community that was very busy with all kinds of things including a community gym, a regular bike riding group, and a karate class. The thing that struck me most, though, was that the buildings we saw were all in very good condition, except for some rusty looking corrugated iron sheets on some roofs. They still had that ‘small country town’ look, but way over towards the ‘well-maintained’ end of the condition spectrum. Swifts Creek appeared to me to be a town whose citizens take pride in it’s appearance. I was only there for about an hour, but that was the impression I had of the town in the short time we were there.

After some lunch at the Creaker Cafe, we headed further south towards Ensay. After a quick stop at the Connor Lookout (I think it was called) we arrived at Ensay and turned east, with a plan to do a big loop through the Moscow Villa area, but about 20km into the loop we came across a large tree that had fallen across the road, and as we didn’t have a car that could get around it (ie, a 4×4 with lots of clearance) we turned around and back-tracked through Ensay. So the idea of doing a big loop fell in a heap. By this time I had about had enough of trying to get to Moscow Villa and the walking tracks in that area, so instead of trying to get there I decided we would just go towards Omeo. Along the way, we took a detour along the Tongio Gap Road just because it looked interesting on the map, and soon we had arrived back in Omeo. Rebecca wanted to have a look at the Cuckoo Clock shop, which has a large range of German-made cuckoo clocks, most of them being on different times. This is probably a good thing – can you imagine 100 cuckoo clocks all going off at once? The various styles and sounds of the clocks was interesting, and the mechanisms and moving pieces of the various clocks was quite amazing.

Thursday 3rd November
Not much of interest happened today. I managed a 20km bike ride before we departed Omeo. Most of the day was spent traveling from Omeo to Bairnsdale, and trying to find a playground for Eliana to burn off some energy. One thing of interest is that I have now driven all of the Great Alpine Road From Wangaratta all the way to Bairnsdale. In Eliana’s and my search for a playground we did find some interesting things.

Friday 4th November
An early start today. Eli and I started a somewhat epic journey from Bairnsdale back to Rutherglen, so we had to be at the Bairnsdale railway station to catch the 6:10am train. The VLine train tickets said we would travel on 2 trains and a bus, but instead we travelled on a train and 2 busses. Not exactly ideal for me and my railfan buddy. But we had to connect with the bus to Rutherglen so we had no ability to change the booking so that we got to ride a second train.

Originally I calculated we would travel about 1/4 of the possibile country passenger routes in Victoria on our journey, but with one train changed to a replacement bus that diminished to about 1/8. Oh well.

Sunday 6th November
Today marked the second week of my Annual Leave. Up until Friday night I couldn’t decide where to stay. So I was browsing the internet, considering options, when I happened upon a webpage describing a venue called Bharatralia Jungle Camp. On the webpage I looked at it said they had “luxury tents, with real beds, camp kitchen, shared shower and toilet”. That looked promising so I sent them an email, and the cost was going to be $40 a night. So I booked one of their “luxury tents” from tonight until Thursday. That was the accommodation taken care of.

So today, with the car packed with all the essentials, some of which I won’t actually need as the venue supplies them, I drove merrily to my booked accommodation. After paying the hosts, I unloaded all my gear and took it to the booked tent. I don’t really know what I was expecting (the words “luxury” and “tent” don’t quite seem to go together in my mind), but I was pleasantly surprised with the standard of accommodation. And not just the tent, but the whole place. It was like a beautifully manicured garden, with tastefully placed trees and gardens, and the sounds of peacocks (I think), the flittering of birds, and the noises of other wildlife abounding. A little slice of heaven.

After I had unpacked and had some lunch I went for a bike ride. That probably shouldn’t surprise anyone who has read this blog before. Earlier in the day I did a 1 hour 10 minute gym workout, and on the bike ride I noticed a definite lack of energy, which I think was because I was still recovering from the gym workout. But I still enjoyed the 15km ride. Inspite of the plethora of fallen trees across the track I rode. After I got back to the tent, I still had some time until dinner so I went for a walk around the property. Heavenly! The mountains in the background, the rolling hills of the property, and the gardens all fed the senses and along the walk I stopped often to just take in the scenes before me. Even the sounds were soothing and gentle on the ears, when there were any sounds. Back at the tent, after dinner was consumed, I took some time to sit and watch the King Parrots, Crimson Rosellas and other birds feeding not far from where I was sitting. Heavenly! And I managed to get some good photos of the birds too.

Monday 7th November
The plan today was to ride. But it was only after breakfast that I chose a destination – Dartmouth Dam. Having ridden the Mitta Mitta to Dartmouth route before, I knew what I was going to encounter until Dartmouth. And I had driven up to the Dam some time ago, so I knew there would be some up hill after Dartmouth township to get up to the Dam. More than 25 km of pedalling later, sometimes sedately sometimes not, I was at the dam wall. Dartmouth Dam was built back in the 1970s, but even by today’s standards it is impressive. The dam holds 4,000,000 megalitres. To put that into perspective, if every Australian (all 25 million of us) drank 2 litres of water a day it would take more than 200 years to empty it, if it was full. When full it has 150km of shoreline – that’s more than some countries! And the wall itself has 14,000,000 cubic metres of volume. It is the biggest dam on the Murray River catchment.

After reaching Dartmouth Dam and having a look around, I began the return trip to Mitta Mitta. And before too long I was at Banimboola Pondage. After after a quick look around there I continued on to Mitta Mitta. All went well, until I got to the driveway of Bharatralia Jungle Camp, where I had stopped, and then started and the chain slipped and my knee slammed into the handlebars. Ouch! And as if to have a visually sign of the “ouch”-ness, the knee swelled up. Even as I write this entry, in the evening of the day, it is still puffed up and a bit sore. But I figured out how to minimise the soreness – keep it moving. So after lunch I went for a hike nearly 7km long which was a combination of the River Walk and the Deep Gully Walk. While on the Deep Gully Walk I found a “Gnome Home”, and a “Frog Log”. Rather than explaining what they are, just have a look at the photos.

After getting back to the camp, I relaxed for an hour or so and watched the birds feeding, and with a little patience managed to get some good photos once the birds were in a photogenic spot. And I found some more gnomes. This time they were interspersed in the vines that surround the tents at Bharatralia.

Tuesday 8th November
Today I tackled the most difficult ride on the whole holiday – Mitta Mitta to Eskdale Spur Track / Camp Creek Track junction. This ride had approximately 30km of climbing, the most climbing I have ever done on a single ride, with total of around 2440 vertical metres of climbing. According to Google Maps, it should have been around 1500 vertical metres of climbing. Just goes to show how inaccurate Google Maps is once you get away from the main roads. The weather was very suited to a ride with lots of climbing as it was not too cold and not too hot. Real Goldilocks weather. That it wasn’t too cold meant that when I got to the higher altitudes I didn’t need to rug up with extra layers of clothing. Actually, the climbing helped keep me warm, and I found I only really got cold when I took a rest then started riding again.

The original plan was to try and get to Mitchell Hut, which I believe is somewhere on the Eskdale Spur, via Camp Creek Track. But by the time I had reached the Camp Creek Track turnoff, I had already ridden 30km, and I knew that Camp Creek Track would have some climbing on the way back. So at the Camp Creek Track turnoff I turned around. I think if I am going to try and get to Mitchell Hut / Eskdale Spur I will need to do it from the Mountain Creek end, as I think it is only about 10km of climbing from Mountain Creek camp ground, which would give me plenty of reserve energy to climb out of Camp Creek Track.

The last few kilometres of climbing out of the Rodda Creek valley were taxing, and I eagerly looked for the last crest signifying the last of the major climbs. By that time it was time for lunch, so I had the sandwiches I had prepared back at camp, and had some other food to replenish the energy used. And from there it was virtually all downhill all the way to the Omeo Highway turnoff just outside Mitta Mitta. After a short pedal on the Omeo Highway, I turned into the Bharatralia Jungle Camp road, and then there was one last uphill – the last 500 metres of so back to the tent. By that time the legs were really ready for a rest. But I needed to buy some bread from the Mitta Mitta General Store, so I had a bit of a rest, and then rode in to buy what I needed. Then once I returned from the shop I was able to rest the legs properly!

Wednesday 9th November
Compared to yesterday’s high altitude climbing ride, today was more akin to a recovery ride than anything else. It was still around the same distance as yesterday’s ride, but without the large vertical altitude difference. It was mostly flat, following the Mitta Mitta River flats from Mitta Mitta to Eskdale, with some not-to-strenuous (ie, easy) climbs, if you could even call them ‘climbs’. Today’s ride was also along more populated roads, so there was not quite the same level of ‘adventure’ on this ride. But it was still very enjoyable. A few times I saw Mt Bogong poking it’s head above the other mountains, and the contrast of the river flats and the mountains at their extremities made for a pleasant ride. The legs didn’t have to work too hard at all, and most of the time I was cruising along at about 20kph. By the time I got back to the camp, though, I was still pretty tired. After some lunch, I had trouble keeping my eyes open, and so laid down on one of the couches in the camp kitchen, and for about an hour was off in the Land of Nod (or, if you prefer, ‘catching some zzz’s’ or ‘having some shut-eye’). The warmness of the morning and early afternoon also contributed to my sense of drowsiness.

After I awoke from my slumber, I decided to go for a bit of a wander along one of the tracks. I don’t know what the name of the track was, but it followed the southern boundary of the Bharatralia Jungle Camp property. I followed this track for about as far as I could before there was a large number of trees across the path, and the undergrowth at that point of the track suggested it wasn’t used much beyond that point. That point was right up at the opposite end of the property to where the camp’s tents are located, and the vista down the valley was awesome. The property itself was all grassland – not the 6 foot high type, but more like a lawn that hadn’t been mowed in a while. And on each side of the valley were forests of trees as far down the valley as I could see. There were patches of trees in the paddocks, and the grass was a nice verdant green, not the dried out pale-brown color we get at home during Summer.

This is the last day of my away-from-home adventure. I left on the start of my adventure soon after I finished work around 1pm on the 28th October, and wont be home until after 1pm tomorrow, which means it will have been 2 whole weeks I have been away from home. Some of that I spent with family at various places, and only the last 4 days I have spent away from family. Even though adventures away from home are great fun, it will be good to be back home!

The Capital in February


Recently we had the opportunity to visit Australia’s capital city – Canberra, and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The ACT was originally part of New South Wales,  and was separated to become the ACT as part of the choosing of a neutral site outside the two biggest Australian cities at the time – Melbourne and Sydney. Melbourne and Sydney have had a long history of rivalry, and it seems that this might have been part of the reason why a separate location was sought for the nation’s capital. An extensive search was conducted, and in 1908 Canberra was chosen as the location of the nation’s capital. The new Federal Capital Territory (later named Australian Capital Territory) was created on 1 January 1911 when the New South Wales government ceded 2,360 square kilometres of land including the seaport of Jervis Bay to the east to the Commonwealth Government. Before being chosen as the site for the nation’s capital, the area was a rural area. But there was some settlement and some of the original buildings still exist in the city. For example, the Anglican St Johns Church, consecrated in 1845; and the Duntroon House built by the Campbell family which today is part of a military academy. Near the commercial heart of Canberra there is a large lake called Lake Burley Griffin.

Lake Burley Griffin

Lake Burley Griffin

The construction of the lake, on the Molonglo river, commenced in the early 1960s, based largely on Walter Burley Griffin’s plans. There was a move to name it Lake Menzies after the Prime Minister at the time, Sir Robert Menzies. But this idea was vetoed by Menzies himself. At the western end of the lake is Scrivener Dam, which is what makes the lake possible. When the dam was completed in 1963 the area was in drought, so even though the valves of the dam were closed to allow the lake to fill at that time it didn’t actually fill until April 1964 when the drought broke.

Lake Burley Griffin

Lake Burley Griffin, with Fountain and the Black Mountain tower

This allowed the first event scheduled for the lake, a rowing championship, to take place. Today the lake provides a beautiful setting for various recreational activities including sailing, canoeing, cycling, and walking. Or just finding a nice shady tree to sit under and watch the world go by… And there are various places of historical and general interest next to the lake. The weather in Canberra has been described as harsh with frosty winters and hot summers. But this didn’t seem to deter settlement of the area, and I noticed that even though it was quite a hot day when we were there, the number of people running, walking or cycling along the lake was quite high. I took the opportunity to cycle around some of the parkland in Canberra including a trail along a section of the lake while my wife and kids spent the afternoon in air-conditioned comfort. This blog is the result of my ‘adventure’.

Captain Cook Monument

Captain Cook Monument

In 1970, the Captain Cook Fountain/Memorial Jet was added, as part of the celebrations held that year to mark the bi-centenarary of the discovery of Australia’s east coast by Captain Cook. It seems a little odd to me that the driest continent on earth has a large lake, with the spectacular fountain and the Captain Cook monument which all have water as a major feature. or maybe it’s not that strange. I guess it would be easy to have a bit of an obsession with water if one lives on the driest continent on earth! On a small island in the lake is the National Carillon. It is a musical instrument made up of 53 bronze bells. The musical instrument itself was a gift from the British Government on the 50th anniversary of the National Capital. The building it is housed in consists of three triangular shafts supporting three central elevated chambers, and reaches a hight of 50 metres. The Clavier Chamber, situated half way up the shafts gets it’s name from the Carillon keyboard, called a Clavier. Played by trained musicians the clavier operates the Carillon by a system of mechanical linkages to the bells themselves.

National Carillon

National Carillon

National Carillon

National Carillon

Not far from the Carillon, there is a garden area called Nerang Pool. This provides a bit of a contrast to Lake Burley Griffin – the Nerang Pool area is small, with well cultivated garden and sculptures, wuite the opposite the general surrounds of the lake which tend to be fairly broad open spaces with groves of trees. or other features.

Nerang Pool and Gardens

Nerang Pool and Gardens

Nerang Pool and Gardens

Nerang Pool and Gardens

Nerang Pool and Gardens

Nerang Pool and Gardens

As I cycled to see a lot of the features in this post I had no idea how to get to most of the places by car. Even while trying to get to the Lake cycling trail I got lost in the Australian National University campus – a sprawling collection of buildings and winding streets that seems to stretch forever. As a result of my experience getting ‘lost’ while trying to find the lake from where the rest of my family was I decided to try getting back to them via a different route. At a place called Acton Park there is a cycling / walking bridge that goes over one of Canberra’s main thoroughfares, so I decided I would go over that. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found – a well thought out thoroughfare for cyclists which followed the main streets. In no time I was in the same air-conditioned comfort as my family. For tea we all went back to Acton Park (which I happened to be able to find) and had ‘haystacks’ – corn chips topped with beans and salad. And then we drove back to Gundagai, where we were staying for the night.

A GPS map of where I rode can be found here: http://www.strava.com/activities/111883458 .

Mt Buffalo, again


The previous post featured our recent visit to Mt Buffalo, and I realised after I had posted it that there were other interesting things that I didn’t include in that post that were just as interesting as those I included, so here is another post of interesting things we encountered while at Mt Buffalo.

Mt Buffalo is a very rocky place – the rocks are obvious pretty much everywhere. On the way back from The Horn, heading towards Lake Catani, I noticed this rock feature perched atop one of the ridges…

Easter Island Statue Lookalike

It reminded me a lot of pictures I had seen of the stone statues on Easter Island. Although it seems to have a slight ‘primate’ look about it. Closer to Lake Catani, I noticed this rock feature…

Jelly Bean Rock or TheMonolith

When describing the shape of this, the phrase ‘jelly bean’ immediately came to mind. And I would have referred to it as Jelly Bean Rock. But then I noticed when I zoomed in to the photo, that there was a sign nearby, and a fence. it doesn’t show in the above photo as I cropped it, but in the original it is definitely there. I looked at the map of the walks in the Park that I had and I now think this rock is called The Monolith. It looks like it is about to slide away down the hill. What is stopping it? I didn’t do the walk to the Monolith to find out. Maybe another day.

On the Lake Catani walk there is a picnic area which once used to be a sawmill. Called Grossmans Mill, after the owner, all that seems to be left of the mill today is some concrete foundations. I can’t imagine it would have been easy transporting the logs to the mill from elsewhere on the plateau, or transporting the cut timber down to Porepunkah and beyond. Although it seems a local source of wood for the building of the Chalet would have been beneficial.

Grossmans Mill Information Signage

Grossmans Mill Information Signage

Grossmans Mill Site today

Grossmans Mill Site today

While on the subject of the Chalet, when we were on the Haunted Gorge walk near the Chalet we went past a very sorry looking set of tennis courts. At least I think that is what they once were. Trees now grow where tennis players once roamed. The fence is falling down, the concrete is cracked. Just goes to show that nature really will reclaim what we once tried to tame.

Mt Buffalo Chalet - Old Tennis Courts

Mt Buffalo Chalet – Old Tennis Courts (I think)

At the Gorge car park near the Chalet, Zoe spotted a Red Wattle Bird. It’s doesn’t look very red, but that’s apparently because it is a Juvenile.

Juvenile Red Wattle Bird, Gorge car park

Juvenile Red Wattle Bird, Gorge car park

I think that’s about it for interesting things that I managed to get photos of the other day.

Mt Buffalo


Yesterday we decided as a family that we would attend the Church-with-the-big-blue-roof. Basically that means we would spend the day in a natural setting. Mt Buffalo National Park, in north east Victoria was the proposed destination. The Mount Buffalo National Park was created in 1898, which makes it one of Victoria’s oldest National Parks. It started as a 2880 acre park, and today is 77,000 acres and includes the surrounding foothills. The park is alpine in nature, the plateau itself being above the the snow line (above 1200 metres).

The weather forecast for the day was for a possibility of rain and thunder storms, but we decided we would go to Mt Buffalo anyway and see what happened. We left home around 8:30 and after an un-eventful drive arrived at the national park around 10:00. The first place we wanted to visit was The Horn, the highest point on the plateau. This involved a fairly steep 1.5km round trip from the car park. As far as walking tracks go, it is not the most difficult we have done as a family. I remember some years ago we hiked up one of the mountains in the Grampians (Mt Zero, I think), and Eliana (our youngest) was carried for the last 100 meters or so. But then she was only about 1 1/2 years old at the time (she is 8 now). The Horn track itself was well defined, and well worth the walk to see the vista from the summit.

the family at the The Horn Summit.

the family at the The Horn Summit.

The Horn pokes up in an obvious ‘horn’ shape from the surrounding terrain. At the top there were 2 rather lonely pairs of shoes sitting there, and then we noticed an abseiling rope tied to one of the barrier supports. Obviously someone was or had been doing some more adventurous activities than just walking / hiking.

The Lonely Shoes

The Lonely Shoes

The Abseiling Rope

The Abseiling Rope

There were a lot of interesting rock formations, many of them had to be negotiated as part of the hike.

TheHornTrack

The Horn Track

The Horn Track

The Horn Track

It’s a bit hard to see in the photo, but to the right of the fence on the right hand side of the track there is a chasm, and the mountains beyond the ‘monolithic-like stone at the end of the fence is another chasm, the mountains beyond it being quite a distance away.

The Horn offers 360 degree views across the plateau, Australian Alps and north east Victoria. When we were there, the cloud was threatening to block to view, but the clouds moving across in front of us offered a constantly changing view – kind of neat to watch it all happen. I remember back in the 1980’s visiting The Horn, and watching gliders gliding gracefully around the plateau. When they ‘buzzed’ the Horn, the gliders would growl somewhat like a large feline. This time there were no gliders but I did manage to get a few good shots of the view. Photos don’t really do it justice, you really have to be there to experience the awesomeness of it all.

View From Horn Summit

View From Horn Summit

View From Horn Summit

View From Horn Summit

View From Horn Summit

View From Horn Summit

One of the more interesting features that could be seen from The Horn was The Cathedral and The Hump. These two features are only slightly lower than The Horn, and quite some distance away, but by the electronic technology known as Zoom Lens, they were brought much closer.

The Cathedral and Hump

The Cathedral and Hump from The Horn

From the Horn, we went back to the car, and decided to go to Lake Catani for lunch. After lunch, we walked around Lake Catani on a well defined track. Part of it can be used by bicycles. As we started out walk I wondered whether Lake Catani was a natural lake or man-made. It didn’t take long to find out that it was in fact a man-made lake – the wall across the valley at one end proved it. The output over the dam wall is used to generate power for the camp ground near-by. Something called a ‘Platypus Power micro hydro electric generator’ is used to generate the power. Apparently these units are designed for installation in remote locations. Could Mt Buffalo be called ‘remote’ as it is only 30km from the nearest town? The lake is host to ducks and other birds, the tell-tale bubble of fish could also be seen on the surface of the water. We even saw an Eastern Water Rat swimming and diving in the lake, but not for long enough to get a photo of it.

Lake Catani Jetty

Lake Catani Jetty

Platypus Power Generator

Platypus Power Generator

Lake Catani Wall

Lake Catani Wall

Lake Catani

Lake Catani

The walk has interpretive signage dotted around it. Most Eucalyptus (also called ‘Gum’ trees) sprout seeds during intense heat, for example when there are bush fires. But apparently the Alpine Ash tree (also called Dthorr’ba’dthardta) requires very cold conditions for one month before they will sprout but cannot survive long icy periods. The Alpine Ash is easily killed by fire, but after the fire they drop vast amounts of seeds onto the fertile ash-covered ground, which will then sprout given the correct ‘very cold’ conditions. In a suitable situation, such as in the Mt Buffalo area or other alpines areas, they will always be the dominant tree. The walking track passed through woodlands, swampy areas, and alpine meadows. I imagine the alpine meadows could be quite colourful at times, especially after seeing examples of the different flowers that were around when we walked through.

Flowers on Lake Catani Alpine Meadow

Flowers on Lake Catani Alpine Meadow

Flowers on Lake Catani Alpine Meadow

Flowers on Lake Catani Alpine Meadow

Flowers on Lake Catani Alpine Meadow

Flowers on Lake Catani Alpine Meadow

Flowers on Lake Catani Alpine Meadow

Flowers on Lake Catani Alpine Meadow

As we passed the half-way point of the Lake walk, the path ran parallel to a mountain stream. I don’t think I have ever seen such a clear stream. Lake Catani’s water was also quite clear. My guess is that there probably aren’t any Carp in it! After we got back to the car, we drove to the Mount Buffalo Chalet. This Chalet was once owned by the State Government, but today is not in use. Maybe one day it will be again. There was evidence of work being carried out at the Chalet, but the thing that really caught my attention was the gardens on the footpath approaching the Chalet. These gardens look like they are still quite well maintained.

Mt Buffalo Chalet Gardens

Mt Buffalo Chalet Gardens

Mt Buffalo Chalet Gardens

Mt Buffalo Chalet Gardens

Mt Buffalo Chalet Gardens

Mt Buffalo Chalet Gardens

Near the Chalet is one of the best views I have ever seen. There is a lookout that goes out onto the rocks, with dramatic views into the valley and the rock faces near the lookout.

Rock Formations from lookout near Chalet

Rock Formations from lookout near Chalet

Lookout near Chalet

Lookout near Chalet

Lookout panorama

Lookout panorama

Rock Formations from lookout near Chalet

Rock Formations from lookout near Chalet

Rock Formations from lookout near Chalet

Rock Formations from lookout near Chalet

These massive rock faces made me feel very un-powerful and more than a little insignificant. But I believe what the Bible says about the mountains – that God made them – and my thoughts turned to how powerful He must be to have made something so awesome. We think we can somehow ‘protect’ the mountains by making them into national parks. And maybe we do protect them to some degree by setting them aside as parks, but after seeing the mountains in the Mt Buffalo National Park (and other mountains we have visited over the years) I suspect there is not really much we can do to ‘protect’ these mountains. They pretty much protect themselves. We can set them aside for future generations to enjoy and ban certain types of activities, but that’s about the extent of ‘protection’ we can offer. I was talking to one of the other visitors there and he told me the story of a relative of his who is a Commando, and would rock climb up the rock face, find a small shelf in the rock, tie himself into it somehow, and spend the night there. For those with that more extreme sense of fun, the area around the Chalet is used for adventure caving, rock climbing / abseiling and hang gliding. We didn’t see any of these activities taking place when we were there, but we did see a para-glider from Billsons Lookout, a little below the Chalet and lookout area mentioned previously.

Paraglider from Billsons Lookout

Paraglider from Billsons Lookout

By the time we had finished exploring it was about 3:30pm. And so with some rain showers coming across the area where we were, we decided that our day was pretty much spent, and so we headed for home and a hot dinner.

For those that are interested, here are some Strava GPS maps of the 3 walks we did over the day.