Off to the Grampians – the Aboriginal name for this region is Gariwerd. We are visiting in the Honeybee season, gwangal moronn when the honeybees are active and plentiful and the land cools after the summer heat.
It was becoming colder. Fibrous grey stringybarks flanked the road and touched above us, forming an arbour along the windy road. Bordering the bitumen, petals of purple bells on stalks gently jangled as we went past. Brown and green lichen stuck to trunks. It was evident that more rain had fallen here than other parts of Victoria. Storms had ripped through the bush with branches resting in parallel shreds across the slopes.
We set up camp at Troopers creek, just put the jug on and the squealing of brakes and adolescent voices broke through the fog. It was school camp time of the year and we were accompanied by a group of year 9 students from a Victorian school. Every night a new group came and set up camp. There was a cacophony of cockatoos and kids. Smoke and laughter filled the small clearing. Blue fairy wrens flitted from shrubs to tables, and seem to be excited by their new young company.
We walked up Hollow Mountain to the lookout and cave. Although cool, the sun warmed the ochre of the sandstone. The rock formations were breathtaking. Rising from the plains, the shapes, colours and overwhelming presence was humbling.
Some rocks were grey, sharp and sliced along fissure and sediment layers, others looked soft and round, worn and sculpted by wind and water. Newly fractured sandstone looked like a slice through an overcooked pavlova, white tinged with ochre where gnarled shrubs dug in their roots on exposed cliffs.
Driving home, tessellated grey clouds in lumps hung above clumps of olive green heads of trees. The mirror was the space in between the two, only the colour above and below was different. The weight of the water in the cloud hung low and wet heavy darkness was suspended precariously by silver sheets of light. The tops of the trees were dark and dense. The paddocks were brushed with fine, lime coloured rye grass, and the hollow ditches a brighter, thicker green.
Closer to camp, the new plum tip growth flushed across the hillsides. The lowering sunlight rimmed the new leaves with gold. Fire too had been through this area a couple of years ago. Dead black sticks pricked the clouds.
It was often too slippery to go on the walks so we drove many of the 4WD tracks and firetrails. It was on these tracks where we saw the land in its most natural state. We stopped often and listened. There were pockets of phone range and Max had to attend to business on the farm. I often hopped out and walked along the track. Rosellas chattered, small fairy wrens twittered and wattle birds squeaked. Blue insulation tape on wooden stakes marked the tracks alongside mounds of sand across the road. Swales prevented the storm rain from washing away the roads, yet in places, this measure did little to prevent erosion.
We visited areas right throughout the Gariwerd. It was only about 7degrees when we walked through an area with old sunken mine shafts, and a creek which was excavated for gold. About 12,000 people once lived in this area during the 1890’s searching for elusive gold. All that remains are empty excavation sites, the remnants of a single rail track winding through the hillside and photographs on a sign which illustrates the hardship they experienced living without power, without adequate clothing to protect them from the rain and the bitterly cold snowy winters.
The views from the lookouts were breathtaking. Rocky outcrops surprised us every corner. Rock layered like a plate of stacked triangular sandwiches poked into the sky. Sheets of colours and textures were imposing in their magnitude. The wind at the highest peak near the cliffs was so strong at one stage, Max and I were buffeted and had trouble standing. Max wanted to venture close to the precipice, and clambered a little, but after second thoughts retreated.
High on one mountain the rock formations were rounded and looked like giant cow pats, nestled into gnarled multi-branched trees, and areas nearby stone formed like giant dribble castles, now cold and covered in lichen.
The grass trees were majestic and robust. Sprays of thin, sharp, olive green skirted a single thick ribbed brown spike, covered with seed capsules which were like black beaks, open to allow pollination and dispersion of the small fine seeds. On the fine green lines, the dew droplets in the morning light sparkled with simple yet exquisite beauty.
The Gariwerd is truly spectacular, and we aim to return in another season, the petyan, when the all the flowers lace the land.