Can I start of this walk with a quick disclaimer? Absolutely nothing strange happened during the entire walk which went like clockwork. No falls, no freaks, no Yowies, no anything, so this will read like just another walk which means I might even put myself to sleep reading it. Oh well, here we go and if you're feeling a little drowsy just have a quick snort of cocaine to get you through. I'll be having a cup of tea with an extra sugar to fire me up to finish this write up.
Werribee Gorge lies less than an hours drive from my place and I've been meaning to do the full circuit walk for the past year. Within the blog you can see I've been to other parts of the park, but I still hadn't done the full circuit. It seemed whenever I got enthused enough to do it, the gorge was closed due to heavy rain. Having done the walk now, I can see why the park gets closed as it would be impossible to negotiate the gorge itself without getting slightly saturated. Well, not impossible I guess, but I would suggest at least a snorkel if you attempt the walk after heavy rain.
I don't know about you, but gorge walking is a bit of an acquired taste. I like coastal areas and mountains with a view, but gorges? Well, there's a common theme and that's every bit of crap from the top ends up within the gorge itself, which usually means plenty of rocks and trees to stumble over and I find it hard to get enthused. It's all subjective of course, but overall I've found my experience of gorge walking to be slightly 'grim'. I was hoping this trip to Werribee would change my mind a little as the statistics of it are a little mind boggling and I was hoping that would excite me. In fact I won't even attempt to rewrite what I just read on the Parks Victoria website, so I'll just quote the bare bones, "...Five hundred million years of geological history - from ancient folded sea-bed sediments through glacial material to relatively recent lava flows..." The end result is the place is bloody ancient and it's tucked away very close to Melbourne.
|The start under a nice blue sky...|
I arrived to start the walk from the Quarry Picnic Area car park and the intended direction for the full circuit is anti-clockwise. That always feels a little weird walking in the wrong direction, but that's what my notes were telling me. I didn't take a map and just relied on the Parks Victoria handout to get me around in one piece. It's a pretty straightforward path that would require someone completely insane to get lost on. h yeah, I did take a GPS to measure against my 'Walkmeter' app on my iPhone which meant that if I did get lost I'd have to put my hand up and declare, "Yep, that's me. I'm the insane one."
The weather forecast was for showers and being August in Melbourne I thought it would be a little chilly. Guess what? It was sunny all day and surprisingly mild which meant I spent most of my time sweating to death in a t-shirt and Macpac 'Sabre' jacket. I didn't bother with a day-pack as I'm still in 'neck recovery mode'.
Starting off from the carpark there's a steady rise which is one of only two hills to climb for the day. It was enough in my brutally unfit state to induce puffing and I was glad to come across an information sign which gave me an excuse to stop. The sign indicated that there was the remains of an old farm owned by the Hanson family in 1870 nearby in the bushes. Oh yeah, they're not to be confused with 'The Handsome Family' who are a great alt-country band which if you haven't listened to before I can thoroughly recommend. So, I went 'bush' looking for the remains of the farm and in some places I couldn't tell if things were man-made or just natural rock formations.
|This is an old wall isn't it? Is it?|
|Hang on, that looks suspiciously man-made...|
|Umm...so does this...|
|I'm pretty confident I've found the old farm...|
What causes a stone building to fall apart like that? I'm always surprised at the state of ruin of buildings in Australia that are not that old, as I remember being in buildings that were 500 years old in England that were fine. Even Pompeii is in better nick than this farm which is 130 years old. There's probably a rational answer, but I couldn't be bothered Googling it right now and I'm really just musing about the whole thing. In fact I don't need to know the answer as I might need this musing to pad out another blog entry in the future.
Anyway, that's the farm accounted for, although I don't think I found everything that was on the sign...
|The sign is straight, it's my hand that wasn't when it took the pic...|
The path continued to gradually climb as I made my way to the next goal of the day which is listed on my map as Eastern Viewpoint. I was hoping that there would be a nice view to the east from that spot.
|The climbing path...|
As the track began to level off I found the sign to the Eastern Viewpoint. As it said, there was a view to the east and it wasn't too bad if one could ignore the Western Highway in the distance. It had a nice view of 'The Island' which I had walked to earlier in the year. It was a pity I was looking into the sun as taking nice photos was a little problematic.
|Eastern Viewpoint with 'The Island' at the distant left.|
Okay, that was done and now I was off to the next place of interest called 'Picture Point'. I was hoping at that point I would be able to take some nice pictures.
It was pretty comfortable walking now and it wasn't long before I found the stop off and it consisted of practically a vertical cliff with views to the gorge below. The pictures don't really show how high up and how steep the viewpoint is, and it's definitely not a place to get too close to the edge. If you're suicidal it's a perfect spot though and by all means go close to the edge as you won't be disappointed.
|Looking down at Werribee River from Picture Point.|
|More of the same...|
I did enjoy the views from the top of the gorge, but I had a suspicion it wouldn't be as much fun once I dropped down to river level. On I walked and there was a nice sight of 'The Island' again which I assume was a nicely forested hill before the white blokes arrived and cleared it for farming. It's amazing how bare it is other than one solitary tree that sits at the top which is quite distinctive and initially at a distance it looks like a trig point or something similar.
|A bit tricky looking into the sun, but this is that solitary tree on The Island...|
It was now time to move on and the next spot on the map was guess what? Well, it was the Western Viewpoint and again I was expecting a nice view to the west (how long can I keep running this crap joke for?)
I was actually looking through the photos and I have no idea which ones are from the Western Viewpoint. I must have mentally switched off, but I think the following pictures are from that vicinity.
|View from the Western Viewpoint. I think?!|
|I love a red rock...|
The track now began a gradual descent downhill. I was surprised how easy the path was to descend as I was expecting it to be a little steeper. I'm sorry to say, but there was no falling over at all which would have spiced the blog up, but it was good for my neck.
|Beginning to descend...|
During the descent I kept an eye on the sky behind me, as there were some lovely cumulus clouds in the sky or for the less technically minded, 'big fluffy ones'.
|I like my clouds to be this fluffy...|
It didn't take long at all to reach the river level and then I could see why the gorge would be off limits after heavy rain. There were signs of debris from the flooding we've had this year around Melbourne throughout this section of the walk. A lot of this debris was sitting in trees quite high off the ground and also right up to the edge of the gorge walls.
|Trees showing signs of flooding...|
I was actually becoming a gorge convert at this point as the path followed the sandy surface next to the Werribee River. It was peaceful and the scenery was lovely which reminded me of the quote from the Glenn Tempest book 'Daywalks Around Melbourne' regarding this area, "...the gorge is unexpectedly spectacular". This to me always meant, "You thought it was going to be crap didn't you? It's actually not that bad."
|Walking on the sand next to Werribee River...|
The isolation is deceptive though and civilisation is not that far away, which I was reminded of when at a distance I thought I saw a large roll of liquorice lying in the trees. It wasn't until I got a little closer that I could see that was something a little more rubbery.
The current hiking craze is all about being ultralight and spare tyres are not carried any more like they used to be a few years ago. It's quite rare to see a walker with a tyre around his waist these days so I assume this one was washed in at some point. Anyway, besides the odd tyre the view was quite nice with plenty of reflective pools of water.
Falcon's Lookout which Ben and I had visited earlier in the year loomed above and although it's a popular rock climbing spot I couldn't see anyone up there. The polarizer was loving the blue sky although it's a little controversial. I've been told the 'bonkers blue' looks a bit artificial, but hang on, all it's doing is cutting out the glare, so I'm sticking by the polarizer for the time being.
During this walk it was never really going to be plain sailing was it? I did start to come across the 'gorge speciality' of fallen trees along the way. It wasn't too bad though and certainly not as crazy as the visit Ben and I had at a much larger gorge along the Lerderderg River. That really was a bit of a stumbleathon.
|Debris to stumble over on the way...|
My next stop was 'Needles Beach' which is a sandy bank on the side of the river which I had visited before in my walk near here the previous year. In order to get there though, I had to negotiate a wall of rock next to the river which had me concentrating for a minute, as I wasn't that keen on accidently falling in.
|Stick to the rocks on the left...|
I made it to 'Needles Beach' in one piece and it's quite a nice spot to stop for a little while and relax. There's a large pool of water hemmed in by sheer rock walls that would be nice for a dip in summer.
I relaxed here taking a few photos and noted that a nearby information sign was telling me that the rock opposite was "...marine sediments tipped on their end and broken by inward pressure as tectonic plates moved together...at the same time, about 350 million years ago, these rocks were lifted above sea level..." So there you go, it's not all waffle here, I can throw in a bit of a history lesson as well.
|View from Needles Beach|
What else was there to look at? Well, besides the sheer rock walls of the gorge there were a few quality reflections in the water along the way.
On I continued and I was amazed how quickly I was racing along the gorge as there wasn't a lot more walking to do. Next up on the agenda was Pyramid Rock which I was hoping would be a rock that's shaped like a pyramid (I thought I could sneak in that crap joke one more time).
One thing I noticed was that I was either blind or they were well hidden, but there didn't seem to be much wildlife around. I have the super zoom lens on my camera now and I was on the look out for some birds, but I saw very few. Even the cobwebs were empty.
|Heading to Pyramid Rock|
I guess one highlight was another pool of water near Pyramid Rock called Lionhead Beach. What has a lions head got to do with the name? Well, I had no idea until I looked at the accompanying sign which had this interesting picture on it.
|That certainly looks like a happy lion on the sign...|
I think the artist was getting a little bit carried away, but if you squint your eyes whilst doing star jumps with the lights out you can see what looks like a lions face on the rock wall. He's not as happy as the drawing, but he's not too bad I guess.
|There he is. Maybe a close up will make it easier?|
|Here you are...|
There's certainly a bit of ancient history in the rocks opposite and I was going to write down an excerpt from the information sign to enlighten you, but I've lost my mojo so you can just read the sign itself rather than me rehashing it.
The gorge was starting to open out which meant I was reaching the end of the interesting walking, but up ahead I saw something that had a bit of 'Indiana Jones' about it. A cable was attached to the rock wall to hang onto whilst clambering along next to the water. It added a few thrills to the walk and it actually came in handy as it would be a little precarious without it.
|A minor rock scramble with wire cable on the rock wall...|
In my 'neck cautious' state I was certainly taking it easy and I found out when I pulled on the wire that I've lost all my strength and I feel like a contestant in Mr Puniverse. I managed to stumble around in one piece though and unfortunately I've got no horror story like accidently falling into the water to thrill you with.
|Hang onto the wire people...|
Besides a few nice shots up the red rock walls this was about it for the tricky gorge walking.
Actually, it was getting a little silly around this point, as I noticed the moon appearing above the gorge and the shining sun was bringing out the colours of the rocks on the surrounding hills. In fact, let's go a little photo crazy and I'm thinking I'm going to break my record of photos in the one blog entry at this rate.
Wow, is that enough photos for the time being? The walk left the rocks and fallen trees behind and entered what remained of an old water race that was built in 1904 - 1906 by some bloke for the use of irrigation. It certainly was turning into a mellow stroll now, as the race made for a nice comfortable flat path to walk along.
|Mellow walking on the old water race...|
There were still some nice views opposite the Werribee River, but I was no longer enclosed in the red rock walls of the gorge. It's almost an admission that I was missing 'gorge walking' once the sedate path started.
I had one more final trick up my sleeve for this walk and instead of returning to the carpark I thought I'd tackle the 'Werribee Gorge Short Circuit Walk' to take the long way back. The turn off was on the way and although it headed back into the park it meant I got to walk this shorter circuit and I would have knocked off both in the one day.
Well, what can I say about the short circuit walk? Not a lot as there's not a lot to look at. It's a standard Australian walk into the bush with not many highlights along the way. In fact instead of short circuit it should be called 'long hill' instead, as all I seemed to do was climb up a gradual path. I guess one highlight was an old water bottle lying in the scrub. I have no idea where it originated from, but I suspect it may have been a 'ye olde' style ultralight hiking water bottle. Not ideal, but it would have worked for sure.
|Water bottle dropped by a hiker years ago...|
On the way though I did come across a moment of photographic uncertainty. The light was getting dim now with the moon quite clearly in the sky and there was a moment where it was framed within the branches of tree. Now the dilemma was whether to have the tree in focus or the moon and I couldn't make up my mind, so I took a million pictures of combinations. I still don't know which is the best method, so I'll post them all just to keep me happy and I'll look at them later and work out what works best. It would have been a lot easier having a tripod with me, but I was running the 'minimal equipment' set-up with my ongoing neck drams.
|Tree in focus?|
|Moon in focus? I don't know...|
|Replica of the first photo, but the moon in focus?|
After that stressful moon photo fiasco I reached the top of the short circuit where it intersects with the track I had walked on earlier in the day. It was at this point I was surprised to come across a bloke who was walking off to do the full circuit. Light was already dim and he still had a lot of distance to cover, so I couldn't imagine him finishing before dark. He had a small pack on though and appeared to know what he was doing, so I didn't utter any tool remarks which I always seem to get such as, "Whoa! You're walking now? It's getting dark soon, I hope you're equipped!" We had a quick chat and it appeared he was going to walk in the wrong direction, but he was back on track when I left him.
I'd had enough for the day, but there is one bonus of finishing late. A few animals had popped out of the trees and a large kangaroo bounded across the path in front of me. Besides scaring the crap out of me I was now on the lookout for any of his friends and sure enough I could see one hiding in the trees watching me. I was lucky to have the big zoom lens on the camera as he was hidden behind some trees and with a bit of spot metering I was able to catch him.
|Keeping a close eye on me...|
Kangaroos are nice to see in the wild as they do have inquisitive faces and I always find them an interesting animal to look at. I continued on and spotted a rather beefy looking wallaby in the distance which even with the camera zoomed in, he was too far away. I was going to try and sneak up, but he was watching me so closely I don't think I would've got far before spooking him into taking off. Light was really dim and there's no way I could get a proper photo even with a super zoom lens. You can see how far away and how closely he was watching me though.
|Another keen eye watching. This is at 270mm...|
|A crop which is the best I could do at ISO3200...|
Well, a little bit more walking and it was all over. I arrived back at the car park to see a number of cars parked around mine. Huh? It must be a Werribee Gorge thing in that one has to set out at the end of the day to go walking. Anyway, I was done and again I'll attach the route courtesy of the 'Walkmeter' app from my iPhone.
Now, the statistics made for some interesting reading as a comparison with my Garmin GPS. The distance was more or less identical, but the only main difference was the elevation climbed. The GPS was telling me that the total climbed was 390 metres and the 'Walkmeter' had a figure of 303 metres. A bit of a discrepancy there, but overall again it was pretty good and so much nicer to come up with a instant URL to Google maps. Can you try to do that Garmin? Actually, I think it would be great if Apple decided to make a GPS. Their stuff is so intuitive and it might give Garmin a run for their money. My experience with Garmin is that their equipment is good, but their software is painful. Oh well, a little more competition would get them moving maybe. Here's the figures according to 'Walkmeter'...
Walk Time: 2:23:54
Stopped Time: 1:50:52
Distance: 10.90 km
Average Pace: 13.12 /km
Fastest Pace: 8.07 /km
Ascent: 303 metres
Descent: 283 metres
Calories: 969 (Yeah!!)
How accurate is the speeds? I've no idea, but I was taking it pretty slowly with my comedy fitness level at the moment.
I guess in wrapping the walk up I was surprised how good it was. A nice little walk with minimal gorge trauma which was a surprise, but I'm not convinced that I want to return to Lerderderg Gorge just yet though...
|How about a bit of wattle for a colourful ending?|