Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Falcons Lookout, Werribee Gorge, Victoria.


resting whilst climbing falcons spur werribee gorge


Now, usually I like to start an entry with a lovely photo which relates to the title of the post. So, in this instance, shouldn't it be a fantastic picture taken from Falcons Lookout in Werribee Gorge? On this occasion though, it isn't, with the reason being I've only got one photo from the actual lookout itself and I need that for later on when I actually get there.

You might be asking yourself whilst you knock back Vodka shots in the mid afternoon, "Why didn't he take some pictures from the lookout? I heard the view is a beauty?" Well, the reason being is that I was close to death from exhaustion and I'm still not sure why I didn't just throw myself off the Falcons Lookout cliff. Instant death would have been preferable to the pain my lungs were feeling, as it felt they'd been constricted to the size of cashews and decided to give up and not accept any more oxygen for the day.

Actually, I think this is one of the best introductions I've ever written for a post, as surely you'll want to read on and find out what happened? Either that or you're now drunk from the Vodka. Anyway, the story to this walk goes back a few days.

A keen eye would recognise that it's occasional hiking sidekick the Smuffin in the opening photo. Before continuing, first I need to clear something up. He was a little put out by the last post when I wrote he looked like a hitman from a Colombian drug cartel, although I was positive he was the one who first said it. He was quick to correct me with, "I never said hitman! I said drug lord! I'm no foot soldier!!" Oh well, I was completely wrong and promised to clear that up in this post.

Smuffin, Ben and I (I'd do an acronym, but none of our names have a vowel as a first letter to create one) planned to do an alpine walk, but we had to abandon. Firstly Smuffin's feet have apparently detonated due to excessive time spent cooking in the kitchen, Ben was only mildly enthused as I enticed him with a walk that included rocks to clamber, but otherwise non-fussed and I being the overall glue, did what I usually do when a huge walk is planned. I slept in.

So, we made it as far as Alexandra where we went to the pub and just ate instead of climbing a mountain. This seems to happen a lot lately?! It was all a little pathetic, but I managed to entice my walking companions with a short day hike in Werribee Gorge the following day. I picked out a walk titled 'Western Bluff and Falcons Lookout' from Glenn 'Guru of Good Times' Tempest's book 'Melbourne's Western Gorges'. It's a short walk of only 5 km. How easy is this?

Well, I purposely didn't advise my companions that it's rated as 'difficult'. If I did they'd probably refuse to go. So, I downloaded the GPS details from Open Spaces and we were ready. The only problem I could see is that the temperature was a little ominous, with 31 °C being the forecast. I detest the heat, but it's not much use complaining when I live in Australia, I guess? Anyway, we drove up, parked and were off and racing with an initial descent of Western Bluff.

werribee river from western bluff
Werribee River from Western Bluff

Western Bluff is quite a steep descent as it plummets towards Werribee River and the gorge itself. It's also a little loose underfoot and there's always the possibility of face-planting. Smuffin negated this with his patented 'on the arse' descent method.

descending hill whilst on backside


It works for him, but I had other things to worry about. We'd only being walking half an hour and I noticed I was sweating heavily. From my knees. I guess I've got one thing to look forward to by the end of Summer and that's svelte kneecaps.


knees sweating through hiking trousers
Kneesweating.com

Our first target for the day was making it to Werribee River in one piece and then continue on to the sandy 'Needles Beach'. There were good views of it on our descent.

needles beach from western bluff
Needles Beach from Western Bluff

It was slow going, but we were getting there when we came across a narrow ridge above the cliff opposite Needle Beach. At first glance it appeared the way ahead was to walk down into a narrow gully nearby and continue that way.

descending needles ridge on western bluff
Approaching Needles Ridge

You'll be pleased to know that I didn't read the track notes or check the beautifully downloaded GPS route at all. Walking off the ridge into an adjoining gully was not where we should have gone, as we were meant to continue across the narrow Needles Ridge. Judging by the well-worn pad it appears a lot of people have gone into that gully, so I can profess some innocence in the error.

As we banged and crashed our way through trees and rocks, the troops were starting to get irritable. There were allegations of, "This is the worst walk we've ever done!!" and "Is this where we're meant to be going??" Well, actually no. At this point I noted the GPS track was nowhere near our location. We weren't lost, but slightly 'sidetracked' instead. Upon informing my colleagues of this, there was the allegation, "Hang on. You've got both the track notes and the GPS and you've got us lost??" It's a tough crowd to please, but at least there was some extremely brackish water to take pictures of. When I say brackish, what I really mean is completely 'blackish'. You'd have to be really thirsty to sip on this stuff.


black coloured water in rock pool


I don't know what everyone was complaining about, as after short time we popped out next to the Werribee River. We'd made it, but when we did I thought I should mention just one more measly detail. The last time I'd walked into this section I'd come across one of the biggest, bloody snakes I'd ever seen slithering through the long grass near the water. At the time it scared the crap out of me, as I almost stepped on it. On that occasion I had my trekking poles with me, so I could do a bit of swishing on the way through to clear the way.

This time I didn't have any poles, so upon informing my friends to watch out for snakes, there was another chorus of indignation, "Now you tell us!!" Oh well, without poles, we had to rely on the fairly dubious early snake warning system of 'extremely heavy footsteps' and unfortunately, I was the one to lead our way to the river.

If there's one thing about the gorge and that's on a warm day, it feels a lot hotter than what one expects. With the sheer rugged walls, it seems there's no breeze at all and I'd progressed from knee sweat to the full body method. We did find a large grassy area in which we put our feet up for a short time. I got to lie back and take some pictures of 'Pyramid Rock' which was just up by the river...


pyramid rock on werribee gorge


...and Ben took some close-up shots of what I think is a cicada...


cicada on grass


...whilst Smuffin backtracked into the narrow gully, as he'd lost the lens cap for his Canon camera. He didn't find it, but if anyone does and doesn't send me a message to return it, then look out, as you'll have Smuffin after you. Don't forget he's a Colombian drug lord and you just know he'll have plenty of foot soldiers to track you down.

Anyway, we were well and truly feeling the stifling heat and Ben threw in the comment, "You know you're severely dehydrated when your veins become really distended?" I'm not sure if he was referring to me or him? It couldn't have being me, could it?


taking photos with canon 550d


We successfully crossed the river and continued along the narrow path until it reached Needles Beach. That sounds simple doesn't it? Not on this blog it doesn't. It had been a ghost town all day without any hint of other people being around. What should happen as we approached Needles Beach? There was of course a man in the bushes nearby putting his underpants on. Upon sighting us, he seemed mildly mortified to be caught out naked and proclaimed, 'I'd just gone swimming. I WAS ONLY SWIMMING!!!" Smuffin was pretty suspicious though and muttered under his breath, "Yeah, sure mate. I think you were choking the bishop instead".

I thought about this a bit and wasn't too sure. He was wet, so he may have been swimming, but then again that water he was covered in may have been sweat? Instead he may have been melting from some very aggressive 'sausage slapping'? We'll never know, but what it does indicate is that if you're going to get nude on a walk whilst I'm doing the same hike, then there's a fair chance I'll stumble across you by mere fluke.

In the 'Hiking Fiasco Nude Hall of Infamy Fame' there's been the following:

At Bushranger Bay Ben and I came across a couple late in the day jumping around on the sand after a nude swim. I was too embarrassed to look, whereas Ben trained his telescopic lens on them from a distance and proclaimed, "Yep! They're in the nude!!"

At Steiglitz Historic Park, a day of lonely strolling was interrupted by some bloke strolling through the bush with no pants on at the Kinglock Mine. He became known forever after, as the 'Kinglock Cock'.

At Bells Beach I had to negotiate a nudist beach and spent some time carrying a camera with a tripod whilst following some bloke swinging a more traditional tripod.

I think that's it, but I just know there will be more to come and I'll be very attentive in order to add to my list. Anyway, it was time to relax on Needles Beach and I'd love to show you a picture of it, but I didn't take any. The sky was white creating an overblown look and frankly, I was feeling stuffed. I wasn't the only one though, as it appeared Smuffin had passed out.


lying flat on back on needles beach


Mind you, he may have looked like he'd just landed after his parachute failed to open, but he was still switched on by uttering, "You know I can still see what's going on by looking through the vent in my hat?"

We all ended up lying down on the sand and I'm sure I dozed off for a few minutes. It was all quite relaxing until the realisation dawned on us that we now had to go uphill for the rest of the walk. I'd thoroughly melted and all I'd done was more or less walk downhill. Oh well, we eventually got moving and recrossed the river in order to find our next target of Ironbark Gorge. There was of course another of those bugs which I think is a cicada. I must admit bug identification is not my strongest skill. Finding nudists is more of my thing.


cicada on tree branch


We followed the river and noted it's rather 'green' tinge at times...


green coloured water at werribee river


...and then had to go through a bit of a carry-on when my companions exhorted, "There's a bug on your pack! There's a bug!!" I never saw it, but Ben took a photo and I really was expecting it to be a bit larger than this. Oh yeah, I must confess I'm not receiving any financial reward for this shameless piece of product placement for the Gossamer Gear Mariposa.


bug on gossamer gear mariposa backpack
World's smallest bug

We successfully found Ironbark Gorge, but our aim was not to follow it, but to head straight up an adjoining spur which would lead to Falcons Lookout. Is it called 'Falcons Spur'? I've no idea, but that's what it's called now. Firstly though, I had to record the traditional scene of Smuffin bleeding.


bleeding arm


Whilst feeling mildly wrecked the initial part of Falcons Spur is not very appetising, as it's steep and rocky.

rocks on climb up falcons spur
The start of Falcons Spur

We headed up though and began to gain some height quite quickly...


leaving werribee river whilst climbing falcons spur


...but it continued to head up steeply. The next photo is part of a new series called, 'Where's Smuffin', as he's most certainly in the picture somewhere...


ridge line of falcons spur


We took frequent breaks and one of the highlights was finding a map of Australia. Ben pointed out our current location.

two rocks which have the shape of australia


Remember my sweating knees? Well, I'd progressed to the 'sweating leg'...


leg sweating through trousers


...whilst still shuffling up through the rocks.


rocks whilst climbing falcons spur


It was halfway up the spur that I became aware of my lungs about to implode from the effort. There was no wind at all, it was bloody hot and the climb seemed as hard as any I'd done lately. Don't worry, I will start a more regimented training regime, so I don't have to mention I'm about to die on every hill climb ever again. Then again, the training won't start until after Christmas, so you'll probably have to put up with more tales of woe after all.

resting whilst climbing falcons spur


Now, you may think that I've just repeated the photo that's at the start of the post, but I can assure you it's a different picture. I just think Smuffin is frozen in place due the pain of the ascent. Ben had a moment where he had to sit down, as he was feeling woozy and light-headed. I said, "Okay" and showed my concern by immediately powering up to the top of Falcons Lookout. It took a toll though, as my breathing was so shallow I thought I was about to do a combination vomit, collapse and cry at the same time. This then is the only photo from Falcons Lookout which I took and I'm sure you've been hanging out for it.


view of werribee gorge from falcons lookout
View from Falcons Lookout.

In the photo above you can see Falcons Spur leading all the way from the right down to the river. It thoroughly hurt, but at last it was done. During all of my dying I didn't realise that I'd some company on the lookout. Sitting there was another bloke taking in the view and after a short chat he's given me a whole new angle to the ultralight hiking movement.

If one reads anything about hiking you'll definitely read about people banging on about ultralight hiking. Derek, my new found friend was what you could call an extreme proponent. Whereas some hikers talk about their 'skinout' weight, Derek has gone for the extreme 'skinoff' approach. As he dispensed with his skin, all of his organs fell out. This drop in additional unneeded weight created his current lean form that can fly up any hill. Lots of hikers aim for a 'sub 10 kg' weight to carry, but Derek has flipped that by going a 'sub 10' in bodyweight. He definitely was inspirational to talk to and I'm sure you'll see him in some future posts.


skeleton at falcons lookout wearing a wig and beard
Derek the Ultralight hiker

Eventually we all gathered on the lookout and contemplated the views mixed with suicide. We were completely spent, but at least there was only a couple of kilometres to go. After an extended rest we made our way back with only one painful section to go. A set of stairs just below the carpark was enough to finish off what was left of my lungs.

stairs near ironbark gorge
The final stairs...

It was nice to make it to the car and lie prone on the seats with the air conditioner on.

Lastly, reviewing the GPS, for the life of me I can't understand how it took us 5:25:05 to walk a total of 6.68 km with an overall climb of 307 metres in a day? The figures are pretty laughable, but I can say that the heat had a lot to do with it. Werribee Gorge also has no smooth walking and it seems every footstep can be a bit of a struggle. Oh yeah, being 'beefy' doesn't help, but then again there's hardly anything of Ben and he was feeling the pinch as well. Who knows? It was just one of those things and the problem is that it's caused no one to believe me again when I say, "Do you want to go for a walk? It's short. No problems at all I can see!!"

Until next time...

6 comments:

  1. Personally I like the trek log that reads "Event Type: Recreation". Judging from this post you might want to see if that can be changed to "Death March". Hilarious post. I think I'm going to pour myself a drink now.

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    1. Hi Kelsey, yeah that Garmin thing needs an 'other' doesn't it?! This post wrote itself, as the walk was so nasty! I've had a few walks in Werribee Gorge where it's boiling hot and I've suffered each time. I really should learn shouldn't I? If I go back, it'll be in Winter!

      Happy drinking!

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  2. Well, all that heat and sweat sounds quite appealing from the perspective of one who spent the day freezing and wet! Hovering around 0C here lately, and we had some rain as well today to add to the fun.

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    1. Zero? That sounds quite appealing! I've always liked cold weather, as I can always put more clothes on, but with the hot? There's only so many clothes I can take off!

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  3. Thanks, Greg, great post once again which I again thoroughly enjoyed! I do wish I were younger so that I could endeavour such walks. But thanks for letting me enjoy them vicariously.

    Kindest, Annelise (Denmark) – (the one who a while ago told you that I had read all posts on your blog from the very beginning) – and in addition to your writing, your photos are second to none. I love Australia, have been there eight times (workwise), visited the Melbourne area twice, and I have very fond memories from there.

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    1. Hi Annelise! Hey, thanks for your comment! Comments like yours are a nice incentive to keep blogging! Sometimes it's hard to know who's actually reading this stuff!

      I actually wish I was younger as well, as I'm sure I'd enjoy these walks more. Some of them are real struggles, but at least I finish most these days without abandoning! If you're ever back in Australia feel free to drop me a line!

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