Thursday, 15 October 2015

Winging It in the Wimmera

A Walk in the Grampians

We've been hanging around Natimuk for almost a fortnight now, playing various games. It would be nice to be doing more climbing but my ankle gets pretty sore after a few easy pitches so it's a matter of gently, gently for the time being. The upside of this - particularly from Di's point of view - is that we are not getting jaded with climbing, and are mixing our activities up pretty well.

Yesterday we had a walk in the Grampians. Anyone who is very familiar with that area would know that it is a mecca for climbers and hikers, but that there have also been horrific fires through the park in the past few years. Much of the park infrastructure was obliterated in the fires that raged through the area in 2013 and 2014. Many areas around the fringes of the park were hit very hard, including the town of Wartook was devastated in 2013, and then again last year when 27 homes were destroyed.  (I have some photos of the aftermath of those fires in this post from my Of Cockatoos and Kangaroos blog).

Parks Victoria has been doing a great job of re-establishing trails and rebuilding various other bits of infrastructure, like picnic tables, toilet blocks and so forth. The facilities at Zumsteins, from where we commenced our walk, are just about back to where they were before the big burn that turned this beautiful area into a blackened wasteland. There is a lovely, short walk from here up to MacKenzie Falls along the MacKenzie River. We'd never done it before but thought we'd check it out this year. Here's a view of the falls themselves ...

MacKenzie Falls
Not a great photo, but the light was against me.

It's a very easy and pleasant stroll along the banks of the river and only about 4 kilometres each way. You can extend the effort significantly by walking up the steps beside the falls to the top, where a café stood before it was wiped out in the 2013 fires. There is also a side trip of 700 metres or so to a lookout.

Along the way to MacKenzie Falls one also passes a smaller waterfall called Fish Falls ...

Fish Falls
There are numerous places along the way where one can dip one's toes to cool them off if walking on a warmish day. However, I'd recommend strolling along this route either nice and early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Both would be better for walking conditions and photo opportunities. One would also be much more likely to see wildlife - perhaps even a platypus or two.

Wildlife

With the dry winter and spring and unusually hot conditions there doesn't seem to be so much wildlife out and about, although we've heard about a number of snake sightings. One beast that's in abundance around Mount Arapiles at the moment is the Stumpy Lizard, more officially known as the Shingleback Lizard. We saw quite a few of them the day we wandered around the gullies. Here's a photo I took on the way up Pharos Gully ...

Stumpy Lizard
It just occurred to me that we haven't seen any wallabies or kangaroos on any of our rides, walks or drives so far on this trip, so I guess they must be hiding out from the heat, or their numbers have simply retracted due to continued dry conditions.

Winging It

The bird life too is much diminished with the dry conditions. The swamp hens which were present in their hundreds at Natimuk Lake a couple years ago and in fewer but still relatively prolific numbers last year have completely disappeared. At the lake there are small numbers of Scarlet Rosellas, Galas, Red-rumped Parrots, Willy Wagtails, Superb Blue Wrens, Wattle Bitds and some small Thornbills.  Every morning and evening we hear Kookaburras. They like it when Di plays her whistle and usually join in. And there is a Southern Boobook nearby that starts calling once night falls and continues well through the night. There aren't many Magpies around camp but we see plenty when we are out on our bikes, but they haven't been dive bombing us the way the were in the latter part of our journey across Australia. Our impression so far is that there are fewer birds around, both at the Mount and here at the lake, than we've seen on pretty much all our previous visits.

Other Diversions

Our fortnight here so far has consisted of four walks, five bike rides, four days of climbing and one day of rest. Today could have also been a rest day, but Di insisted we must keep to our training regime and do our sprints on the bikes, so we had a short ride primarily for that reason. Tomorrow will be another climbing day, and we are looking forward in the evening to the arrival of our friends Deidre and James for a week of socialising and some climbing. We might even be able to inveigle them into a walk with us.

We are also looking forward to the Nati Frinj Biennale, which will transform Natimuk for the last weekend in October. The town will come alive with lots of weird and wonderful events. Di seems particularly fascinated by the Manly Man's Workshop, but it's secret men's business and she's not allowed in! Another thing that might provide an afternoon's diversion is the Wimmera German Fest.  Could be fun. Oompah, oompah oompah pay!


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