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Reisverslag English (part 5): Princetown - Halls Gap
31 januari 2015
English (part 5): Princetown - Halls Gap
Monday 3rd of November: Princetown – Warrnambool
Today we get up early and around 6.30 am we are back at the 12 Apostles. Despite the early hour, we are certainly not the only ones there marvelling at the monoliths touched by the first sun rays of the day. Although Klaas wasn’t very fond of getting up this early, once we are there, he must admit the spectacle of the gently glowing rocks is more than worth the effort. About half an hour and countless pictures later we return to our cabin and have a belated breakfast. Then we check out and drive west to the car park at Loch Ard Gorge. The Loch Ard was a Scottish sail ship, which in June 1878 crashed into the cliffs of Mutton Bird Island and sank. The only two survivors of the disaster, Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael, were washed ashore at the end of the narrow inlet now called the Loch Ard Gorge. Once you have seen the huge breakers and the sheer cliffs surrounding the gorge, it seems like a miracle, that anybody had survived the wreckage. The area around Loch Ard Gorge offers several short walking trails with signs telling the story of the wreckage and the natural history of this place. We combine a few of these walks climbing down to the bottom of the gorge, watching the huge breakers crashing against the cliffs of the Razorback and Mutton Bird Island and listening to the thundering sounds the waves make when arriving at the end of a very narrow inlet called Thunder Cave. There is enough natural beauty to explore around Loch Ard Gorge to keep you busy for several hours. Unfortunately after an hour or two both of us desperately need to go to the toilet and there are no such facilities at Loch Ard Gorge. Luckily the main parking lot of the 12 Apostles is only a short drive away, so we hurry back to the car and make it to the toilet at the 12 Apostles just in time to avoid a disaster. Relieved we then drive west again. Passing the small town of Port Campbell our next stop is at the Arch, a huge hole formed by the water crashing against the cliffs. Next on our agenda is London Bridge. Until 1990 this was a beautiful double arched natural bridge reaching out into the sea and resembling the famous bridge in London, which gave this natural feature its name. Unfortunately in 1990 the arch closest to the shore collapsed leaving two tourists stranded on the remaining arch. Luckily a helicopter was able to help them out of this awkward situation and fly them back to the safety of the shore. Our last stop in Port Campbell National Park is at the Grotto, another beautiful rock arch. The Grotto started as a sinkhole caused by the acidic waters of a swamp eroding the limestone. At the same time the sea started eroding the cliff from the other side, gradually digging out a tunnel, which eventually reached the sinkhole behind it, thus forming the arch we see here today.
As the weather is nice and sunny today we have lunch at a park bench on the waterfront in Peterbourough, a small sea side town west of Port Campbell. Then we continue our drive along the Shipwreck Coast with two short stops at the Bay of Martyrs and the Bay of Islands. Both offer rock formations similar to the 12 Apostles, only much smaller and thus less impressive. Without any further stops we follow the road to Warrnambool, where we visit the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village. This museum consists of a gallery with lots of artefacts collected from the countless shipwrecks in this area and a maritime village, which provides a glimpse into life on the sea shore in the 1870s. One of the most famous artefacts of the museum’s shipwreck gallery is the Loch Ard Peacock, a life-size statue made from porcelain, which almost miraculously survived the wreckage of the ship and was washed ashore. At around 4 pm we leave the museum and drive a few minutes up the hill to the Atwood Motor Inn, our accommodation for tonight. Our spacious bedroom with kitchenette, a huge ensuite and free wifi is at 95 $ a night very good value for money. The motel is just off the main road into Warrnambool and in easy walking distance to the main restaurant strip on Liebig Street. The owner is very helpful and friendly and recommends the tavern of the Victoria Hotel for dinner. A valuable piece of advice, as the Victoria Hotel serves simple but tasty pub-style meals at very reasonable prices. As a main we both have the chicken Kiev with sides from the salad and vegetable bar, followed by chocolate mousse and apple-coconut-crumble for dessert. Yummy! Back at the hotel we write a few e-mails to family and friends back home and go to bed.
Tuesday 4th of November: Warrnambool – Halls Gap
Today we will leave the coast and travel north to the Grampians. After a warm breakfast with bacon and eggs on toast at a little café in Liebig Street, we check out and head to the supermarket to get some food supplies for the coming days. Then we leave Warrnambool and head out to the Tower Hill Game Reserve, a park situated in a huge crater of an ancient volcano. Part of the caldera is filled with water forming huge lakes. Further volcanic activity in the caldera formed little cone-shaped islands within the lakes. The reserve is well known for its abundance in wildlife. Our first sighting is a koala sitting in a tree right next to the park road. On the Peak Hike climbing to the top of Tower Hill we see a lot of stunningly blue coloured Superb Fairy Wrens. On the way back down we stumble across two very nosy emus getting so close to us, we can almost touch them. Next on the agenda is the Lava Tongue Boardwalk, where we sight an adult emu with three cute and fluffy little chicks. After a short stop at the visitors centre we leave the Tower Hill Reserve and follow the coast line to Port Fairy, a charming historic sea side town. Lots of the historic buildings, which flank the town’s main streets, date from the 1840s and 1850s and have been carefully restored. We have a quick bite at the local bakery, followed by a walk heading across the Moyne River to the beach and back. Then it’s time to leave the sea and head inland towards the Grampians. On quiet roads flanked by endless paddocks on both sides we drive into the mostly flat Victorian countryside north of Warrnambool. Just before 3 pm we stop for a cool drink at the local milk bar in Penhurst. Just like all the other buildings in this sleepy little country town, the bar looks like a relic from the 1950s. While enjoying our cool drinks under the front porch of the bar, we listen to the radio broadcasting the live-report from the Melbourne Cup. The Cup is the most important horse racing event in the country and at 3 pm on Melbourne Cup day almost everybody in Australia stops working for at least a few minutes in order to follow the race on tv or radio. Thus the event’s nickname “the race that stops a nation” is more than accurate. In Melbourne they even get a day off for the race, as Melbourne Cup day is a public holiday. After the race, which is won by the German horse Protectionist, we continue our journey to the Grampians. Approaching the town of Dunkeld the mountain ranges forming the Grampians suddenly rise like a series of waves above the flat plains. Entering Grampians National Park we follow the Grampians Tourist Road to the north in direction of Halls Gap. Unfortunately due to the mountains and the dense forests blocking the view there isn’t much to see along this stretch of the road.
A few kilometres south of Halls Gap, just beneath the dam of Lake Bellfield we reach Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park, where we plan to camp tonight. I found this campground on Trip Advisor, where it gets really good reviews, and we thought we will give it a go. We didn’t make any reservations though. However with the Melbourne Cup weekend behind us, most of the weekend tourists are gone by now and there are plenty of empty sites to choose from. We pitch our tent under a series of big trees not too far from the amenities block and with a good view of the meadow behind the park. Every evening just before dusk this meadow starts to be populated by a big group of grazing kangaroos. The darker it gets, the closer they come to the campground and at night some of them are actually grazing right in between the tents and caravans and you have to watch your step not to stumble over them. Except for the ‘roos’ the park is also visited by a lot of birds such as Sulphur Crested Cockatoos and Kookaburras. But not only the wildlife is good on this campground. It also offers excellent facilities for tent campers , such as a fully equipped camping kitchen, a lounge with a fireplace and two very clean barbecues, a heated pool and private bathrooms at no extra costs. Moreover at 29 $ a night this was also one of the cheapest campgrounds we came across during this trip.
When the night falls and it gets too dark to spot any wildlife, we take our food to the camping kitchen and prepare a chili con carne. After dinner we settle in one of the comfortable chairs next to the fireplace, update our diary, watch tv and make some plans for tomorrow. Then it’s time to go to bed.