Archive for February, 2013

Volcano country

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

It appears that we have graduated from picking walks from my deck of cards to picking from a book! hahaha I got a book from the library of Daywalks around Victoria. And erring on the side of sensibleness, we chose one that was graded easy and only 8km, that would take us to volcano country in the West of Victoria. Some of the more adventurous walks were promising to chalk up 18km and with climbs and graded hard!

It was the Australia Day long weekend. So off we went after getting our customary take away coffee for the ride. It was a very pleasant day, sunny summer’s day but temperature was coolish. We were headed to Macarthur about 350km westward to Melbourne. We passed many small small towns along the way. Small Australian towns really amaze me, they can be so tiny. Perhaps 2 shops, a church and a post office and it is a town.

We have had some really hot  days this summer, and I noticed that the grass is now crunchy! I didn’t eat grass 🙂 but they just crunch when you step on them. There have been some pretty serious fires in Victoria and also other parts of Australia. We saw along the roads what must have been controlled burning of the vegetation by the side of the roads. We figured it must be a precautionary measure so that if there was a fire it wouldn’t jump the road.

We were booked in at a B&B in Macarthur, and we arrived at about 6pm. We headed straight out for a walk in the very quiet town (dare I say almost not alive town – I found out later that the town has a population of 250). There was a historic walk which we finished in about 15 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, the buildings we saw were quite charming, most built around 1800s, and looked well maintained. We found 4 churches that were a stone’s throw from each other. Just that we saw almost no movement – no cars, almost none. Not sure if it was just because it was the holiday weekend or it is just how it is. We finished our walk at the local pub to get dinner and found some people there.

Former Methodist Church, built in 1885, sold to Free Presbyterian Church 1967, Macarthur

Former Methodist Church, built in 1885, sold to Free Presbyterian Church 1967, Macarthur

At the B&B, our room we didn’t have an attached bathroom, but we had a very nice shared bathroom with a fancy bath tub.

bath

bath

Early-ish the next morning we set off for our walk at Mt Eccles. The weather was promising to be good, sunny and coolish again. Our walk was going to start around the rim of  Lake Surprise  (a volcanic crater lake), then a climb to Mount Eccles and pass through rare manna gum woodland via a system of collapsed lava tunnels before finally looping back to Lake Surprise. This area was active with volcanic eruption around 20,000 years ago with the last big eruption occurring some 7500 years ago.

all geared up to start the walk

all geared up to start the walk

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off I went!

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going up Mount Eccles

Going up Mount Eccles wasn’t too demanding. There were steps and before we knew we were there, and rewarded with the beautiful scenery of Lake Surprise and the surrounds.

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Lake Surprise

After our descend from Mount Eccles, we headed to what was sign-posted as a Natural Bridge. The Natural Bridge was most probably formed over an open lava channel when the still soft lava sides slumped together to create a large chamber. We could enter the chamber.

towards natural bridge

towards natural bridge

looking out from inside the Natural Bridge cave

looking out from inside the Natural Bridge cave

As we continued along  the path, it was rather slow going because of how rocky it was. We had to watch our every step.

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rocky path

There were some ups and downs, but generally pretty flat. The unevenness though was hard.

rocky descend

rocky descend

The flora were mainly of gum trees, but they were quite different to the gum trees we saw at Sheerbroke Forest. These ones are not as tall, the branches are all twisty, some seem to have dark bark while others seem to have the barks peeling off showing a white interior – which looked really pretty. The leaves though looked and smelled the same. These must be the manna gum that that guide book had talked about. It was supposed to be koala country, though I didn’t see any here, perhaps I missed them because I had to keep looking down at where to put my foot.

gum trees in a scoria landscape

gum trees in a scoria landscape

We did however see two wallabies, lots of butterflies, a few kookaburras, a few blue wrens and two echidnas. I had seen something moving by the side of our path and Kendall tells me that it was an echidna (looks a bit like a porcupine). So we went closer to look at it, it looked like it was burrowing into the ground – looking for food I guess. Then after a while it had heard us and it was so funny, it curled into a little ball apparently trying to hide!!! The photos were horrible. Hopefully the video is better. Towards the end of our walk about 20m from the picnic area where we had parked our car we saw another echidna – hahaha it turns out we may not have had to walk all that distance to see one!

After about 7km we looped back to Lake Surprise after visiting Tunnel Caves, and precisely as the name suggests there were lots of tunnels in caves! But the geniuses that we were – we didn’t bring torches. The light from our phones could only guide us so far. It was wet and cold and even a little bit eerie in the cave. And we have no decent photos to speak of.

enjoying Lake Surprise

enjoying Lake Surprise

After enjoying the view looking down at Lake Surprise, we hiked down to it. That took another kilometre or so. I thought we could soak our feet in the waters but it turns out whilst you used to be able to swim there, it is now under some green algae attack and the water is no longer safe even to touch. We did however enjoy some snacks by the lake.

It turns out that the echidnas were not the only animal that I needn’t have gone on a long walk to see. At the B&B there is now a resident koala. We were told that this wild koala came a few weeks ago and seemed to have set up home in a few of the gum trees in the backyard. It was high up on one of the trees, sleeping. He looked so cute! Just like the cuddly toys but so much bigger.

koala

koala

koala up high

koala up high

Our Mount Eccles walk turned out to be very pleasant albeit rather tiring (I wouldn’t have graded it as easy myself). I put it down to having to watch my steps all the time, so much that my leg was threatening to cramp! All in we covered some 8.3km in 3-4 hours, not really sure how much climbing was involved. We saw only perhaps a dozen people in 4 separate groups in our walk, which is very good if you wanted to get away from it all.

All along the walk I kept making notes to self. Firstly – bring fly repellent on summer walks. Secondly – pack torch lights when the guide books say so. Thirdly – bring more than 500ml of water for self on a summer walks of 8km. 🙂