Dayna's Blog

Holidays, walks and who knows what


15 Comments

‘Meet at Cow Up A Tree’ – Melbourne Brompton Club ride, 26 July 2015

If you’re not a Melburnian, or at least familiar with the place, receiving instructions to “meet up at Docklands – Cow Up A Tree” could lead to some understandable confusion. But it’s pretty straight forward. We were to meet where there’s a cow up a tree.

Cow Up A Tree

Ta-da! “Cow Up A Tree”

It was looking a bit touch and go in the lead-up to this ride. Not for the cow – it’s been stuck up there for years. Rather it was the weather forecast that was looking decidedly iffy, and it didn’t improve as the scheduled time drew closer. Given the bay-side location of our destination – Williamstown – concerns about storm surges were quite valid if the weather were to turn ugly.

Satelite photo forecasting bad weather for our ride, via Victorian Storm Chasers

Satelite photo forecasting bad weather for our ride, via Victorian Storm Chasers

Thankfully the weather dawned clear and not too cold, though it was a bit breezy in places. Nothing to stop the ride going ahead, so it was off to the rendezvous point.

The glow of a yellow high-vis top waiting up ahead made me think we weren’t the first ones there – and indeed, we were not, but as I pulled up I realised that although the cyclists were waiting for us, they weren’t on Bromptons themselves. What’s more, there turned out to be a whole group of riders waiting for the Melbourne Brompton Club to turn up!

Cyclists gathering at Cow Up A Tree

Cyclists gathering at Cow Up A Tree

As it turned, out riders with the Go Cycling Melbourne group had come to ride to Williamstown with us. Escorts or windbreaks? Take your pick! (as someone quipped). Either way, our group of five had just grown to 13! Six Bromptons, a mountain bike, an e-touring bike, and road bikes made up our motley crew for today’s ride. Fluro tops were trending, but on the whole our clothing was as assorted as our bikes. Once introductions had been made we were finally underway!

Once we left Docklands and crossed over Railway Canal, Stephen and I were breaking new ground on this ride. It was probably a familiar route for the others. We’ve certainly seen plenty of riders take this path before, and no wonder it’s popular. The design is very good; no tangling with traffic, no being left to wait for traffic lights without a button to press to ask them to change for you.

The wind was coming directly at us for most of it, but that couldn’t be helped. At least it wasn’t raining! Given the forecast, the weather was certainly cooperating very nicely! There are long stretches of flat straight road, and a few small rises, but on the whole it’s a pretty comfortably ride especially once you reach Stony Creek Reserve  – from there you follow the waterfront right around to the main street of Williamstown.

Williamstown didn’t seem quite as packed today as it has on previous occasions we’ve visited. (Maybe that’s because we weren’t looking for a carpark this time…) After another re-group we headed down to Gem Pier and the shelter of the HMAS Castlemaine. I have to say it made a pretty good wind-break – pity it isn’t particularly portable. I was already feeling the start of windburn on my face.

The Williamstown riders - photo by Cory (@baudman)

The Williamstown riders – photo by Cory (@baudman)

By now it was definitely time to choose a cafe that could accommodate our group and enjoy a nice warn beverage. I’m not much of a coffee drinker; a hot chocolate is my preferred brew in the cooler months! Despite the heart-sinkingly long queue inside we didn’t end up waiting too long for our orders – just long enough to chat to a passer-by who stopped to ask about our bikes. They are pretty striking, especially in a group.

Bromptons are just so neat! Cafe Cirino was a good place to stop for brunch - Melbourne Brompton Club & Go Cycling Melbourne

Bromptons are just so neat! Cafe Cirino was a good place to stop for brunch – Melbourne Brompton Club & Go Cycling Melbourne

With everyone fed and watered, we stood up to leave just in time to surrendered our places to a motorcycle group who had just parked their rides across the street. Another audience to impress with the convenience of the Brompton design, though I’m not sure we have any converts from their mob.

Departing Williamstown the wind was once again in our faces and riding along the foreshore was a slog. Conditions improved as we neared Newport Park and continued into Riverside Park where there are a few more trees beside the track.

Opposite the old Pumping Station behind Science Works is the Spotswood Jetty where the Westgate Punt collects passengers who wish to cross the Yarra River to Port Melbourne. Stanley, Elsie, Stephen and I bid farewell to the other riders here as we’d decided to take the shorter (and easier) route back to Docklands. Cory farewelled us from the jetty, but didn’t cross the river as it would have been the longer way home for him.

We passed the Pumping Station - it was a location for one of the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries TV shows in the first series

We passed the Pumping Station – also a location for one of the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries TV shows in the first series

There's plenty on room onboard for bikes and pedestrians

There’s plenty on room onboard for bikes and pedestrians

And then there was one - via Cory (@baudman)

And then there was one – via Cory (@baudman)

In a somewhat surprising move, the punt operator offered me the wheel. I thought it was for maybe a minute or two – time enough to get a photo – but he didn’t move me on so I got to steer the punt the whole way across (it’s not that far). Docking was a different story – quite understandably so, though I was happy to give it a shot!

Dayna piloting The Westgate Punt across the Yarra River (photo by Stanley Tan)

Dayna piloting The Westgate Punt across the Yarra River (photo by Stanley Tan)

Returning to Docklands once on the other side is as easy as turning left and following Lorimer Street all the way back to Webb Bridge, though we did take the water side path in front of South Wharf Drive. The gardens along here are really quite lovely. (Thanks to a shower of rain that came through then I don’t have any photos of this section though.) As we came off Webb Bridge and turned onto Harbour Esplanade, who should we see approaching but the Go Cycling Melbourne group who we left at Spotswood Jetty! We weren’t quite back at Cow Up A Tree, but this was where the riders truly spilt up, after a really enjoyable day’s ride – to try to beat the rain home!

For more photos from this ride please take a look at Stanley’s photos or  Cory’s photos (note: both are FaceBook links). You can also check out the Melbourne Brompton Club on Flickr, again courtesy of Cory.

: )

Advertisements


24 Comments

The Inaugural Ride of the Melbourne Brompton Club

The plan was to meet at Green Park (near Velo, Carlton North) at 8am on Sunday, 3 May 2015, for a group ride into and around Melbourne/Southbank/Docklands.

After an initial wince at the thought of an 8am start, I told myself it wouldn’t be any worse than a usual workday, and to grow a spine. But honestly, Stephen and I have been really looking forward to this ride, so there weren’t any grumbles when the alarm when off this morning – I even got an extra half an hour’s sleep compared to a weekday!

The ride started conveniently close to where we live, so we rode to the meeting point and found Stanley and Elsie waiting for us.

Meeting Stanley (left) and Elsie (centre) at the meeting point. Stephen is in blue on the right - Melbourne Brompton Club - Green Park, Carlton North

Meeting Stanley (left) and Elsie (centre) at the meeting point. Stephen is in blue on the right.

 

Our ‘maybes’ for the ride didn’t turn up, so with just the four of us making up the group and the whole day pretty much at our disposal, it was decided to follow the Capital City Trail (the bike path we were on – which used to be Melbourne’s Inner Circle Railway Line) west towards Royal Park where it skirts around Melbourne Zoo.

Heading off - rail trails make for a pretty cruisey ride

Heading off – rail trails make for a pretty cruisey ride

Crossing over the tracks at Royal Park Station, Capital City Trail then crosses Poplar Road within about 20 metres to continue following the railway line along to Flemington Bridge Station.

Here the cycle path does a sharp zigzag and drops down to street level. Capital Trail continues along beside Railway Canal, providing views of Citylink, old bridges and wildlife that the traffic rushing overhead won’t get to enjoy. Or possibly even suspect is there.

In addition to the very common Pacific Black Ducks and Australian Wood Ducks, I’m sure I saw some Chestnut Teals a pair of Black Swans, a few Great Egret’s last week, a pair of Purple Swamp Hens this week. Eurasian Coots are also fairly common. And they were just the obvious species! I’d love to take a pair of binoculars and stop around Royal Park to try to identify more of the passerines (perching birds) heard as we cycled by.

 

By the time we reached the intersection where Capital City Trail crosses Footscray Road we had been joined by quite a number of other cyclists. The previous weekend when Stephen and I had come this way we’d had it all to ourselves! I admit, both the rain and the fact that it was ANZAC day may have had something to do with that… Today, on the other hand, was a great day for riding.

We've got quite a crowd with us now

We’ve got quite a crowd with us now

After a quick photo with the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel (still working!) we headed around to the pier.

Bromptons of the inaugural ride in front of the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel

Bromptons of the inaugural ride in front of the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel

Naturally we couldn’t pass up a photo at the pier. Or with the colourful buildings and strange – or should I say, ‘artistic’ – mountain-things around us.

 

Not much further along Elsie spotted a bike. Well, a bike-shaped bike rack, to be precise, so naturally that called for another photo. I was quite enjoying this ‘see and stop’ style of riding. The guys came back to check we were ok; reassured all was fine (our respective partners understand and have learnt to cope with our frequent stopping for a photo habits, it would seem) we set off again.

 

A bike-shaped bike rack. Neat!

A bike-shaped bike rack. Neat!

Leaving Docklands, we used the lovely Jim Stynes Bridge to connect with the distinctive Seafarers Bridge, where we crossed the Yarra River.

 

Although Stephen and I had eaten a light breakfast before setting off this morning, it turned out that Stanley and Elsie hadn’t eaten at all, so we stopped at The Boatbuilders Yard, right next to the Polly Woodside for breakfast. It seems to be a popular stop for cyclists and pedestrians. I was pretty happy with my toast; finally – somewhere that gives you sweet and savoury spreads!

Enjoying breakfast at The Boatbuilders Yard

Enjoying breakfast at The Boatbuilders Yard

Making our way up Southbank after breakfast was fun. There weren’t crowds of people (yet) so even though we were riding at a considerately slow pace, we could enjoy the plane trees, whose leaves are turning colour and falling at the moment, the artworks and easy ride along the smooth dark pavers.

We crossed the Yarra River again at Sandridge Bridge, continued under Princes Bridge (St Kilda Road), then road back up to the main street level using Princes Walk, after briefly stopping to greet some quite large, but very lovely, fluffy dogs (a Malamute and an Akita) and their owner.

 

This close to Flinders Station, it would have been ridiculous to pass up the opportunity to stop for a photo beneath the clocks at the main entrance. Lucky it wasn’t peak hour – it was hard enough getting a clear shot as it was!

Melbourne Brompton Club at one of Melbourne's best-known icons - Flinders Street Station (photo by Stephen Powell)

Melbourne Brompton Club at one of Melbourne’s best-known icons – Flinders Street Station (photo by Stephen Powell)

From here we were more or less on the homeward leg… with a small diversion to the Queen Victoria Markets. Setting off along Swanson Street, I was incredibly thankful for the bike lane. City riding is tricky enough at the best of times, what with trams, horse and carriages (for tourists), and – worst of all – pedestrians!

Riding along Swanston Street

Riding along Swanston Street

But we made it through; all intact and without incident, only to be laughed at – laughed at!! – by some bloke at the QV Markets when he saw me and my Brompton! That’s not the usual reaction I’ve had to-date, and my first thought was ‘Wait until you see there are three more following me!’ but he reportedly laughed at the sight of the rest of them, too! I’m not sure what he found so mirthful. Maybe we took him by surprise? Maybe he was delighted? I have to agree with Elsie, though – he did seem to be a bear-ish kind of a bloke.

Laughing bear-like men aside, we’d reached the donut van. Stanley and Elsie declined, but Stephen and I treated ourselves to a bag (shared) of piping hot, jam donuts. Oooh what a treat!

Stanley posing in front of the doughnut van - Queen Victoria Market

Stanley posing in front of the doughnut van – Queen Victoria Market

The MELBOURNE sign is very near the donut van, in the middle of the market. It would have been nice to have a fifth Brompton along for ideal spacing, but… maybe next time. Stanley’s shared a great panoramic photo of the bike from today on the club’s Facebook page.

Bromptons in front of the Melbourne sign at Queen Victoria Market

Bromptons in front of the Melbourne sign at Queen Victoria Market

Leaving the market, we rode one block up Elizabeth Street, then followed the green bike lane along Queensberry Street to the Carlton Gardens. Yep, you guessed it. Another group photo! This time in front of the Royal Exhibition Building and the Melbourne Museum.

The Carlton Gardens are one of my favourite places in Melbourne. Maybe because they’re so familiar – I walk through them each weekday and see the changes in every season. It could be that Melbourne gardens are just lovely. Riding your bike through the gardens is not allowed though, so we set off along the shared footpath on Rathdowne Street, then rode down the (slightly) steep and leafy Barkly Street to meet up with Canning Street, which would take us all the way back to Green Park and our starting point.

The leafy Barkly Street leads to Canning Street

The leafy Barkly Street leads to Canning Street

I believe we all enjoyed today’s ride. We were out for about 4 hours, but that included a lengthy breakfast stop, numerous photo stops and a riding pace that I would describe (overall) as ‘unhurried’. Estimated distance travelled was 18km (~11 miles).

I hope the success of this first ride bodes well for many future rides.

: )


6 Comments

Southern Circuit of Cathedral Range State Park, Yarra Ranges VIC – 3 November 2014

A challenging hike for walkers unused to much rock scrambling, and not one I’d recommend in wet or hot weather, but good views and a real sense of accomplishment at the finish make this a worthwhile day hike.

Other people at the top of Sugarloaf Peak who climbed up from the saddle car park

Start/Finish: Jawbone Car Park, Cathedral Range State Park
Distance: Approx 9km
Time: Approx 4h 50m (included a 20min lunch break). Moving time was 2h 30m.
Difficulty: Hard

Map & elevation profile of the Southern Circuit of Cathedral Range State Park
See also: Parks Victoria Map of Cathedral Range State Park which is very detailed.

Melbourne Cup weekend provides a fantastic opportunity (for those of us living in Victoria) to enjoy a 4 day weekend late in the year. Since no one else in my team at work was taking the day off, it fell to me to uphold this time-honoured tradition. Ignoring anything and everything to do with the spring racing carnival, Stephen and I followed our own tradition and decided to go for a walk somewhere away from the maddening crowd…

So, why this walk?

We first attempted this circuit in September 2010, having picked it out of John Chapman’s “Day Walks Melbourne“, probably because it looked interesting and slightly adventurous. Or possibly because it was located near Marysville, where I’d never been, and Stephen hadn’t been since the devastating Black Saturday Fires in February 2009. Or maybe we were simply enticed by the photo of two hikers looking over the range from Sugarloaf Peak featured on the books’ cover, which belies the challenges and amount of effort required to get to that point.

Atop Mt Sugarloaf, background is similar to that on the cover of Day Walks Melbourne

Me atop Mt Sugarloaf. The view in this shot is similar to that on the cover of Day Walks Melbourne; there’s little indication of the challenges faced to get to this point – from either direction.

In our first attempt, we drove up Cerberus Road to Sugarloaf Saddle (apologising to the MINI as usual for asking it to be a 4wd) and walked up Canyon Track. John Chapman’s brief description of Wells Cave Track was enough to make us think the ‘easy’ option was more our level. We followed his advice and ‘scrambled carefully’ up the steep hillside, the gullies and terraces proving not overly challenging until we came to what I believe he refers to as “a short climb to the right lead[ing] to the summit of Mt Sugarloaf”. Which is where we got stuck. And this is how it looked.

Sep 2010 - The sticking point on our first attempt at this walk

Sep 2010 – The sticking point on our first attempt at this walk

Now, we’re not the only ones to have fun here. I’ve just read Greg of Hiking Fiasco’s account of his ascent (with a full backpack containing camping gear, mind you!) and he ratchets the difficulty rating of this walk to a level above merely ‘hard’. No wonder!

So, finding ourselves somewhat confounded – we’d never had to abort a walk before! – we retraced our steps, drove back to Jawbone Car Park back down the road and walked up to South Jawbone Peak instead. At that time it was only a year and a half after the Black Saturday fires when 92% of the park was burnt; it was very clear the greening bush still had a long road ’til anything near ‘full’ recovery.

For the last four years the memory of this failed walk has been at the back of our minds, nagging away. Almost every time one of us (ok, usually Stephen) suggests we go for a bushwalk, more often than not Cathedral Range has been offered up. Like that thing you borrowed and have been meaning to return to whatshername for yonks, you almost get used to living with the guilt of still having it hang over you.

This weekend was finally it. The conditions were pretty prefect – not raining, not too hot, not too cold, fire risk seemed reasonably low. When it came to it, there was just one fly in the ointment… my legs.

More specifically, the huge amounts of lactic acid in them from a PT gym session two days prior, rather impeding my ability to walk. Now, I usually go to the gym on a Wednesday night, but due to a couple of re-scheduling issues it was changed to Saturday. Never again, people! Certainly not if I’m planning to do a walk that weekend! Despite stretching after the session, it was coming back home and blogging for the next ~8hrs that probably didn’t help matters much. Had I but known how sore I was going to be, I would have continued to stretch through the day. (Ok, point made, enough complaining.)

Despite the legs, I felt that this was our chance to get this walk knocked over, struck off the list – and I didn’t want to be the one providing the excuse not to go yet again. Especially after I’d told everyone that this is what we were doing this weekend! So Monday morning we made lunch, packed the car and off we headed.

It’s a lovely 2hr drive from our place through the Yarra Valley to Cathedral Range State Park. I used the time to try to warm up my stiff and aching legs (and gluteals) – the benefits of being the passenger. Unsurprisingly, we found Cathedral Range right where we left it; tall, long and distinctive, though a bit tricky to photograph well from the road due both to the length of the range and the trees growing along the roadside.

From the road, the top of Cathedral Range looks pretty flat and easy to walk...

From the road, the top of Cathedral Range looks pretty flat and easy to walk…

The turn into Cathedral Lane from Maroondah Highway is at the northern end of the range and is marked with the usual brown sign for places of interest. The graded dirt Little River Road (that runs alongside Little River) is reasonably well graded – but mind the potholes.

(Of course, the middle of a State Park is the best place for the state government/Vic Forests to put a pine plantation…)

We were somewhat surprised to see the large number of cars parked at Neds Gully car park (we didn’t realise at the time that there is a camping ground across the creek) and there were also plenty of people parked and camping around Cooks Mill. Apparently it’s a popular weekend for coming to the park! Navigating solely by memory (naturally the book was in a backpack in the back of the car) we turned right at the campsite and headed uphill to Jawbone Car Park.

We were astounded by how many people were at Neds Gully car park

We were astounded by how many people were at Neds Gully car park

By now it was almost noon – despite my crossed fingers, we weren’t the only there. Given the numbers of people we’d passed, it wasn’t really a shock. The Mini blended in perfectly with the other cars.

Nov 2014 - The Mini really blends in amongst the other 4wd's - Jawbone Car Park, Cathedral Range State Park, Yarra Ranges

The Mini really blends in amongst the 4wd’s

 

Slowly changing shoes for hiking boots (while at the same time, going as fast as I could manage) I heard three or four groups come and go – mostly young families. Concerns about how busy the walk was going to be started to fill my mind – was the car park just an indication of the traffic on the track? Yikes!

Backpacks on, we set off – slowly – down the steps to cross the creek at the bottom of MacLennans Gully. In 2010 we crossed the creek on stepping-stones. Today there’s a nice, shiny new bridge…which you’ll just have to take my word for since I neglected to take a photograph of it…

The bridge marks the last downhill section for a good while. Although the climb up to the Farmyard is step, the path is very well made and if you take your time it is a very pleasant walk. I’m afraid I didn’t take too many photo’s along this section. On countless occasions Stephen has probably wished that I’d stop taking photos and hurry up. Well I’ve found what will limit my compulsion to stop and click: pain. Unfortunately that also meant my average speed wasn’t any faster than usual!

There was so much I didn’t stop for, too. November is a good time to see lots of flowers in bloom. The walk up to the Farmyard probably has the best number and variety across the whole walk, since it’s quite a damp and sheltered gully,with Jawbone Creek even supporting tree ferns to grow near the top.

A sign at the top of the gully directs you to turn left here to continue on to The Farmyard. Another walker had caught up to us at this point. He looked like he’d taken a wrong turn to a running race and somehow ended up on the mountain with only his drink bottle, but when we got to the next clearing and he ducked into his tent that blended in so nicely with the surrounding vegetation I completely failed to see it on approach, I began to think maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to judge.

You are allowed to camp here, and if you want a bit of quiet and/or privacy and don’t mind lugging your gear all the way up here it’s certainly the way to go. He was the only person camping in this first clearing where there is another track leading to The Cathedral. In the next clearing there was also a single tent.

If you’re interested in climbing South Jawbone Peak, the track starts at this second clearing. When you enter the clearing from the north there are three tracks to chose from. On the left is South Jawbone Peak (sign posted), the middle one is The Razorback (also sign posted) – not, as I initially thought, an alternate route to South Jawbone – and the track on the right (which is roughly straight ahead as you approach) is actually the track to the latrines. No, not long drops, the unofficial latrine area used by campers. It wasn’t the smell that gave it away (at least, I didn’t smell anything); the tell-tale signs were toiletpaper and other non-biodegradable rubbish lying around. Goodness people! Dig deeper holes! Ladies – take liners and packaging home with you to dispose of, please!

Nov 2014 - The choice of paths at the main Farmyard clearing was more than expected - Cathedral Range State Park, Yarra Ranges

Chosing the Razorback Track from the Farmyard - Cathedral Range State Park, Yarra Ranges

Beating a hasty retreat we tried again, taking the middle path this time.

The Razorback Track undulates relatively gently at first (lulling you into a false sense of security) as it follows the ridge line south through fairly dense young trees and shrubs regrowing on the ridge after the fire. By now my legs had warmed up a little, but still seemed reluctant to handle anything but an incline with anything nearing a modicum of comfort.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Occasional glimpses down into the valley are obscured by burnt, dead trees; in the five years since the fire their charcoaled limbs haven’t yet fallen to the ground and they remain reaching, stark and barren toward the bright blue sky.

A glimpse into the valley to the west of Cathedral Range

A glimpse into the valley to the west of Cathedral Range

It’s quite clear that the path is well used and it’s simple to follow for the most part, but there are numerous orange triangle track markers along the way to ensure walkers don’t get lost. Indeed, it’s easy to think that Parks Victoria have put a whole year’s allocation of these markers just in this one park. (Maybe that’s why they’ve had to resort to carving blobby arrows into the signs at Wilsons Prom?) However, the further we walked, the more reliant on these arrows we became.

I lost count of the number of walkers that passed us going the other direction – young and old, all evidently following the generally recommended route. How had they climbed up the section that defeated us four years ago? Had we missed something – was there a way around that bit that meant retirees were seemingly able to do this circuit yet we couldn’t? What was going on? As with almost all our walks where we pass lots of people, the general state of attire seems to be ‘casual’; limited water, basic footwear, and no extra clothing discernible. How do people go for a bush walk so unprepared?

This couple are typical of people we see out walking, to whom we much appear completely over equipped

This couple are typical of people we see out walking, to whom we must appear completely over equipped

Walking along the ridge you really appreciate why the range is described as ‘sharply upturned sedimentary rock’. In fact, it reminded me of crunchy sand at the beach – the type that fragments into pieces as you break the crust. Only these rocks were formed from sand/silt in the Devonian period, a few hundred million years ago. No wonder they’re a bit harder than the crusty sand bits on the beach.

Don’t get too excited at the sneak peaks you get back over the ridge – soon enough you’ll have plenty of opportunity for looking around as you really start climbing. And there’s still plenty to see around you.

Sugarloaf Peak, being the highest point along the ridge, is tall and narrow and sticks out like a sore thumb. But we were too busy looking at the view behind us to pay much attention at first of what was ahead. I had in my mind that the ridge was pretty flat – that’s certainly how it looks from the main road – and the real challenge would be getting down that tricky bit from last time. But as we kept climbing and clambering over increasingly large rocks along the ridge line, the peak in front loomed ever higher. It even got to the point where I put my camera away so I could focus on climbing properly instead of worrying what it might be banging against as I held the strap between my teeth. That may be fine for short diversions, but when you’re combing what is essentially a rock wall – it’s better to keep the camera somewhere safe.

We didn’t re-read the track notes or anyone else’s blog posts about the walk before setting out (at least, I didn’t) and on reflection I’m really glad we didn’t. Although John Chapman certainly doesn’t make it sound scary, had I read Greg’s Hiking Fiasco post or Neil’s Bushwalking Blog (plus the mention in his Northern Circuit post) post on this walk, there’s a very high probability that we’d never have tackled this walk. Putting something in the ‘Too Hard’ basket is a very convenient excuse not to accept a challenge. As it was, I’m left to reflect the marvellous ways we try to kid and talk ourselves out of something we don’t really want to contemplate even when it’s right in our face.

“I wonder what mountain that is?” became, “Is that part of this ridge?” which lead to, “Surely we don’t have to climb that?!”. Inevitably, the reality of the situation is accepted and you admit to yourself that yes, indeed, that shark’s fin of some “Sharply upturned sedimentary rock” IS part of the track, and what’s more, “Yep, the track goes straight up”. Don’t forget to follow the orange triangles! There’s one place where it looks like the path leads down, but as far as I could see from the ‘junction’ it doesn’t go anywhere. Keep following the markers straight up.

I knew we were almost there when I saw someone else at the top. We knew had made it when we got our cameras back out. Wooo!

Now, about this down bit….

Once you’ve had the freedom of two hands (or maybe it’s just that the path down quickly requires both hands again) the camera was soon back in the top pouch of my backpack, only withdrawn for a quick photo here and there. The people we saw at the top were a group of three young hikers, who started back down shortly after us. I have to say I welcomed their company on this section because they clearly managed to get up – maybe they knew a better way down, or at the least, if we got stuck it was more people around to help out.

Follow the arrows. Uh-huh. In the end the ‘tricky bit’ wasn’t as scary as I had worried it might be, but thank goodness the day and been a warm and dry day. There was no chance of slipping on these lovely rocks that are pretty good to hang on to without getting torn to bits. I went first, and just like climbing up the peak, the one thing running through my mind was to keep at least three points of contact on the rock at any one time. The hand and footholds are there, you just need to find them – and trust your hiking boots. Now, having made it down, I found the step we both missed the first time. So obvious now…

Unexpectedly, getting down the next rock was almost the trickiest of the day! It’s a bit of a drop to the next level, and I have only vague memories of climbing up there last time. I tried to feel for a place to put my foot as I held onto a rock on the side and a tree root, but instead I ended up sliding down on my belly. It was only a drop of about 20cm – if that. I ended up with a tear in my shirt where it got caught between buckle and rock, but the others chose to slide down on the bums. Could be the better option.

From there it’s more or less plain sailing. My legs were still not properly programmed for descent, but otherwise hiking as usual. It took us about 4 hours to get to the rest area at Sugarloaf Saddle where there is a pretty fancy new covered picnic area where we ate lunch. There are toilets nearby (best to take your own toilet paper) and a car park.

Backpacks on again, Stephen took off and I hobbled after him, my legs quickly seizing up in our relatively short (but late) lunch break. (Why people chose to walk up Cerberus Road instead of down it is beyond me.) Downhill was not much fun, but by the time we made it back to Jawbone Car Park (a couple of kilometres later) I felt I might be loosening up a bit. Just in time for a 2hr drive home.

In all it was a really good, if challenging walk, and we’ve both come away with a sense of accomplishment. I’m glad it wasn’t any more challenging as there were a couple of sections there that we only just found a way to climb up or around.

We’re not in a hurry to do the Southern Circuit again. Other bloggers seem to rate the Norther Circuit as about the same but without a slightly lesser degree of rock climbing/scrambling. One day we might even pluck up the courage (or have forgotten enough details about this one) to go and check it out.

: )


8 Comments

One Tree Hill & the 1000 Steps, Dandenong Ranges National Park – 2 March 2014

Just because you’ve done something once before, doesn’t mean you can do it again – without directions, at least.

Which is how we came to be walking by some very nice houses on Kia Ora Parade (with some other locationally challenged walkers) wondering which turn we should/shouldn’t have made to get to the 1000 Steps. But lets rewind a bit and I’ll explain…

It’s not long now until we’re off to Wilsons Prom to walk down to the lighthouse. My office day job provides, as you might imagine, ideal training for a 20-24km hike (probably to be repeated 3 days in a row, unless we’re too knackered on the middle day). The slightly downhill 3km walk home of an evening has also really helped to boost my confidence.

Even so, we though a bit of extra practice wouldn’t go astray.

We’ve been meaning to go back to One Tree Hill and the 1000 Steps for quite some time. The last first and last time we were there was before the ‘new’ Lyrebird track was (re)opened. Today seemed like a good day. Pity neither Stephen or I remembered to pick up Glenn Tempest’s “Daywalks Around Melbourne” in case we couldn’t remember which track to take, based solely on our memories of our walk from a couple of years back.

This section of the Dandenong Ranges Nation Park must be one of the most visited of Victoria’s parks. The 1000 Steps car park at the bottom of the hill (Fern Tree Gully end) is very large, but always full. I’ve never been by and not seen cars parked for hundreds of metres up the sides of the road.  As suggested by Glenn Tempest, we have always (that is to say both times now) parked at the top at the One Tree Hill car park. Compared to the crowd at the bottom, it’s like hardly anyone seems to know about it. And yet it’s only about 100m (if that) from the end of the 1000 Steps track. Go figure.

Dandenong Ranges NP - car park at One Tree Hill

Car park at One Tree Hill

A small section of the 1000 Steps Car Park

Just a small section of the packed 1000 Steps Car Park (not the clearest photo, I grant you)

Just going up and down the 1000 Steps (or Lyrebird) track with half of Melbourne’s population (well, not quite half) is not our idea of a great afternoon, so we like to extend the walk so we can look around, enjoy the bush and get to clock up 10km without collapsing (as I think could be on the cards if we did the same distance just going up and down the ‘Steps).

So after finding a park (not hard), changing into our hiking boots (there’s a convenient seat nearby), we walked to the top of the hill to start our walk along Tyson Track. It’s pretty steep going down, even if it doesn’t look it in the photo.

The bush down the western slopes of One Tree Hill is drier, with less understorey than in the lush and protected gullies, and with grasses as the majority of the ground cover. Numerous tracks crisscross the park. Some follow a level grade as much as possible, and some tracks are very steep (through not as steep as the Telecom Track in Walhalla, thankfully). The tracks are generally wide, gravel-surfaced and well maintained, and it’s not unusual to come across a number of other walkers or hikers and there are signs of mountain bike riders using the tracks, too. In fact, this section of the National Park reminds me of Toohey Forest, just south of Brisbane.

Something I’ve never seen in Toohey’s Forest though is one of these fellows, who was just to the side of The Boulevard (track) as we tried to find our way back up to Belview Terrace.

Echidna

Echidna in defensive mode

Having descended from the top of the hill, walked some streets while slightly ‘locationally challenged’, climbed almost the whole way back up again while doubling back due to a poor choice of track at Himalaya Road, we eventually found the path we originally intended to be on (Belview Tce).

Slightly surprised at the appearance of a police 4wd coming up the track (yes, the paths are that wide and no, I doubt they’d need to put it in 4wd to get up that track… well, maybe to get around some of the corners lower down) we continued down hill again until we reached the 1000 Steps car park and picnic ground. There are public facilities there and even a cafe now.

Cafe at 1000 Steps/Fern Tree Gully picnic ground

Cafe at 1000 Steps/Fern Tree Gully picnic ground

Now, I understand and fully support the principle that what you take into a national park you should also take out. That’s good, proper and the responsible thing to do. But when you buy something at a cafe, you would expect them to have a rubbish bin, wouldn’t you? Apparently not in this case. Again, I understand why – they don’t want to attract birds/possums/rodents etc and encourage unnatural habits – but there’s not even an inside bin. Which isn’t to say that the cafe staff don’t dispose of rubbish left on tables by people who ‘didn’t see’ the signs… Anyway, we took our rubbish with us – it’s not like there was a lack of space in our backpacks!

And so here we were. The infamous 1000 Steps (of which I hear there are somewhat fewer than 1000 – I wasn’t counting though). Last time we battled our way up the old, narrow,  steep, slippery track with half of Melbourne’s population who are trying to get fit and a couple of bus loads of tourists on top of that. What was the new track going to be like?

Start of the 1000 Steps

Start of the 1000 Steps

I think I’ve been told that groups preparing to walk the Kokoda track come here to train. Have I mentioned that the old track is steep? The recent works done around this lower end of the park really emphasise our history on the Kokoda Track. There are information plaques along the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk – aka the ‘old’ 1000 Steps track – but with the human traffic it can be hard to take it in. Having large, dedicated areas down the bottom that you can read before or after your climb seems a good idea. It also gives you something to reflect on while you’re struggling up the hill.

Kokoda Memorial at the start of the 1000 Steps

One of the new Kokoda Memorials at the start of the 1000 Steps

And here it is – the spilt. Lyrebird (new 1000 Steps) on the left, the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk (aka the ‘old’ 1000 Steps) on the right.

1000 Steps vs Lyrebird Track

Kokoda Track Memorial Walk (aka 1000 Steps) vs Lyrebird Track (aka the new 1000 Steps)

We came to try out the new path, so that’s what we chose. I was surprised at the number of people still heading up the old path. It hasn’t been wet lately – I wonder if that makes a lot of difference? You won’t catch me going up there in the wet. Even with a handrail, those old, mossy, sloped steps do not make me feel safe. In comparison, the steps of the new track – though not as wide as we’d expected – are level, deep and moss free.

The new path is 700m longer than the old one (2.5km vs 1.8km), although both are rated as ‘Steep’. And since you get a choice between stairs and path on the Lyrebird Track, after a short while I found the track was definitely easier! As long as you keep to the one line and be aware that you’re sharing the path, it’s pretty good. But still quite a way up. And these signs along the way don’t help. I’ve no idea what they’re measuring. The track is 2.5km long, but the post at the top says 15oom… it’s not elevation – the top of the track is not quite 500m above sea level.

Mission accomplished we left the sweaty masses behind and wandered up the last 100m (if that) of the track back to the One Tree Hill car park. By this stage lunch on top of the hill was sounding really nice (we only stopped for a quick snack at the cafe below) and as previously mentioned, there are open and sheltered picnic tables as well as BBQ’s and facilities up top here too.

Full circuit

Full circuit

Unfortunately I’m still having issues with embedding our Garmin details, but if you’re interested in a good walk around the Dandenongs, please check it out here – and don’t forget to take a copy of your walk directions with you!

: )


8 Comments

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries exhibition, Rippon Lea Estate, VIC – 24 Nov 2013

Did you know that not only has the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries exhibition at Rippon Lea Estate been extended to 1 December 2013 (due to popular demand) but also that photography is now permitted?!

Well, WE didn’t! At least, not until we looked it up today (for the first part) and not until we arrived there (for the second part)!!

To explain, my younger sister and her fiancé are visiting from interstate for the weekend and, having seen my previous post on Rippon Lea and being a Miss Fisher fan, asked if we could visit Rippon Lea today.

Had I but known photography was now allowed we would definitely have taken proper cameras – instead, these are pics from Stephen and my iPhones. Apologies for the quality, but I hope you enjoy them all the same if you are unable to attend the exhibition for yourself.

: )


4 Comments

Rippon Lea House & Gardens – Oct 2013

Rippon Lea – another in the ‘Haven’t you been there yet?’ places now ticked off our to-do list!

Lawn side of the mansion

Lawn-side of Rippon Lea mansion

Frederick Sargood certainly left a fantastic mansion and beautifully designed grounds. The whole of the estate is currently managed by the National Trust.

The prompt for this visit was the current exhibition of some of the costumes used in Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries. The second of the TV series based on the books by Kerry Greenwood is currently being shown on ABC1 of a Friday night – the traditional who-dunnit time slot. Rippon Lea is used in a number of the television episodes as different locations, depending on which part view of the mansion is being filmed. Very clever. Also, I would say,  the reason, why the costumes are being exhibited there.

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on ABC TV – “Who says crime doesn’t play?”

We chose to visit on a Saturday, which meant we a) had a chance at parking within 1km of the entrance gate and b) were able to wander into the mansion to see the costumes when we arrived, instead of being allocated a set entry time. Had we gone the following day, when Kerry Greenwood was attending a high tea there, I can only imagine the nightmare that parking would have been and battling the crowds that came to flood the mansion and grounds to see her and the costumes – despite the prediction of showers through the day. I’m a fan of the books and TV series… but I’m quite averse to crowds.

Not unexpectedly, photography was not allowed inside the mansion, but believe me when I say the place is very grand. The photos on the website are better than mine would have been anyway. As for the costumes (mostly gowns and hats for the lead character, Miss Phryne Fisher), it was very interesting to see them up close. To really appreciate them as fashion though, watch the TV series!

Phryne Fisher

Essie Davis as Phryne Fisher

We re-emerged into a bright sunny (warm!) day to explore the grounds. I’d been told that Rippon Lea is a popular location for weddings and I have now seen exactly why.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We wandered around, exploring the different areas of the grounds – the fernery, orchard, windmill, the ponds/lakes, and yet we didn’t see everything. I guess we’ll just have to go back again!

With a picnic next time!
: )


2 Comments

National Rhododendron Gardens – 21 Sep 2013

“Again?” I hear you ask. Yes, I’m afraid so. But stick with me; it’s a short post (which is how it’s jumped ahead of a couple of others) and it’ll be our last visit to the National Rhododendron Gardens for a while, I think. As beautiful and ever-changing as the gardens are, I think after this trip we can tick the box that says ‘Done’ for now.

We didn’t think we could tick that box off before for two reasons: 1) last trip we were too early for the cherry blossoms and 2) we also hadn’t seen the rhododendrons in flower!

Well, no more dear people! Feast you eyes upon these photos and sigh (possibly with relief) for there are cherry blossoms (though not nearly quite as many as we had imagined), rhododendrons (many more than we had imagined) and other flowers brightening the park with colour everywhere you care to look!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Not previously being very familiar with rhododendrons, I was thinking to myself that a lot of them looked quite like azaleas. It turns out that azaleas are of the genus Rhododendron! That would explain it.

The promise of cherry blossoms and reasonable weather drew plenty of people to the park yesterday, and we (like many others) had to park down the side-road a way and walked back up to the entrance. (Note: if you go, wear sneakers at least. I saw more than one lady with shoes she probably didn’t plan to get mud over.) Today they’re expecting 4,000 visitors to the park! I wonder where they’re going to park their cars…

: )