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Published: December 25th 2017
Geo: -37.1538, 142.512
Victoria: Thursday 7th Tower Hill to Thursday !4th at Halls Gap in the Grampians
We continued along the coast visiting the 12 Apostles, London Bridge etc, all features produced by the weathering of the limestone cliffs. It is an interesting drive, so much so that one day we only managed to travel 50 miles instead of the 100 we had planned. En route we visited an artisan cheesery (we tasted 9 cheeses and came away with 2 - delicious) and then a chocolate maker. Surprisingly (and to those who know we are chocoholics) that visit was most disappointing as they seemed to put liquorice in everything.
At Mait's Rest we did a walk through bush consisting of a mix of plants but predominately tall tree ferns, very different from the Australian bush I had expected.
Then we reached Tower Hill which is a magical place - a lost world in an extinct crater. Actually looks are deceiving as it was used as a quarry and lost most of its flora and fauna but local conservationists have done a miraculous job of restoration. The road is one way through the reserve with a small information centre in the middle. From there it
Where we saw penguins come ashore at sunset
is possible to walk round the rim or through a lava swamp area. I think we drove through at least 7 times as well as doing walks as there was always something to see. Apart from the ever present kangaroos, emus and koalas there were birds and we even saw a small turtle laying eggs.
The campsite was close by in what advertised itself as an " historical Irish village" called Koroit. It is pretty with many of the cottage style houses having traditional cottage gardens with lots of roses and other flowers which I think (but don't know much about this) were old varieties. All the names were Irish and they have an Irish festival every April.Not sure if it was the old style roses but I had a severe attack of hay fever so in need of a long drink we visited the Irish pub, The beer was very good but at about £11 for 2 pints it needed to be. The wind was still from the Southern Ocean so still very cold, especially at night. We had to put the spare bed cushions (intended for a child in the upper berth but I think it would constitute
abuse to make anybody sleep in such a small space) against the windows to give extra insulation and stop the cold air pouring down. It worked reasonably well!
When we left Koroit we spotted a reference to a gannet colony in a book so headed there. It is meant to be the largest on the Australian mainland but it looks as though the bit on the coast is really only an overspill as the main part of the colony is on an island just of the land. Because of overcrowding some birds have moved onshore. We were very excited at the idea of visiting so we set off in the right direction.
Unfortunately, whichever way we turned we ended up in a very large aluminium smelting complex. Eventually I persuaded Jim to drive into the main reception area to ask for directions, which a friendly security man provided, but not until he had introduced us to a little black wallaby joey whose mother had been killed and the guard is taking care of until it can be released into the wild. I am not sure that will happen as they seem to have bonded. When we drove away the joey
was following him hanging onto his trousers just like a toddler with his mother.
So we followed the instructions. The 50 metres of rough track turned into 3 kilometres (we are not allowed to travel more than 500 metres on unsurfaced roads). We stuck it out til we reached the end of the road. What the man had failed to tell us was that to reach the colony it was necessary to cross a live firing range - and the red flag was flying. At this point we lost our intrepid explorers badge because we gave up. I still can't believe the 2 signs - one to the gannets, the other saying No Entry.
After one night rough camping on ground by a local cricket pitch (legal we think) we reached Halls Gap in the Grampian National Park. The site here is very modern with private bathrooms - luxury! As we are in the midst of a small mountain area there are plenty of views and walks. Even better the wind is now from the north so it is HOT. 30 degrees celsius by day and between 18 - 22 at night. No more insulation or even night attire required.
the Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre. It tells the story of the local Aboriginal populations (at least 2 distinct groups). I found it interesting but also very disturbing as although I know the boriginal peoples were badly treated< I had not realised the extent of the oppression. The local groups have been traced back in the area for 40,000 years, and 1,600 generations. They were not nomadic but built shelters and lived in groups of 100 to 150ish. They had social networks so met up at different times for trade, to arrange marriages outside their own group etc. and they "farmed" the land in a way that sustained the flora and fauna. When Europeans (mainly British) arrived they took over the land by declaring it "terra nullis", that is belonging to no-one as they did not recognise the landscape as being farmed. But in fact the areas of pasture that made it so attractive to them had been produced by firestick farming, burning off selected areas in rotation to provide the right kind of grazing for the wild animals that the local people then hunted. They built complex water control systems to trap eels etc. It was a much more complex
society than the picture of nomadic hunter gatherers usually portrayed, and which may be more accurate in relation to groups in more arid, barren areas but certainly not in the south east of Australia.
The new arrivals not only brought diseases which affected the people but they set up Missions which the Board for the Protection of Aborigines made them all live in (away from their lands), gave them Christian names, stopped them using their own language, stopped them making and wearing possum skin cloaks (which protected them in winter) and finally, took many children away from their families and gave them into white families. Although there is now a Treaty in place to improve the position of the Aboriginal peoples, there is very little evidence of it working as they come at the bottom of all the negative measures in present day society eg life expectancy, education, health, wealth etc. At the day to day level the situation seems to be ignored and interestingly the centre only had a couple of Australian visitors whilst we were in, young people in their early twenties, and they were not behaving in a respectful way to the exhibits to say the least. I
very nearly found myself in a confrontation I was so angry! The centre certainly presents a lot to think about.
It describes how the definition of what constitutes an Aboriginal life style consists of "connections" to the land in a certain area and everything on it and to the community and extended families. For me that was useful to understand how they can survive in the modern world but also be part of it.
The camp site at Halls Gap is very good apart from not so much being "Lakeside" as under the water level below the retaining wall. I tried not to think about it.
Next we are moving east to Maryborough where we plan to rough camp if we can find a recognised area. The risk is a fine for sleeping in an unrecognised spot!
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