Sunday, 5 April 2009

Grampians National Park, Mount Arapiles and Ballarat

The Grampians mountain range is not famed for its height, but for the awe-inspiring sandstone rock formations, deep gullies and chilled out bush walking.

Our trip from the Great Ocean Road to Halls Gap wasn't quite so chilled out. With the windows down and driving at 40 miles an hour, a big spider (at least 5cm long with the legs) began crawling into the car. Gripped with sheer terror, Andy could barely speak and struggled to point out the intruder. Jen came to the rescue and flicked the spider out of the car. We think it might be a Huntsman or a Wolf Spider – both totally harmless. Regardless, we now drive with the windows closed.

The following day, we went on a cool walk to the Pinnacle. It's a rock outcrop superbly positioned on a ridge in the north Grampians. On the way there, we walked through the Grand Canyon and Silent Street. The latter is a very narrow gully that you have to squeeze through on the way to the summit.

Yesterday we drove for a couple of hours to Mount Arapiles, the home of climbing in Australia with over 2,000 routes on this small hill. From the top, the parched bush stretches to the horizon in all directions.

We've spent the last 36 hours in Ballarat, a former gold mining town which looks straight out of a western film. Surprisingly, Lake Wendouree in the centre of the town hosted the rowing events of the 1956 Olympics. The lake has been dry since October 2006.

Our animal count has increased with sightings of kangaroos, emus, kookaburras (one was snatching a pie from an unsuspecting tourist), eastern rosellas and sulphur-crested cockatoos.