Well, day walking is again on the menu. It was Boxing Day and I felt beefier than usual, due to the previous days activities. I was quite keen to have a look at Werribee Gorge again, seeing how on my last trip I didn’t actually get to walk at all. On my previous visit, all I got to see were a few carparks, but they didn’t really do it for me.
I wheeled out the ‘Daywalks Around Melbourne’ book again. A stroll to Ironbark Gorge via Western Bluff, Werribee Gorge State Park appealed. Although rated as Moderate/Difficult, it was only 5 km long. It might sound a little short, but it’s an improvement on my previous walk, which was about 250 metres.
I’m quite interested in Werribee Gorge, as it seems totally untouched and the Parks Victoria handout says it’s 500 million years old. That’s sounds like a long time? It leaves me a little confused though, as when I went to school I was told the world is only 6000 years old. Then again I was also taught about some old bloke who rounded up animals when it started raining one day. I could never work out where he kept the termites on his wooden boat though?
Oh well. The Glenn Tempest book throws in a great quote about the gorge, “…There are some excellent lookouts and the gorge is unexpectedly spectacular…” Unexpectedly? My interpretation of that sentence is, “Look, I know you think this is going to be crap, but it’s actually not too bad.”
Right. I had the book telling me the proposed walk is mainly untracked, but easy to follow. A case of following a path to Western Bluff and then a steep descent to the base of Werribee Gorge. I was feeling organised this time, as I also had the Parks Victoria handout with me. Then again, I’m not sure why, as it doesn’t actually list the walk at all.
Last of all, I had the official ‘Victoria’s Parks’ map of the area, which has the start of the walk to a lookout on Western Bluff and then this quote, ‘Walking track continues to Werribee River. Stop when descent gets steep – Private Land.’ Hang on. ‘Walking track continues but stop’ Does that make any sense at all? Can I walk there or not?
Consulting Glenn’s book (notice first name basis now? I can’t be bothered writing his whole name any more) there’s a blurb, which says, although it’s private land, walkers are currently allowed access. That’s a bonus as I didn’t want to get shot by an irate farmer whilst walking on ‘his land’. Right, that’s enough crapping on. Time to get walking.
I’d only walked about ten feet on Western Bluff track when I noticed a kookaburra feather on the ground. I don’t see them too often, so it was worthy of a photo.
It was comfortable walk early on, but whilst still high above the gorge, I noticed some dark clouds looming near the Island, which is another part of Werribee Gorge. It was quite warm though and I was working up a sweat quite quickly. Actually, getting out of the car got me sweating.
At one point I looked to my side and noticed a short furry thing. I was a little startled at first, as I’m constantly on the lookout for rogue Yowies. I’m not sure a Yowie is meant to be one metre tall though.
It was actually one of a group of sheep, who appeared not to have been shorn since 1952. This group were definitely the founders of the group, ‘Wool Central’. Once, I remember going to a shearing exhibition (I do get around to some interesting stuff. Ask me about Provocation one day) and hearing from a farmer about the occasional sheep who escapes to the hills. When they eventually turn up, the wool is completely out of control. I’m wondering if this wool clan were escapees. Then again I don’t have extensive wool knowledge, so it may be normal.
I soon reached a point where the ‘steep descent’ began. There were some good lookouts on the way and my notes were right, it is unexpectedly spectacular. The gorge really stands out from the surrounding cleared land at the rim. Now it was a matter of looking down and staying upright.
I had my walking sticks with me and they were a big help in bracing my knees, as there were plenty of rocks and loose dirt to send me off balance. There were the occasional orange triangle attached to trees on the way, but the route ended up being quite obvious.
Slowly wandering down, I came to a point where the minimal path vanished. I had quite a vertical drop to my left which gave me a lovely view. Ahead, the terrain was quite rugged with a ridge narrowing in front of me. I could have gone across it, but I wasn’t too sure. A rough track was to my right and it appeared to have been used regularly, so I decided to give it a go. It led down to a creek bed, which was as good as anything, as it would then lead to the bottom of the gorge.
I was soon stomping over the standard fare of a creek bed with steep sides. A lot of rocks and branches, choked parts of the creek, so it was a bit slow going. Eventually I reached the bottom and now had to cross the Werribee River in order to reach a foot track on the other side. I was facing a large pool of water, so I began looking for a crossing point.
The river isn’t very wide, but it was hard to find the best spot to slip across. At first, I couldn’t find any rocks to use and there was a lot of long grass and bushes near the waters edge blocking access. Crashing through the vegetation I saw a large stick in front of me, which then happened to move. It wasn’t the rare ‘moving stick’, but a decent sized snake. It slithered off into the long grass, which made me careful of my foot placement from then on! The walking sticks are handy for these occasions. A bit of probing here and there is easier with the stick, than the alternative being my foot.
I found a spot where I could stumble across. Stumble I did, as I was reminded of what happens when one steps on black rocks in a river. They’re slippery! I had a bit of foot slippage with my left foot sending my boot into the water. With my foot in the water, I went for the full-steam-ahead approach and managed to get across without any further dampness. I now worked my way up to a spot called Needles Beach, which is a reasonable sized sand bank overlooking a large pool of water. It’s popular on hot days apparently and it did look inviting for a swim.
The first people I’d seen for the day were a couple sitting on the ‘beach’ having a snack. What I find interesting is I didn’t take one photo of Needles Beach. What happened there? I reckon anyone reading this would find the beach interesting and would want to see what it looks like. Well, sorry, I ballsed up. If you have a portable Hubble telescope at home you can see the beach in the first photo I posted at the start of this entry.
I think the people munching away cramped my style, as I’m not one to take nature photos with a couple of mugs sitting right in the middle of the shot. I did take some water photos to keep you happy though.
Now, I had to look for my return leg of the walk, which was Ironbark Gorge. It’s untracked, so I could imagine some more slow walking. First I had to find it though and guess what? It’s was on the other side of the river again, so I had to find a spot to re-cross. I walked up a rough track with vertical rock on one side and a lot trees and bushes on the other, until I found a spot to rock hop across.
Once across, it was a matter of back tracking a little until I came to the start of Ironbark Gorge. On the way though, I noticed a million butterflies flying about. I was trying to get a few photos…
…but they didn’t sit still for long. A couple of pictures are passable, but they made a habit of sitting in grass, which made the whole photo taking a little bit harder.
Finding the gorge entrance, I now had an ankle twisting climb, back to my starting point. The gradient looked quite acceptable though, compared to the steep descent I had to get to the bottom.
It had a fairly uninspiring look to it. After rain, I can imagine it might be entertaining with water rushing down to Werribee River. On this occasion, it was dry and the walking consisted of clambering over rocks and fallen trees.
I slowly began walking uphill. It was quite warm and the surrounding light was rubbish for photo taking. No blue sky, but instead a cover of bright, white cloud, which produced an annoying glare. This sort of light absolutely washes any colour or detail out of photos and when I perused the photos later, I felt pretty non-plussed about the results.
Anyway, I did notice the odd bone in the gorge. I guess anything from the surrounding hills would eventually make its way to the bottom and it was interesting checking out what was littered along the way. I was hoping to find some sign of D.B. Cooper, but I wasn’t that lucky. Not even part of his parachute.
There’s no phone coverage within the gorge, but I must have hit reception at some stage, as suddenly my phone in my backpack went berserk. It seemed as if I was suddenly the most popular bloke in the world, as message after message came in. I decided to stop and have a look, but it appeared phone reception was only in a one metre radius. One step outside the magical one metre and it vanished.
It gave me a chance to have a breather though, as I was starting to huff and puff up the steady incline. Time to have a drink of water and ponder the Kivik three-seater sofa in the new 2011 IKEA catalogue. It seemed to be a pretty good price for $699 but I’m not sure about the light colour. What do you reckon?
After planning my couch shopping, I packed up continued to slog upwards. I ended up having one minor fall on the way. I stood on a rock, which gave way leaving me falling backwards into a tree. Lucky the tree was there otherwise it could have been really ugly. A minor bruise on the back of the leg wasn’t too bad a result.
Eventually, I came across a path, which leads to the elusive ‘Falcons Lookout’. I considered going to have a look at it, but I felt too hot and tired, so I raised the white flag. Head to the car big boy was the thought. I had a short steep climb uphill before hearing a train go by. Then I knew I’d left wilderness. The train line from Melbourne to Ballarat goes past the start of the walk. I then saw my car and was glad to disrobe a little.
A check of the GPS told me that the length of the walk was 5.19 kilometres. Again, I’m not setting the world on fire here! The total elevation climbed was 227 metres. How can such a small amount of height climbed create so much sweat? Well, it was a short distance as a walk, but it was slow going due to the terrain. I think that sums up gorge walking. Lots of rocks and trees to stumble over with no real path. I did find it quite unexpectedly spectacular. Where have I heard that before?
Anyway, I plan to come back and force Ben to do the long walk in Werribee Gorge, which is a complete circuit of about 10 km in length. I want to share the pain with him on that one! I was soon heading home with the iPod playing ‘It’s No Good (Club 69 Future Mix) by Depeche Mode. The ‘Remixes 81 – 04’ of course…