Do you remember how I said this post would be about my recent Grampians trip? It isn’t. Mind you, I guess you’ve worked this out already by the title and photo of a non-Grampians waterfall?
No, I’ll get around to it, as the walk I was going to write about has one major problem. I was going to take one particular photo on the day, which was vital for the post, but due to fatigue/imminent heart attack I forgot. So, just to please you and my other half dozen readers, I’m going up there again to take said photo and throw in another day of wandering at the same time.
Okay, so why haven’t I done it? Weather mainly. There’s no way I’m going to the Grampians when it’s stinkin’ hot for two reasons. I may melt into a puddle of sweat and oversized shorts and secondly, the place seems to catch fire every summer. I can barely make it to the gents in a hurry, let alone outrun a bush fire.
So, this time you’re going to get another bog-standard Dandenong Ranges walk. Oh yeah, I know you’ll hate to hear it once again, but it’s another from the infamous (but now out of print) GT, ‘Daywalks Around Melbourne’. I really wish he’d made that book 50 walks instead of 100. Clearly he’s a sadist. Actually, come to think of it. I really should just cut and paste this paragraph for the next 50 walks and save me the trouble of writing it each time.
This wander was another mid-winter job. It’s main aim was to visit Olinda Falls via a bit of random loop action. At less than 7 km it would be a doddle. I think. I certainly approached it that way, including how to get to the start.
Referring to my dog-eared tome, it told me to begin at ‘Mechanics Reserve’. Being from another jurisdiction of the west, I didn’t have a clue where this reserve was, so I did what everyone else does (do they?). I entered the location into Google maps and the dulcet tones of a woman who sounds like she’s trying to shake off an overdose of Valium, immediately gave me directions.
Where am I going with this? You know exactly what happened. I powered across the vast width of Melbourne’s suburbs and after a decade, arrived in the Dandenong Ranges area.
I was attentive to my drug addled friend, as she told me to follow one road and turn down another. It was going great until she said I was at Mechanics Reserve, but when I looked around I appeared to be in the middle of the bush with not a sign of carpark to be seen anywhere. Huh?
Running my fist through my non-beard, I let loose with a few standard expletives, before deciding to head back to the main road in order to work out what the hell was going on.
Oh, but it wasn’t that easy. I’d ended up on a dirt and gravelly road, facing a short steep hill. Throw in the fact it was wet and I wondered how I was going to clear an inclination in front of me that looked more wall, than hill.
In the end, I channelled 20 year old Fiasco Man and tackled it the way I would’ve, way back last century. I planted the foot. Gripping the wheel in the ten to three position and keeping my black magic (that’s the car) in second gear, I launched up this slippery slope.
Full Ari Vatanen mode was employed, as I fish-tailed upwards. I had so much mojo going on, I reckon if the hill was longer, I could have got some serious air time as I cleared the peak. You know what though? Front wheel drive is never as much fun as rear wheel drive when the car’s sliding.
Anyway, I was glad I hadn’t recently washed the car as it was now putrid, but at least I was on bitumen. I could release the grip of my long lost 20 year old bloke and return to the current calm, law abiding, fat bastard.
Amongst all this crap, there was the still my main problem. Where’s Mechanics Reserve? I’m not joking, but I think I lost about 45 minutes looking for it. Due to its name, I assumed it was an actual reserve you calmly drive into and park your car in its orderly parking bays.
Little did I know, but where I was meant to start was no such thing. It’s actually a dirt patch on Mt Dandenong Tourist Road and I don’t even think it’s there for walkers. The reason why I ponder this is because there’s a pre-school at the spot and all the cars lined up were from the pre-school people.
Local knowledge is a wonderful thing, but for us outsiders, I think GT could have explained it a bit better. As I parked my car I let loose with a few more fruitier expletives. All aimed at GT, but that’s not new. I do this at least once on all his walks.
Oh, I think I over-relied on Google maps slightly and really, if you’re going to be led astray, could it be Monica Bellucci’s voice leading me there, rather than the Valium woman? You’d still end up in the wrong spot, but at least it would have an erotic overtone, rather than being lost with a soft sausage at the same time.
Okay, I’d found the ‘start’. How was I going to tackle this short wander? Due the possibility of an impressive winter waterfall, I needed a tripod. In my last post, I’d carried a little lightweight number, but as I mentioned in that entry, it was a bit of a compromise in its height.
This walk though was shortish, so I opted to take the big boy, full-blown Manfrotto. I’ve no idea how much it weighs, other than a lot. Strolling along with it in one hand doesn’t cut it. Frequent changes of position, hand and occasionally over the shoulder like a mortar tube is the only way.
By now it was early afternoon and with the short winter day, I had to get cracking. I peered into the darkness of Mechanics Track…
…and headed in. Immediately, I was in a world of ferns.
Whilst hemmed in by vegetation, the track descended, crossing a creek a few times…
…and passing enormous fallen trees. Diligent clean up crews had cleared this whopper…
…although others remained and required a bit of bending to avoid being knocked out.
I stopped to take some photos of the creek water, but there wasn’t enough muscle in the flow for any amazing shots.
Weaving between ferns, it’s quite a nice bit of track, with the occasional man-made item appearing here and there. Like this old sign…
…and a cage. Cage? No idea, but that’s what it looked like.
Wandering on, I popped out onto Falls Road…
…before crossing over and continuing down the track.
It was along here I had an interesting encounter. At quite some distance I spotted a lyrebird fossicking on the track. Eager to get a photo and not scare him, I took a few photos from afar. It was a bit dark amongst the trees though, so it’d be better if I could get closer. I began to creep forward, stop, take a picture and then repeat.
I’ve no idea if this lyrebird was extremely mellow around people, deaf or just couldn’t give a toss, as it didn’t seem to move, no matter how close I was getting. In the end it got ridiculous, as I had to go around him as he was hogging the path. Talk about a waste of stalking time.
Leaving the worlds calmest bird behind, I continued following the track, which was now alongside Olinda Creek. There was a bit more water flowing, so it had photo potential. At one point, I found quite a good spot, but it meant dropping down a small embankment.
As I stepped down, my boot refused to adhere on the wet surface and consequently with massive tripod and camera attached, I lost balance and promptly went arse up. Two bodies were involved in falling. The camera and me. Clearly, the most important one is the camera, so in my plummet onto mud, I somehow managed to stick the tripod upright, release it so it was left standing and only then could I work out how not to prolapse most of my spine.
In the end, I came to rest. Lying on wet sticks, mud and leaves, which during my tumble had partially covered me. As I looked up at the tripod standing proudly upright, with camera peering in my direction, I suddenly felt like I was in a scene from Auto Focus.
Anyway, with the stream quietly burbling next to me and ferns above, it was quite peaceful and I could have lay there for a while. I did. For about 10 seconds. The reason for my haste to hop up was the sudden thought of leeches. Under ferns? Wet? Near water? It was potential leech central. I had to get up.
Wiping crap off me, I went into mild phobia behaviour, where I thought my 10 second sojourn was more than enough time for about one million leeches to leap onto my head. Running my hands through my hair, every object I found was clearly a leech. They weren’t though, but I was surprised to find a comb in my hair. I must have accidently left it there in the morning before leaving.
You know how it is though with these things? The slightest movement on the body is perceived as the end of the world. ‘What’s that? Something moved against my ear. Oh no, it’s leech entering my ear and heading straight for my brain!’ Until you check and it’s a bit of bark.
Oh, after all this, I did get a photo of the stream. I hope you enjoy it, as I almost lost my life to get it.
Clambering back up the slippery embankment took about two hours, as clearly the sole on my leather boots have long lost their grip. Eventually though, I made it up and immediately saw this fern against a tree. I thought it looked quite good in the contrast to the bark behind it.
A short walk later I was above Olinda Falls. There are two viewing areas, so I went to the highest first for a bit of a look. I’d been to this waterfall before, but it was in summer a few years back and generally it was failing in its main job of water, falling.
This time though it was looking pretty good. I’ve no idea if it could look better? Maybe back in the day when that old bloke collected all the animals? The resulting rainfall would have really fired up Olinda Falls then. Hang on, what did he do with the termites in his boat? So many questions, but never any answers.
At the higher spot, I set up the tripod and tinkered a bit…
…but although an overall view was pretty good, the vegetation was in the way. Maybe I needed secateurs like a photographer I know? What’s with that? Can’t get the view, so they remove branches and leaves. Seems to be missing the point when you’re after a nature photograph, but what do I know?
I decided to head down to the second lookout and it’s probably the better of the two. The main difference is there’s a heap of stairs, so it gives the lungs a quick workout.
Once down there, it certainly looked more impressive than my summer trip…
…and nothing beats a bit of log refuse for adding something to the view.
A rock area sat above one part of the falls and I thought I should go up there and check it out. After tumbling about ten minutes prior, do you reckon I took every step around the water insanely carefully? I was like one of those blokes on a tight-rope. Arms outstretched, gingerly easing myself around. It was worth it though for a different view.
This was all well and good, but I knew there was a final lookout, which sits at a different angle and looks up the creek. I wandered over to it and was setting up, when I heard a couple of people coming down the hill. There was the potential they’d get in the way, so I was trying to do things as quickly as possible.
I may have thought this, but when I sighted the pair, I actually stopped, instead of working flat out. They both appeared to have stepped straight from the front gate of Max Yasgur’s dairy farm, circa 1969, and walked straight onto the steps of Olinda Falls.
Besides being what looked like parodies of hippies, they were also toting what I believe were hula-hoops. Now, I don’t have extensive hula-hoop knowledge, but I remember other kids having them in 1972.
I’ve never tried one, as generally any rhythm in my hips is disturbing. If I’m dancing, most people are preparing to call an ambulance, as they’re misled into thinking I’m suffering a seizure. I blame this on my hips being too high off the ground, which in turn, affects my centre of gravity. Generally, I have to remain bolt upright as if I’d accidently sat on a broom handle, otherwise I’ll topple and end up like one of those large trees you saw earlier.
Anyway, the freaks were full of rarefied mountain air until they saw me. Unfortunately for them, I think I cramped their style, as immediately they turned un-freak-like and a little sullen. Sorry chaps, but I need to take photos for this stinkin’ blog! I aimed up the creek and took the required image.
Sure it may look identical to the photo at the top, but I can assure you it’s not. Okay, it might look similar, as I didn’t move the camera or alter the settings, otherwise it’s completely different.
Feeling like I’d ruined the free love of the moment, I began packing up to leave, so they could get grooving in peace. The thing is though, they appeared so traumatised by my presence they left before I’d packed up. Was I that ugly? Was it my shirt that I use to hike, but rarely wash? Did I create a stench overload? No idea, but they were gone and tragically most of all, the hula-hoops hadn’t been hula-ed.
With the major view of the day done, it was now a matter of not a lot. It was one of those walks where I continued to walk downhill, knowing full well, I’d have to turnaround somewhere and regain all that lost height.
There were other photo opportunities though. How about this fungi?
I’d swear it was wasabi in a little sea-shell container. I didn’t taste it though, so I can’t be sure.
Actually, it reminds of a work lunch where we went to some smorgasbord place. Amongst the vast benches of food sat the Japanese section and a bloke on my table came back with a pyramid of food, plus a mound of wasabi. Roughly the size of my fist.
I remember looking at him and thinking, ‘Wow! He loves his hot stuff!’. I watched as he put what looked like a table spoon of the green lethality onto a biscuit looking thing and without hesitating, shove it in his gob.
There was a brief pause, which was then followed by a sound. Audibly it was similar to a kettles whistle and interestingly, it was coming from his ears. After about ten minutes of assistance being given, such as multiple slaps on the back (I’d preferred to have given some to the face) and copious amounts of water there was a muted voice. It sounded like he’d just been given the Boston Strangler treatment.
In stops and starts he spluttered, “This shit’s hot”.
“Yeah, I know. That’s its job. It’s wasabi”.
“What’s that? I thought it was dip”.
So there you go. Definitely the highlight of that work lunch.
Back in the Dandenongs, I wandered on and this next item caught my eye. I don’t know about you, but I reckon someone has stuck this feather in the tree. It doesn’t look very natural to me. I can’t imagine a passing bird leaving part of his outfit behind in this fashion, but maybe it’s something else? Had I just come across a rare species of flying tree?
I wandered on and reached Barbers Road. Yeah, I know it looks like the same photo as Falls Road earlier in the post, but it is a different place. It just seems all roads in the Dandenongs are designed in an identical manner.
I ambled along the road, lugging the tripod, whilst occasionally jumping out the way of passing vehicles. I had to stay attentive, as I needed to find VW Track, which would lead me all the way back to the start. I’d read somewhere it was a bit overgrown, so I was keeping my eyes peeled.
I did find it, but I’m not sure how? It wasn’t sign-posted, but there must have been something to identify it. Tape? Cairn? I can’t remember, but go easy on me. My job is to recall in detail more important things, like the wasabi incident.
VW Track was a bit of a prick. I was unfit and its non-stop rise hurt a little. Hang on, what am I saying? I may have been unfit in winter, but I’m even more unfit now. Actually, I think I was last fit in 1993. The days when I’d run around the streets like a wanker, carrying a brick in either hand, grimacing audibly and toting a crew-cut. Am I the same person? Bizarre. I was fit though.
The track was a bit overgrown, but not too bad. The only thing with a bit of snagging bush was the tripod catching on everything. In the end, the only way to avoid this was the mortar tube position over the shoulder. Up the track climbed…
…until finally it levelled out onto something more gentlemanly. Barges Track.
It was nice to walk on something flat for a minute, as it felt like all the wandering for the day had been either downhill or uphill. My knees were reminding me of this every few seconds.
Light was fading fast, so I had to motor along. It’s hard though when possible photo opportunities appear. Like this cockatoo feather.
In the grand scheme of things, there was a bit of different track wandering until I came back to Falls Road. Then it was a matter of following Mechanics Track back uphill to the car.
Light was practically gone, but the advantage of the tripod is I could continue taking photos. It made for slow going though, but I felt I had to capture this curled fern…
…and some more fungi. This is more of the cauliflower variety. Less stressful if you put a huge scoop on a biscuit compared to the green stuff earlier.
With the small creek nearby, I thought I should take at least one more photo, before legging it up to the car.
As I reached the road, twilight was vanishing fast. I’ve no idea how, but I’d timed it perfectly and another walk from the infernal book was toast. After this, all I had to do was buckle up and drive a thousand miles back to the western suburbs. Phew!
Summing up, Olinda Falls, Dandenong Ranges National Park is a nice walk. At 8 km, it’s not long and perfect in winter when the creeks are flowing.
Dare I say it? The next post might be a Grampians one…