Southern Gorge Walk, Lerderderg State Park

Remember in the last post how it was May in September? I was writing up my May walks four months after the event? Well, that was then and this is now, as I’ve decided to change my mind and tackle something I only strolled a few weeks back.

Why the change? No idea really, other than this has become one of my favourite walks for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was my first tilt at putting one foot in front of the other since a bit of a hiatus and secondly, it’s wonderfully bonkers in only the way a walk into Lerderderg Gorge can be. How so? Have a look at the walk profile off my GPS and you can see what I mean.


What the hell is going on with the bit in the middle? I’ll get to that later. The Southern Gorge Walk might have only taken four hours, but one couldn’t ask for more. River wading, snakes, a lung bursting incline, knee popping decline and rogue rubbish was all enough to make a man emotional. Even more so than when Wayne Gardner won the inaugural 500 cc race at Phillip Island in 1989. Oh, and the birth of my son. I better include that in the emotional list.

How did this come about? Well, the walk had sat on my Lerderderg Gorge ‘to do’ list for a while. Other than making up my own, I think I’m done with the place. The notes I followed were from the discontinued GT book, ‘Daywalks Around Melbourne‘. That publication is a bit long in the tooth, but it’s still a handy book, so it’s a pity it’s not around any more. Anyway, as the walk was less than 10 km I’d forgotten about it, until I noticed Anna had written about the same stroll in her blog post titled, ‘Lerderderg – Southern Gorge Walk’.

I knew what I was in for, as last year, during the conclusion of the Scenic Rim, I’d descended Link Track No.1 last year . Oh yeah, by the way, is there a duller named track in the history of mankind? I guess the track naming committee thought they were on a good thing, as to get to Link Track No.1 I’d have to ascend, yes, you guessed it, Link Track No.2. I think the committee was taking the piss or maybe they were just plain old pissed off their heads?

I hadn’t been to Lerderderg Gorge since May (how did you guess?) and on that occasion the river was dry as a chip, so it was nice to see it damp enough, post-Winter, as I arrived at Mackenzies Flat. I noticed in Anna’s post, she got a little waylaid along the river, so elected to do the walk in reverse order to the notes and ascend Link Track No.1. I knew how stiff the climb would be, as descending it was bad enough on my knees, so I elected to follow the track notes and leave No.1 for last. How do you think I went?

Setting off, the wander up to Grahams Dam is pretty standard fare, which I’d done quite a few times before. I did meet a couple coming the other way and had a brief chat to the LOUDEST TALKER IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE. Honestly, he could get a job as a fog horn. With ringing ears, I continued on, criss-crossing the river a few times. I even took some pictures.


The rock pools were looking rather reflective on the clear, sunny day…


…and I included the photo above to show you why the protruding stick seemed to be surrounded by golden water in the next picture. I can’t help it if the orange coloured rocks reflect the way they do.


Things were going quite well and I was maintaining my traditional Lerderderg River concentration. Without fail, I’ll be strolling along and find my way blocked by a rock wall, necessitating a river crossing. Most times it was no more than knee deep and I’d long given up looking for some rocks to use to hop over. Straight through, boots and all is my only approach these days. Surely other walkers do the same? Does anyone actually stop and take their boots off or any of that palaver?


Okay, so crossing the river is standard fare, but what about another gorge tradition? Yep, it seems in the warmer months the place can be a bit of a snake pit. There I was stumbling over rocks, pushing through prickly bush and generally just trying to stay upright, when I spotted a snake, slumbering on the rocks and only about two steps away from having a size 48 to his guts. I’m not sure who crapped themselves more. I stopped mid-stride, cursing I wasn’t wearing a nappy and the snake went stage-right. Straight into the river.

It was a red bellied black and I must say, with some consternation seeing how I had done a few water crossings, they’re very fluent swimmers. Oh, none of this straight in and out business either. He went down under some rocks and snaked around them (because he’s a snake, he finds this easy) and then potted downstream for a while. I took the following picture during his casual swim.


No matter how many times I see a snake when walking, they always scare the crap out of me, partly because I never spot them from a distance. It’s always only a step away type of caper.

Recovering finally, I had the joy of another river crossing coming up and do you think I had a real ball, strolling through the water after that sighting? Actually, it was a real ball literally, as one of the river dawdles involved water lapping at my knackers. Really, if you’re having trouble waking up, then some snakes and shrinkage will get you jumping in no time.

Plodding on, I found a lovely rock pool where I took a quick breather…


…and spotted an object in the water. It’s glowing colour had me thinking I’d come across a long missed, alluvial gold nugget, which just happened to be the size of my head. As I waded closer, my eyeballs were rotating dollar signs, until I realised it was something worth a lot less.


If you carry your stinkin’ can of coke in, then surely it’s not a problem to carry it out, as it will be light and can be crushed to miniature size? Really, there should be daily whippings of litterers. I’d even open a food stall to satiate the attending punters, which would offer ‘caning coffee’ or for a snack a few ‘flagellation flans’. Mm… I’m thinking on my feet about this and it’s not too bad an idea. Let me put some more thought into it.

Anyway, continuing on, a deceptively nice piece of casual walking…


…led me to my trickiest piece of rock work for the day. A jumbled mass of rocks were in my way and a quick cross of the river to avoid it was discarded, as the water was deep and black. Even I’m not dumb enough to hop into water where I can’t see the bottom, so I commenced a creaky kneed assault on the boulders. I can tell you this. I wasn’t going to win any climbing style awards, as I clung onto little ledges like a bastard, really, really hoping my Vibram soles were adequate to the job. Actually, the following wide-angle photo is a little deceptive, as it looks like I’m a couple of inches off the ground, whereas everything to the left of the shot was quite some metres below…


My dubious technique was successful, as I cleared the rocks and found a narrow gap in the water to stroll across and look back at the boulders I’d edged my way over.


It was plain sailing now, as a large section of dry riverbed made for some easy walking…


Okay, hang on. Things were looking great, but within seconds I was scratching my head. Have a look at the photo above. See the two trees on the left? There’s a track marker at the bottom and I almost missed it. Strolling up, I had a perusal. Yes, this is marking the start of Link Track No.2.


Why should I almost pass this by and suddenly be a little confused? That’s because it’s in the wrong place. Well, according to the map I was carrying, what my topographic map on my GPS indicated, GT’s notes and goddamn it, the official Parks Vic map of the area, Link Track No.2 does not start at Emergency Marker LER504. It’s meant to begin about 400 metres further up stream, around a distinct, broad bend in the river.

Was I on Candid Camera? Was Allen Funt about to hop out from behind a tree? Was my mother right all along? Are we really being controlled by the Royal Family for a lifetime of misery (damn that needs its own post)? Don’t worry people, I thoroughly analysed the marker and it says it’s Link Track No.2.

Oh well, I’m glad I brought all those maps and notes along, as they were a great help. I can only assume the track has been re-routed? Stuffed if I know, as I’m just the chump who does the walking. I considered wandering up to where my map says the track was meant to start, but I couldn’t see the point of doing an 800 metre round trip if it wasn’t the case. No.2 track here? I decided it’ll do and began climbing.

I must say, the gorge doesn’t muck around. It gains its height quickly, due to the, ‘one steep mofo’ principle.


Wandering skywards, eventually I broke out of tree cover and spotted this.


Yes, it appears to be where the old track went and a few token rocks and branches have been placed to indicate where the path has been blocked. Does this make sense? I hope so, as it’s the best I can come up with at this stage.

Anyway, once out of the trees, the entire gorge opens up and with the sun low in the sky, it can be quite a spectacular sight.


Near here, I sat down for about 20 minutes to soak in the views and some oxygen. Both were well received. Oh, there’s another common saying in this blog. It’s permanently ‘late afternoon’ and this post is no different. Being a night owl is always problematic for the morning person and without fail, I begin walking way too late in the day.

The views were great, but I still had some climbing to do. Turning to face the richly coloured rocks ahead, I continued on…


…pausing now and again to look back at where I’d come.


As you can see by the GPS profile I provided earlier, the climb is relentless, before finally popping out at a road along the top of the gorge.

I must say, some level walking is always appreciated, but it was only for a kilometre, before I’d head straight down to river level again on Link Track No.1. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Is this walk officially insane? River level, ascend to the heavens, stroll for about 10 minutes and then plummet back down to the river again. I think you’re correct. It’s nuts.

My legs had only just stopped wobbling from the climb when I now faced the rapidly descending Link Track No.1. It has its own nice views, but these aren’t appreciated by my knees.


Descending in the late afternoon, I was making reasonable time, utilising gravity as my friend. I paused briefly to capture the outstretched branches on this stark, white trunk which looked incongruous to the surrounding vegetation.


Before I knew it, the rollercoaster was over and I was back alongside the river, which was now in deep shadow. I now retraced my route back to Mackenzies Flat with a couple of casual water crossings along the way. Mind you, there was no rush, as late in the day, the light was lovely.

I think one of the most common Lerderderg River shots I’ve seen is taken from the following location. Just near Grahams Dam, a casual hop across the water on large rocks is undertaken and it’s hard not to stop mid-crossing to snap a picture. The light was in my favour and I’m afraid to say, this may be the best photo taken at this spot in the history of the universe. Well, until the next one is taken.


You know what? A quick scurry along the river…


…and I was back at my car. What to make of it all? Not a lot, but if you want to spend a few manic hours then I can thoroughly recommend this one. Oh, the traditional also applied to the time, as the walk notes say three hours and I did it in four. Blast.


Believe it or not, but at one stage I was considering going back and doing the whole thing in reverse, so I could follow the old Link Track No.2 down to the river. Then I thought, ‘what’s the point?’

So, there you go. A day out in Lerderderg didn’t disappoint. Now, what’s the next post? Don’t ask me, I’m only the one doing the writing.