Blast Furnace, Lal Lal – Bungal Historic Area

In this infernal online world, we blogging chumps usually have to abide by the internet God. Google. You know, that business about following SEO rules regarding post length, heading, blah blah. Sure, you can ignore all of those things, but unfortunately you’ll find your post on about page 26 of a Google search regarding the topic that you’ve written about. Actually, a minute ago I accidentally wrote ‘Godgle’ rather than Google. Mm…

I guess you’ve got no idea where I’m going with this? Don’t worry, neither do I, as I’ve already broken an SEO rule. The heading of a post should be repeated in the first paragraph. Oops. Anyway, I suppose the title, Blast Furnace, Lal Lal, reflects what the post is about, but what I really wanted to call it was, ‘Navigation. How not to do it’. Let me explain.

Oh, when I talk about navigation, I’m not referring to map and compass (or celestial navigation to you older readers). No, I’m thinking of years ago when going from A to B in a car. Remember driving to some place and you’d spend an hour beforehand plotting the route? Then again, did anyone else do that or was it just me?

Well, that’s what I’d do and it was always with a Melways. I must have got rather proficient, as I don’t remember being geographically embarrassed very often. Mind you, I have been on drives and the passenger who was navigating would start spinning the Melways around in circles. You knew you were in trouble when your navigator was trying to orientate the hefty map book in the direction of travel.

Times have changed though. I haven’t bought a Melways for years. By the way, do they still make them? Now, I use Google maps and literally, do not engage my brain into what’s required. At all. I really shouldn’t, as this lackadaisical approach probably carries over into walking navigation. Remember, I was lost on a walk once, so soon after hopping out of my car, that I could still see it in the car park.

Where does this fit into the overall story? Easy. As per the last post, I’d read about the offerings and sights in the Lal Lal Bungal Historic Area. There I was. Lying back on the couch, covered in the remains of KFC chicken bones when I found about a place I’d never been to before. Remote graves, waterfalls, a blast furnace. A what? Yes, a goddamned Ye Olde Blast Furnace. I was so excited, I leapt to my feet, showered the lounge room with the remnants of artificial chicken and proclaimed, ‘Give me Lal Lal or give me something similar!’

So, the Shepherd’s Daughter’s grave was the first place to visit. I had a rudimentary location, so instead of being sensible, I just entered it into Google Maps and Voilà! it gave me a route to travel. How easy is this? Grabbing the camera, I was running out the front door. Then I realised the front door didn’t lock from the outside, so I was inside through the front door and then out the back door. It was a wild scene.

Going la-la in Lal Lal

Okay, this is the point where I really, really should have double-checked the route on a paper map. You know, like a Melways. No, I was off and racing. Faster than David Le Roth in the ‘Hot for Teacher’ film clip. Oh, I mean the album version and not the little known demo, ‘So Hot for Teacher She Took Out an Intervention Order Against Me’.

Anyway, in order to save energy, I engaged Zombie mode. Essentially this means shutting down the brain, until you’re left with a thousand yard stare and an open mouth flapping in the breeze. My ears were the only part of me operating at full capacity, as they absorbed dulcet commands from the Google Maps talker. Actually, do you reckon she gets bored having to go to work every day and talk through someones drive? I can imagine she works long hours as well.

After an hour or so, Lal Lal was rapidly approaching and I began to feel confident. I should have known better though, as those thoughts can only lead to trouble. But what could go wrong? The overworked map reader was sending me right to the isolated forest destination. Until the next monotone direction was given.

‘Turn right in 300 metres’.

I slowed down and scanned to the right. Arriving at my ‘turn’, I was instead confronted with a field. With not road to be seen anywhere.

Mm… This was definitely unexpected, so I was forced to reactivate my brain and try to work out what the hell was going on. Not to mention sensing some basic route finding back at my house might have been beneficial. As it was, I had absolutely no idea where to go. Hell, I’d never even heard of a joint called Lal Lal an hour or so earlier. So, I tried to make sense of the map on the little phone screen and I rapidly came to a conclusion. NONE OF IT MADE ANY SENSE.

I pondered for about 0.8 seconds and decided to put it all on the line. A case of the ol’, ‘Okay there is no road on the right where there’s meant to be one, but how about I make the first turn I come to and just drive around the forest’. Sounds reasonable? I’d never advise anyone else to do this, as it’s completely daft. I did it though, as I figured I’d find a way. Except I didn’t.

As it is, I think I navigated the entirety of the forests around Lal Lal in my low-slung car that would creak and groan as it bounced around on dirt roads. Clearly my idea of driving aimlessly was bonkers and even more so, as it ate away the remaining daylight. Remember, this was last winter, so I didn’t have the luxury of late evening light.

Bamboozled with a twist

Anyway, this isn’t very exciting, but rest assured, it’s about to heat up. There I was. Pottering along at about 30 kph on a nice, wide dirt road when suddenly.


There was a loud explosion, followed by a showering of glass and plastic. I couldn’t do anything, other than shout, ‘GET YOUR HEADS DOWN BOYS, IT’S AN AMBUSH!’

Sensing the enemy on all sides, I floored it, which sent the car on a hair-raising tank-slapper. After some solid cross-arm action with the steering I came to my senses and stopped, whilst thinking, ‘Hang on. I’m not at war. I’m in Lal Lal.’ There’s a big difference. Maybe. Oh, my arm was bleeding also.

Hopping out the car, it took me a minute to absorb the mayhem, followed by trying to work out what had just happened. Then I saw it. A shattered branch on the track. Aha! Yes, that was the cause. A stinkin’ piece of dead timber had plummeted down and taken out the side mirror.

I’m not sure if it was better or worse, but at the time I was driving with the window down and employing the, ‘rest my elbow on the door frame for some cool forest cruising’ technique. This resulted in the mirror shattering through the open window and of course all over me. It’s amazing how much glass is in one of those tiny mirrors. Large and small pieces were scattered through the interior. Even embedded into the rear seats. Have look at this.


On the drivers floor…


…to the passenger side…


…and of course to my arm.


It’s not uncommon to read about someone driving and then suddenly being wiped out by a falling branch. I’ve wondered if there was chance in avoiding the tumbling timber. Now I know. There isn’t. One minute you’re calm and comfortable and the next you’ve been clobbered. I didn’t see it coming at all.

There wasn’t much else to do, other than collect pieces of my car…


…dab up the blood and get driving again. I must admit, my mojo for the day was feeling sapped, but I stuck at it for another hour and believe it or not, I found the grave that features in the previous post. This discovery was right at the end of the day with light fading fast, so after a couple of cursory photos, I was out of there before darkness fell.

I guess the day was marginally successful? I’d found the grave, but with no time at the location I always had to return. Oh, plus I hadn’t reached my second target for the day. If you don’t know what that is, re-read the title. Yes, the Blast Furnace was meant to be tackled after the grave visit. Instead it was time to drive home and only then did I realise how annoying it is not to have a side-mirror.


‘I’ve got dem late afternoon broken mirror cruising blues’

A trip to the car wash was urgently required in order to vacuum shards of glass from the interior. Then it was home time. As the front door wouldn’t unlock, I entered through the back, sat down and began to regroup a second tilt to the Blast Furnace. I guess the regrouping took a while, as it was nearly a year later before I ventured into Lal Lal again. What can I say? I like to take things casually.

Okay, after that extended saga, I can now tackle the main topic of this post and bear with me, whilst I slip into one of those SEO sentences that always cramp my style. Here it comes.

Blast Furnace, Lal Lal – Bungal Historic Area are ruins that date back to the 1880’s and its remnants are the only type in the Southern Hemisphere.

Phew, now that’s over with, I can get back to normal. Here are some links that tell you all you need to know. Firstly, the Bunninyong Community Website, and secondly, to the Victorian Heritage Database Report.

As an aside, I’ve noticed something lately and I reckon it’s poor form. People write about a topic, which is fine. Until you realise they’ve lifted entire paragraphs from another site, but don’t link to where they’ve got the information from. Hang on. Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t that a bit of a dick move? Oh, by the way, I’m no high and mighty, noble keyboard tapper. Hell, I’ve been known to eat artificial chicken, but at least I’ll link to something if I find it elsewhere.

Anyway, if you’re into history, the following paragraph from the Bunninyong Community Website is a bit of an eye-opener.

The Lal Lal Blast Furnace ruins rate as one of the most important and highly significant sites of early industrial history in Australia. The blast furnace is the only one from the nineteenth century remaining in the Southern Hemisphere and it represents the only attempt to smelt iron ore in Victoria. It has an ‘A’ classification from the National Trust.

Upon reading this, I was eager for a visit. Well, it might have taken a year, but eventually I was back in the forests of Lal Lal.

I passed Rotten Lane…


…which is just past Shithouse Avenue.

Then I was homing in on the Blast Furnace. As I approached, a gap in the trees gave some nice views of Lal Lal Reservoir. It’s weird, but sights like this never seem to capture well in a photograph. I think I already knew this though, but decided I needed a tourist 101 photo anyway. A case of stop the car, hop out, take a picture, before stepping back in and driving off.

Actually, I’ll take a punt and say half the people who visit the area will do exactly what I did and end up with an identical photo. Here’s mine. If you didn’t stop, but need a picture, here, just use mine and say it’s yours. Literally, I had so little mojo for taking this image, I left the camera on its auto setting. As a result, it decided I wanted the trees that were up close to be in focus, but not the subject, which was the dam in the distance.


Lal Lal Reservoir

With tourist duties completed, I was back into the car and putting the foot down. For about 0.02 seconds. The dirt road leading to the picnic area was a bit rough for my liking, but eventually I reached the bottom. Hopping out, I surveyed the area. I successfully spotted the comfort station, but stuffed if I could see any signs leading to the blast furnace.

A Strangers Advice

Mm… Grabbing the camera I began to aimlessly wander and wondered if I was the only bloke in the history of mankind who couldn’t find the main feature attached to the Blast Furnace Picnic Area. You know. The stinkin’ blast furnace. Ah, but there were a couple of other people relaxing on chairs in front of a fire, so I knew I could rely on them to help me with directions. This of course was only going to happen when I was ready to bin my masculinity and freely admit I couldn’t find something that should be insanely obvious to locate.

Facing two blokes in front of a fire was mildly intimidating, but I got lucky when one went to the comfort station. On his return I homed in and confronted him. Now closer, I could observe his features. Maybe 60 years old? Then again he could have been 25. His face reflected a lifetime of excessive alcohol and nicotine, plus a sausage too far. I could hear his restricted arteries groaning as I asked,

“Hi. Do you know where the blast furnace is?”

What do you think? Straight enough question? I thought so and seeing how he was car camping, I assumed he’d be an old hand at the intricacies of the Blast Furnace Picnic Area. Instead he said,

“What? You’re the second person who’s asked me that today!”

Okay, that’s great, but it wasn’t helping me find it. I almost apologised for him having to talk to two people in one day, but I let it slip and stuck with the important details.

“Which direction is it?”

Instead of a straight answer I was suddenly confronted with extreme arm waving. I wasn’t sure if he was indicating something or they were the symptoms of a stroke. In an exasperated tone, Mr Sausage pointed towards some trees in the distance and proclaimed,

“I’ve no idea. It could be over there!” My eyes gazed into the bush, before Snags continued with, “or over there!”. Except this time he was pointing in the completely opposite direction. Huh? In an effort to follow his multiple pointing arms, I became dizzy from the 360° radius indications. It suddenly felt like I was talking to an octopus, before he concluded,

“Just go walking and when you find a hole in the ground, that’ll be it”.

He then walked off to resume sitting on his chair in front of the fire with his mate.

Well, that was weird, but it got me thinking. It’s always interesting to see how people interact with the outdoors. I would have thought if you go to a bush camping spot, that just happens to be called the Blast Furnace Picnic Area, you might wonder why it has that name. You know, set up and then maybe wander around a little bit. Even if your blocked arteries only allow a 200 metre radius stroll. A hole in the ground? Is he insane?

I should have been a smart arse and said, “Oh, do you mean the remains of the Lal Lal Iron Mine and Smelting Works, which is of historical, archaeological and scientific importance to the State of Victoria and is listed on the Register of the National Estate?”

How about an off-shoot to this experience. Try this as a social experiment. Over the years, I’ve found the following and it starts with the Australian flag. When someone actually owns one, displays it and bangs on about how important it is, they’ll also talk about what it’s like to be Australian. You know, the greatest country in the world etc etc. This is all good, but without fail, there’s another trait they display. They have absolutely no knowledge of Australian history and when I say this, I mean more than repeating the word Gallipoli. Then again, I used to work with a bloke who was a self-proclaimed ‘fair dinkum Aussie’, but he did ask me once, “Was Gallipoli in World War One or Two?”

Okay, here’s another example. Picture this. There’s a bloke who is so Australian, he has the flag draped over his balcony at home. It leads from there. Furious that Anthony Mundine wouldn’t stand for the national anthem and so it goes. Being so Australian you’d think he’d know a lot about the country and history? It’s never that simple.

We were in a group discussing Burke and Wills (as you do). During this conversation the Dig Tree was mentioned a few times, which is obvious really, as it’s integral to the story. Guess what the patriotic Aussie said? You might have an idea, but it’s actually worse than what you think.

He said, “What’s the go with the Fig Tree?”

Even I was amazed. Clearly he hadn’t heard of the Dig Tree, but I was too frightened to ask if he knew who Burke and Wills were. Then again, can you imagine how different history could have been. It’s 1861 and there’s Howitt as he comes face to face with Burke.

“Egads! Burke! What has become of your body?!”

Burke replies, “I know! I’m fat as a bastard as I can’t stop eating these figs!”

So there you go. If you’re looking for some history, don’t go asking the bloke with the Southern Cross tattoo.

Actually, it’s interesting how the best book I’ve read about Burke and Wills is written by someone from overseas. If you get a chance, get a hold of ‘The Dig Tree’ by Sarah Murgatroyd. It’s an unbelievable read. The author was English and died after the book was published, so it has a sad overtone to an already sombre story. Sure, it outlines the folly, but it’s also an extended description of endurance and suffering. Definitely the perfect family read.

Within, the little details paint a picture. Like Wills walking 160 km to begin an expedition, but upon finding it was a sham, just turning around and walking home again. Huh? Distances are nonchalantly described, as if they’re just walking to the kitchen and back. Oh, not to mention Burke being such a bath fanatic he’d spend hours in an outdoor tub, wearing nothing but his police helmet. Even better is he’d do his police reports in the bath behind a screen with a trapdoor, so that food and drink could be passed through to him as he reclined. Imagine if he’d survived? Forget Burke’s Backyard and some bloke gardening. Explorer Burke would have been front and centre of his own show. ‘Bathtime with Burkey’. If it was on Netflix, I’d watch it.

Anyway, I’ve well and truly digressed, so best I get back to not finding the Blast Furnace. I guess the opening photo is a giveaway though, as clearly I did find it. After following a track, I knew I was hot on the trail, as I came to historical signs of civilisation. Chairs used by the miners in the 1880’s were still present in the bush.


These are circa 1880, aren’t they?


‘The discontented man finds no easy chair’

Finally. Lurking through the trees. A chimney…


…before the whole site is revealed.


Blast Furnace, Lal Lal

All I can say is the site was worth the anguish in finding. If you’re into ye olde brick structures, this one is a beauty and from ground level, quite imposing.


Individual striations can be seen. Left by some bloke over a hundred years ago.


Sure, there’s a hint of walrus about one side of the chimney, but I can live with seeing these steel support posts.


I was so impressed I took about a million photos, but none really stand out. I reckon it would look great under moonlight. Then again, after my failed attempts of just such an exercise at the Shepherd’s Daughter grave nearby, I’ve put off a night trip. I’ll get back there one day. Maybe during the warmer months when the access road is drier and more agreeable to my car.

Winter does provide other sights though. Such as fungi. This was a largish individual.


Oh, maybe you need some scale to see what I mean.


Really, that’s about it. I headed back to the car and as I drove off I passed the two blokes in the picnic area. Barnacled to their seats. Facing a fire. Not talking and staring straight ahead. A hole in the ground? Yeah, right.

Anyway, this post has been a monster, but there were a lot of thoughts to fit in. Oh, one thing I forgot. More sub-headings. I’ll do that next time. You have to keep Godgle happy. I had this one, but couldn’t fit it anywhere.

Give the stranger a miss. He hasn’t got a clue.

Oh, I also had one more photo left over, so I’ll leave it here.


Until next time.