Australia Part Two: Grampians National Park

This picture was taken at the top of the pinnacle at the Grampians– not exactly the pinnacle lookout but right beside it.

I feel really calm in places like this. A degree away from a normal posture (normalcy), and although I was in a touristy spot, just far enough into danger that no one’s really in your space. Even for just a moment. I guess you could say that I like my danger, and my space.

The Grampians is a huge national park a few hours northwest of Melbourne city. We stayed in the tourist area, Halls Gap, which is one of the valleys in the park for two nights.

Via public transport, it takes about 4 hours in total for a trip either way. To get there, take a city train to Ararat station and from Ararat a bus to Stawell or another nearby city where you have to find any available transport in. Public transport out of the city is really limited, so it have might been better if we drove. It was also difficult to procure bus and train timings from the internet, and with the very limited timings (once a day in some cases for the quieter cities), we ended up having to take a cab into Halls Gap from Stawell bus station as we had missed the one bus that left in the morning. The fare came up to $50 AUD which is not bad, I suppose.

The park has tons of wild kangaroos and birds. (Hooray, because kangaroos were my ultimate favorite animals when I was six). There are also pleasant walking paths leading north and south from Halls Gap where we could explore a bit more of the Grampians at a leisurely pace without having to drive. Outside of the main tourist area, we also saw emus and deer! Oh and at night, we could see the Milky Way spilling in an arc across the sky. I’ve waited my whole life to see it in person!

The highlight of the visit there for me was the Wonderland Loop hike. It’s the longest and most difficult hike available that starts and ends at Halls Gap. If you’re planning to stay in Halls Gap and you want an easier hike, you’ll have to drive to a mid point along Wonderland Loop and start from there instead. Or you could just hike at other trails in the Grampians. As we didn’t have a car, we had to take the full loop, which was not only fine, but splendid by me.

Trust me, when they describe the difficulty level as ‘medium to hard’, believe them. There is a proper foot path for the first third or so of the hike, after which, the terrain becomes rocky, requiring lots of jumping from rock to rock, or even steep climbing involving your hands at some stages. It starts in Halls Gap behind a carpark just slightly up the road from the information center. It was supposed to loop around to another route back to Halls Gap. However, the path wasn’t clearly marked out, and we had to figure out where the route led using merely the limited description in the pamphlet as well as worn out yellow arrows sparsely spaced along the route. We decided to go the same way we came back as we had trouble figuring where the arrows to the new route were pointing and we definitely did not want to get lost.

The Venus baths at the start of the trail were mostly rocky at the time we were there, with small pools of water at some stages. The cabbie informed us that it hadn’t rained properly in that area for about three months, so I imagine streams and perhaps ponds after the rain.

Although the terrain became increasingly difficult, I loved the challenge of traversing over the rocks, and having to be constantly alert to dangers such as slipping, crevasses and the like (my shoes were extremely worn out from all that skating). Being a giant fan of the famous Grand Canyon I was really excited to see what this Grand Canyon was all about. It was entirely different from what I expected (red, sandy rocks) but it was certainly a beautiful canyon!

And of course, the hike was well worth the effort. Not only because of the views at the top , but those along the way, and the sheer fun of the journey itself.

Conclusion: If you love hiking and being in nature as much as I do, the Grampians is definitely worth the visit. With its lack of footpaths and trails, the hike was wilder and a great deal more challenging and probably dangerous than any other hike I have done– Mt. Takao in Japan, Dragon’s Back in Hong Kong, Grand Canyon in Arizona etc– and that is the reason it is one of my favourite hikes so far. Definitely ensure you’re fit enough before you decide to take it on– perhaps a bit of training beforehand if you haven’t exercised in a while! Wear proper footwear and bring snacks. The hike takes about 4-5 hours so it’s good to bring lunch at least. (We had lunch at the last picture- under a rocky outcrop as shade from the sun).

Getting to and fro from the Grampians using public transport is extremely troublesome, with some days having only one bus timing per station along the way. Try to get as much information about the timings beforehand and try to plan at least half a day of traveling each way. Make sure you’re not in a rush to go somewhere during those days or you might just end up pretty frustrated.

It is a good mini trip away from the city if you’re staying in Melbourne for a week or so like I was. It is a great place to enjoy the company of wildlife (there was a tarantula in the bin my my hotel room) and plants, and also take lots of fantastic pictures. It is a memorable, unforgettable place well worth the effort to get to.

Would I go there again? I may, when I get my drivers’ license to explore other parts of the park, which is huge. And if I happen to be in the area. If not, I will continue to visit as many more national parks worldwide as I can!

My national parks wish list includes for now:

– Crater Lake National Park , OR, USA- this is on my bucket list

– Yosemite National Park, CA, USA

– Yellowstone National Park, WY, USA

– Jasper National Park, AB, CA

– Glacier National Park, BC/MT, CA/USA

If you liked this post, make sure to check out part one of my Australia blog here where I blog about what I read in Australia as well as my experience longboarding in the city of Melbourne.

“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”- Jack Kerouac, On the Road

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