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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

ImageSometimes you forget that the nicest walks are in your own backyard.  After a very hot 30C day yesterday, and just before the first clouds of mozzies descended, the kids and I headed out for fish and chips down at Station Pier in Port Melbourne, then walked along the promenade past Princes Pier where many of our soldiers embarked for northern wars in the last century. This beautiful sunset was showing off to everyone across the old pier’s pylons, and plenty of people were out walking, enjoying the gentle evening breeze. Further along and the walkway continues past quiet Sandridge beach, which is marked by recovered pier timbers engraved with the names of the old boats which sailed into Melbourne, bringing hopeful new immigrants arriving at Station Pier, eager to start a new life. Sad that we seem to have forgotten that, with notable First People exceptions, we were all boat people once.

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Amber (Amer) Fort, Amer Town, near Jaipur, india

Amber (Amer) Fort, Amer Town, near Jaipur, india

Last week I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon wandering around the incredible 400 year old Amber Fort (also called Amer Fort), on the hills outside Jaipur, in India’s desert state of Rajasthan. Talk about atmospheric! Set into the side of a mountain, overlooking a decorative lake with paterre garden island and surrounded by Great-Wall-of-China spines of defensive walls, the fort is a maze of rooms, twisting stairs, courtyards and vantage points over four storeys, and is built of red sandstone and huge slabs of marble.

Cool marble sitting galleries, used by women at Amber Fort, Jaipur (and yes, that's solid marble!)

Cool marble sitting galleries, used by women at Amber Fort, Jaipur (and yes, that’s solid marble!)

It wasn’t hard to imagine what it would have been like at the height of Raja Ram Singh I’s powers, as there was an outrageously over-the-top Bollywood film being recorded the day I was there, with huge men in cardboard armour and swirling, dancing, martial arts performers doing their thing, while the local audience ooh’ed and aah’ed. Pretty surreal and pretty memorable.

Central garden courtyard and audience pavillion, seen from the ramparts of Amber Fort

Central garden courtyard and audience pavillion, seen from the ramparts of Amber Fort

On the walk up into the fort, I also passed a somewhat underwhelming, though no doubt, trusty, local police car, ready to leap into action if needed – I guess it was parked at the top of the ramparts slope so it could get a run-up to catch the invading hoardes….

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Local squad car, ready for action, at Amber Fort, Jaipur

The surrounding heritage town of Amer, is also worth a wander – it’s small windy streets are jam packed with artisans producing everything from Hindu carvings and miniature painting to gleaming copper pans, and there is a surfeit of temples – apparently the Maharajah’s mother took a keen interest in building temples throughout the township. If you arrive early in the morning, before the heat of the day, you will also see the parade of hundreds (literally) of elephants, their faces painted in bright powders, as they carry the tourists up into the fort. Unmissable.

View across the lake from one of the corner ramparts at Amber Fort

View across the lake from one of the corner ramparts at Amber Fort

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New Port Philip Cycle Trail

New Port Philip Cycle Trail

While out walking in Melbourne’s western bayside suburbs today, I spotted these enterprising lads, who obviously decided to take the short cut from Altona across to St Kilda.  Hope they packed their snorkels! I opted for the longer route, and took in a fine 8km stretch of the Williamstown to Altona Foreshore Trail, a shared cycle/walk path which winds along the coastline from Williamstown Beach across to the fabulous off-leash PA Burns coastal reserve in Seaholme.  While the Foreshore Trail itself is on-leash for dogs,  (it runs parallel to the Jawbone Conservation area), the parks at either end of the walk are both off-leash, so plenty of exercise for everyone – particularly those whose dogs like a good run (or in the case of these kids, swim) beside the bike.

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Williamstown Wetlands, via the Foreshore Trail

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The St Kilda Corroboree Tree, ‘Ngaree’ in Albert Park

I have recently done some ‘talking and walking’ for the National Heart Foundation, who have a fantastic Active Walking program, encouraging all sorts of people to get out together and go walking, through organising local walking groups. Today they had a meeting of coordinators from all over Victoria in Melbourne’s Albert Park, and I thought I would take them out to introduce them to one of Melbourne’s very special secrets – the ancient Corroboree Tree which is tucked away in the North East corner of Albert Park.  Thought to be one of the oldest living things in Melbourne, this ancient old red gum is between 300 and 500 years old, and has been a meeting place for the local Bunurong people since before European Settlers arrived. It is still considered a sacred site and used by Aboriginal Elders for important discussions and cultural business. The Bunurong tribe (sometimes spelt Boon Warrung) were one of the four language groups who made up the larger Kulin Nation.

There’s a lovely little walk tucked in behind the historic Junction Cricket Oval, which wanders through bushlands, native grasslands and a small wetland, to find the tree standing unbowed almost against one of Melbourne’s main arterial roads – which was diverted around the tree during its construction. What stories this Old Man Tree could tell.

The Corroboree Tree’s Story

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Winter rainbow from the Brisbane Ranges

It just goes to show: just because the weather forecast is for hail, squally winds, thunder storms and all day showers, that’s no reason not to get out for a walk.  Deb and I decided to brave the elements today for the final 12km day of the 3 day Burchell Trail in the Brisbane Ranges, expecting flash floods and worse, only to be rewarded with sunshine, mild weather and no more than a 30 second shower all day. Mind you, the minute we hopped into the car at the end of the day, the heavens opened up and the hail came raining down.  But even after that we were rewarded with this spectacular rainbow. How lucky can you get!

Magnificent Australia Grass Trees along the Burchell Trail

Day 3 of the Burchell Trail starts from the peaceful walk-in Old Mill campground, and wanders for almost a full circuit through the southern part of the Brisbane Ranges, near the historic goldmining ghost-town of Steiglitz.  There is lots of evidence of the area’s former gold rush days. The banks of Yankee Gully, on the second half of the walk, are dotted with old mine shafts and earlier in the day you can detour to take in the very deep pit of the famous Century Mine.  There are a number of glorious picnic spots and camp grounds by the creek crossings, and most of the trail is single track, away from management tracks – it was incredibly peaceful.

Walking above the alluvial gold beds of Yankee Gully in the Brisbane Ranges

It’s relatively simple to turn this into a one day circular walk, which we did today, by leaving the car at Fridays Camping Ground and walking an extra 1.5km along the road at the start, making for a 13.5km total walk. The Burchell Trail markers are, as always, somewhat random and not at every track junction, so you do need the 1:30,000 Brisbane Ranges National Park (Meridien) map to keep you on the right trail. Don’t let this put you off a fantastic walk though. I can’t wait to come back in spring when all the native orchids are in bloom. I am writing the Burchell Trail up in more detail for the Best Walks of Geelong, the Bellarine and the Brisbane Ranges book, so hope that more people will be able to enjoy this wonderful walk.

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Fed up with the poor official Burchell Trail markers, walkers have taken direction-setting into their own hands, with the occasional handy hint!

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Sutherlands Creek Gorge, From Deadman's Track

Yesterday, I went for a really interesting and varied walk in and around the historic gold mining town of Steiglitz, on the edge of the Brisbane Ranges, just 40km from Geelong.  Steiglitz was once a thriving gold rush town of more than 2000 people, a newspaper, 3 pubs (and many more ‘sly grog’ tents), all built to service the miners who flocked to what was once the richest quartz reef goldfield in Australia.  All that remains today is a few buildings, including the magnificently restored courthouse, crumbling ruins which are explained well on interpretive signage, and relics of mining including huge mullock heaps.  Many of the bush walking tracks around Steiglitz follow the routes of the old streets, which gives you an idea of the scale of the original town. Today, the beautiful surrounding bushland has all but reclaimed the land, though it remains littered with old diggings and mines and no doubt quite a few ghosts!   The walking is rugged in places, but very rewarding with rocky gorges, grass tree covered hillsides and yesterday, an unexpected treat after the rain: thousands upon thousands of orange monarch butterflies – though they wouldn’t sit still long enough for me to take a photo!

Mr Suggs, The Blacksmiths, Steiglitz Township

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Had a fabulous walk around the Goldmine Heritage Trail behind Warrandyte today – wish I’d taken my torch to explore Geraghty’s tunnel – carved into solid rock.  A great walk for kids as well as adults, with stepping stones across Anderson’s Creek, gold panning possibilities and all those mines.  Stopped by Pound Bend Reserve on the way back to look at Pound Bend Tunnel, which was carved into the rock to divert an entire bend of the Yarra River while the miners fossicked for gold on the dry river bed.  With the recent rains, the river is swollen and the water is absolutely gushing out of the downstream opening of the tunnel – think grade 5 rapids!  A very impressive sight – I was keen not to fall in!!!

Pound Bend goldmining tunnel

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