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Posts Tagged ‘Wildlife’

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View from Arthurs Seat ridge, south-west to Sorrento and Port Phillip Bay (c) JP Mundy 2013

Time for a day out. Too much work and not enough walking, makes for a dull life, so Deb and I skived off yesterday and bit off a biggie – The Two Bays Walk: 28km from Dromana, on the Port Phillip Bay side of the Mornington Peninsula, up and over Arthurs Seat (for non-locals, that’s a big hill, not a chair, in case you were wondering!) then down through glorious bushland to Cape Schanck lighthouse overlooking the Bass Strait.  It’s only an hour’s drive from Melbourne, but feels like a million miles away. We started from the carpark at the Bunurong Track, at the corner of Latrobe Terrace and Bayview Road. Purists might want to start from the Dromana Visitor Information Centre, which adds another 2km of suburban road walking to the start of the track, but that didn’t appeal to us, as we were here for the bush, and we thought 28km was enough for anyone in a day! The walk is very well signposted with the ‘Two Bays’ fairywren emblem and arrows along the way, the only potential point of confusion being the high numbers of kangaroo superhighways (no seriously, there are a LOT of kangaroos) which criss cross the second half of the track as you descend towards the coast.

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Eastern Greys on the ‘Kangaroo Super Highways’ near Bushrangers Bay (C) JP Mundy 2013

The first part of the walk is a steady but not too harsh climb up a well made path with spectacular views across Port Phillip Bay, which winds up, around and along the ridge-line of Arthur’s Seat. You can make detours to pretty Seawinds Gardens (you could start the walk from here if you didn’t want to walk up Arthur’s Seat) and the summit along the way, but are soon descending down from the bushland, past a lovely dam for a quick 30 minute walk through some quiet suburban streets, before heading past vineyards and bucolic farmlands to enter into the first of a series of joined reserves and national parks for the remainder of the walk.

ImageBeyond Arthur’s Seat, the walking is fairly easy – mostly flat or gently undulating and following through lush ironbark, blackwood and banksia forests.  The Greens Bush section contains some of the biggest healthiest stands of grass trees I have ever seen, and their towering flowering spikes (up to 4m+) are just glorious, though occasional ones are perplexingly wonky!

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Apart from the magnificent bushland, in full flower at this time of year, we came across an echidna and fairy wrens, plenty of parrots and a good collection of fierce bull ants on the sandy parts of the track. Some of the string of reserves have been reclaimed from old grazing property, so we even came across drifts of blue forget-me-nots and canna lilies along one of the fern tree-lined gullies, though hopefully the fantastic local ‘Friends of’ groups are seeking to clear the introduced species over time – for now it feels like walking through English woodlands in places.Image

There were a number of delicate native orchids popping up but also some flowers neither of us could recognise.  Do any readers know what this spectacular plant is?  it looked a little bit like a ‘chicken and hen’ plant, but was a 1.5m high and 3m high shrub just drenched in 1cm wide flowers. Gorgeous!

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Oh… and there’s also kudos for anyone who can tell me what type of caterpillars make up this seething mass: they were each about 15cm long and crossing the track en masse beneath our clomping feet!

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The final leg of the walk brings you out above magnificent, isolated Bushrangers Bay, which is apparently where two convicts from Tassie landed in the 1800’s after commandeering a schooner, using it as a base for their maraundering. From there, you hug the coastal scrub above the seacliffs, the waves of Bass Strait pounding below you, before coming out at Cape Schanck light station.  We’d pre-ordered a taxi (Peninsula Taxis in Frankston) to collect us – as it’s a darn long walk back if you haven’t arranged a car shuttle. A warning that Optus phones don’t have any coverage for the last half of the walk, though Telstra 3G seemed fine throughout.

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A welcome sight at journey’s end: Cape Schanck Light Station (c) JP Mundy 2013

If you have a few more days and you’re just getting warmed up, you could prebook to stay overnight in the lighthousekeeper’s cottages at Cape Schanck, then set off west along The Coast Walk in the morning, through Point Nepean National Park for a further 30km to Portsea.  From there, it’s a walk out to Point Nepean and a further 30km back along Port Phillip Bay via the more pedestrian Bay Trail to Dromana by which time you’ve completed the 100km triangle which makes up the Mornington Peninsula walk!  If you don’t have the time (or energy!) to do the full Two Bays walk at once, it can be broken into lots of short and easy walks.  The walk into Bushrangers Bay (6km return), accessed from the car park on Boneo Road (Rosebud-Flinders Road), or the walk into Greens Bush (accessed via Greens Road) would be a perfect short day out – the tracks are easy and interesting for kids too.  None of the Two Bays walking is suitable for dogs though (even on-lead), as it passes through a number of national parks and protected areas, where dogs are not allowed, and for good reason when you see the beautiful and delicate flora and fauna along the way. There are also no water stops, shops or toilets along the way, so you’ll need to be self-sufficient. In terms of time you need to allow, you’ll know your own pace – if you’re a fit marcher, you’ll get through in 6 hours.  An average walker used to reasonable distance might take 8 hours.  The delightful Deb and I are dawdlers (or rather, I am, and Deb is just incredibly long-suffering and patient!), so with lots of stops to gawk at the scenery, flowers and fauna along the way, a good half hour for lunch (and for me to huff and puff up the stairs!), we took 10! Whichever way you do it, just do it.  It’s a perfect walk.

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View at the end of the day – back at Arthur’s Seat – Sunset across Port Phillip Bay (c) JP Mundy 2013

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It’s been quite a while since I’ve had a chance to post my latest walks, as I’ve been doing a lot of travel for my day job this year: Mozambique, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Timor Leste – but not a spare moment for walking in each of these incredible destinations. Grrr! This week though, I did manage to get up to the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park, in Victoria’s west, where I hadn’t been for 10 years.  Stupid me for taking so long to get back here – I had forgotten about the extraordinary rock formations and abundant wildlife, and frankly terrific walking, especially in the crisp, clear autumn weather. And all this just an easy 3.5 hour drive from Melbourne.

ImageThe Wonderland area, just outside of the main centre of Halls Gap, has got to represent some of the most interesting walking in Victoria – the walk through ‘The Grand Canyon’, while nowhere near on the scale of its famous American counterpart, is nonetheless spectacular. There is a short 1km loop route absolutely perfect for kids, who will just love it, leaping over rocks and scrambling beneath under hangs. You could spend days just exploring this area, and there are good walks brochures for sale in the town which outline a dozen or so walks of various lengths and difficulty.

MacKenzie Falls, The Grampians (C) JP Mundy

MacKenzie Falls, The Grampians (C) JP Mundy

Another beautiful area, further along the Mt Victory Road, past the lookout of The Balconies, is MacKenzies Falls.  Take your knees along for the walk, which takes in 250+ steps on the way down the gorge to the base of these spectacular year-round falls, which must be 30m high and then some. I love how there is an entirely independent weather system at the base of waterfalls, with wind gushing from its base even on the stillest days. Parks Victoria are still working to restore major track damage along the gorge left from the 2012 floods, so beyond the waterfall is still closed as helicopters fly in the materials to restore the tracks.

The other bonus of the area is the wildlife – in Halls Gap itself there are kangaroos literally bouncing down the main street, and you have to drive slowly everywhere you go to avoid all the pretty black wallabies. Over breakfast in the morning, I was also visited by a rowdy flock of cockatoos checking me out. Could have stayed for weeks.

Curious Cockatoo at Halls Gap

Curious Cockatoo at Halls Gap (c) JP Mundy 2013

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OK, so strictly speaking, this has nothing whatsoever to do with walks – well, except that I was walking past my post-box this morning, when I saw that I had an unusual delivery and couldn’t resist taking this photo. A tiny adult ring-tail possum (about the size of a man’s fist) had taken up residence and curled up inside for it’s daytime nap! It seemed most content for the whole day, opening its big boggly eyes at me each time I went past, and grooming itself contentedly in between snoozes (they’re nocturnal) but showing no signs of wanting to decamp, even when the postie delivered the mail mid-afternoon!

Possum in my postbox!

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Black Gully Dam, Inverleigh Flora & Fauna ReserveWell, what an unexpected gem I found while out walking on Monday.  The Inverleigh Flora and Fauna Reserve is around 27km west of Geelong on the Geelong-Hamilton Road and just 2km NW of the pretty historic township of Inverleigh. I need to give directions, as it’s very hard to find information about this really worthwhile site, which is plonked in the middle of the largely treeless western volcanic plains farmlands.  Cared for by a dedicated volunteer ‘Friends of’ group, this 1000+ hectare site represents remnant grassy woodlands, one of the most threatened eco-systems in Victoria, with only 1% of the original grassy woodlands of the state remaining. It really is worth spending a day there to explore, though there are no facilities and water, so you need to be self-sufficient.  The reserve is known to have almost 50 species of native orchid: perfect for a spring wildflower walk.  I also saw, among many other birds, hundreds of colourful eastern rosellas, as well as kangaroos, and even a sleepy koala up in the manna gums! The ancient dry river beds and flattened, worn sand dunes were shaped by volcanic activity some two million years ago. The walking is easy, but hot and exposed, so Black Gully Dam, about half way around the 9km circuit walk I did (which will be in the Best Walks of Geelong, Bellarine & Brisbane Ranges book), was perfect for a rest in the shade. Dogs are also allowed, though must be strictly kept on leashes and on the management tracks – and you’d definitely need to carry extra water for them, too.

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Buckley Falls, Geelong

Well, my publishers, Woodslane Press, have kindly sent me through a very impressive Garmin exTrex GPS to use on all the new walks, as we ‘go digital’ and get ready for e-books, apps and all things digital. So I headed back out to Steiglitz with my trusty assistants: my son and our dog, Indie, to re-walk the path I had just done, as I needed to check a bit of it where the track was indistinct – and it was a beautiful day, so gave us a great excuse to get out.  On the plus side, the GPS was ridiculously easy to use (even for me) so allowed for lots of enjoyment of the rock-hopping through the Sutherland Creek gorge along Deadman’s Loop and the continuing display of monarch butterflies.  On the negative side, I am not sure I like the idea of being tracked by 4 different satellites to within 4 metres – felt a bit creepy!  Isn’t the point of getting out in the bush being about getting away from it all?! Well, the Luddite in me will have to embrace the technology so that the walk waypoints are as accurate as possible for you, and available to you in a variety of formats – but yes, I still use old fashioned paper maps to cross-check at the same time!  On the way back, we took a quick peek at Buckley Falls on the outskirts of Geelong, which I am also writing up for the Geelong book – after all the recent rain, it was looking spectacular, as you can see! And a bonus for dog-owners – both walks are OK for dogs on leads.

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Late afternoon scoparia by the boardwalk, Overland Track Day 1

Wow.  Have just returned from 6 glorious days walking the Overland Track, the classic Tasmanian, 6 day trek from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair – right through the middle of Tasmania’s World Heritage listed wilderness. We had unheard of perfect weather for the entire trip – blue skies and 23 degrees – when the previous week it had been snowing!!  It really is such an incredible walk.  While the track itself is just over 60km, the terrain is very challenging, with lots of tree roots, rocks, bogs and ancient rotting boards to stumble over, in between the more modern duckboards (AUD$150 a metre, and worth ever penny to protect the fragile line swamps and grasses).  There are wonderful sidetrips to be done, to freshwater lakes and various spectacular dolorite summits – I can really recommend the long detour from Mt Pelion to Mt Oakleigh – despite the thigh deep bogs!  There was also plenty of wildlife to get up close and personal with: pademelons, wallabies, echidnas, wombats and plenty of snakes! But the standout for me was probably the flora – such unique variety: alpine button grass and cushion plant meadows, myrtle beech rainforests, snowgums, King Billy and Pencil Pines, and glorious end of summer colour of the scoparia.

Alpine cushion plants in the 'Japanese Gardens', Mt Doris, Overland Track

I am going to let my photos speak for themselves and just say, if you ever, EVER get the chance to do this incredible walk, grab it with both hands and shake every last drop out of it.  If you want to find out more about walking the Overland Track, including permits, bookings and equipment, click here.  I did my trip with Cradle Huts, who I could not recommend more highly.

Snowgums on the Overland Track, Tasmania

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Well, while we are in post production with Melbourne’s Best Bush, Bay & City Walks, I am getting itchy feet, so have just started out on the next Walks Guidebook, which will cover Greater Geelong, the Bellarine and Great Ocean Road area.  It’s pretty chilly here this winter, but when the days are clear it makes for really beautiful walking.  We had a wonderful wander at Edwards Point, near St Leonard’s township, last weekend, venturing out into the remote-feeling saltmarshes of Swan Bay.  Yesterday, the kids and I took in Serendip Sanctuary, at the base of the You Yangs, which is just swarming with birdlife, include huge flocks of magpie geese, and pairs of cape barren geese, making the most of the lush, full wetlands and billabongs.  There were also some impressively immobile tawny frogmouths, feathers all plumped up against the cold.  Australia’s native wildlife is making the most of the bountiful seasons after the last decade of drought and the kangaroos and wallabies were looking very well fed and content, as they literally bounced around the carpark!  The Serendip Sanctuary is a wonderfully interesting and easy day out for families and international visitors keen to acquaint themselves with Australia’s birds and animals.

Edwards Point Sanctuary saltmarshes, Swan Bay

Wetlands at Serendip Sanctuary, near Lara

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Sugarloaf Reservoir – before the hailstorm!

Having spent years walking in the most dire weather in Scotland and England, the thought of a bit of rain and cold wasn’t going to deter me from my planned walk around Sugarloaf Reservoir, Christmas Hills (north-east of Melbourne), yesterday.  More fool me! – at 6C and with hailstones bouncing off me, the bemused mobs of kangaroos I disturbed were clearly questioning my sanity!!  I had the place to myself (unsurprisingly!) & flocks of Eastern Rosellas, but the sunshine found me for 10 minutes, drenching everything is a wonderful saturated colour.  It’s a great walk for the family and will definitely be in the Melbourne’s Best Walks book – but perhaps aim for a kinder weather forecast when you do it!!!  Off to Churchill National Park tomorrow, hoping for a break in the weather…. (ever the optimist!!!). 

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