Friday, July 31, 2015

Crown Range Road, New Zealand - December 2014

The old hall at Cardrona.
While I'm sitting here watching the cricket I thought that I might write up a small road trip I did in New Zealand last year, the Crown Range Road runs from Queenstown to Wanaka on the south island. The drive is not very long, at just over 50 kilometres each way, its not a 4wd adventure that will have you gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles, but it is an awesome piece of twisting turning bitumen, traversing some beautiful scenery. 
The Crown Range Road.
My tactics for the day were to enjoy the drive from Queenstown to Wanaka, testing out my hire car a bit, before having some lunch in one of Wanaka's many cafes and then cruising back to Queenstown stopping and taking in the sights on the way. And that's pretty much how it turned out, I was turning on to the Crown Range Road by mid morning and straight away the road climbs skyward via a seemingly endless series of hairpin bends. The little Corolla hire cars gear box may never quite be the same again as I played around with the paddle shift, having never owned an automatic car I always enjoy experimenting with the self shifters and indulging in my F1 fantasies.
Lake Wanaka.
The Crown Range Road starts off fairly inconspicuously in Wanaka.
After lunch I turned around and headed back to Queenstown, the weather had deteriated a little whilst I drank coffee and by the time I left the shores of Lake Wanaka there was a light rain falling. Leaving Wanaka the Crown Range Road starts of fairly benignly following a valley towards Cardrona, the road side was lined with masses of colourful lupine, which I don't think is native to New Zealand but looked very nice all the same. 
I don't think that the lupine is native to New Zealand, but it certainly looks good.
Like their Australian brothers, Kiwi shooters seem to have a pathological hatred of road signs.
Heading into Cardrona, not quite sure what the exclamation mark is all about.
The historic gold mining town of Cardrona was my next stop, Cardrona grew to service the Central Otago gold rush of the 1860's, over the years I'd passed through here but never actually stopped and taken the time to check out the historic buildings in the small town. First up I headed back to a nice manicured park to check out the historic church and hall, the hall dates back to 1879 and started its life as a school, it wasn't until 1954 that the school closed the old building became the community hall. The Catholic church is a little older again, the church however spent some of its time in Wanaka, before being transported back up the valley to Cardrona on a truck after its useful life in Wanaka finished. With the weather getting a little more inclement I headed back towards the car, on the way stopping to check out Cardrona's most famous building , The Cardrona Hotel. Dating back to 1863 the hotel is still in operation and would provide a welcome refuge in winter when a lot of this area would be snow bound, today however I was happy enough to get a couple of photos leaving the drinking for another day. 
The Cardrona Hotel is still serving weary travellers.

The old Catholic Church dates back to the 1860's.

Leaving Cardrona the Crown Range Road starts to climb through the tussock grass lined hills of the Pisa Conservation Area, the road is a great drive and it was hard to pull up and take some photos as I was having so much fun. I did stop at the high point on the road, with this being the highest sealed road in New Zealand (a few metres higher than the north islands Desert Road) it was pretty chilly when I got out to check out the lookout. The weather was co operating a little however and the clouds stayed above the hills and allowed me to take into the view down into the valley below, the valley floor being 100's of metres almost directly below me. Leaving the high point which is around 1100 metres above sea level (it depends which resource you believe in relation to the actual height), I headed down some more twisting, turning bitumen before turning onto the main road that travels between Queenstown and Wanaka through Cromwell. The main road marks the end of the Crown Range Road and I now tootled into town, enjoying another night in the bright lights of Queenstown.
The Pisa Conservation Area.
I was lucky that the cloud stayed high enough to allow me some great views.
That'd be my little race car hire car.
The Pisa Conservation Area mainly consists of tussock covered hills.
The Dirt.
The Crown Range Road is a great drive in the warmer months, in winter however its snow and ice covered and would be a very serious drive. Wanaka is like a quieter version of Queenstown and has all the amenities you could want. Cardrona marks the turnoff to Snow Farm New Zealand also Snowpark New Zealand, two low key ski resorts that offer plenty of fun in winter. You can eat, drink and stay at the old Cardrona Hotel but apart from that there aren't any facilities for the length of the road. This is an easy adventure that makes for a fairly relaxing day, perfect if your looking to rest your tramping muscles between walks.

Starting the descent to Queenstown.
There is no shortage of hairpin bends on the descent from the Crown Range.
The end of the Crown Range Road is as uninspiring as the start.

Back in the bright lights of Queenstown.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

McMahons Creek Goldfields, Yarra Ranges National Park - July 2015

I'm completely snowed under at work at the moment which only left a few hours for a walk on Saturday, so after finishing work for the day I pointed the ute towards Warburton and headed off. I was planning on re visiting a walk I did years ago, the McMahons Goldfield Walk. This walk starts on the Yarra River to the east of Warburton and then explores an historic gold mining area before looping back to the carpark via some ridges. This area was badly burnt in the Ash Wednesday fires back in 1983 and is slowly starting to get back to normal. 
The Yarra River flowing through The Little Peninsula Tunnel.
Parking the ute at the Little Peninsula picnic ground the first objective for the day was to check out the Little Peninsula Tunnel. The tunnel was cut by the miners back in the 1800's to divert the water from the Yarra River through a spur and thus drain a section of river to mine, the old miners certainly weren't afraid of hard work. After getting a photo of the tunnel I headed up the wide grassy swathe that covers the Melbourne Water pipeline that runs from the nearby Upper Yarra Reservoir, I would spend a fair bit of the afternoon walking on or crossing this grassy swathe. The grass made for some fairly easy walking, but being the middle of winter it was very damp and incredibly slippery, I had my trekking poles with me and they came in handy, giving me some added purchase on the steep climbs and helping with my balance as I slid down the steep slopes like a down hill skier.
My first climb of the day, it doesn't look to slippery.
Climbing to the top of the first steep pinch I came across a a blocked side track with a notice informing me that the Goldfields track was closed until further notice, now that shouldn't have been a real problem except that the side track was my return route, and the Goldfields Track was about 90% of todays walk, hmmm.... What to do? After considering my dilemma for a couple of seconds I decided to do what any responsible bushwalker would do and that was to push on and see how I go. Now some people may think that is a bit irresponsible and maybe it is, but over the years I've seen tracks in some spots closed for years, and with only a limited time left on this planet I'm keen to experience everything I can. By the way, this is in no way a criticism of Parks Victoria or the rangers on the ground, they all do the best they can with the budgets they are given.  
Err.. that's my return track.

After slipping and sliding my way on the grassy track for awhile I came to my next point of interest, The Big Peninsula Tunnel, yeah you guessed it, another tunnel diverting the Yarra through another spur dug by the old time miners. As the name implies this tunnel was a little bigger and the down stream side had a nice picnic area and would be a good spot for a swim on a hot day, however with the temperature hovering around the high single digits there would be no swimming today. The white water however provided a couple of opportunities for me to muck around with some longer exposure shots on my camera.
The outlet of The Big Peninsula Tunnel.
The stepping stones used for crossing the Yarra.
Looking into The Big Peninsula Tunnel.
Leaving Big Peninsula Tunnel I headed off on Goldfields Track. Now I'm not totally stupid, I had a couple of ideas in my mind about why parks had seen fit to close the track, the first issue I thought about was that the track was probably overgrown, and with the propensity of our early miners to dig mine shafts at random intervals in the scrub it would be fairly dangerous to leave the track to go around any tree falls or overgrown sections. The second reason I figured that they may have closed it was that some of the hardware on the track had fallen into disrepair, stay with me here, once Parks Vic have put in a safety control measure (a bridge, boardwalk, hand rail, etc) then they have to make sure that the control measure is safe, if its not then having done a risk assessment deeming the need for the control in the first place they are then liable. Anyway, now everybody is asleep its time to start walking again, the next section of track contoured around the bush above the Yarra River, the track itself was a little overgrown but nothing to worry about, there was plenty of evidence of mining with some large sluicing gullies just off the track that were now revegetated with ferns. The bush itself consisted of fairly dry heath and eucalyptus forest once I moved further away from the river.
OK, now I'm on the closed Goldfields Track, what could go wrong!
A few trees down.
The route passes by a few of these old gullies formed while the miners were sluicing for gold.
The route wasn't too bad.
Meeting my grassy swathe again I now started climbing up to Observation Road, which I met on the top of another steep slippery grassy climb. The Goldfields Track now looped through an area of old mine shafts, reaching a section of boardwalk that looked like it was last used in an Indiana Jones movie I figured now was the time to be careful. The boardwalk weaved its way around some old mine shafts and it looked very dodgy, luckily only weighing 120kg or so I'm a fairly svelte walker, but I was still very careful negotiating the rotten boardwalk. Safely over the decaying section of track I now had another easy section along a closed dirt road before steeply climbing up a spur alongside an old water race, this section was a little overgrown but nothing to worry about. Finding a few things to photograph on the climb allowed me to get my breath back on this the last big climb of the walk, unfortunately I wasn't quick enough to get a shot of the male lyrebird as it scampered across the track in front of me.
This was the dodgiest bit, the fences are around old mine shafts and the boardwalk was totally rotten.
I shimmied my svelte frame along where the supports underneath ran along the boardwalk.

The slot in the old stump is where the old loggers inserted a plank to stand on and fell the tree.
Crossing Observation Road again I now started along an old water race that contoured the sides of the hills, now normally this would mean some easy walking but I wasn't so sure today. The old water race was overgrown to start with and only got worse the further I went, after twenty minutes I got to an old closed mine shaft in the side of the hill which provided an opportunity to stop for awhile, checking out a geo cache that won't be getting many visitors for awhile. Leaving the old mine the track deteriorated a fair bit, I was now concentrating on staying on the correct route, long sections of track were complete overgrown and while it was possible to stay on the correct route I had to keep alert. The worst sections were when I had to leave the alignment of the old water race to climb through fallen trees, after much consultation of my map, compass and GPS I eventually emerged from the scrub onto a wide fire track , thankful that I had decided to bring my gaiters on this stroll.
Crossing Observation Road, my route now followed an old water race.



The old water race section of the walk was a little on the overgrown side.
With only around an hour to go before dark I now set off with a bit more urgency, luckily the fire track provided for some fairly easy and quick walking and after an encounter with a sambar deer I soon popped out at the top of my first climb of the day on the grassy swathe. With the weather closing in a bit I put the camera away and slid most of the way down the grass to the banks of the Yarra River again at Little Peninsula, all that was left now was to retrace my route over the river and back to the car, stopping for a 'finish' photo in the picnic ground before heading home.
But then I broke out on this wide fire break, happy days!
There was a bit of weather around the surrounding ranges.

The Dirt.
First up the walk is closed, now while I'm a little bit casual about rules and regulations there are normally reasons that parks have closed a walk. In this case it would be that the walk has fallen into serious disrepair, a lot of the boardwalks were rotten, there are a lot of trees down on the track and some sections are extremely overgrown. Having said all that it doesn't appear to me that any of these things will be remedied in the near future so the only way to do this walk may be the feral way. In its present condition this is a hard walk, if parks get the funding and the resources to fix the track then it would be a medium walk. I walked 11.64 kilometres over about 4 hours and climbed 516 metres according to my GPS. I used notes from Day Walks in Victoria by John Chapman, he has an update page on his website which would be worth checking out to get the latest conditions on the walk. All up I really enjoyed my afternoons walk, it provided a more challenging walk than I had envisaged but nothing that turned into a slog, and best of all it didn't get wet enough to have to put on my rain jacket, something of a bonus around Melbourne at this time of the year.



The finish shot, I'm glad I wore gaiters today.


The little loop in the Yarra River is Little Peninsula which is the start of the walk, the bigger loop is Big Peninsula, who would of thought hey!


Friday, July 24, 2015

Langwarrin Fauna and Flora Reserve - July 2015


With a couple of hours before sunset on a rare sunny winters day in Melbourne Sam and I decided to head out for a quick stroll. Langwarrin Reserve is only 15 minutes from home so that's how we decided to head there. The skies were clear today but with a predicted low tonight in Melbourne of 1 degree Celsius, the temperature was already starting to plummet by the time we started our walk in the late afternoon. With just over an hour to go before sunset we set off.
You can just make out the reflections of the wattles in the old reservoir.
The reserve was a military training area for around 100 years before being handed over to Parks Victoria to look after, there is not much left to remind you of its previous history though. One of the few reminders is an old reservoir and that's where we headed first, trying to get a couple of shots of the reflections in the inky black still water. From here we climbed up in sandy dune country, the low heath and sandy soil is typical of most of the small park. The tops of the dunes allowed us to see actually how close the suburbs are encroaching on the park with the houses being visible close by.
The park used to be a military training reserve, about all that's left now is the old reservoir.


The park is fairly flat.
The dunes normally have some wild flowers in bloom and we mucked around for awhile trying to get a close up, the dunes also allowed us a view of the sun which was now very low on the horizon, as well as a bit of a look over the interior of the park, the heath land lit up a bit by the golden light of the setting sun. Sam was going crazy with her iPhone so I'll post a couple of her shots along with mine, but with both of us taking photos we were making some slow progress and when we arrived at a closed track that we were meant to take I seriously considered heading home. One of the disadvantages of using notes that are 15 years old is that conditions on the ground can change quite a lot, especially in a park like Langwarrin Fauna and Flora reserve which seems to get extensively burnt every few years. With the park now being surrounded by houses I wondered if the Wallabies that used to live here have survived the fires that have ripped through.
The track along the top of one of the dunes.
I'm determined to get better at these macro shots.
Sam was going crazy with her iPhone.
That's our planned route straight ahead.....guess we'll have to go with telstra.
Knowing the park like the back of my hand we decided to continue the walk, there was no way we could get lost in here even if it got dark, and besides we might get some good photos in the dwindling light. Walking back along Reservoir Track we met the wide Centre Break that bisects the park, from there we crossed to the south side of the park crossing some swampy sections, it was along here that I had seen Wallabies over the years but we had no luck today. Turning towards the west the huge eucalyptus trees that marked our entrance to the park came into view, and they guided us all the way back to the car in the now rapidly fading light, after stopping to get a couple of photos of the purple tinged sky we jumped into the car and our stroll was over, time to head home for a cosy night in front of the heater watching the cricket.
Back on Centre Break, this track bisects the park.

It's getting pretty cold now.
The Dirt.
Parks Victoria manage the site and they have a lot of information online. The park is mostly sand dunes and heath land. At this time of year there are a lot of wattles flowering, which along with the tea trees and a few large gums are the predominant tree's in the park.We walked about 4.5 kilometres on this easy walk, all the walking tracks are well marked and apart from the sand dunes the park is more or less flat, we climbed around 50 metres on the walk in total. I used some old notes from '40 Bushland & Park Walks in Metropolitan Melbourne' by Tyrone Thomas, the books out of print but you may be able to find a copy gathering dust somewhere. If anyone finds themselves in Frankanstahn and is looking for something to do for an hour or so you could do worse than head up the road and check out this little park.

Our last photo.

Yes I'm modelling the latest in high fashion Polartec, at least being a bloke I don't have to try and keep up with the latest fashions. Sam's really looking forward to when I start wearing my jeans hitched up to my belly button!



Mushroom Rocks, Baw Baw National Park - June 2016

I mentioned in my last post that I was heading out and doing a snow walk next and indeed that's how it turned out. The weather in Me...