Sunday, December 30, 2018

Wychitella Forest & Mt Kerang, Wychitella Nature Conservation Reserve - July 2004

Looking north east, from the open slopes of Mt Kerang.
Now before all my walking friends look at this post and decide that a trip to Mt Kerang is on their 'must do' bucket list, I have to tell you there is an issue. You see the Mt Kerang section of this stroll is now owned by Bush Heritage Australia, now I like Bush Heritage Australia enough that I’ve left a fair chunk of the Feral estate to them when we eventually cark it. Up here though they are trying to rid the country of feral pests so don’t really want people traipsing through their property meaning that nowadays the Mt Kerang section of this walk is off the table, unless you organise to go on a guided walk with them. While the Wychitella Forest section of the stroll is still accessible you’d really have to like your Mallee, Box and Yellow Box Eucalyptus trees to come all the way up here to wander through the scrubby forest.
I started the walk from this old dam.
Being only a few kilometres out of the central Victorian town of Wedderburn, Sam and I use to motor passed fairly regularly on our journeys further afield when we owned our ‘troopie’. We found that this spot was a perfect place, far enough off the highway to bed down for the night after having inevitably left Melbourne late at night after work. This was the last time we visited, I’m guessing it was back in the early 2000’s but I’m a little vague about the exact dates. What I do remember is we camped near a dry dam around 5 or 6 kilometres off the Calder Highway in the middle of Wychitella Forest.
Wychitella Forest
There were glimpses of Mt Kerang through the dry forest as I walked the 4wd track.
The first section of this little stroll follows a quiet 4wd track through the open forest, the dirt track meandering it’s way north west, climbing very gently beside a dry gully. Apart from Skinner Creek Dam which you drive past on the way in (and looks like it might make for a good swimming spot in summer) there isn’t a lot in the way of surface water on this stroll, well at least there hasn’t been on any of my visits. After around two kilometres of walking along the 4wd track, and with Mt Kerang occasionally visible through the open forest, the track arrives at an old fence line. This is the spot where this walk now effectively ends now unless you get permission from Bush Heritage Australia to continue.
On meeting an old fence line I headed off piste up the side of Mt Kerang (the fence line now marks the Bush Heritage property).
The open forest on the side of Mt Kerang made for nice walking.
Back in the day the old fence line marked the spot to head up a fairly open spur, off track, to climb Mt Kerang. This was a delightful off track walk up here, the scrub is very light so there is no scrub massage to worry about and the gradient, whilst getting reasonably steep towards the summit is never super steep. The open forest higher up the mountain allowing for some nice views when, inevitably I’d stop for a breather.
The top of Mt Kerang would make a nice spot to camp, maybe Bush Heritage could open it up to generate a bit of income?
We’re not talking wilderness up here, the Mt Kerang summit is crowned with telecommunication towers which have their own dirt access road. Despite being only a little over 100 metres higher than the surrounding country the view from up here punches above it’s weight a little, possibly because the summit is one of the last hills before the flat dry northern plains of Victoria take over. Looking south and east Mt Kooyoora and Mt Korong draw the eye respectively.
It's not exactly wilderness up here.
Mt Kerang
After taking in the scene from the summit today I reluctantly started my walk back down to Sam, I’ve always thought that, away from the towers the relatively flat grassy summit would make a good campsite, maybe it’s something Bush Heritage Australia could think about to generate a little extra cash? To make this into a circuit I followed the access road for a few hundred metres down the hill before once again heading off piste down the side of the mountain. Like the climb this little off track section is a nice and easy walk, the open grassy slopes making for easy progress.
Wandering back down I followed the telecommunication tower access track for awhile, before dropping off the side of the mountain off piste again.
Looking north towards the flat plains of northern Victoria.
After dropping down the slopes to the south and crossing a dry gully I met the access road again, my walk would now follow this road back to Sam. After a couple of minutes I arrived at the old fence line that I mentioned earlier and from here on the walk was just a retrace. The main interest now was the changing colour in the open forest as the sun got closer to the western horizon.
The descent was as pleasant as the climb had been.
Meeting there access track again lower down I just had to turn left and follow it back to Sam.
The Dirt.
I walked around 7 kilometres and climbed around 200 metres on this easy walk. I originally found out about this walk from one of Mr Tyrone Thomas’ old books, the seventh edition of 120 Walks in Victoria, this edition of the book dates back to 2000 and is out of print now. As I’ve already mentioned whilst doing a bit of google research before writing this walk up, I discovered that Bush Heritage Australia now own and manage a fair chunk of this walk, so if anyone wants to head up to Mr Kerang they will need permission from them. Probably a better option if you are in the area and want to camp or do a bit of walking would be to make the short journey over to Kooyoora State Park.

Relevant Posts.
Kooyoora State Park, 2016.
Moliagul, Moliagul Historic & Cultural Features Reserve, 2017.

Late afternoon in Wychitella Forest.

Wychitella Forest with it's dry open forest is a great spot for bird watching.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Lake Mournpall Loop, Hattah ~ Kulkyne National Park - September 2018

Late afternoon on the Lake Mournpall shore.
Sam and I had tried to do this walk last year but environmental floods had stopped us in our tracks about half way around our walk. Without a pack raft we were going no further on that walk and we had to retreat to Mournpall Track and follow the road back to the camp ground. On this visit I decided to do something very un-Feral like and check out if there was any change of conditions for Hattah-Kulkyne National Park on the Parks Vic website. Finding that all was good on the ground it looked like the walk was a goer this time. Some unkind people may say I should of done that last time before I made the 6 hour drive up here, yeah maybe…
Today's track is well signposted and marked for the most part.
Leaving the ute at the Lake Mournpall Campground I set off across Mournpall Track into the low red dunes, having successfully completed this section of the walk on my last visit I didn’t muck around taking too many photos this afternoon. The track arced around a little to the west before striking out generally north against the grain of the dunes. Now while I was climbing and descending a bit along here the dunes are pretty low mostly, so it was only the soft sand that slowed me down. The country along here is your typical semi arid scrub with lots of Cypress Pines, Mallee Trees, Porcupine Grass and a few Buloke Trees and it was all looking quite pleasant in the late afternoon light.
Initially the track crosses some low red sand dunes.
The Mallee Trees always look their best in the late afternoon light I think.
There are a few views from the higher dunes.

Crossing Mournpall Track I lost a few metres of altitude and started the lake section of the stroll, I’d now be walking near either Lake Konardin, Lake Yelwell, Lake Yerang or Lake Mournpall. Initially i was walking beside Lake Konardin, it’s water shimmering between the Red Gums in the golden late afternoon light. The track along here mostly stays a hundred metres or so from the shore of the lake but the open ground made it easy to detour across to any spots that piqued my interest. Lake Konardin is inside the Kangaroo Fence so even though there is permanent water in the lakes the population of roos isn’t crazy, that said there were still quite a few Kangaroos and Emus about.
Looking across to Lake Konardin.
Lake Konardin
Heading along the track a little further towards Lake Yelwell I reached the spot were the environmental water flow had stopped Sam and I last time. Today there was no water to be seen though, in front of me today was a parched black soil flood plain with a few track markers on it. Apart from some huge old Red Gums these flood plains don’t feature a lot of flora, Lignum bushes are probably the most common plant growing out here I’m thinking.
This is as far as we got on our last visit.
We would of needed a pack raft to get through here last time.
Skirting around the western shoreline of Lake Yelwell there are a lot of very nice, mature Red Gums, each of these old trees seem to have their own personality etched into their weather beaten trunks. With Lake Yelwell still having a good amount of water in it and the sun now casting everything in a beautiful soft light I was in a good head space this afternoon. Eventually the track climbed a little away from the black soil of the Lake Yelwell Floodplain and I headed across a grassy low dune to the site of the 2nd Mournpall Homestead.
Lake Yelwell
The Lake Yelwell Floodplain is a bit of a desolate spot.
The loneliness of the solo walker.
The homestead site dates back to 1847 but nowadays there is little left out here apart from a small copse of introduced trees. Situated on a low sand dune like an island between Lake Mournpall, Lake Yelwell and Lake Yerang this must of been a nice spot to live in good seasons, although the views wouldn’t go a long way to alleviating the remoteness that these early settlers must of felt out here, I’m thinking. After poking around the old Mournpall Homestead for awhile I set off again, now heading directly into the setting sun as I approached Lake Mournpall.
The green trees mark the spot of the 2nd Mournpall Homestead Site.
Lake Yerang
Lake Mourpall is the biggest lake that I’d visit on this walk and it’s great to see it fairly full of fresh water at the moment. The track actually stays a hundred metres or so above the waterline for a fair while and I found myself trudging through soft sand now. Although with the shimmering water beckoning me through the Red Gums I soon decided to abandon the marked track and head down to the waterline. Once down beside the water the firm sand made walking fairly easy as I walked the last couple of kilometres back to the ute, the only thing slowing me down occasionally was the need to detour away from the shore line to get past fallen trees, oh yeah, and the fact that I was taking way to many photos of Lake Mournpall bathed in the soft afternoon light.
I soon worked out that it was easier walking down near the waterline.
Lake Mournpall

The Dirt.
According to my GPS I walked 9.7 kilometres and climbed 111metres on this afternoon’s stroll. I guess I’d rate this as an easy-medium grade walk, the tracks are all pretty well defined and marked, the soft sand in spots is the only real issue on this walk I think. Melanie Ball has written this walk up in her book Top Walks in Australia and Parks Vic also have a free download available on the web. It pays to jump onto the Parks web site to check for any change of conditions on this walk before heading for Hattah as environmental flows can cut this walk off, as Sam and I found out on our previous visit. With Hattah-Kulkyne National Park a fair drive from most of the big population centres then it can pay to camp at the park for a night or two, both Lake Hattah and Lake Mournpall have large, well appointed camping areas, although they both need to be pre booked.

Relevant Posts.
Hattah Lakes Circuit, Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, 2018.
Lake Mournpall Circuit, Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, 2017.

This dune encroaching on the shoreline of Lake Mournpall signalled that I was about to arrive back at the campground.
It was getting quite dark as I walked the last few metres.

Time to head off on the long drive home.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

St Kilda to Station Pier - October 2018

If you are after pristine wilderness style photos, then give this post a miss.
With a night out at St Kilda planned this week I decided to head up a few hours earlier and go for a little stroll along Port Phillip Bay. After checking into our slightly quirky digs at the Tolarno Hotel hotel on Fitzroy Street, I pulled on my hiking havaianas and headed off towards the somewhat distant Station Pier. While the majority of this walk was along the shores of the bay, the initial section found me walking the tree lined back streets of St Kilda, firstly I passed The Gatwick Hotel (somewhat famous for it’s recent makeover on 'The Block') and then down past the old Victorian and Edwardian Houses along Loch Street.
The Gatwick has just gone through a Block style reno.
Checking out the old Real Estate on Loch Street.
It's not all old Real Estate though.

After a bit of zigging and zagging I crossed the busy Beaconsfield Road and arrived at Port Phillip Bay, which I would stay pretty close to for the next few hours. My walk now really just consisted of me promenading my way north until I reached Station Pier before I would reverse the direction and head back down to St Kilda, yep this isn’t the toughest walk that I’ve ever featured on my blog. That was all ahead of me now though as I followed a short section of boardwalk near the West Beach Pavilion, this short stretch being virtually the only spot that I’d leave concrete footpath until I returned in a few hours.
After reaching the bay I turned right and kept going. This short section of boardwalk lasted for a couple of minutes.
If I looked hard enough I found the occasional patches native vegetation.
St Kilda Pier, from the boardwalk.
Once off the boardwalk and back on the footpath it was just a matter of flip flopping my way north in my thongs. Probably the hardest challenge for the day was actually finding something to take a photo of really, although I’ve grown up near Port Phillip Bay so maybe I’m taking it all for granted? This is prized people watching territory along here which is just as well as the bayside scenery wasn’t giving me a lot. St Kilda is also the semi permanent home to large populations of back packers who seem to flock to the sand and bright lights, they are easily recognisable by their pink, flushed skin during the day and their staggering gait and slurred speech once the sun goes down and the clubs open up. It didn’t take long for my first sighting today as I passed by a gaggle of back packers testing out their skills and improving their tans playing a bit of beach volleyball.
St Kilda is the prime location to spot back packers in their natural habitat.

Leaving the volleyball players in peace I continued trudging my way north. Now you are not going to get lost on this stroll as the turn around point on my walk was Station Pier and Station Pier is where the Spirit of Tasmania docks, the big red ship being visible for the length of my beach side walk. The highlights were coming thick and fast now, Kerford Float Pier, Plum Garland Playground, South Melbourne Life Saving Club, Port Melbourne Life Saving Club, Lagoon Pier, Port Melbourne Yacht Club, like I said ‘thick and fast’.
It's not often that I do a walk that I can see over the distance of the whole walk.
Lagoon Pier (err, that maybe a Feral fact).
There is some prime beach side real estate along this stroll.
Using all my Feral imagination I took a few photos as the big red ship got bigger and bigger, although to be honest the thing that was focussing my mind the most was the blisters that I was getting on my feet…..who would of thought a 10 kilometre walk in Havaianas wouldn’t be a good idea? People watching is the go along here though and thankfully the Melbourne weather was co-operating with the temperature in the high 20˚ region. With The Spirit of Tasmania now almost filling my field of vision my mind was wandering a little now as I re-lived past trips down to Tassy and imagined new adventures ahead of me.
Maybe next year.....?
I was heading straight for the Beacon Cove supermarket, but there is a nice café here as well.
This monument is the only remaining part of the old Railway Pier Bridge.
After a quick stop at the Beacon Cove supermarket to purchase supplies for my return journey (band-aids) I was on my way again. It was fairly late in the afternoon now so my return walk was enlivened by watching the two wheeled, lycra clad, 'wacky racers' on their evening commute home from work. Instead of heading back to the hotel via the back streets of St Kilda I continued along the shore of Port Phillip Bay all the way down to St Kilda Pier, climbed the pedestrian bridge over Jacka Bolouavard and then wandered up Fitzroy Street to meet up with Sam at the hotel.
This is was what 95% of the walk consisted of. I struggled with the photo's a bit!
I've made it back down to St Kilda.
Heading back up to Fitzroy Street I could still see the big red boat in the distance.
The Dirt.
You’d never of guessed this from my great write up of this stroll, but I struggled a bit writing about this little walk. I’m thinking that if you are visiting Melbourne and haven’t grown up close to the shores of Port Phillip Bay then the walk might be a lot more interesting. All that said the walk has a bit going for it, the beaches are all safe for swimming, there are a multitude of choices available if you feel like a drink or a bite to eat, the old architecture is interesting and the people watching is good on a nice day. This walk was written up by Julie Mundy in her book Melbourne's Best Bush, Bay & City Walks, it's walk number 39 in the book. I walked out and back and walked 10.5 kilometres and climbed 88 metres on this easy walk, it would be easy enough to walk one way and catch public transport back to the start though. This is probably one of those walks that is worth considering if you find yourself in the area, but probably not worth travelling too far to do…..but like I say, maybe I’m a bit jaded?
The view from our balcony.
Sam took this before I got back and spread my gear near and far.
The Tolarno Hotel.
The Tolarno Hotel.
We were up in St Kilda to go to the theatre that night (relax, I’m talking Bruce Dickinson out of Iron Maiden, not the Pirate of Penzance type of show). Being in my senior years now (and seeing that I’d dragged Sam along) we decided to spend the night in town and not head home after the show. After extensive research (well, two minutes on Trip Advisor) we decided to bed down at the Tolarno Hotel on Fitzroy Street. The Tolarno Hotel is next door to the refurbished Gatwick Hotel and opposite the main café strip on Fitzroy Street, so it’s a prime spot. The hotel is one of those old places that has been refurbished in a retro, arty, slightly rough around the edges style. We had a Balcony Studio Suite that overlooked Fitzroy Street which came in at less than $200 per night which isn’t too bad for the location, I’m thinking. The room had all the modern conveniences we needed to survive like a large flat screen, small kitchen, polished hard wood floor boards and free (crap) wifi. Being on the fairly busy Fitzroy Street things are a little noisy until the wee hours of the morning but it wasn’t too bad, we would use the hotel again if we need to stay in St Kilda. Oh, incase you were wondering, Bruce was very entertaining, even for a non metal head like Sam.

Relevant Posts.
Southbank, Melbourne, 2015.
Arts Precinct, Melbourne, 2017.
Emerald Hill Heritage Precinct, Melbourne, 2017. 

A good night was had by all...

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...