Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Grampians (Gariwerd) 4D3N – the Fortress loop & Mt Thackeray 2010march5-8th

As if camping next to a road is not very ideal, try camping next to an operating railway line, LOL!!! Not too long after we all tried to get into some sleep, we suddenly realized we were actually camping not too far away from a railway line!!! The sound of the train crossing pass us was sounded as if the train was going to ran over us (worst for Alex because he camped nearest to the railway line) !!! Still, after a while, we got use to it and I think there was another one near dawn, haha.

Woke up the next day and continued our drive to the Grampians!!! The photo above captured the beauty of different colour and shape of tents just few minutes after we all woke up :)

The Grampians!!!! The famous escape for lots of Adelaidians & Melbournians because of its location in between South Australia and Victoria!!! Heard from my colleague before that it a nice place to visit especially when it’s green. Thanks to Alex again for I got the opportunity to to visit the Gariwerd (Aboriginal name for Grampians national park)!!! The NP span a big area across the western north of Victoria state and attracts heaps of campers, bush walkers and climbers each year for its renowned rugged beauty and spring wildflowers. Aboriginal people have lived in the area for thousands of years and it is one of the richest Indigenous rock art sites in south-eastern Australia.

Passed by Horsam for some stock up and then all the way down to Manja Shelter.

Note: The photos here are a mixed of Anton’s, Nick’s and my camera with majority theirs, lol. My camera died very early along the way and i left the new batt in the car, cry :(!!!! Luckily both Anton and Nick were so kind to lend me theirs for some irresistible shots!!!

Weather don’t seem seem to be on our side as forecasted!!! But luckily it didn’t rain!!!

Reached Manja Shelter and prepared ourselves.

As usual, Alex would sign up the national park visiting list for safety. Not too long after walking on the sandy flat path, we got to see some amazing rock outcrop already!!!

Our first stop was a slight detour to the Bilimina Shelter to see aboriginal cave rock paintings. Lucky me to be able to see real thousands of years old historic aboriginal art and rock paintings for the first time!! Having seen the more common contemporary aboriginal paintings and crafts everywhere in Australia, I seems to cherish the real cave paintings more because it’s rare and not easy to see them.
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The site was properly fenced off to protect the precious rock paintings which a good measure done!!!
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A lot of the rock paintings are depictions of humans, human hands, animal tracks and birds.
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Then back to our main track to the Fortress!!!! I must admit that when I first heard/read about the trip to the FORTRESS!!!! I was like, huh?? Wow, FORTRESS!!! I immediately did a google search, alas, not many good description or pictures, so I still couldn’t imagine what sort of places or peaks would be name FORTRESS!!! Sounds gigantic, and like a castle to me, haha. The word fortress really got me excited with the trip!!!

Jesus, my backpack was sliding 20 degrees (bottom left pic), due to imbalance packing, no wonder it gave me a hard time, lol.

After a bit of a sandy walk, WOW!!!! The trees opens up to a SPECTACULAR view of the rugged mountains in front of us!!! VERY EXCITED, lol.

The another long bits of sandy walking with steady elevation brought us to this MARVELOUS view of the western Wimmera plains!!! (click to see  enlarge panoramic views)

A steady hike up got us to closer to view of the fortress from far!!!
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The view here was just mesmerizing!!! Mountains and mountains of different features!!! My photos here didn’t do the place justice!!! Wished to go back there while writing this post!!! (click to see  enlarge panoramic views)

After the breathtaking views, we got to our first camp site and then it’s time to move on to have a close-up look at the fortress buttress!!! Julien have some knee pain and stayed behind.
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The rugged sandstone cliffs of Grampians!!! (click to see  enlarge panoramic views)

There U GO!!! A NATURE’S BEAUTY!!!!! The Fortress does live up to its name!!!! The whole lot of cliffs that make up the whole place looks like a big fort with high walls!!! It straightaway reminded me of LOTR’s Helm’s deep!!! (click to see  enlarge panoramic views)

Next, after much appreciation of it beauty from far, Alex came up with idea, “Let’s climb it!!!” I was excited by the idea and quickly said YES!!!

Anton and Simon followed on with Nick staying behind.  But trust me, for a beginner like me who have not really do rock climbing much, the height was scary enough without any gears though the excitement of scrambling took over me!!! The first few part of scrambling wasn’t that hard though need a bit of long stretching to reach and trust me the view on top was simply SPLENDID and IT FELT SO GOOD to be on top one of the cliff!!!!

Then the scarier and crazier idea came, Alex: “ Let’s go up some more!!!!” I was like, er…maybe if the weather was improving (the weather back then didn’t look great and feared it might rain, if it rain, we would be in deep shit and trapped on top at least until the rain is gone).

“Alright let’s do it….” All 4 of us continues with Alex leading, I must said it’s pretty impressive for me to conquer my fear to do the scrambling up higher and harder bits, though at this stage the game, the winner was still the excitement over fear, haha. And trust me, if you slip, you either scratch yourself pretty badly because of the rugged sandstone cliffs, or you would stuff others up and end up twisting your ankle, shoulder or any part of your body if you fall straight!!!!

We were one more cliff higher, haha. As if that wasn’t enough, Alex decided WE SHOULD GO UP TO HIGHER AND PERHAPS TO THE PEAK!!!

Oh well….

Scrambling and MORE SCRAMBLING!!! higher and HIGHER!!! Crazy and CRAZIER!!!! At this height, with nothing behind you, no gears, you can only rely on your fingers, arm strength, legs and feet!!! One slip at most the scrambling could probably/definitely be enough to send you down the cliff and perhaps “bye”. At many parts, you have to scramble like a spider across tiny foothold and hand grips, lean your body towards the wall, making big leaps and stretching your leg to reach the other side to continue the scrambling, and YOU CAN ONLY FOCUS and don’t look down, LOL.

At one point, I was telling Alex: “ Are you serious??” before he sets off for the last part of scrambling to the peak, while Anton, Simon and me still deciding to follow or not, which obviously we did which WAS THE CRAZIEST THING I EVER DID SO FAR HERE, haha.
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See how much more the scrambling bits were to go up?? And Alex was already up there shouting to us: “ Hey guys, come up, it’s awesome view up here!!!” But I love the picture on the right bottom, showing the massive scale of the rocks vs the human (Alex) on the top!!!!

Almost there and GOD!!! I’m on the peak!!!!


Going up was Always easier, Going DOWN WAS EVEN HARDER!!! You CAn’t help facing downwards, looking at how high you are, reminding you not to make any mistake!!!!! And we did have a bit of hard time going down, we did not went down the way we came up as it’s not easy too, so we looked for another route but neither was easy, with each of them coming to a part that was like er…..better not, too risky, or a sheer straight cliffs, a lot of the parts was just to me quite insane, going down cliffs that is almost 70 degree!!! At some point, you can’t see where and what to step on, just FEEL it!!!

We reached a stage where Alex who went down the fastest suddenly told us, try find another way down, this one was getting steeper and steeper!!! That’s when Anton, Simon  & me were in the middle of some part of the cliffs with our hands and feet clinging hard to the cliffs!!! WE HAVE TO GO BACK UP!!!! LOL!!!

Alex continued down as he has a lot of climbing experience and more confident while we 3 looked for an easier route down without climbing the cliffs and LUCKILY WE DID FOUND ONE IN the very end though took us more time but definitely WAY SAFER!!!! And Alex meet up with us in the middle with Nick, haha. Alex told us that he was lucky too that Nick was coming down (getting dark and worried) to look for us and so luckily saw Alex kinda trap in between a huge gap between the cliffs and the ground that it’s impossible to jump down (probably some fracture if he jump, haha) and had Nick’s help in guiding him down.

I kept telling Alex that’s crazy!!! COuldn’t have done it myself without the pressure from you guys, lol.

WE had a good night chat and sleeping that night!!! Next day, set off for Mt.Thackerey!!! Some more rock paintings captured by Anton at our camp site thought unlikely to be aboriginal ones, haha.

Oh Yeah, did i mentioned at this trip i started to drink water from the stream which is kinda brownish colour due the tannin from the trees. And apparently there’s tannin in wine too!!! LOL

Went back to the fortress part to snap the last photos as our trek leading to Mt.Thackerey pass through the bottom of the fortress again.

This time all of us have a group shot with background of the green grampians and the fortress buttress :)

Up and down, passed by another camp site before we turned into the fire track and took a decent rest here before the last bit of walk to the campsite. Again the day wasn’t treating us good, the weather quickly changed to cloudy weather that it rain while we were setting up our tents and cooking. And so we didn’t end up climbing Mt.Thackeray for sunset views :(

We did have a bit of problem here as Julien’s knee was killing him, and we separated as he was trying too at the same time to radio for help by those 4 wheel drivers that uses the fire track (no idea how come he brought radios with him, for safety reasons i guessed) and we have a GOOD search for water which Anton did a great JOB!!!! LOL. Thx Anton!!!

But it turned up the sunset was a pretty one, everyone was like IF ONLY WE WERE on top of Mt.Thackerey now….lol

Got waken up by a roo that was lost in the thick mist in the middle of the night that it ran into Alex’s tent and jump across a log but crashed onto my tent and then leaped off. What a night, somehow it was pretty scary to me, hahah though i know there’s hardly any big enough dangerous animals in Australia.

The next morning was fine but still cover in thick mist and unlikely to change at all. Alex stayed behind with Julien as Julien got help from his radios to send him down back to Manja Shelter from one of the 4 wheel car drivers plus, he had climbed Mt.Thackeray few times (not the fortress though if i didn’t recall wrongly)

This time Nick did joined us which was great :) The track ain’t hard but the whole way its misty. The picture in the middle was the Victoria land survey thingy which Anton snapped.

The rugged landscape of the Grampians!!!! (click to see  enlarge panoramic views)

Jesus, I looked like ah pek (old uncle) hiking up in that posture (bottom left pic), hahaha. My left knee was giving me pain too since yesterday but luckily i can hold it, haha with some pain killers :) I always seems to hurt my knees or hip, sigh. Probably too heavy load with all those descending on my knees.

Yes, the top!!!! There’s a some sort land marking thingy used for land surveying on the summit though it was fallen down, haha.

Not sure what Nick and Simon doing on the bottom left pic but i am pretty sure on the bottom right, both Anton and Simon was checking for mobile phone signal, haha.

Again when the mist cleared up, Oooo La la……simply BREATHTAKING!!!  (click to see  enlarge panoramic views)

Anton & Simon on the further end of the right :)  (click to see  enlarge panoramic views)

Pictures times :)


Time to go down :(

Like this photo that Nick snapped, kinda give the perspective of how tiny we are vs nature!!!!

Packed up and back on to the fire track again.

The chimney pots from far!!! (bottom left pic)

We completed the fortress loop (27.3kM) and met Julien at the bottom, eat, and It’s time to head back to Adelaide :)

What an awesome trip again by Alex and AUMC!!! Thx!!!