In January I took Sylvia for a holiday in the Grampians, where we stayed in a log cabin at the Grampians Pioneer Cottages just out of Halls Gap. It was a lovely relaxing break. So great to get out of the city to enjoy the wildlife, the bush, the space, good food and view some of Australia's Indigenous heritage.
The cottage was simple but cosy. It was built in 1993 from recycled timber. It was a really pleasant kitchen to cook in and the solid long dining table overlooked such wonderful views. I really liked the Sunshine Harvester logo on the hood over the oven. The Sunshine Harvester was an iconic agricultural invention in Australia with the town (now western suburb of Melbourne) built to house the workers and named after the brand,
It was a warm weekend so the cool
tiled floors were appreciated much more than the open fireplace. I also really liked the old 1920s newspapers pasted on the walls like old fashioned wallpaper. We were out each day but watched some tv in the evening.
The views were spectacular, and the wild life was wonderful to watch. On our first night we were excited to spy some kangaroos down the bottom of the paddock. Then some bounded up our way to lazily graze and scratch their chests near our window. You can see the ones close to us in the above photo and the dotted kangaroos in the bottom of the paddock. This happened every night. Mornings were more varied with a rooster peering in our bedroom window one day and an emu walking past the lounge window on another.
On our first day we had lunch at Brambuk: the National Park and Cultural Centre. It was one of the places I enjoyed on our visit to the Grampians in 2017. This year the cafe offered less options than on our first visit. I asked for a scone with jam and cream. No cream available. So I had the scone with cheese and jam.
As well as the cafe, Brambruk also has a great gift shop and an information desk. Just the place to ask about visiting rock art sites. As a kid it never would have occurred to me that we might see Aboriginal rock art in our southern state of Victoria. Now the Aboriginal name of the Grampians, Gariwerd, appears on many signs. The mountains were not conducive to farming or housing for the Europeans and so it is far easier there to imagine the landscape that the Jadawadjali and Djab Wurrung people knew before colonisation.
First rock art site on our list was the Ngamadjidj Shelter. We drove the longer route along Mt Victory Rd (C222) rather than the highway. It took almost an hour. The road wound around sharp corners and went up and down steep hills. A canopy of gum trees made shadow patterns over the road. It was a hot day and we had to walk 10-15 minutes to the site after we parked.
It was confronting to come upon the site. First thing we saw was a fence of iron bars. Seems they are keeping vandals out. Close up the sign read "Unfortunately, much of the traditional lifestyle of the Jadawadjali was sadly destroyed before the meaning of these paintings could be recorded." Aboriginal people of the more densely populated south east of Australia were often forbidden to practice their culture. I heard an Aboriginal person say the other day how hard it was to have their culture forbidden and then Native Title legislation requires that they prove their connection to the land.
Ngamadjidj means white person. Once we looked beyond the bars, we could see all these little people painted on the rock. It reminds me of one of my favourite stories told about an Aboriginal woman who as a young girl was forbidden to learn to make eel nets. When her aunties had a break from the work she snuck in to check on how they were making the nets. She was able to continue the tradition when she got older and I think nets might have ended up in the museum (but I have lost the book where I read it - Hunters and Collectors by Tom Griffiths). I loved how in the interview she said, "I tricked them."
Some of the figures were faded but I felt they encompassed the spirit of the story of Aboriginal defiance in the face to colonial destruction. It made me proud of Australia's Aboriginal resilience. They have faced so many obstacles and yet today Aboriginal culture is becoming more part of the Australian culture: flying flags, hearing language, ejoying artwork, and listening to their welcome to country. I was pretty sad we didn't get to any other Aboriginal art rock sites but I am sure there will be more opportunities.
We drove back on the highway. This took us past the Giant Koala at Dadswell Bridge. Of course we could not resist stopping for a photo. It is one of Australia's kitsch "big" things. The koala stands 14 metres tall and has a souvenir shop in the belly and a cafe next door but neither were open by the time we got there.
Back at Halls Gap, there was a community market. I didn't spend much time there as I was ready for tea but I did like these cute candles and the cold smoked garlic products.
Sylvia had done the online research on a pizza place. The wood fired pizza at the Raccolto Pizzeria (2 Heath Street, Halls Gap) looked mighty fine, and we love a pizza on a Friday night. However our plans to take a couple of pizza boxes home with us were cancelled when we found that they were not doing takeaway that night. (Last time we ate here in 2017 this was the Harvest Cafe).
It was lovely to sit outside on a balmy evening watching people at this popular place, despite Sylvia being disappointed not to get takeaway.) Sylvia had a Margherita Pizza and I had the Sweet Potato and Pesto Pizza. We both had leftovers and weren't sure about taking food away if it wasn't takeaway (and the staff were lovely but quite busy) so we just wrapped our last pieces in our napkins and took them home that way.
The next day we headed out for brunch at LiveFast (5/97 Grampians Rd, Halls Gap). I am tempted by any cafe with a green bowl on the menu. We love the shops along the boardwalk by the creek with the Smugglers Heart gift and fudge shop, the lolly shop, the bakery, and another gift shop. LiveFast has lots of seating inside and outside.
Sylvia had fried egg on toast and a fresh apple juice. I had the green bowl of kale, broccoli, edamame, roast mushrooms, vegan feta, spinach, rice, alfalfa, almonds, and salsa verde. It was exactly the healthy bowl of vegies, nuts and grains that is needed while on holiday. And a bottle of Strangelove very mandarin soda.
At the top of the boardwalk is the ever popular Coolas Ice Creamy (97 Grampians Road). Every time we passed it, people were in a queue for ice cream. We counted ourselves lucky not to have to queue after brunch for our ice cream. I had the Chocolate Brownie and Fruits of the Forest icecreams in a cone and Sylvia had the Old English Toffee. We loved it but the weather was so warm that it melted quickly.
In the afternoon we went to the Halls Gap Zoo (I will write more about it in another post) and then I dropped Sylvia at the holiday cottage before heading out to Venus Baths. I parked by the tennis courts and walked through the Botanic Gardens to the walk through the bush along by the creek that leads to the baths.
While at the Grampians I had been determined to have a swim. The swimming pool only had lap lanes between 6-9am. I overheard a local in a shop advising a tourist not to swim in any waterholes at waterfalls because people had been sucked into whirlpools. The only safe one was Fish Falls at the Zumsteins which was quite a drive as well as a walk.
Venus Baths seemed the most practical one. It was about 20 minutes walk from the town. I wore my bathers and got into a waterhole which was freezing to begin and then became so refreshing in the humid heat that it was hard to leave to complete the loop walk.
The walk to and from the car was fairly easy. I did it at a easy pace looking at the rock formations and trees. I told Sylvia it was really easy and worth doing so we decided to do it again the next morning but she did not find it so relaxing and I can tell you that walking at breakneck speed without stopping to rest at the baths made it so much sweatier. Nothing that could not be solved by a cheese toastie!
But back to that evening visit to Venus Baths. After my swim I walked back to the car. It was darkening as I drove to our cottage along the unsealed gravel road from the main highway. I was surprised to see a kangaroo bound out of nowhere. I hit the brakes and managed to avoid it so it could pass by unscathed. It gave me a scare. It was the time of day the roos were more active. Though not all of them. As I drove a walking pace up to our cottage, I had to stop again for a kangaroo. This one was just sitting in the road and took so long to move that I could take this photo of it.
That night was our last in the cottage. We cut up some vegies, put out crackers and corn chips, leftover mock tuna (chickpea) salad, olives, beetroot dip, brie cheese and some tim tams, yuzu poky, grapes and cherries. It was a feast on a tray because I couldn't find large platters. As well as enjoying all the food, I was happy that this helped us use up bits and pieces of food without creating too many dishes. And we could eat it looking out over the magnificent view with the kangaroos one more time. The next day we packed the car, did the Venus baths walk, and drove home.
More posts about previous Grampians holiday: