Thursday, 5 May 2016

Half-lap Day 3: The Grampians

We were up a bit again throughout the night, sorting out blankets and getting people comfortable. Millie slept all night until 6.30, then needed to get up to go to the toilet. Mt Difficult was just starting to get sunlight on it, just across from our campsite – so beautiful. Millie went back in to bed and I went for a walk, the mist rolled in as I walked and it was also beautiful wandering through the bush in the mist (and Mt Difficult had disappeared).

While I was having my cup of tea the wallaby came back and the kids came out to see her. We soon realized she had a joey out of the pouch as well – the 2 animals came back and forwards from the bush to the campsite all morning. We had breakfast and the kids explored the area around us, walking through the bush, running around the campsite, LiAM built a teepee out of wood, Millie practised riding her bike, Caitlin and Tony rode around whole area. They decided they wanted to ride into Halls Gap (about 10km) so they headed off and the rest of us got ready for our day out and then drove in to meet them.

A group of people near us had been up late the night before and left a lot of rubbish on the ground when they left. Another couple came and asked if we had any large garbage bags so they could clean up the mess – we all felt that these campgrounds are not going to remain free if there is rubbish left everywhere. They cleaned up and I offered to take the bags in to town to throw out there. While I was trying to fit them in to the bins in town, I saw some of the people who had left the rubbish – it was too late to say anything, and apparently the other couple had asked them to clean up before they left and they replied that it wasn’t their stuff, it was just rubbish.

Our plan was to walk up to The Pinnacle. We were thinking of doing the easiest walk, from Sundial Carpark – which involved driving around to the other side of the mountains. However by the time we met up with Tony and Caitlin (who really enjoyed their bike ride into town) and used the flush toilets at the park (Millie and LiAM are not a fan of drop toilets), and got jackets and food and sunscreen organised, no one wanted to get back in the car, so we decided to walk from where we were. The signage at the Halls Gap carpark wasn’t very clear on the difficulties and length of the walks from there to The Pinnacle, so we decided to do the shortest one once we found some signposts at a junction along the track. We realised later that we’d taken the most difficult track! The track led up along the cliff face for most of the way – there were a few bits of walking over rocks that felt a bit scary, but for most of it the track felt safe – there were just A LOT of steps. Hundreds and hundreds and it was hard work. We stopped for rests very regularly, and had a big snack about halfway up, and kept plodding along. The view back down to the town was impressive, as was the view at times across the valley on the other side. About ¾ of the way up we realised we’d left the car unlocked – with the iPad in plain view, and all of our other devices in the car too. I started to worry about it, then figured it was at least a couple of hours til I could get back there, so there was nothing I could do about it at this stage, and I would hope for the best. I managed to not worry at all except during the really hard bits of the track when everything seemed disastrous…. For the last 10 minutes or so of the upward climb on the track I was wishing I hadn’t suggested this walk, and thinking that everyone would be angry at me for dragging them up there – once we came out of the woods and were walking over bare rocks and the top seemed close, I felt much better and everyone got excited again. We reached the top and walked out to the lookout – Caitlin had been worried by the pictures of it and was scared it would be too close to the edge, the fences wouldn’t be sturdy enough etc, but was reassured when we got there and saw the very solid fence. As we got closer though there were edges without fences and even going out onto the lookout was pretty scary for Caitlin and I – I’m not good with heights in general, and Caitlin is OK if it feels secure and she wasn’t completely convinced about this place. Having the kids out there, and all our cameras, added to my fear quite a bit and I was a bit over protective out there, making everyone stay away from the edges especially when they were taking photos. (I have a massive fear of things being dropped over the edge). In between my panic though I could see that the view was spectacular and it was an impressive feat for us to have climbed all the way up there.

One of the scary bits
We moved back from the edge and had some lunch. There was an icy wind blowing, but it was so beautiful sitting all the way up there on the top of the mountain range. We chatted to a few other people – some also quite scared, some just thrilled to be up so high. The elevation from Halls Gap is 400m so it was quite a significant height.

Having a rest about 3/4 of the way up
View from the lookout (see, I did make it all the way out to the edge of the lookout - but not for long!)
We decided to go back down through the Grand Canyon – a longer walk but not as steep and much more beautiful (it probably would have made more sense to come up that way – on the other hand I’m so amazed and happy that we all achieved what we did). There were beautiful and sensational rock formations – a long thin corridor between two rock faces, a much bigger canyon with a creek flowing through it, a waterfall (Bridal Veil) that we could go in and sit behind, some caves and chambers, regular creek crossings and pools in the creek, and most of the steps were more gradual or we were walking down over the rocks and it was easier than the other path.

In behind Bridal Veil Falls
It was a long way though (4.6km in total from the top, after 3.6km walking up) and the last couple of km were very hard work for all of us. All of the kids made it all the way, even Millie. We’d taken the sling because we thought she would need to be carried some of the way – but she rested a lot, and played with bits of leaves and dirt to stop from getting bored, then bounded along the path a bit further and after the first 10 minutes didn’t ask at all to go in the sling. (We said no at that early point cos we figured we didn’t want to carry her the whole way). There was a good bit of complaining for the last little while, and we rested more often, but kept moving – I was worried about the light too as the sun had gone behind the mountain – and we made it back to the carpark before dark, and with everyone still walking.

Tony took the kids over to the supermarket to get ice creams (they wanted to buy some from the ice cream shop but it was closed by the time we got back down) and a choc peppermint Drumstick helped everyone feel a bit better. I put the bikes on the car and we headed back to our tent. Tony cooked hotdogs for himself and the kids and got a fire started in a fire pit and I made myself some toasted sandwiches. Millie hung out in the tent with the iPad, I read my book and the others sat around the fire. I joined them for a while and then got ready for bed. Everyone was in the tent by not long after 9 and I read Brisingr to everyone until the kids started to fall asleep.

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