Monday, February 8, 2016

A Couple of Days in The Grampians

We had a change of scenery...from the windswept coast with crashing surf to the rocks, boulders and mountains of The Grampians...where we spent three nights in the idyllic peace and quiet of Hall's Gap Lakeside Tourist Park. Well, quiet and relaxing in terms of vehicle traffic, some knitting time, and swimming in the wood-fire heated pool...but raucous due to squawking and squabbling cockatiels, crows and Australian magpies. They're attractive birds to watch but I sure wish they were more melodious! Each night we enjoyed the kangaroos grazing nearby...

The Grampians seem to rise straight up out of the plains of western Victoria state. In this view from the Baroka Lookout, you can see the plains to the east, and the village of Hall's Gap just below. Just below the squared off end of the lake (it's a dam) is the tourist park where we stayed...not exactly "lakeside"! 

We went on several short walks each day. Here are some photos showing the highlights of the vistas, trails, and waterfalls.

The north Grampians were hard hit by bush fires two years ago. It was interesting to learn about the regeneration after a fire. Many of the eucalyptus were burned completely which opens up the forest for new grasses. Other eucalyptus lost their canopies, but were not killed. New growth sprouted from the trunks as "epicormic" shoots, that is new branches of leaves which provide nourishment for the trees while they redevelop their canopies.

The "kangaroo-tail grass" needs stress such as a fire to flower. This is the spent flower stalk from which aborigines used to carve lightweight spears.

The Grampians, known as Geriwerd to the local indigenous people, has been an important place for at least 30,000 years. This was a meeting place where tribes came together to trade and find marriage partners, and it was also an important food source. They were hunter-gatherers with very defined roles...the men did the hunting and fishing and the women did the gathering. Being nomadic, they followed the seasons very closely, e.g. moving to the streams to set up weirs to trap migrating eels or to the plains to dig tuberous roots. Regarding the latter, this was a plant with a dandelion-like flower and the first Europeans commented on how the plains were carpeted in the spring. The women would dig a certain amount each spring, leaving enough to propagate for the next year. Within a year of Europeans introducing sheep grazing, these plants had disappeared. The sheep discovered how lovely and sweet they were. The hard hooves of sheep also compacted the ground, unlike soft kangaroo hooves. The introduction of sheep also reduced aboriginal access to kangaroo meat--farmers killed the kangaroos because they competed with the sheep for the same grass. Thus was set in motion the conflict between European and Aboriginal people. (I have vastly oversimplified the story). This history is outlined in a series of didactic panels at the Brambuk Visitor and Cultural Centre just south of Halls Gap.

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