From when I was quite young we used to go as a family on holidays to the Grampians, a group of sandstone mountain ranges about three and a half hours drive west of Melbourne. It’s one of my favourite places to be.
This area has great natural beauty, and great variety. There is a wide range of walks to choose from, ranging from simple and flat wheel-chair accessible strolls through the trees or by a creek, to family-sized walks with a bit of clambering over the sandstone, to whole day and multi-day hikes. The destination could be a rocky peak, an interesting rock formation, a quiet waterfall, or even a few historical sites. Or perhaps you can just drive somewhere for a picnic, like to one of the reservoirs, scenically set amongst the mountains.
And everywhere around you, in between the imposing browns, greys, and reds of the sandstone, the Australian bush with all its colours. The quintessentially Australian gum tree (eucalypts) with their slim pale trunks. Green grass trees, acacias with yellow flowers, banksias with red flowers, green grass. In sections, the black of a burnt tree, with the green of new sprouting. And, especially in spring, wildflowers everywhere.
And in this bush you are walking through, wildlife. Emus and deer walking along near the road. Cockatoos in white and yellow, galahs in pink and grey, parrots in green and red, crimson rosellas, currawongs – black, with yellow eyes – and kookaburras, laughing, sitting in an old gum tree. If you go to the right places, you can see lots of kangaroos (often with little joeys in their pouches), and get quite close to them.
You can see the tourist in his natural environment, camera at the ready. I suggest you don’t approach them, and definitely don’t try offering them food on outstretched palm – mostly they won’t bite you, but feeding the wildlife encourages dependence on the food you give, and your food is probably not their natural food.
And if you’re lucky, you’ll see an echidna waddling around like a mini-tank, protected by its spikes, or even a wedge-tailed eagle – their wingspan is huge (up to 2.27m/7ft 5 inches).
One hike we do almost every time we go up to the Grampians is called The Pinnacle, and it’s probably about the best-known hike in the Grampians. It’s a good one, too. You climb over a variety of terrain, from flattish sections of track to steps to a little rock-scrambling. It’s a lovely mixture of the grey of the sandstone, the yellow-brown of the dirt track, the green and brown of the trees, and the blue of the sky (weather permitting). Along the way you go through the such features as the (little) Grand Canyon, the Whale’s Mouth, Cool Chamber, Echo Chamber, past the seasonal Bridal Veil Falls, and down into Silent Street, a narrow canyon, before finally up and round to the peak. The peak itself juts out right over the cliff – but it is fenced in, so you can lean right over the edge and look down to Halls Gap and across to the range just opposite and round to Lake Bellfield.
You can soak in the view for a while and still be back at the house in time for lunch.
The Grampians is a place for relaxation in God’s creation away from the concrete jungle we live in. A place where most of the sights, sounds, and smells, and the texture of the rocks, are straight from nature.