The Grampians are an example of nature at its finest – rugged rocks and large forests, a wild area filled with wildlife and wildflowers, seemingly permanent. And yet, every few years, the forces of nature – usually large bushfires – threaten to overwhelm it.
The Grampians shows the resilience of the creation over the forces of creation. Take a hike through the forests of the Grampians and there are few places where you can’t see blackened trees from past fires. In 2006 a major fire closed a large section of the park and it took years to rebuild the trails.
Then in 2011, major flooding tore caused many landslides, destroying trails and roads, and washing hundreds of trees (many burnt by the 2006 fires) down gullies.
We hiked through one of the most badly affected areas soon afterwards, and it was incredible. The road was destroyed – in places there were gaping holes two meters or more deep, and what was left of the road buckled and twisted in many places. Thousands of trees in huge piles on the road or down by the creek. Areas we’d never seen before (as they were filled with trees) were cleaned out and open to view.
But within a few months the road had been cleared of the uprooted trees, and within a couple of years, rebuilt completely.
One spot though, Delley’s Dell, a shady, ferny nook along the creek, has never been reopened as a tourist destination – the road goes past it and doesn’t stop, for it is shady and green no longer. In time it may regrow.
At the start of this year there were major fires in the northern end of the Grampians, coming to within about a mile of Halls Gap, the main tourist centre, before the wind direction thankfully changed. Almost all the walks in the northern third of the Grampians are still closed.
At Easter, we went to one part which had just been reopened, and walked through the charred trees, the undergrowth burnt completely away, leaving just a white sandy base behind. Yet when you looked up close, there was life bursting forth. Green leaves were growing around the trunks of the burnt trees and from the ground, green shoots were sprouting. We even passed a wallaby, quietly munching amidst the desolation.
It looks devastated now, but in a few years it will have grown back, only a blackened tree here and there a reminder of what life in the Grampians means for what lives there. Fire is part of the landscape in this corner of Australia – it is required to renew the forests, and some of the seeds will only sprout after a fire.
For the tourist, fire is a frustration, closing and devastating areas of great beauty that they want to see. But the area would not be what it is without fire, and though at times painful and frustrating, this cycle of renewal gives us the awe-inspiring spectacle of the forest, like the phoenix, slowly rising new from the ashes of the old.