Saturday, February 18, 2017

Arts Precinct, Melbourne - February 2017

With a milestone to celebrate Sam and I headed into Melbourne for a night last weekend. After dropping our gear off at the Langham, our Friday evening was spent checking out the outdoor shops (lucky Sam hey!) before heading out for a late meal and making our way back to our room. It's nice to stay in the city every now and again, not having to spend an hour or so getting back to our home in the 'burbs is a pleasant change, as was chilling out in our room and gazing out over the Yarra River and Melbourne's night time skyline. After a very relaxed breakfast at the hotel on Saturday morning I figured that I might head off on an easy city walk while Sam did a bit of shopping, after a lot of research I settled on the Arts Precinct Walk (err that may be another alternative fact.....the real reason was that the walk almost passed by the front door of our hotel!).
Our flash digs tonight.
After saying goodbye to Sam as she wandered off with the credit cards for a couple of hours, I headed down to the National Gallery of Victoria to start my stroll. Now this walk passes by a lot of galleries on it's journey, but with limited time today I was more interested in checking out the outside of the galleries and public art installations. Passing the NGV I did make an exception to that rule though and headed in to the vast foyer to check out the famous water wall, managing to get a photo without too many people in it. Actually getting photos without people in them was a bit of a problem today as the city was crowded with punters in town for White Night. 
I started my walk off at the NGV.
Walking down the wide, tree lined boulevard that is St Kilda Road I checked out the Victorian Collage of the Arts before turning down Grant Street. Apart from a fair few residential apartments Grant Street is home to the Vault, better known to some Victorians as the Yellow Peril. This installation has struggled to find a home in Melbourne and is currently settling in to it's third home so far, now on the forecourt of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art it stands as a contrast to the huge City Link exhaust and the rusted facade of the ACCA. With the huge Eureka Tower guiding me back I headed towards the CBD along Sturt Street, turning onto Southbank Boulevard at the Melbourne Recital Hall, it's interesting architecture giving me a reason to get the camera out again.
The Vault is probably better known as the Yellow Peril in Victoria, it seems to have found a more permanent home now.
The ACCA building.
The Melbourne Recital Hall has an interesting look to it.
Heading back up past the NGV again I checked out the sculptures around the back of the Arts Centre, I've been here many times over the years but didn't realise that there is a small sculpture garden and café hidden away behind the Arts Centre. After circumnavigating the Arts Centre I crossed the Yarra on Princess Bridge, before making my way through Federation Square. I'd been lucky so far this morning in that predicted showers hadn't arrived yet, but the city streets create a bit of a wind tunnel effect and even without the rain it was bloody cold in the shade this morning. 
The Melbourne Arts Centre.
There was a few surprises behind the Arts Centre.

I was now heading for a couple of old favourites, Hoosier Lane and more particularly, AC/DC Lane. I've featured these two spots in my blog before but the good news is that the gritty street art is always changing so revisiting every now and again there is always something new to be seen. The cobblestone Hoosier Lane is a little more on the tourist strip than AC/DC Lane and there was no shortage of punters there today, most of them trying to get a selfie of themselves in front of the mural of Trump and Putin. Hmmm, maybe Trump is infatuated with Putin because they're both fucken' lunatics, unfortunately I reckon only one of them is a smart lunatic though.....
Federation Square.
Hoosier Lane.
Guns & Roses had been in town this week and Angus Young had been up on stage with them belting out a couple of Acca Dacca classics from the Bon Scott era, and rumour has it that Angus was seen down at AC/DC Lane checking things out. Unfortunately there was no Angus sighting today but as usual AC/DC Lane and Duckboard Place provided endless visual stimulation if you look hard enough.  With no crowds to speak of in AC/DC Lane I took my time here, apart from rock'n'roll a lot of the art work here also has a political edge (like a lot of Melbourne's street art really).
Apparently Angus was down here a couple of days ago.

Heading back out onto Flinders Lane I meandered my way up to Collins Street checking out the soon to be demolished water wall in the City Square and an old favourite, the Larry Latrobe dog sculpture. With the need to check out of our room by 1:00pm I started to head back towards the Langham, heading down towards Desgraves Street through the old Nicholas Building. The Nicholas Building features a lot of resident artists studios and workshops, but I was more interested in the ground floor arcade today, the art deco styled roof being particularly good. 
Collins Street was looking pretty good today, although it was bloody cold for February.
The City Square water wall.
How about a bit of Gothic architecture.
The Art Deco Nicholas building.
Desgraves Street like AC/DC Lane and Hoosier Lane features a fair bit of gritty street art, the main difference here is that Desgraves Street also features a lot of trendy little cafés, all of which appeared to be doing a roaring trade today as I made my way through. Popping out to Flinders Street opposite the station my walk was over, all I had to do now was to head back over the Yarra River to Southbank and our hotel to meet up with Sam and then back home to our normal life in the suburbs. 
Desgraves Street was pretty busy today.
Sounds easy enough....
Now seeing that we stayed in a flash hotel on this excursion I figured that I'd better write up something informative about it. Unfortunately I failed to do that so you'll have to settle for these incoherent ramblings instead. We stayed here back when the Langham was the Sheraton a few times and my recollections we're of a fairly nice place that was fairly expensive and it appears that not much has changed there. The Langham had all the usual features of a modern 5 star hotel, with a grand entrance / foyer area and a couple of nice restaurants to choose from. Our room was a corner room on the 18th floor that looked out over the Yarra River and Melbourne's skyline. The only negative thing I can say about the room was that the bed was soft, for a reason that escapes me people that stay in these flash places seem to equate luxury with softness, whether it's beds, furniture, carpet, toilet paper....everything is soft.... much like the people that stay here I suppose, yeah, yeah I know I'm soft! We had brekky as part of the deal at Melba's restaurant and that was really good, although I gave the chocolate fountain and ice cream a miss but each to their own I suppose. We also had free wifi and a 1pm checkout. Would I recommend the Langham, well I've stayed in worse and I've stayed in better, for prime position on Southbank it's hard to beat but if you don't mind a walk then I'd go for the Hilton at South Wharf.
The Langham Hotel at Southbank.
The Langham Hotel was a comfortable spot to bed down for the night.
The Dirt.
I walked around 4.5 kilometres on my easy Arts Precinct Ramble, no GPS reading today though as I didn't want to appear like a complete tool wandering around the city. I loosely used the notes out of the Woodslane book Melbourne's Best Bush, Bay, & City Walks by Julia Monday, the Woodslane website is crap so no link there though. You could quite easily spend a day doing this walk if you visited even half the galleries and studio's that the notes take you past, however for me it's the lane ways of Melbourne that are the highlight of the walk. Like I mentioned we stayed at the Langham Hotel at Southbank. We had a B&B deal with a corner suite which cost us around $440 online, so it's not cheap, but for a special occasion I suppose it's not too bad.
Relevant Posts.

This was the view that I got on every one of the eighteen times I woke up for a piss last night....hey I'm old.
Looking over Flinders Street Station towards the eastern part of the Melbourne CBD from our room.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Blowhard Circuit, Lake Eildon National Park - February 2017

This old building marks the spot to leave Skyline Road.
Gee we had some warm weather last weekend hey! With most of the eastern half of the country baking in record heat, power blackouts, bush fires, all we needed was a plague of locusts to to complete the end of days feel about it. Now while Victoria largely dodged a bullet as far as the extreme heat goes, my day up at Lake Eildon still took it out of me. By the time I climbed the last few metres back to the ute that afternoon I'd managed to consume all my water and was fantasising about a half full bottle of flat, luke warm Pepsi Max that I'd left under the seat, yeah things were pretty grim!
About to head off, it turned out to be a fairly solid day.
The day started off pretty good though, I'd arrived at the car park above Wallaby Bay to find it empty and after pulling on my boots and gaiters I was on my way by around 10am, an alpine start for me! Back tracking along the access road I checked out Merlos Lookout, this lookout looks out over the still waters of Lake Eildon where John Merlo (of the wine Merlo) had his first homestead before it was inundated by the rising water of Lake Eildon. Unfortunately, looking almost directly into the morning sun the views out over the water were a little washed out today. Shouldering my pack I left the lookout and picked up the track that headed to Blowhard Summit.
The view out over Coller Bay from Merlos Lookout.
The climb up to Blowhard Summit starts off steep and pretty much stays that way.
This climb was a very solid warm up for the day, initially climbing very steeply until I veered to the  north a little and followed the crest of the spur all the way to Blowhard Summit. Thankfully when I did start to climb along the spur crest I picked up a few zephyrs of wind through the trees, as by now my shirt was already ringing wet with sweat. After pushing through a few more spiders webs I emerged at Blowhard Summit to take in the expansive view. The Blowhard Summit was a good spot to sit in the shade for a minute and cool down while I took in the distant views of Mt Buller and down to the tantalising water of Lake Eildon. While today wasn't forecast to be overly hot, checking the BOM site when I got home the temperature only got to 33˚, the humidity was really draining me and I was already going through my 3 litres of water, I obviously wasn't going to die of thirst near a huge fresh water lake but I was thinking that I may have treat some water out of it before my walk was finished.

Once I'd climbed onto the crest of the spur I picked up a zephyr of a breeze.
Mt Buller from Blowhard Summit.
The sky was a bit hit and miss today.
School Point and Aird Inlet from Blowhard Summit.
For now though I was heading away from the water, climbing the undulating Blowhard Spur towards the distant Skyline Road. Blowhard Spur had a few very steep and loose climbs and descents before reaching High Camp and starting a more gentle ascent all the way up to Skyline Road. Nearing Skyline Road a break in the trees allowed me a look back at Lake Eildon, I was surprised how far away from the lake I was. Skyline Road basically marks the boundry between the rural farmland and the Lake Eildon National Park and as the name would suggests follows near the top of the ridge. The road bash is only fairly short though and the more rural landscape added a bit of variety to the days walk really, but still by the time I turned down Station Creek Track off Skyline Road I wasn't overly upset.
The walk along Blowhard Spur to Skyline Road is a bit of a roller coaster affair.

Lake Eildon looked a long way away from the top of Blowhard Spur.
Skyline Road features rural views to the west.
Station Creek Track started the serious part of my descent back down to the lake, the occasional distant views of the shimmering blue water through the trees only reinforcing how far I still had to go. It was getting pretty warm too, even though I was now descending instead of climbing I was still at the upper tolerance of my heat range and mowing through my water supplies a bit quicker than I'd like. Station Creek Track gets pretty steep and slippery near the bottom of the descent and by the time  it started to level out I was pretty happy to pull up on an old log for awhile and have a bite to eat. This section of todays stroll passes through an area of old mine shafts and while the dry, open forest makes it easy to explore it pays to be careful of these unfenced mine shafts.
At least I'm heading back down to the lake now, this is Station Creek Track.
There is some old mining history to be found in the open forest.
Continuing on I passed the turn off for Mountaineer Creek, this track will take you to a spot where you can bush camp overnight if you want to make this into a two day walk, something that I'll do one day. My next point of interest today was a visit to the old Stones Outstation, its not a straight forward side trip though. The track is signposted and initially pretty easy to follow until it meets a very deep gully, from here I headed west for awhile before crossing the gully and heading for a grassy opening that I could see through the trees, sure enough the old hut sat on the grassy clearing. This old hut would provide shelter on a crappy day but I reckon you'd be more comfortable in a tent and it appears that some people do camp here. If you lose the pad on the way back to Station Creek Track just head south and you'll pick up Station Creek Track again.
Stones Outstation.
Now on the map the next section of my walk looked pretty cruisey, but what appeared fairly flat actually had a lot of short sharp ups and downs on the ground and I was now starting to get fairly tired, or maybe I'm just fat old and broken, err actually I think it may be a combination of all of the above, combined with the heat. What ever was causing me to suffer it was a very happy feral walker when Lake Eildon materialised close at hand through the trees, being down to my last litre of water I knew now that if I got desperate there was plenty of water to be had, even if I'd have to treat it. Passing School Point the benched track contoured it's way around the slopes above the lake, the lake is fairly full at the moment with the water level being only 5 metres or so below the tree line that marks the high water level mark. My plan was to hopefully make my way around to Cook Point where I was thinking that a swim would be in order.
The lake was welcome sight.
In one spot the track appears to disappear, but contrary to this sign if you keep going you'll pick up a rough pad.
It starts off a little overgrown....
But soon becomes more obvious.
Being back down at water level any breeze that I had got on the ridges had well and truly disappeared, now with the cold clear water beckoning me it took all my will power to continue on towards Cook Point. Now Cook Point isn't very far on the map but in reality, with the track following all the ins and outs of the lake shore it seemed to take forever to get there. The good news was that there was plenty to look at to take my mind off how much I was suffering in the heat, of course there were the lakeside views, but it was also interesting checking out the many houseboats tied up around the shores well as watching the water skiers doing there thing. I suppose that the only negative apart from the heat, were the bastard offspring of the ski boats, the bloody jet skis. Yeah, yeah I know, I'm old and grumpy. Eventually I reached the track junction above Cook Point and headed out to the end of the point, quickly pulling off my sweaty boots I gingerly made my way across the rocks and eased myself into the cool water, clothes and all. And that's where I stayed for the next twenty minutes, just soaking in the cool water slowly letting my core temperature to drop down below imminent melt down levels, life was all good again!

There were plenty of houseboats out on the lake.
The track around the lake frequently detours inland to cross gullies.
Cooks Point.
This'll do me for a swim.
Believe it or not while I was sitting in the water, dark clouds had started building up, it now looked like the oppressive day might be topped off with a thunderstorm. With that in mind I deeded that I'd better head off on the last stage of todays walk, after drying off my feet I pulled on my sweaty boots and gaiters and headed back up to the track junction above Cook Point. By the time I passed back through the track junction my clothes had dried out after my swim and I was already getting pretty hot again, finishing the last of my water I was lucky that this last two or so kilometres were pretty easy, while the benched track crossed a few gullies they were fairly shallow. I was now more or less heading west into the late afternoon sun, the low angle of the sun giving the dry bush a bit of a different look to what I'd experienced so far today. Easing my way around the hills above Wallaby Bay it was a very tired and relieved feral walker who climbed the last few metres up the steps to the car park, dropping my pack I opened the ute and guzzled half a litre of warm Pepsi Max, yeah I was pretty thirsty! Jumping into the ute I headed into Alexandra to get my self something a little cooler to drink, before cruising home over the Black Spur with that familiar euphoric feeling that I get after finishing a hard walk.
It's always a good walk if I get to do a bit of feral swimming as well!

By the time I'd climbed back up to the intersection above Cook Point my clothes were dry again.
It looked like I might get a bit of rain before I get home.

The Dirt.
I walked 22.7 kilometres and climbed 761 metres on today's stroll according to my GPS. This is another walk written up by John Chapman, I used the notes out of his Day Walks Victoria book. This walk took it out of me today, I'm not really sure why, well apart from the fact I'm old, broken and fat! The walk starts off with a solid climb up Blowhard Spur and even though I took it fairly easy in the heat I suspect that the initial climb took more out of me than I realised at the time, whatever the reason I was happier than normal to get back to the comfort off the ute. Still with a swim in the offering its not a bad walk to do in summer, just carry plenty of water and allow plenty of time, I was on the trail for around 7 hours including stops today.
Relevant Posts.

The track from Cook Point to Wallaby Bay was pretty good.
A bit of the local wild life came out in the late afternoon.
There were still few climbs to complete.

The ute was a very welcome sight this afternoon.