Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ferny Creek, Dandenong Ranges National Park - April 2017

If towering trees don't float your boat maybe give this post a miss....

Setting off on a walk round 60 minutes before sunset isn't the ideal time to start a stroll normally, today though I had a bit of a cunning plan. With the day having been overcast and crappy I was looking for something that may help my photos a bit, so the plan was to head into Sherbrooke Forest with my tripod and hope that the lower light levels in conjunction with a slower shutter speed might even out the exposure levels in my photos a bit. Now just in case your thinking that this Feral bloke sounds like he knows what he is talking about, yeah nah.... I probably took around 60 photos on this little walk and what you are seeing here are the only ones that are even remotely respectable, oh well I am enthusiastic I suppose even if I've got no idea and no talent!
The war memorial marked the start of todays walk.

Parking the ute at the corner of Sherbrooke Road and Mount Dandenong Tourist Road I wandered off into the gloom. Initially the route tracks along just on the edge of the bush line beside Mount Dandenong Tourist Road for around 500 metres before heading into the scrub along Hackett Track. For anyone who's never walked this area before Sherbrooke Forest is famous (in my eyes anyway) for its majestic Mountain Ash trees, these giant eucalyptus trees make you feel quite insignificant. The downside of the Mountain Ash though is it's almost impossible to get a photo of anything else really. Following the wide Hackett Track down the gentle valley of Sherbrooke Creek I zig zagged a bit and soon arrived at Sherbrook Falls. Now I could crap on about all the huge waterfalls that I've visited over the years and generally sound like a wanker but I've been reliably told that size doesn't matter, hmmm? so working on that rational then Sherbrooke Falls are pretty cool, although lets just say that they are best visited after rain!
Like a lot of the walks in our under resourced parks, this one was looking a little tired in spots.
Hackett Track is a nice easy walk.
My photos of Sherbrooke Falls are that ordinary that I'm not even going to post one, I'll post another photo of the trees instead! Leaving the falls and climbing up towards Moore Break it was now as good as dark, at least the light was even now, although I needed night vision to do anything with it. After disturbing a small wallaby I turned on to the wide grassy swathe that is Moore Break, bordered on one side by the houses of Ferny Creek and on the other side by Sherbrooke Forest this grassy firebreak makes for a nice easy walk. It wasn't long before I started to drop back down towards Mount Dandenong Tourist Road, the headlights of the cars being the giveaway. On meeting Hackett Track the circuit section of my walk was over, all that I had to do now was retrace the pad back beside the tourist road to the ute. So did the late evening tactics work for my photos? You be the judge but I'm not sure it was worth wandering around the scrub with a tripod slung over my shoulder for an hour and a half.
It was basically dark when I took these photos.

The Dirt.
I walked 5 kilometres and climbed 122 metres on this very easy stroll. I used the notes and mud map out of one of Tyrone Thomas' 120 Walks in Victoria books, to be honest though all you really is a map and you can easily make your own adventure in Sherbrooke Forest.
Relevant Posts.
The grassy Moore Break made for a nice finish to my evenings stroll.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Mundy Gully, Spring Plains Nature Conservation Reserve - July 2017

Spring Plains Nature Conservation Park, Mundy Gully Two Dam.
Now while I haven't done a google search I'm thinking that there is a fair chance that no one has written up a walk in the Springs Plains Nature Conservation Reserve before. Mundy Gully doesn't immediately spark recognition like maybe Oberon Bay, Mount Feathertop or Bogong do. Now I could crap on a bit and tell you that Mundy Gully is an undiscovered gem just waiting to be discovered by masses of intrepid bushwalkers, yeah I could say that but that would be stretching things a little too far, even for my fast and loose style of blogging;) What Mundy Gully is though, is a pleasant place for a fairly easy stroll in some nice open, dry eucalyptus forest. With a fair bit of historical mining interest to be discovered as well, Mundy Gully is worth a look if you're in the area.
Hmm, it was lucky I'd come prepared for the cold I suppose.
To get there today though meant an early morning drive through the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and wanting to avoid the worst of the suburban traffic mayhem it was indeed another early start. My two hour plus drive up to the start of the walk was enlivened by listening to the young Forest Trump on news radio and his verbal contortions over the latest Russian revelations. At the same time I was watching the ambient temperature read out in my ute plunging south. After touching -3 around Kilmore it had heated up to a relatively balmy -1 by the time I started the walk.....yeah, yeah I know I'm an old fart and I need to get a life! In the usual Feral way I'd come prepared for the frigid temperature today, yep shorts and a summer shirt, hmmm. So after pulling on my boots I was pretty keen to set off and warm up a bit. 
The view from the start of today's walk first thing this morning, the ground was still covered in frost.
My route today basically had me following the gravel Mundy Gully Track north for a few kilometres before turning around and heading back. It wasn't exactly a retrace though, I made a few detours off the Mundy Gully Track (which forms the spine of the small park) to check out the lasting remnants of the old mining industry. Passing by some blue police tape, hanging limply off a tree in the still morning, I turned off Mundy Gully Track and wandered east down an old 4wd drive track. With the early morning mist still lingering in the open forest and a bit of police tape scattered about, Spring Plains Nature Conservation Reserve was a little bit freaky this morning I reckon, a situation not helped by the old open mine shafts now largely being used as a dumping ground for all sorts rubbish. After checking out a few of the open shafts and their mullock heaps I figured that it was time to head off to my next attraction.
Heading down past the police tape to my first historical mine site, with the mist still rising and the police tape scattered around it was a bit of a creepy spot this morning.
The old open mine shafts make the perfect spot to dump rubbish apparently, is it any wonder I've got so little respect for most of humanity.....
There are a phenomenal number of old mine shafts in this park.
Passing over the wall of a small dam I now started a short off track section, I was climbing gently up onto a low ridge where I intersected with another old track at another old mine. The go on this short off track section is to head north from the dam wall, initially there is a bit of a pad but it disappears in the light forest further up the hill, but by then you will probably be able to see an old dumped car, it's rusting upturned body not only marking the old track but also the old mine site. After checking out this second site and checking to see if anyone was living in the old car, I headed west back towards Mundy Gully Track again. 
When you spot this old wreck through the trees the short off piste section is over.
The second mine site has some fairly big mullock heaps scattered around the forest.

I now set off north again, the wide gravel Mundy Gully Track making for delightfully easy walking. Spring Plains Nature Conservation Reserve is a fairly narrow park, basically it occupies the rocky ground that the local cow cockies didn't want, so it's not unusual to be gazing out over open paddocks. Along here the track borders an area that the local parks people have set aside for ecoligical thinning, apparently it's for research which I presume is to see how the country bounces back from logging. Climbing up a little after passing the ecological thinning area I arrived at what was probably the biggest mining area that I would visit on this walk, and yes this one came complete with more police tape, maybe rubbish wasn't the only thing getting dumped in these old mine shafts. This old mine site comprises a large number of old shafts spread out through the forest and down into a gully, the area covered would be at least two football fields worth, I would think.
With the park being fairly narrow I was sometimes looking out over the rural landscape as I made my way north along Mundy Gully Track.
This is a section of the forest that was cleared for ecological thinning.
Mundy Gully Track rises and falls very gently making for great walking.
Maybe it's not just rubbish being dumped in those old mine shafts.....
This old mine site, which is basically just to the left of Mundy Gully Track, is the largest one I saw in the park, there are numerous open shafts scattered around the forest.

After passing by a picturesque dam below the old mine I once again set off north along Mundy Gully Track. I was now looking for a track climbing away to the south-west. Finding the likely looking track I once again detoured off Mundy Gully Track, this time I was on my way to find an old water race. After climbing up over a low spur I did indeed find the old water race which confirmed that I was indeed actually on the correct track, so it was all good then! With it now being mid-morning the sun was starting to light up the surrounding forest a bit which gave me something else to try a take a decent photo of. I was climbing up towards a low saddle where the water race passes through a tunnel underneath the high point, interestingly the tunnel was still open although I wasn't overly keen on exploring it's depths.
Mundy Gully One Dam
Don't miss this un signposted track heading south-west off Mundy Gully Track if you want to visit the best preserved tunnel.
The old water race is still recognisable in the open forest.
This old tunnel is very well preserved.
Although the north side is looking a bit more dodgy.
After checking out the old tunnel I continued on around my side trip, this area of the forest featured a lot of yellow flowering wattles, I'm guessing that it's got slightly drier soils. After meeting the boundary to some private property I started west along the fence line, once again heading back onto Mundy Gully Track. Once I was back on Mundy Gully Track again I headed north again crossing a damp gully before before turning off along the signposted Tunnel Track. You'd never guess but Tunnel Track also featured the water race passing through a tunnel under a low saddle, this example though isn't as good as the previous tunnel that I'd already visited, although you could drive a soft roader to this one so it's probably more frequented. This marked the northern extremity of today's walk though, after checking out Tunnel Track's tunnel I turned and retraced my walk back down to Mundy Gully Track, which I then followed all the way back down to the ute at Hardings Dam.
Apart from the mining history the forest also provided a few other points of interest if I looked.

Some of the gully's supported a damper environment.
The Dirt.
I walked 11.8 kilometres on this stroll at an average speed of 3.8 kph, with 261 metres of climbing, a short off track section and a fair bit of navigating I'd rate this as a medium walk, although physically it's a pretty easy stroll that would be suitable for most people. There is no protection around the numerous old mine shafts scattered through the open forest so care should be taken when off track or exploring. I'm thinking this park should be avoided in summer as it would be a pretty hot, dry and dusty spot I would think. Parks Vic have a page about Spring Plains Nature Conservation Reserve online, but really it's got bugger all information on it. The best walking information that I've found is from the oracle of bushwalking in Australia Tyrone Thomas, his map and notes are all you need, although good luck finding them as all his books are now out of print I think. For what it's worth I used the notes and mud map out of Mt Thomas' 150 Walks in Victoria.
Relevant Posts.

The tunnel off Tunnel Track was partially collapsed.

By late morning I was making my way south, back down Mundy Gully Track to the ute.

The end (and start) point of todays walk at Hardings Dam on Hardings Lane.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ile Aux Cerfs, Mauritius - December 2011

The Grand River South East Waterfall.
Mauritius, for those that don't know, is a small speck in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa. Over the centuries it has been ruled by the Dutch, the French and the English, and the small country has taken bits and pieces from all these cultures. It's the French that have had the biggest effect on the culture of Mauritius in my eyes though. A lot of the locals speak French and it looks like a lot of French people holiday in this little bolt hole in the Indian Ocean. Now that's all fascinating I suppose but what's it got to do with this post? Well today Sam and I went on an organised boat tour to Ile Aux Cerfs and it's on these tours that the cultural difference between the Aussie's and the French become obvious, from Eurotrash Pop music to the French peoples uninhibited need to shed their clothes to soak up the suns rays at any opportunity, we have a few differences. 
Our catamaran hasn't left yet and already every bodies got their kit off - all good then!
There are definitely worse ways to spend the day.
To get to the start of this tour we had to cross the country from our base on the west coast in Flic en Flac over to Trou d'Eau Douce on the west coast, now while that sounds like a pretty serious undertaking in actual fact it doesn't take that long. With the whole coast line totalling only 177 kilometres getting around this small country isn't too hard. Just over an hour after leaving our accommodation we were boarding our catamaran and what was the first thing I noticed? Yep you guessed it, it was all the other punters in various stages of undress soaking in the tropical sun, the French ladies no matter what their age or size have never seen a bikini that they won't wear, and the French blokes have never seen a hanky that they won't wear on their heads! So as you've probably already worked out, with my eclectic fashion sense and love of nudity I fitted in pretty well;) 
We were in Mauritius in the rainy season, thankfully we didn't have too much precipitation, although the humidity was up there.
I think Mauritius is probably more famous for it's beaches than it's diving.
Our trip today featured a stop for a bit of snorkelling in the crystal clear water before we continued on to Ile Aux Cerfs. To be brutally honest the snorkelling (at least on this trip) was pretty ordinary. Most of the coral was either bleached or seriously degraded and consequently the amount and variety of the tropical fish was pretty light on. Now I'm not sure if this was just a issue with where we dived on this trip or if it's a symptom of a wider environmental problem, obviously coral bleaching is an issue world wide due to climate change but it looked like the coral was also struggling due to damage - maybe caused by the locals over fishing the area's. Anyway after a pleasant swim we climbed back on board and headed of towards our next stop, Ile Aux Cerfs.
The coral was looking a bit second hand.
I'm looking pretty happy, probably because I've just had a swim.
Ile Aux Cerfs roughly translates to Island of Stags although the stags that the island were named after look like they are long gone now days. In the place of the deer are the tourists, most of them either soaking in the crystal clear water or chilling out in one of the few bars. We decided to head for the water and avoid the bars, the last thing my fat guts needed was more food on this trip. Sitting in the crystal clear tepid water watching the tourist boats come and go and all the excited punters on the beach this was people watching at it's best. 
This nice sand spit made for a nice spot to sit in the water and watch the world go by on the Ile Aux Cerfs.
There was even the odd pirate boat to check out.
After getting our fill of sun we jumped back onto our catamaran and headed of towards our next stop the extravagantly named Grand River South East Waterfall. I'm thinking the name of the falls might lose a bit in translation somehow. Contrary to the fairly uninspiring name the falls were actually pretty good. Our catamaran couldn't navigate it's way up river all the way to the falls so we jumped onto a smaller boat for the last section up the Grand River South East. While this waterfall only drops 4 or 5 metres there is a fair volume of water flowing over it, the spray creating it's own small lush micro climate beside the river. Unfortunately, being stuck on an organised tour there was no opportunity for any Feral type adventure at the falls, with the temperature well and truly in the hot a sticky range it would of been nice to jump in and explore a little. Returning down stream to the catamaran it was time to start heading back across the country to our base in Flic en Flac, arriving back with plenty of time left in the day for another swim, life was good!
We jumped on a smaller vessel to head up the Grand River South East, have I mentioned that it was pretty warm?
Unfortunately for me there was no swimming allowed.
Haeding back to Trou d'Eau Douce it was a bit like the Wacky Racers as all the catamarans raced each other.
The Dirt.
I haven't got a lot of facts to give you in The Dirt on this post. We stayed at a beautiful resort on the beach in Flic en Flac called Sugar Beach Resort, which as you would expect made for a very comfortable base. Our day trip on the catamaran was booked through a local company but I'm buggered if I can remember the name of the company. Ile Aux Cerfs is a fairly touristy spot so don't go there if you want a back to nature type of experience. The diving was a little average, although that maybe because I'm a little spoilt when it comes to great dives and besides the swimming was great anyway, I think Mauritius is probably more famous for it's beautiful beaches than it's coral. The Grande Riviere Sud-Est Waterfall (how goods my French hey!?) is definitely worth a look if you're in the area, for me it was probably the highlight of the day.
Relevant Posts.

Hey, hey, I've got a shop named after me in Flic en Flac, I reckon they'd go broke trying to sell my style to the French!