At the end of the last blog we were in Apollo Bay. We had been delighted by beautiful sunrises and sunsets and even moon rises all week. So we were up very early on our last day to catch our last Apollo Bay sunrise. It didn’t disappoint.
And so it was with joy and wonder in our hearts we bade Apollo Bay farewell and set off along the Great Ocean Road to Port Fairy, which was to be our next stop for a couple of nights.
We have covered a bit of the Great Ocean Road in a previous Blog here when we stayed at Wye River and visited the Apostles. You may recall the last time we visited we arrived at peak viewing time, 100 coach loads of tourists from Melbourne had just arrived a few minutes before us. The place was bedlam. This time we vowed to get there before the rush. It worked. There were only 5,000 people there when we arrived this time. Slight exaggeration, it was still busy but not nearly as busy as last time.
Unlike the last time, this time the sky was blue and there was a stiff breeze which made the sea look fabulous. It really is hard to take a bad picture of the Apostles.
The Apostles, or just a little bit further, were as far as we had travelled along the Great Ocean Road, from here to Port Fairy it was new territory for us.
Port Fairy was originally a small whaling station named after the whaling ship “The Fairy”. A short time later a boyo from Northern Ireland called James Atkinson who came to Australia in the 1800’s bought a chunk of swamp near this same whaling station. He drained the swamp and sold of parcels of the land and named the town ‘Belfast’ after his home town. In 1887 it was changed back to Port Fairy. However, there’s still a lot of references to Belfast around.
Maybe the original Belfast could name itself Port Fairy, would be very interesting.
We were only in Port Fairy on a short visit so had not much time to explore however I did get a chance to have a pint in a couple of pubs that Port Fairy is renowned for. We also visited an Op Shop (Charity Shop) and we got ourselves some warm scarves. Watch for same in following pics and in future blog posts.
On our Vagabonding adventures we regularly meet fellow travellers. In Apollo Bay camp site we met Colin and his wife who were almost Grey Nomads, in that they were grey and travelled but not often so not nomadic. Colin told us of a beautiful place called Halls Gap in the Grampian Mountains. After a bit of Googling we discovered it was a bit of a dog leg detour on our way to Adelaide but we had the time so decided to stop there. I love how flexible we can be. So it was for Halls Gap we drove when we left Port Fairy. Coincidentally we met Colin again in a cafe in Port Fairy just as we were leaving.
We had originally booked a camp site in Halls Gap but after checking the weather forecast we changed to a cabin. Glad we did.
As has happened with us a few times a cold weather front was following us. Unusually cold weather had decided it was also going to come see us while we were in Halls Gap and bring it’s friends rain and wind with it. There was a potential bonus in that snow was forecast. Jenni hadn’t seen snow in Australia so it was going to be great. (spoiler alert, it didn’t snow but just stayed cold and wet, more like an Irish winter)
Halls Gap is beautiful. Even in the cold, wet and windy weather we experienced we could see how wonderful this place is. We did get out to explore a bit. There was a reservoir near the camp site so that was the first place we went to for a short walk. We put on ALL our warm clothes then covered that with ALL our wet weather clothes and set forth.
Just out of the campsite we saw a kangaroo grazing, he seemed completely unfazed by the two humans. We were able to get really close before he got pissed off and hopped away.
Waves of rain clouds passed across the path alternating sunshine and rain.
It made the Grampians even more majestic and dramatic,
On our way back we could see a rain front approaching across the lake. With the sun behind us we could see a full rainbow arc across the lake. This was the best pic I got, you can see the rain on the lens. It wasn’t the weather proof lens either. Anything to get the shot I always say.
The next days weather was forecast to be much better, no wind, no rain and sunny. Weather forecasting in mountains is never accurate so it turned out to be exactly the same conditions this day as well.
Reed’s Lookout and the Balconies
And so the next day we put on all our warm clothing and packed all our wet weather gear and drove up into the mountains to Reed’s Lookout. This is one of the best spots to view the Grampians and the valleys. We were initially going to try and get to it for sunrise but it was too cold and it was cloudy anyway so we settled for a trip after breakfast. Even in the overcast conditions the views were amazing.
From the car park at Reed’s Lookout, which has a panoramic view over the valley, we walked the 1 kilometre or so to the Balconies lookout, one of the most famous in the region. The views along the way were worth the walk itself.
In the trees we had some respite from the wind. I was able to remove my beanie at least.
Eventually we arrived at the Balconies. Intrepid adventurers sometimes climb down onto the rocks and get friends to snap a pic of them dangling their legs over the edge. Originally I had an idea I’d try this, that was until I got there. It looked a stupid thing to do and the view definitely did not need me to improve it.
On the way up to the lookout we passed a sports field full of grazing kangaroos. If they were still there on the way back, I told myself, we’d stop and record the scene. They were and we did. It’s still as wonderful to me as a whole Serengeti full of wildebeest.
Lakeside Camp site was full of amazing wildlife. Many species of birds flitted all around, very at home with the human invaders. 3 big Cockatoos came to visit us at our cabin to see if we had anything interesting to eat. When they realised we didn’t they lost interest.
This little guy was one of many who swarmed all around. This one was drinking from the gutter on the cabin next door. Love his colours.
But, too soon it was time to leave.
Some time back Jenni and were watching ABC series Backroads about a smalll town called Natimuk that was a mecca for climbers and held a Frinj festival every two years. It looked fascinating. When plotting our route to Adelaide from Halls Gaps we saw the name Natimuk. A phone call later and we had secured a cabin out the back of the Nati Pub. It was there we were headed next.
But on the way there we had to stop for a photo of the Giant Koala. Looks quite scary if you ask me. It’s the eyes.
National Hotel or Nati Pub
Natimuk is a rural village, almost unchanged for many years. 10kms away is Mount Arapiles, one of the best climbing spots in Australia. Farmers and climbers mingle and bond in the town making it an interesting place to visit. That’s what Back Roads said and that’s why we are here. They didn’t lie, it was fabulous. More on that later in the blog.
Our room was at the back of the National Hotel, or the Nati Pub as it is known locally.
The guy sitting at the table on the right is Dave. Dave owns Mahogany House. All the locals were really friendly but Dave took the time to sit and chat to us and tell us all about the village and his business. He also sponsors a lot of stuff, we saw Mahogany House all over the place. If you are eagle eyed you’ll see it’s logo on the poster on the wall. Dave was a big personality, he could have his own series.
But, before we checked in we went for brunch at the Nati Cafe.
The food was great, the coffee greater. Best coffee I’ve had on the road to date. It’s by Five Senses and it’s their Compton Road Blend. We hung around the cafe and caught up with some work while we were there.
On the walls all over the cafe were old black and white images of climbers. The bookshelf was filled with climbing hardbacks and photo coffee table books and the magazine rack full of Rock and Ice magazines.
There was even a climbing tent in the back room
The Nati Finj festival is a bi-annual festival that has been going since 2005. The Nati Cafe had all the posters on the wall.
The lovely lady who cooked the fabulous lunch for us came out for a chat. She told us about Mount Arapiles and the town history walk and the photo frame where you can get a picture of the mountain framed in the background. All of that sounded like a plan so off we set. First stop the photo frame.
In 1960 Natimuk Artist Greg Pritchard built a large wooden picture frame. It has since been upgraded to a steel frame. Someone kindly added an armchair to the art establishment so Jenni and I took full advantage of both. I love this picture.
This next pic was not taken at the same time as the above but the next day very early. It fits better in the narrative at this point as this is how I imagine the artist felt would look it’s best, with the dawn light illuminating both the mountain and the golden frame.
Sir Thomas Mitchell, Explorer of Australia Felix. Having discovered and named this mountain Arapiles, ascended it July 23rd 1836. This tablet was erected to his honour by residents of Natimuk and surrounding districts in 1913.
Mount Arapiles, aka Araps, aka the Mount, aka the Piles… aka The Best Crag in the World is one of the premier climbing sites in Australia due to the quantity and quality of it’s climbs.
This is from a climbing web site:- ” you will find a wealth of world-class, fantastic trad climbs of all grades. Arapiles is stacked! ” So, there you have it. Stacked! With an exclamation mark!
There are thousands of climbing routes up the mountain, from easy to very deadly “you’re not going to make it” bloody hard. The Australian Special Forces use the mountain to practice some of their more adventurous routines on each year. They stay in the same digs we stayed in at the Nati Pub. Bill, the landlord showed us the video they produced of their adventures. Really interesting. Rad even. Stacked!
The land was inhabited by the Djurid Balud Aboriginal clan for thousands of years prior to the European colonisation of Australia. They used the mountain’s hard sandstone for making various stone tools. They were eventually displaced from the area by the European settlers and the clan died out. This small plaque and tiny roped off area it sits in is all that is left to commemorate the original owners.
It’s an impressive mountain. We saw loads of climbers on it when we were there.
If you are interested in giving Mount Arapiles a go Bill, the owner of the Nati Pub, said The Climbing Company were the one’s to go with. He’s a man of greater than average proportions and he has climbed it twice with them. That’s enough of an endorsement for me.
Roll the clock back several months. Jenni and I were watching ABC series Back Roads. It features Australian locations that are off the beaten track, but always have great stories and are worth visiting. Natimuk was on one of these and it instantly struck a chord with us. When we had the chance we had to stop there.
The main street is full of old original buildings and there’s an historic walking trail around them, this is our photo journey along the trail.
Dave’s Mahogany House Natimuk
Dave’s other Mahogany House, with Dave on the phone (again) outside.
And so, it was time to leave Natimuk and make our way to Adelaide, where we would be stopping next for a few days.
Bill, the barman and owner of the Nati Pub told us about the Little Desert which was in between Natimuk and Adelaide. It’s a very small region with unusual weather patterns of low rainfall, high daytime temperatures and low night time temperatures. Typical desert. It’s now a national park, we took a detour to drive through it on our way to Adelaide.
It is an area of low yield crop growing. The fields were looking very bare allowing me to try this minimalist shot.
Through the Little Desert, that wasn’t a desert, we stopped at Coonalpyn for something to eat. We’ve done Coonalpyn before in this blog. Still think these are magnificent.
We are in Adelaide to see a client and some friends. During our 4 days there Jenni and I got one night to relax and go to the movies to see Rocketman. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to do that, it was lovely night. After the movie we had a nightcap at the Irish pub on the way home.
When we are in Adelaide we try and visit the Colonial Pub, for some good food and drink. We managed a visit or two this time. It’s a unique place, well worth a visit.
On the street outside our Airbnb (Osmond Street) was this street art that lit up at night. Thought it looked cool enough to put in the blog.
Across the Nullabor
Our next adventure after Adelaide takes us to Albany across the Nullabor, 2,630 kilometres in a week. This is a trip that has been on our agenda for a long time.
I am writing the last bit of this blog in a hotel in Norseman, two days away from Albany and I can tell you this next blog is going to be epic, and it’s not over yet. Can’t wait to get started writing this next one.
Till next time.