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Peter & Joan's Adventures
26th Feb 2018 - 4th Mar 2018 - Adventure before Dementia Tour
The Grampians

We have been a little more active this week after a couple of weeks of inactivity due to bad weather and an unexplained energy drain after departing Tasmania. We started the week in Stawell and were really surprised at what this area had to offer. After our run around the Silo art trail on Sunday I spent Monday morning exploring Stawell. Joan had things to do in the van so I got out of the way. First up decided to do some geocaching and quickly located a cache amongst a rocky outcrop on the edge of town. Feeling accomplis’hed I drove out to the local gold mine for a sticky beck before heading back into town, to the Stawell Athletics Club (SAC), the home of the annual Stawell Gift held each Easter. It is a well kept sports oval, steeped in history with an almost spiritual feel about it. Was surprised driving back into the Caravan park to find that the site now occupied by the van park was the grounds (site) of the original Stawell Gift held Easter 1878.

After lunch Joan and I backtracked to Ararat as it had sparked our interest when we drove though there last week. First stop was the Gum San Chinese Museum, site of the Canton Lead. We went in on a whim and so glad we did, not emerging for about two hours. It was a brilliant museum explaining how the Chinese discovered the Canton lead and are regarded as the founders of Ararat. The museum is interactive and world class. Ararat also has a haunted history being home to the Aradale psychiatric asylum and J-Ward, an asylum for the criminally insane. Both institutions operated for over 100 years but are now open for tourists and ghost tours. It is reported that around 13,000 people died in this facility over its 130 year history. Because of the time spent at Gum San we were too late to catch the last tour of the day at J-Ward so we headed for Aradale to find out it only opened on Sundays and Wednesdays. Guess we were not meant to see the horrors and history of these bizarre facilities. We headed for home but decided we would get into one more tourist attraction that day as  we had to drive through Great Western, the home of Seppelt Wines. We discovered they provided tours of their historic underground drives, 3 kilometres of underground cellars. And guess what? We had just missed the last tour of the day. We settled on a tasting, purchased some bottled souvenirs and on the way home decided we would stay in Stawell a little longer so we could complete some of the tours we had missed. 

So Tuesday morning we were back at Seppelt’s at 11:00am for their underground tour. It was great, learning the story of the Best family, Joseph and Henry, the history of Seppelt and exploring the underground drives. Downside was we then knew that’s we had to also visit the Best Vineyard, planted by Henry Best and still trading under the Best name today, just down the road to get the rest of the story. But first we ventured back into Ararat for the 1:00pm J-Ward Tour. The building was originally the Ararat Goal in the 1850’s but after it closed in the 1880’s it was taken over as J-Ward of the Ararat Lunatic Asylum. This ward went on to house the most depraved and most dangerous men in Victoria in horrific conditions under the highest security. The Ward was closed in 1991. It is now a museum complex dedicated to recording and preserving the history of the criminals imprisoned and three inmates hanged, during the life of the goldfields gaol and later as the infamous maximum security housing for Victoria's Criminally Insane men. A very interesting and sobering tour lasting two hours. Wasn’t surprised to learn Chopper Read got to spend a short incarnation here. On the way back to Stawell we did call into Best’s Winery, tasted their offerings, did the self guided tour, made a contribution to this local small business and departed with a selection of Cab Sav and Shiraz to be enjoyed on another day.

Wednesday we relocated the van 24 kilometres to Halls Gap. It was blowing a gale so we parked the van up at the foot of the mountains and bunkered down for the day. We ventured out late afternoon to get our bearings and visit the information centre. We spent the rest of the week exploring the Grampians, completing a number of walks to lookouts, canyons and waterfalls. It is really a beautiful area with plenty of good walking tracks and sights to be enjoyed. The following is what we achieved this week.

  • Venus baths. An easy walk from Halls Gap with a number of rock pools large enough to swim in on a hot day. The rock formation here has a rough looking texture, resulting in the area being known as Elephant Hide.
  • Splitters Fall. A wet weather waterfall that was barely a trickle on the day we visited.
  • The Grand Canyon. An energetic walk, aided by steps and handrails provides a short rocky Canyon with towering rock walls on both sides and some good views back towards Stoney Creek. Moving further up the Wonderland Range on the rock platforms led us to Silent Street, another unusual rock feature that leads to the Pinnacle.
  • The Pinnacle Lookout, the iconic landmark for Halls Gap made the climb worthwhile. It truely was awe inspiring with great views of Halls Gap and Lake Bellfield.
  • Wonderland Range Ridge. The walk back along this ridge provided great views of Halls Gap before descending what seemed a never ending structure of steel steps provided to descend the 400m elevation drop.
  • MacKenzie Falls. 15 kilometres along the  Mount Victory Road from Halls Gap provides a number of short walks that provide different vantage points to view this spectacular cascading waterfall. There are a lot of steps down to the base of the falls but it is really amazing and more than justifies the effort to climb back to the carpark.
  • Lake Wartook. A small man-made lake
  • Boroka  Lookout. A pleasant short drive along Mt Difficult Road, with the carpark adjacent to the Lookout. No walking involved and the reward is another view of Halls Gap, Lake Bellfield and a good aerial perspective of the Wonderland Range Ridge and the Pinnacle
  • Silverband Falls. Another pleasant walk but another wet weather only falls. 
  • Lake Bellfield. Another man-made Dam, with good swimming, picnic areas and the William Range as a backdrop, on the outskirts of Halls Gap.

Today is Sunday and as there are a number of walks, some tunnels and lookouts still to be experienced here we have decided to extend our stay a few more days before moving onto the Great Ocean Road segment of this tour. Until next time stay happy and stay safe.

Next: A great week on the Road - The Great Ocean Road.
Previous: Back on the big island

Diary Photos

Seppelts Great Western

Metal Cut-out, Stawell Athletics Club

Stawell Athletics Club, Stawell

Peter, getting in touch with his celestial side

Gum San Museum, Ararat

Roof, Gum San Museum, Ararat

Plaque, Gate to the Grampians CP, Stawell

Imperial Drive, Seppelts Underground Cellar

Bottles, stored underground cellar Seppelts

J-Ward, Ararat

Going over the wall, J-Ward, Ararat

Peter being fitted with straightjacket, J-Ward, Ararat

Sheep on a mound, outskirts of Ararat

Great Western

Best’s Vineyard, Great Western

Camp site, Halls Gap

The Grand Canyon, Grampians, Victoria

Silent Street, enroute to the Pinnacle

The Pinnacle, Grampians

Peter, The Pinnacle. Halls Gap in middle ground

Joan, McKenzie Falls, Grampians

Halls Gap from Boroka Lookout

Wonderland Range from Boroka Lookout

Lake Bellfield, Halls Gap

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