The last year has been pretty tough for everyone in Australia and especially those in the travel industry. International travel is no longer an option for most, so Australians have to look for alternatives closer to home.
This is where innovative operators such as No Roads Expeditions comes in, offering a variety of experiences within Australia and especially here in Victoria, from where they are based.
From more upmarket glamping experiences, wine themed walking/ biking events and for those slightly more adventurous the opportunity to discover the great outdoors, of which there is no better place to visit than the Grampians about 250km West of Melbourne.
One of the most exciting opportunities for the region is the substantial funding the Victorian government has committed to updating and extending the Grampians Peaks Trail which when completed will cover a distance of approximately 144 kilometres from Mount Zero in the North, with its massive sandstone outcrops, all the way down to the Township of Dunkeld in the south and the surrounding volcanic Plains.
The creation for the Grampians Peaks Trail will, hopefully, become a major draw card for local and international visitors similar to The Overland track in Tasmania and the Milford track in New Zealand.
Our weekend starts in the picturesque town of Halls Gap, nestled in the valley, soaring peaks left and right, itself offering a wide array of possibilities from local wineries, restaurants & cafes, a great micro-brewery, or just the opportunity to sit down with a glass of wine watching mobs of Kangaroos grazing gently, almost at your feet.
If you’re ever looking to take visitors to see Kangaroos in the wild you couldn’t do any better than Halls Gap…the town is awash with them! You literally trip over them walking around town.
We rocked up to our motel in town, and the local Roo’s looked us up and down disdainfully!
There’s plenty of accommodation options in and around Halls Gap from the upmarket Boroka Downs, B&B’s, getaways, caravan parks and local motels
At present only the first section of the trail, a 3-day 2-night loop out of Halls Gap is open, and at 9:00 o’clock on the Friday morning we meet our fellow hikers to start day one.
Our group of seven is being led by our guide for the weekend, Adrian, who offers introductions, a briefing on the days hike and expectations, then hands out our lunch packs…our massive lunch packs!
One of the beauties of using No Roads is not having to cater for meals, or on this walk, tents, which are set up for you.
How goods that? No worrying about what to bring food wise, and no bulky tent to carry…and no concerns for your tents condition, as it has probably been resting idly at home for months, with no thoughts for its capabilities!
Packs on, and off we go.
Day one is about 8.6 km’s, which takes about 6 hours, lunch included.
Scenery is magnificent, from the tranquil Venus Baths to The Pinnacle which is the most visited spot in the region. On a busy weekend, its peak hour traffic all day, but today we had it nearly to ourselves.
The view from the outcrop is stunning, vistas north and south along the valley, and beyond.
On past the “nerve test” which in days gone by used to be a testosterone bragging post, but today fails OH&S and pretty much stands empty.
Then rock scrambling left and right, forever marvelling at naturals wonderland, before a pit stop for water at Sundial, before walking to our nights digs at Bugiga, a wonderful circular walkway with 12 platform tent sites.
Time to stretch the legs, set up sleeping gear, dinner cooked by Adrian, washed down with a couple of local wines from Fallen Giants, a bit more chat, then bed.
Today was harder than I thought, mainly due to the hot humid weather, but the rewards were thrilling, bring on day two.
Day 2 is the most spectacular day of the three, according to most.
You leave Bugiga, walk up through the messmate forest up onto the Ridge and you make your way slowly but surely to the spectacular viewpoint that is Mount Rosea rock scrambling twisting and turning checking out the beautiful views exhilarating in how good life is.
Well, that’s what I’m told anyway, unfortunately after a nice walk in the forest it rained, and rained, and rained.
We missed all the glory.
But that’s hiking and from what I’m told, that’s hiking in the Grampians.
Changeable weather is a part of walking and we saw plenty of change, and not much view.
Lunch was taken huddled under a rocky outcrop, which was pretty spectacular within itself.
How many can say they had a delicious lunch in such unique surroundings.
More rock scrambling, then a lovely gently walk through more messmate forestry, till we hit our camp at Borough Huts Campground.
The rain eased, we built a fire and settled into a night of tales, food and local wines from Pomonal Estate.
Today felt longer, and in some ways harder, but that may have been due to the conditions. We walked for about 6 hours, covering approx. 14 km’s, of gentle and not so gentle terrain.
We slept well!
Day 3 started off with omelette and coffee, before heading off in cool and crisp conditions, which quickly settled into a lovely sunny 20 degrees day.
When the peaks trail is completed day 3 won’t exist as it’s basically a walk back from Borough Huts to Halls Gap following the forestry tracks around lake Bellfield to Halls Gap.
Some choose to miss this walk, catching a lift back into town, but it’s nice. There’s plenty of wildlife, our state floral emblem, the pink common heath, is in abundance, and the views down to the lake and across to the ranges is fabulous.
It’s a reasonable relaxed 4 hour walk with a few challenging hills, and the reward of a cold beer at the end.
And that we had, at the micro-brewery, Paper Rock Scissors, in the middle of town.
Match that with a spicy chicken burger and all is well with the world.
A last quick shop for future supplies at Absolute Outdoors, a tremendous hiking/camping/climbing etc store, full of excellent gear and advice. Then on to Pomonal Estate for a tasting and purchase of our new friend, Shiraz! Finally, a pitstop at one of our favourites, Grampians Estate for some Sparkling Shiraz, before taking a very relaxing drive home, regaling our adventures again and again.
How good was that?
It’s such a rewarding hike, brilliant setting, great company, effortlessly organised and guided to ensure a relaxed, yet challenging three days in one of the best regions in Victoria.
So, what did we learn from hiking in the Grampians?
We discovered a great brewery in paper rock scissors, a wonderful cafe culture and excellent accommodation options.
We discovered two great wineries in Fallen Giants and Pomonal Estate, to add to a burgeoning, vibrant wine scene, bursting at the seams with wonderful variety and choice.
We learn how great this part of Victoria is, how diverse the landscape, how great it is to meet with like-minded travellers and how wonderful it is to have organisations like No Roads with the passion and dedication and commitment to tourism adventure encouraging local travel experiences.
We can’t wait for the rest of the Trail to open, it will be a perfect excuse to return and hike some more.