Broome W.A.

July 2017 and finally a destination we have longed to visit for quite a while!

On arrival in Broome, from cold and wet Melbourne the days gave way to beautiful, warm, sunny days averaging 30* every day,  giving the old pins to once again adorn shorts and soak up the sun.

Our accommodation was the “Bali Hai Resort” that gave the feeling of being on a holiday in Asia, with the rooms, decor, buildings, garden layout and atmosphere all allowing relaxation to kick in within minutes of arrival.

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This particular holiday we decided not to rent a car, and instead, do lots of walking each day to discover the town and its surroundings utilizing the magnificent and very reasonably priced town bus service.

 It was our desire to experience as much as possible during our stay, the only downside of the trip was mainly due to ocean tidal changes, and, one only bus service connection to “Gantheaume Point” first thing in the morning, the opportunity to see and stand in the 130 million-year-old Dinosaur footprints was to hopefully  see them at any future visit we may embark upon.

Some of the outings we experienced included attending the huge local “Court House” markets set amongst tropical frangipani trees in full flower, displays of local produce, local entertainment performers, various stalls on yummy smelling food outlets and trash and treasure of all varieties,from there a stroll into town to visit the “Pearl Luggers” outlet reflected many of the origins of Broome’s primary pearling industry.

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On three separate occasions we visited Chinatown in the heart of Broome and enjoyed the towns unique multicultural character, the vast amount of outlets where pearls/jewellery could be inspected and purchased, and indeed the wonderful variety of eating establishments, all having both indoor and outdoor dining on the footpath where  the sunshine and fresh air could be enjoyed.

A point of historical interest was that 75 years ago the Broome airport was the target of a Japanese air raid resulting in a high cost of 70 lives being lost and the destruction of a fleet of flying boats that were enclosed in nearby “Roebuck Bay”.

Our resort was about a five-minute walk to the magnificent 20 kilometers plus length of Cable Beach to view the evening sunset.  The villa was fully self-contained amongst beautifully manicured gardens, we additionally had a secluded outdoor dining area and also a secluded outdoor shower for use on hot days.

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Cable Beach.

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Another highlight was the “Astronomy lecture and star viewing night’; we were collected from our accommodation in a huge 4WD vehicle, and driven about an hour out into the hinterland where a large area of scrub had been cleared for seating about 100 people on fold up chairs and 10 big telescopes pointed out into deep space. The lecture on the universe went for a very informative hour followed by the viewing of the night sky.

The absolute experience that we both thoroughly enjoyed was a 10.5 hour day adventure, that is truly a natural wonder of our world.The Horizontal Falls are only accessible by either boat, helicopter or sea plane.

We were collected at 5:30 am in a 4WD that took us to the Beagle Bay Mission where a welcome stop for a cuppa and biscuits was enjoyed. At this mission is the Beagle Bay church that had the altar and backdrop made from a collection of Mother of Pearl shells that gave a unique and interesting look.

Beagle Bay Mission Church.

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On the road again our next stop was “Cygnet Bay” pearl farm where breakfast was waiting for us prior to going on a tour through the establishment, a history of pearling and a demonstration of pearl seeding was given.

All fed and watered, we next boarded the 4WD again and headed to a small private tarmac,where we climbed aboard a combined land/seaplane for a half hour flight over the Buccaneer Archipelago consisting of in excess of 2000 small islands situated in the most beautiful blue/aqua colored waters to our destination of “Talbot Bay”.

 

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We smoothly landed on the water and taxied to the “Horizontal Falls Pontoon” to have a wonderful Barramundi lunch and refreshments and also if one was game enough have a swim with the sharks.

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Finally the most exciting part of the day trip was when we boarded a 900hp very fast Jet Stream boat (The fastest in all the Kimberley) that took us through the most thrilling ride into the horizontal falls (6x) and then to let the adrenaline subside a cruise around the surrounding creeks and bays prior to returning to the pontoon and boarding the Seaplane. This was a direct flight back to Broome airport and on arrival to be delivered back to our accommodation.  Wow, what a great holiday and new experiences to tick off the bucket list.

 

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“A short trip to “Pennyroyal”.

Early March 2017 was when we headed off for a few days break at “Pennyroyal“, which is in the vicinity of the very small township of “Deans Marsh” roughly located between Lorne and Birragurra, Victoria.

Why Deans Marsh? well my eldest sister and her family lived in this isolated region back in 1957 and it consisted of very little more than a sawmill, a store and houses occupied by the sawmill employees and it was a place where I would spend many an Easter, school holidays or Christmas with my young niece and nephew and enjoy the tranquility of the outback bush countryside.

Memories abound of swimming in the waterhole beneath a bridge, going rabbiting, chopping starting wood chips for the massive IXL cast iron stove that burned constantly as it also heated the hot water and the wonderful smells of fresh air and the wood fire.

Not having been in this region for such a long time and having many vivid and enjoyable times there in my youth, we booked a B&B cabin at Pennyroyal.

Pennyroyal in itself is an insignificant place of bush and farmlands and not a town and is a five-minute drive from Deans Marsh. The place we stayed at was a fully kitted out cabin having magnificent views of the country side from the back verandah where we shared breakfast with so many different birds and their chorus every morning and at night viewed the abundance of heavenly stars above.

 

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Honeysuckle Cottage.

This was not a sit back and relax get away for we wanted to explore and experience as much as time permitted of the surrounding countryside.

Our many journeys included visiting/driving through the” Otway Ranges” into Lorne for lunch and a nice stroll along the beach, and a trip out to “Forrest” another very small township in the hinterland of the Otways where we lunched at the “Forrest Brewing Company”,a small micro brewing enterprise brewing hand crafted beers.

“Birragurra”, (another historic town of the region)is about a 20-minute drive from “Deans Marsh”, consisted of a very wide main street, shop fronts all of which were more than 100 years old and has an ambiance of utter slowness, peace, and quiet.

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Main Road Birragurra.

Next day we continued our journey onto the vibrant city of “Colac” where we explored the magnificent Botanical Gardens and had lunch at the garden’s restaurant that over looked the impressive Lake Colac, a massive fresh water catchment area that supplied the township.

As early afternoon approached, we first visited “Lake Cundare” salt lake then onto our next destination of “Red Rock Lookout“. That supplied us with a sturdy climb to the top and a reward of 360* of an uninterrupted vista of the many and varied craters left by volcanic activity from as little as 4000 years ago, after that a return to the cabin for a lovely home cooked meal and glass of wine.DSCN1747

Lake Cundare.(Salt Lake).

 

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Looking down from Red Rock lookout.

Whilst all of the above consisted of a lot of driving, it was well worth it as the experience was one you needed to personally appreciate what it offered!All in all, an enjoyable time.

 

Canberra to Katoomba. Part 2.

Part 2 of our trip.

 After having had such an enjoyable stay in Canberra it was now time to repack the car once again and get away early for our journey onto “Katoomba” which was a day of driving many kilometers.

After an uneventful drive, we finally reached the Katoomba Falls Tourist Park where we were to stay whilst we explored the walks of the Blue Mountains and  all it had to offer.
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The accommodation was first-class and in a beautiful quiet setting and not far from the commencement point to many of the walks.
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Whilst light was still on our side we ventured over to the “Furber Steps” that led us to the lookout point where the panorama of the mountains opened to us and surely lit our visual senses as we were in awe of its magnificence.

For as far as one could see, mountain ranges, waterfalls,”Mount Jamison” and in the distance the main attraction “The three sisters” could be enjoyed and that set us up emotionally for the experiences we were to have in the coming days.

From this location, the Scenic Skyway cable car could be seen crossing from one side of the escarpment across to the other.20161013_161552

Dusk had now appeared so back to our cabin to settle in for some dinner and a nice bottle of wine in preparation for a cold 2* night and the following day’s upcoming adventures.

Next morning, with backpacks on we, were off to “Echo Point” via the “Prince Henry’s Cliff” walk which was classified as moderate difficulty,had abundant views, birds abound, magnificent bushland and with the warm early morning sun shining it is but another of life’s experiences I will always treasure.

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Eventually, Echo Point was reached where a completely different perspective of the ranges opened up to us and it is also a location where a never-ending procession of tourist buses stopped to allow the passengers to take close up photos of the three sisters.

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters

As lunchtime had arrived we walked about 1/2 K to a restaurant located high on the precipice where we sat outside and enjoyed our lunch and soaked up the wonderful views, after that via another route through the back streets we ventured back to camp.

Later that afternoon after our legs had stopped quivering our next trek was not  far to the “Eaglehawk Lookout” where another splendid walk along a meandering pathway through the bush to the lookout where what we had seen on the morning’s walk showed the massive sheer cliffs that had broken away millions of years ago could be viewed from another angle.

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Next day back at Echo Point a pathway that led down three sets of exceptionally long/steep stairways (so steep that I’m sure the imprints of my hand’s are still on the railings).On reaching the bottom of these stairways a short wooden bridge allowed access to the first of the three sisters where even greater views of the valley could are enjoyed.

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In addition to the  bush walking we also went to “Scenic World”top station and purchased a daily ticket that enabled us to cross the valley to the eastern station via the Scenic Skyway  cable car and back,we next took the scenic railway (that is the steepest scenic railway in the world (being 52* incline) to the floor of the Jamison Valley and walked the 2.5K elevated boardwalk in the temperate forest then returned by another cable car back to top station. (The boardwalk is the longest elevated one in the world.)

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Well, folks, that’s about it for a brief overview of only some of the highlights of our Katoomba-Blue mountains getaway.

Next morning we fed the cockatoo’s on our balcony, repacked the car for a long journey down to Albury to stay overnight and return back to Bundoora the following morning and pick up the dog (Luckily he was still talking to me).

All in all a fantastic time away from touring the highways, exploring the countryside and in particular coming off the main highway several times to have morning tea/lunch or afternoon tea in very old country towns.

To Katoomba via Canberra. Part 1.

It was October 10th, 2016 and after dropping our dog off at the boarding kennels we were then heading off to do some trekking/bushwalking in the Blue Mountains at Katoomba, NSW with a stopover in Canberra for a few days before hand to see the local sights.

It rained lightly off and on from Bundoora to Canberra however  the journey was pleasant enough as the Hume highway was in first class condition and although there was flooding most everywhere near Albury the roads were not blocked so that was our gift for the day.

We stopped a couple of times along the way for morning tea and lunch until we neared our destination where we were to stay for a few days  whilst we explored in and around our capital city and surroundings.

The one hiccup we encountered was that the address we were to stay at could not be located by our GPS causing us to drive past the spot by an extra 5 kilometres; on phoning the holiday park for directions they advised due to their location being on the service road that runs parallel to where their address says they are many people find their GPS cannot find  the holiday park.Upon arriving and booking in and unloading our suitcases etc a cuppa and a short nap was the order of the day followed later on by a visit to the local country pub for a nice meal.

Our timing at Canberra was perfect as the Floriade Tulip exhibition (Blooms beyond the garden bed) was on so off to the display to enjoy the color and sunshine.20161011_102331

Our next port of call was Parliament House where we viewed the magnificent exterior of the building,the incredible marble entrance foyer, both the Upper and Lower houses,the portraits of all Australia’s past Prime Ministers as well as taking the elevator to the roof to where the biggest Flagpole I have ever seen proudly displayed our country’s flag.

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From the vantage point atop the Parliamentary rooftop, a clear and uninterrupted view bordered by an avenue of trees, all the way up to the Australian War Museum was a sight to  behold .

The War Museum was next on the agenda to visit and the feeling of walking through the main entrance to see the memorial pool left a sensation of being in a sacred place.

20161011_123443The tour guide was excellent and shared many stories of horrific circumstances and heroism of both our men and women who suffered greatly during  the first and second world war,Korea, and Vietnam and reinforced how much we  owe  to those that fought,sacrificed and died for the freedom we so enjoy now!

Several of the battles were displayed in what is called a Diorama which is a scaled down pictorial version of fighting taken from photographs of that time and made into model form approximately six meters long .

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As time was still on our side the National Museum of Australia was next on our list so once again off we went and spent a couple of hours there enjoying old and  new Australiana plus an excellent exhibition of Egyptian artifacts on loan from the London museum.

Day three of our stay and off we head to the summit of Black Mountain  where the goliath “Telstra“transmission tower is located.It stands over 192  meters in height has 360* views from the restaurant located 62 meters above ground and has views of Canberra and countryside that takes one’s breath away.

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That afternoon after setting the GPS our next destination was the “Australian Coin Mint.”The mint was very interesting and showcased a historical collection of metal currencies from early settler times up to the present age.

A complete story of coin manufacture from sourcing materials,weighing,coin design, punching coin blanks through to the final pressing of the coin was explained and very interesting.

Late afternoon soon arrived which gave us just enough time to visit the “Australian Natural Botanic Garden” that enabled us to tour the “Eucalyptus Discovery Walk“where a huge variety of gums consisting of twenty different species were punctuated throughout a 1.8 kilometer walk  that also included a rainforest,gullies of ferns,red desert display and many other features that took over an hour to enjoy.

In conclusion, it is a must if you have never been to Canberra before as it  would have to be amongst one of the neatest ,well designed,treed and gardened place I have encountered,be sure not to miss it.

Part 2 of the journey to Katoomba will follow in the next blog!

Return to Halls Gap.

Its almost 11 months since we last visited the Grampian’s and completed many of the bush walks including the “Pinnacles”,the “Balconies”, “Reed Lookout” and partly achieved MacKenzies falls(due to some fatigue,some heat and some requirement to be a tad fitter)!

With the desire to complete the “MacKenzie Falls” walk (which is extremely steep) we introduced three weeks of additional training that included visiting “Willinda Parklands” at Greensborough where there is a very steep stairway consisting of 174 steps  up and naturally 174 steps down,so after three weeks of this getting up to eight times up and down each visit we hoped we now had the edge that was needed.

The short stay we had planned couldn’t have been at a worse time weather wise as every day the  temperature during the day reached 35* plus.

The drive up along the Western Highway was uneventful and quite pleasant being a first class road all the way but the sad thing about it was the complete journey showed how very dry the country side is.

We reached Halls Gap about 1:30pm and went straight to our accommodation,unpacked the suitcases,turned on the a/c and had a nice snooze and later in the evening ventured into town to the “Quarry” restaurant and had a wonderful dinner and planned our day ahead.

It was predicted to be 36* the following day so we arose early and headed up the mountain to “MacKenzies Falls”.Early as it was it allowed us to enjoy the magnificence of the cool morning air,the smells of the eucalyptus and the soft morning light coming over the crest of the  mountain range.

Leaving  the car at the car park our walk to the falls began down the escarpment. Oh boy,how steep it was and the thought of coming back the same way was not one to reflect upon,but on reaching the base of the falls it filled us with nothing but awe and appreciation of this natural wonder.

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Unbeknown to us there was a walking track leading away from the base of the waterfall so having a backpack with food and drink with us a decision was made to venture along this bush track that most of the time ran adjacent to the river  until the track started heading uphill.

We tracked along through bracken and ferns for about 3/4 hour and stopped at the edge of a smaller waterfall and enjoyed morning tea,  took in the wonder of our surroundings and met a couple coming from the opposite direction that told us about another place of interest called “Zumstiens Place”that was worth seeing.

After refreshments we headed back along the river track taking in all the grandure of the canyon to the falls and just stood in the morning sunshine and enjoyed the refreshing over spray and took in the moment(s) whilst reflecting on our great fortune to have had this wonderful experience.  Eventually we headed back up the incredibly steep climb  to the car park,(But it was so worth it).

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With that ticked off the bucket list our next adventure was to go further up the mountain( now about 20Km from Halls Gap) to “Zumsteins”picnic area where there are very good  facilities and toilets and located on the banks of the Mackenzie River.

This natural setting area is where Walter and Jean Zumstien built three mud/earth buildings in 1910,one as a family home and the other two for family and friends to stay and enjoy the the isolated beauty of the bush.(The remains of these buildings are still standing but fenced off as a repair/rebuild  is planned for the future).

His love for this country was a life long affair and he additionally by hand felled trees and dug out and area for a swimming pool that was fed from the mountain creeks.

By now the afternoon heat had well and truly set in so back down to the township for a well earned and delicious ice cream to be devoured before heading back to our cabin for a  late lunch and recovery sleep before heading out later in the evening for dinner.

After dinner there was still about an 1 1/2 hours of sunlight left so we headed off to the “Halls Gap Botanical Garden”, where a walk to the natural lava formations called the “Venus Bathes” that could be found along another beautifully planned easy track.(Another must see place).

Now with only 1 day left to explore ,up at dawn again and up the mountain to “The Silver Band Falls” turn off,a very-very long drive downhill all the way along a single width roadway that started to give me the feeling of “What am I doing here“until the destination could be seen,so once again we tracked to the falls along a beautiful bush pathway and of course only a trickle was to be seen.

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All in all a very hot and fantastic trip that gave immense satisfaction and a reinforced striving to keep this senior body as fit as possible to continue exploring and having new experiences .

See you after the next adventure. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Port Douglas: Mark 2. October 2015.

DSCN1640Its two years to the month since we were last at Port Douglas and due to its attraction we decided to revisit this wonderful place.

Thank God we left home two hours before our flight was to leave Melbourne due to the difficulty experienced in finding a car park in the new and extended Melbourne Airport car park facility.

It was cool when we left home and wonderfully warm on arriving at Cairns airport where we had some lunch then collected our hire car. We had an enjoyable trip to our destination with beautiful scenery and minimal traffic compared to our Melbourne highways.

We headed straight to the shopping mall in Port Douglas for supplies then onto our accommodation at “A Tropical Nights” resort that was a fully fitted out two-story town house complete with a swimming pool and only a five-minute walk to the stunning four mile beach.20151012_143349

Always wanting to explore/experience new and different places our first outing was to the” Agincourt Reef” situated on the Outer Barrier Reef some 75 km from the Marina at Port Douglas.

The journey on the massive Quicksilver Catamaran to the pontoon travelling at a constant 35 knots was incredibly smooth and we were well catered for with a lovely morning tea that further enhanced the experience.20151017_111811

After approximately 1-1/2  hour  we reached the permanently(fixed to the sea floor) pontoon where we alighted and had a marvelous lunch and from there we took to the semi submersible craft and viewed the reef from below sea level.Bron being a tad more adventurous than me donned the snorkelling gear and took to the water for a more personalised underwater experience.DSCN1664DSCN1657

Next on our to-do list was a day trip down to Babinda about  180 km from Port Douglas to see “The Boulders“that were situated in possibly the most beautiful flora and fauna reserve I have ever seen.

The boulders are the result of Volcanic action most probably millions of years ago and now having a fast flowing clear freshwater stream meandering through them, but before the water meets the rocks a beautiful large lake only a metre or so deep was a sight to behold.DSCN1688

DSCN1683Later that day we continued further along our journey towards Innisfall where our next point of call was the incredible and an absolute must see  enchanting “Paronella Park” located in the rainforest.DSCN1701

This place came about as a result of a young Spanish man’s dream that led him to Australia early last century and he had a desire to have his own castle,so after working as a sugar cane cutter ,property developer and numerous other jobs for many years saved enough to buy land and started building his castle/s as a labour of love!

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Fire ravaged his dream and the present owners are hopeful of restoring it to its original glory.

Apart from walking the beach each day and going out for lunch and dinner most days our final outing was the “Flames of the Forest” dinner.We were collected from our Town House about 6:00 pm  by bus and taken into the depths of the Rain Forest to a point where a wall of flames heralded we had reached our destination.

Ourselves along with approximately 30 other couples then walked through the night-time forest only lit by lanterns along the edge of the pathway until we came to a point where the trees and surrounding bush were covered in coloured lighting that gave a spectacular view to where we were going to be dining for the night under a Marque size covering without walls.

We dined on Kangaroo (YUK), Crocodile(not as bad),lamb and a number of other delightful delicacies and being accompanied by an accomplished singer with an acoustic guitar.20151017_193846

All in all our trip was great and can’t be fully captured,however if you have yet to visit Port Douglas be sure it’s on your Bucket List.

Cheers

Ron

OUR TRIP TO HALLS GAP.

Last week Bron and I headed off to Halls Gap (in the Grampians)for four days of rest and recreation.I reflected on how fortunate we were to be able to (with just a little planning) pack the car with clothes and supplies,drop the dog off at the kennels and head off north- west of Melbourne along the Western Highway.

After driving for a little over and hour we decided to pull off the road under a nice treed spot and got the thermos out and enjoyed a welcome hot cuppa after that a change of drivers kept us both enjoying the trip as either a driver or viewing passenger.

The weather was perfect as was our journey with the  exception of a minor hiccup when the Tom-Tom even with the latest Maps downloaded sent us off in the wrong direction some where before  Beauford,no doubt due to the  almost 10 kilometers of new highway under construction,only to correct itself shortly after.

We stopped at the Ararat Hotel that was over a 100 years old and in its original art-deco design having that old world feel about it,especially with all the seniors lunching there.

Whilst it was still sunny there it was getting a bit cool and windy  so our expensive hot meal($10 each) was most welcome and set us up for the remainder of our journey.

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We hired a one bedroom Cottage that was exceptionally roomy and comfortable with every mod-con you could name and it was situated only five minutes drive from Halls Gap.

Nestled in the heart of the Grampians,Halls Gap is a typical small countryside town with a comprehensive range of accommodation and things to do.There is in excess of 160 kilometres of walking tracks to explore in and around the area including The Pinnicales,Lake Bellfield,Lake Fyans,Reeds Lookout and many many more.

Next morning and all fitted out in our hiking gear we drove to the” Wonderland Loop” car park and set off on the two and a half hour return journey to the Pinnacles where my 68 year old legs realized they were no longer 25 year old legs( I never knew they could quiver so much) but the weather was faultless and the sights along the way were absolutely amazing.

On returning from that conquest and looking forward to our next challenge we drove on to “McKenzie’s Falls” and boy was that steep(The old legs went into quiver mode once again) and after descending about 80% of the way down and knowing we would have to climb all the way back up to the car park again wisdom kicked in so we enjoyed the views and headed back home to the cottage.

Being the thrill seekers that we are(yeah sure)next morning we drove off to “Reeds Lookout” and oh boy,what a magnificent jaw dropping never to be forgotten experience to have,you could almost see to the horizon with mountains and bush land,we followed a track for one kilometer to see the “Balconies” as shown below.

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Our second night there was also a site to see as there was controlled burning of bush land in progress close by  the cottage and the orange/grey coloring , heat of the flames and the smell of eucalyptus lent it self to be well worth seeing.

Of all the travels around OZ that I’ve been on I don’t believe I have ever seen so many kangaroos which must be a boon to the town for all the overseas visitors to enjoy.

Our four days of travelling, hiking,seeing the glorious milky way in all its splendor,eating out in town,visiting the Brambuk Indigenous Cultural Centre all combined to a great short stay holiday that we are going to return to and venture on to more of the exciting walks of the Grampians.

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I would highly recommend a visit and stay to Halls Gap as its only about a three and a half/four hour journey easy drive to see a small piece of our beautiful country.