Daily Archives: January 22, 2018

Below the plain

We have a date with the Australian Open and we’re off to Melbourne. We spent more time than expected at the aboriginal cave art sites and arrived in Ballarat too late to participate in the Women’s March event there, or anything else, for that matter. We were disappointed about the march but with the Aus Open on we’ve been just as happy to get takeout food and watch a match on TV.

Our hire car was due back by noon and we anticipated an uneventful couple of hours on the road. The landscape east of the Grampians is as flat and featureless as Nebraska, so we were puzzled to see signs warning of a steep grade and directing trucks and RVs to an alternate route. There was seriously nothing sticking up in front of us to warrant the caution. Suddenly the earth opened up in front of us and we plunged down the aforementioned steep grade into a lush valley of rolling hills of forest and vineyards. We were so taken by surprise that we forgot to take a photo of the abrupt change in elevation, but you can definitely see in this photo how utterly flat the ground is above the valley.

We took a turn directing us to Bunjil’s Lookout, another reference to the aboriginal creator we’d seen depicted in the cave painting the day before. The valley is called Moorabool and I tried to find the meaning of the word — we’ve seen “bool” in other place names — but the sources don’t seem to agree.

At the lookout we watched a young German traveler fold up his rooftop tent and I stopped to chat with him. He was an exchange student in Perth in high school and came back to travel Australia after university. I shared that I was an exchange student too, in Sweden in 1968 and he very politely suppressed the inevitable jaw drop. He’s nearly circled the country in his rig and I envy him for that. He was sad to be coming to the end of his journey, making his way back to Sydney, then home to Germany.

Later we returned our car at the airport and hopped a Skybus to the city. Jack was staring out the window and as we turned onto the highway he said, “Look! There’s the German guy just behind us!” We always feel an affinity for fellow travelers, however they travel, for however long, and wherever.

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Things take time in Australia

Rising startlingly up out of the flattest of sun-drenched plains, the majestic Grampians thrust skyward like rocky knives against the blue Australian sky. It’s one of those things where, because it’s so flat, you see them hours before you arrive at them.

By the time we made it to Hall’s Gap, our base camp, we were thoroughly spent thrill seekers and as I’m sure all you Escapees know, only the experienced traveler says tomorrow is soon enough and takes his righteous kick-back. We squeezed in a visit to the Brambuk Cultural Center for the lowdown on our scenic itinerary before checking into our mountain-view motel, chosen because it has lots of Aussie wild life that cozy up to the terraced lawn. We sat with other guests enjoying a cold one and watching kangaroos, parrots and a collection of waterfowl as the sun went down.

I guess our early morning run up the mountain caught this poor little guy on the wrong side of the road.

At first we had the mountain to ourselves but soon the RVs started to arrive. Less peace, but the stunning views remained just as impressive.

At the turn off to the much-anticipated MacKenzie Falls a police car blocked the road and we learned that sadly the falls were closed because of a drowning overnight. We had to scramble to reroute ourselves and instead of following the other cars to the next scenic overlook we took a long detour to the site of some aboriginal cave art that we hadn’t thought we’d have time to visit.

Archaeologists have been unable to date the paintings but they do agree that the area has been occupied for over 40,000 years. The wonder of it! Australia’s native population have continuously inhabited the continent through ice ages, massive volcanic eruptions, giant nasty birds, kangaroos and snakes whose somewhat smaller cousins, presently are still wandering around the continent. Things take time in Australia.

The paintings are protected by a cage, itself a work of art.

This site was a bonus that made us even more excited to see the one we planned all along. If you’ve ever played a computer game like Myst you’d know the creepy feeling we had when trying to find the second site. As we approached the dried out dusty park, we never saw a soul. It wasn’t even obvious where to park the car. Signs were missing, fences were erected, and we began to think that they’d had a bush fire come through here. We are pretty good at sussing-out a situation without any information.

First we found a way around the fencing and maybe it was the paintings that drew us to them but we eventually, after much wandering around, found the site.

We were completely alone with the paintings. The mystery and wonder of 40,000 years of history staring us in the face.
The Bunjil sight is said to be the most significant and featured Bunjil, the creator spirit, with his two dingos in a creation myth but even here there were still no people at all.
There are more cave art sites — there is always more to see — but we Escapees were happy with our day. Things take time in Australia.

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