Walhalla and Mushroom Rocks, Victoria.
Life has been very busy over the past few months since the summer holiday period, what with getting back in to the daily grind of work, trying to spend as much time as we can at the beach, whilst it is was still warm, and fitting out a campervan so we can escape for weekends to explore areas of the country, mountains and coast we have never been to or seen before. With the van almost complete, all bar a few small items, the time had come to head of on our maiden trip to try it out. After chatting with our daughter who mentioned it may be a good time to visit some of the small towns in the hills, as all the deciduous trees would be in full autumn colour we decided we would go to the old mining town of Walhalla, located deep in the mountains west of Mount Baw Baw in Western Gippsland.
Rather than take the shortest route, we opted for the scenic route through the rolling hills and lush green farm land of South Gippsland, passing through Korumburra, Leongatha, Mirboo North and Morwell.
Not far out of Morwell we came across the Yallourn open cut coal mine, what can I say, The countryside had been gouged deep for as far as you can see, in fact from our vantage point you could not see the bottom of the pit, a massive scare on the country side that can never be healed, all for the generation of electricity, there must be a better way, a cleaner way, a way that does not rip the earth open. This was a real shock to us as we had never been this close to an open cut coal mine.
Continuing north it was not long before we started our ascent into the foot hills of the Great Dividing Range, the country changed from lush farm land to eucalyptus forest, then to towering Mountain ash forests, some scared by bushfire giving great contrast between blackened trunks and vibrant green leaves of the new growth. After winding up through the mountains we descended down to the Thomson river, as you wind down in to valley there are flashes of vivid yellow of the poplar trees, in amazing contrast to blue-greens of the Australian bush, these deciduous trees look so out of place.
The first sign you are entering Walhalla is the tram station on the banks of the Thomson River from here the road winds it's way into town. Walhalla is a small village spread along the banks a small creek at the floor of a valley with very steep hills/mountains on either side, it would only be 4 kilometres from one end to the other.
During the gold rush of the mid 1800's Cohens reef was discovered and soon after the Long Tunnel Mining Company was established this mine is located above the centre of the town, between the 1860's and 1900 the Reef had produced over 55 tonnes of gold, during the period of time the population of Walhalla was in excess of 4000 people. The town had many hotels, shops and traders, there was a hospital, churches and even a cricket ground on a flat area high above the town, there was even a tram line to transport gold and supplies along the valley. The main mining companies ceased operation in 1914 and with the disappearance of the main industry so did the people.
Today the Long Tunnel mine is open for tourists to visit, a hand full of the original buildings have survived including the rotunda, fire station, hospital, and post office. There is a pub a few shops and several quaint old world cottages.
We set up camp at place called North Gardens, a free camping area just out of town on the creek, an area with BBQs, picnic tables, toilets, fire pits, nice grassy areas, and great trees covered in autumn colour, a very pretty spot. As it was Friday, Walhalla was all but deserted, only a few small groups of sightseers, but as the afternoon wore on the camp site started to fill up. We decided to eat at the pub this night so we walked into town just before dark, on entering the pub the whole current population of the town was there, all 30 of them! The food was standard pub fair with a twist, the beer was cold, and we headed back to camp up the road and it was dark very dark, our biggest concern was tripping over wombats in the dark.
On waking in the morning we were amazed at how many groups had moved in to the camp over night, it is a very popular destination for weekend campers.
Walhalla is the southern starting point of the Australian Alps Walk, if you are feeling fit you can walk through the Australian Alps to Canberra approx 650 km, we decided to walk a short section of the walk. The walking path is elevated about 100m above the creek and valley floor, and follows the path of the abandoned tramline, there are some great vantage points of Walhalla along the way. At this time of year the valley is mixture of yellow, orange, red, and every colour in between all set against a backdrop of blue-green of the Australian bush, not mention the stands of tree ferns scattered in between, the occasional shaft of wood smoke coming from the odd chimney and the morning sun streaming into the valley and you can imagine the postcard views, very pretty. We followed the walking track for about 5 km before returning.
After packing up we headed out of town and headed the town of Rawson and then on to the Thomson Dam, Thomson dam was built during the late 70'sand early 80's to drought proof Melboune's water supply, it is the third largest dam connected to a capital city in Australia and has a capacity twice the volume of Sydney harbour, it is perfectly located amongst the mountains and adjacent to the Baw Baw National Park. Great spot for lunch over looking the lake and the mountains.
On the way back I spotted a sign to a place called Mushroom Rocks, on Mount Erica. I had read about this place and it had been highly recommended as a great walk so we detoured and followed the road up to the start of the walking track. The walks starts of in a temperate rainforest complete with ferns, lichens, and funguses all protected with in a forest of towering mountain ash, the walk follows a well maintained path and series of boardwalks provided by Parks Victoria, takes you past small creeks with waterfalls of crystal clear water, at times the ferns provide a complete canopy overhead, that offers a great habitat for native animals, not that we saw any except for a Lyrebird that flew across in front us, about 1m away and caused a brief period of panic for some. This was a first as we had never seen a Lyrebird in the wild.
The walk was beautiful, all the way there are large moss covered granite boulders strewn across the mountainside, the higher we climbed the rainforest gave way to more open vegetation, the mountain ash are amazing during autumn as they have shed their bark to expose smooth vibrant coloured trunks of cream to orange and green. We followed the path for about 3 km where the boulders became closer together and larger, we assumed this was the Mushroom Rocks (we later found out we should walked a little further), this is a very special place so peaceful and beautiful, we will be back, but for now we will have to wait till after the snow season has finished.
Because we were in the Western Gippsland area it was good opportunity for us to catch up with our daughter, so her place was our next stop.
During the night it had rained, so in the morning everything had a fresh feel after the rain, perfect mushroom growing conditions, so before breakfast we were all loaded into the car including the dogs and of to a pine forest to forage for pine mushrooms, I was a little uncertain about this as my up bringing was you only ate field mushrooms, but I was reassured that pine mushrooms are fine to eat. So of we went in to the forest and collected enough mushrooms for breakfast. It was amazing how many varities of mushrooms and and fungi were growing in there.
After a beautiful breakfast of fresh mushrooms, freshly picked vine tomatoes, poached eggs and spinach, it was time to head home.
The maiden trip in the van was successful without any major issues, so we are now looking forward to our next weekend away.
I have posted some of my of photographs I have captured in this trip to the Victoria gallery, just follow the Victoria Gallery link
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