One of the top holidays my wife and I have taken here in Victoria is without a doubt a trip to the Grampians National Park located in western Victoria. Western Victoria is mostly flat farm country and the Grampians are literally an island of beauty in the middle of endless, rolling farm land. To reach the Grampians it only takes about 3.5 hours from Melbourne. This easy access from Melbourne makes the Grampians one of Victoria’s most popular national parks.
The Grampians were first settled by Aboriginals 5,000 years ago, which by Aboriginal standards is quite recent when compared to areas in northern Australia that were first settled 35,000-50,000 years ago. The Aborigines called the mountains the Gariwerd mountains and it became the heart of the Aboriginal culture in Victoria. Due to this Aboriginal heritage the Grampians are filled with Aboriginal art sites which make up 80% of all Aboriginal art in Victoria. The Grampians were first visited by Europeans when Major Thomas Mitchell led a British expedition to explore the area. Major Mitchell was so impressed with these mountains that he named the area after the Grampians mountains in his native Scotland.
The reasons the Aboriginals and Major Mitchell were so impressed with these mountains is easy to understand once you visit the place yourself. The mountains are spectacularly rise from the surrounding farmland in three distinct ranges that look waves of rock in an ocean of farmland. In between each range is thickly forested land with lakes, creeks, and waterfalls. Only the town of Halls Gap which you see pictured above and below is located within the Grampians:
Halls Gap is a very small town, but includes all the necessities you need for a great time in these mountains. Just outside of Halls Gap, make sure you visit the Grampians Visitor Center and the adjacent Aboriginal cultural center. Both facilities are outstanding and worth visiting. If you are not into camping Halls Gap does make a great base to explore the Grampians from. Many hiking and climbing trails begins from inside the small town. As you can see below the Halls Gap is perfectly located to explore the Grampians from:
My wife and I prefer camping and we set up camp in the remote far northern portion of the range at the base of Mt. Stapylton. At the Mt. Stapylton campground there was a trail that led to an easily accessible rock art site:
This rock art site is called the Ngamadjidj shelter. Ngamadjidj means white-person in the local Aboriginal dialect. The rock art at the site depicts the first European settlers who came to the area.
The first settlers in the area began to log trees and clear the land for farming. Much of the Aborigine land was lost which made hunting and grazing for food more difficult. Aborigines began to starve while others began to steal sheep for food. This gave many settlers the excuse they needed to shoot the Aboriginals. This early colonial history was not good for the Aborigines though things are better now, but still it is sad to see this rock art having to be protected by bars due to vandals:
The Stapylton campground was quite good and had good restroom facilities and even running water. It wasn’t busy either. There was only one other camper in the entire campground with us. However, we had plenty of visitors though, because the campground is filled with kangaroos:
Since we were one of only two camp sites at the campground; we became quite popular with the kangaroos. The kangaroos came right up to our camp site looking for food. This one kangaroo actually unclipped the clips on my rucksack and began digging through my bag throwing things out of it looking for food.
I approached the kangaroo to get him out of my bag and look at this innocent face he gives me:
If you ever wanted to get up close and personal with the kangaroos the Stapylton campground is definitely the place to go. They are everywhere and are very tame. We would have no shortage of kangaroos during our stay at the campground; especially around meal times.
Speaking of meals make sure you check the fire restrictions. When we went there was a total fire ban, which meant we couldn’t use our gas stove to grill with. We were stuck with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the other non-cooking food we had available, which kind of soured our visit to the park a bit. Good thing we brought plenty of wine though. You can’t beat peanut butter and jelly with wine for dinner.
Anyway, I knew the next day was going to be quite exciting as I was set to climb one of the main peaks in the park Mt. Stapylton, which towered over our camp site.
Next Posting: The Mt. Stapylton Trail