What do you get when you put someone who naturally loves to chat on a trail for five days alone?
In my research with Google Maps, I work out it’s going to be just over five hours drive. 469.5km. Add the breaks in, and we have a whole day. I’m still not sure whether I’m crazy or not. For one, I don’t particularly like driving long distances. Second, I’m taking three kids with me - alone. Hmm.
Where am I going? Wartook, at the Grampians. It's about 40 minutes the other side of Horsham (coming from Adelaide). My dad has property over there, and he is always asking us to go. Hubby can't come due to work, so I hold my tongue the right way and hope for the best. Three kids in my car and me. It will be interesting.
The Happy Wanderer Holiday Resort could have had potential some years ago. Now it is run down. The views from the log cabins are beautiful. One afternoon I wander over and am stopped in my tracks by the view in front of me. Grassy plains lead my eye to the soaring mountain range hiding the horizon. I can imagine sitting on the deck, watching kangaroos graze, as the sun goes down. But alas, not tonight. I hear ‘mum, excavate with me. Nobody wants to play with me.’
Halls Gap is just 30km away. The slow drive through the tree-canopied mountains is easy. The inconvenience of having to keep an eye (or two) on the road (as I am the driver) instead of the forest of trees that keep enticing me with their beauty is slightly annoying. I also smile at the quirky tree growth (after the monster bush fires about a year ago) that covers the trunk of each tree like a hairy bear. Little sprouts of leaves cover each trunk from close to the ground up to the highest limbs.
The town of Halls Gap itself is like a setting out of a movie. On one side of the main road is the caravan parks and playground, hemmed in by the towering rock face behind. The other has, among other small buildings and stores, a cute collection of shops bordering a shaded lawn area. Umbrellas and picnic tables are full with latte-sipping hikers. We walk the porch that runs the length of the shops, browsing the souvenirs, crystals and fortunately, missing the lolly shop then head over to the playground. I resist the urge to get coffee - just.
After a recommendation by the Visitor Centre as to where we could go with five kids aged 4-13-years-old, we walk to Venus Baths. An easy 2km return walks to half a dozen rock pools of varying sizes and depths where the children jump and slide and get wet. Me too. It was worth listening to the whine from some of the kids on the walk up - the kids didn't want to leave. It also means I don't lie, saying 'it will be worth it' to keep the kids going on the way up - seeing as I'd never visited before.
I carefully mention to my dad that next time we come over to the Grampians I'd like to stay in Halls Gap - even though it's not near his property. The caravan parks look nice, there is a big playground at the public park in front for the kids, and multiple hikes begin at the foot of the mountain rock face. I can hike without having to drive anywhere. And now the kids know about these very fun rock pools to slip, splish and splash about in.
So, you ask, how did the trip go? Really well. The kids entertained each other, we didn't lose anyone, and I kept my sanity with the drive there and back. Even though we had a 1.5-hour wait in Bordertown for my dad who was running late (a normal occurrence).
Did I enjoy it? Hmm. I loved the exploring but was happy to escape kids (yes, even mine) when I got home.
Would I do it again? Yes. But not to Wartook. Halls Gap is my Grampians spot.
Secret weapon? iPads for the car. Cousins for play. Lots of food. No food with artificial colours or too much sugar - especially in the car.
I'm prepping to go on a hike with my Dad, nephew and niece in December. The Great Ocean Walk. It's exciting. I've only done one multi-day hike before, the Overland Track in Tasmania. I hiked that with my Dad also.
There were times when I wondered what I was doing. But then the track would turn a corner, or reach the top of an ascent, and I would stand in awe. My jaw would drop, quite literally. And I'd hear myself say out loud, 'Wow, this is amazing. I love this.'
Walking over the mountain tops on the boarded track, I had to resist singing 'the hills are alive'. I imagined the bush-covered mountain tops to look like giant hairy bums if there were such a thing.
At the end of the day, I loved sitting down and chatting with people. I'm a people person. I appreciated the quiet and small chatter with Dad during the day but loved gathering for stories at night.
Exploring the diversity of one place over time kept my curious nature at bay. My surrounds were constantly changing from wet forest to hardy bushland, to mountain tops - all in one day.
The treat meal at the end of the trip. Everyone needs to splash out, they deserve it.
Day one saw us 'stuck' with a large group of two families with loud kids. The kids did nothing wrong, but we didn't want to be hiking and sleeping with them for the rest of the track. So next day we hiked two days in one. By the end of the day, when we had to pick our feet up over a forest of tree roots, we wondered whether we had done the right thing. But we made it.
Ever tried to haul yourself up a near vertical wall with a 20kg bag on your back (and camera bag clipped to the front of me)? That happened on day one. We did have a chain to hold onto, and some step holds, but it was steep. I'd hate to think what would happen if I lost my grip.
Having to carry all rubbish off the track. All rubbish - including the toilet paper.
I was ultra eager to have a long hot shower, after having no shower for five days. Smelly belly and more. I did have wipe downs but couldn't bring myself to splash about in the near freezing water.
Many people say that nature is grounding, and it's the best place to let yourself just be. To find yourself. To nurture yourself. To love yourself. Well, I guess in a semi-torturous way, multi-day hikes do just that.
And there is the bonus of getting fit while getting great photos.
Bring it on! I want to do more.
Multi-day hikes I've done...
Inca Trail, Peru
Mount Kinabalu, Sabah
Overland Track, Australia
Where to next? Would love your thoughts.
I wanted to stay away a night, for our date night. I wanted to stay at Clarion Soho or Crowne Plaza so I could photograph their rooms. But a Hilton deal popped up on my screen which included breakky, valet parking, late checkout, and a bottle of sparkling. Too good to resist. Deep down I knew I'd be disappointed though. No fantastic photos to be taken.
We had a great weekend though. Hiked at Mount Lofty, coffee in Stirling, yum cha on Gouger Street, a spot of shopping, room service and buffet breakfast. And the best bit of all, not woken by kids through the night, or at 6am on Sunday.
The Hilton is no glamour queen, and I'd recommend other hotels before this hotel, but it does do food well. Room service chick pea curry and grilled vegetables with hummus was very yummy. And the buffet breakfast was decent too. Most hotels in Australia can't do buffets like our international counterparts, but Hilton really tried. Hubby was impressed.
What is your favourite hotel in Adelaide? Have you ever stayed overnight in your home city?
I've just finished walking the Overland Track with my Dad. A beautiful walk, with a good share of mud and tree roots. But that's not the hard part. The hardest part of the Overland Track for me. Getting used to sleeping on one bunk with four other people. Only having a self inflating mat and sleeping bag for comfort. Thanks though to Scout Outdoor Centre in Rundle Street for the cosy One Planet bag I got!