Glamping In The Grampians

Boroka Lookout, The Grampians

I’m not supposed to be here. I’m supposed to be in Bright at the other end of Victoria, camping with my friends. But that’s the thing with being on a long holiday, plans are rarely fixed and you can make it up as you go along.

I have just spent New Year down on the farm in Port Campbell with Donald and Daisy and Daisy’s sister Delstar and her family. The weather by the sea had finally improved and so for a few days, I couldn’t be bothered to drive any further than a couple of coastal towns. At night, I would look at Google Maps to see if the distance to Bright had changed but it remained a steady 6 hour drive (surely 8 with photo stops?). I then considered breaking the trip up with an overnight stop somewhere, but by the time I got my act together, it meant driving all that way just for a couple of nights in a swag. And it’s hot hot hot now. 34 degrees. And after last year, I envisage that the only thing worse than spending a night in a swag when it’s raining, is spending a night when it’s stifling. So you could say that I have chickened out.

My final destination is Melbourne but I don’t want to go back the usual route while places like the car I am currently driving is the best yet and lends itself to road trips — nice stereo, synched phone, cruise control etc etc. Ararat and Castlemaine sound intriguing so I make the decision to head there. But then if I am going to Ararat, the Grampians are so close….. I had sort of promised to go to the Grampians with Jarratt but if I’m in the neighbourhood, it seems stupid to leave it out. I pull out of the driveway and then decide….

The drive to The Grampians is a four hour drive which is the furthest I want to drive in this heat. This includes a leisurely stop for lunch at Dunkeld and countless photo stops. The roads are fairly deserted so I am able to do that thing where you’re cruising at 100km per hour, see something that catches your eye so you brake, turn the car around and go back for the photo. I do manage to startle a few cows but that’s about all.

Halls Gap is the place where everyone stays. I guess that the resident population would be about 20 people, some hens and a couple of goats but there are always tourists here — even in winter when those mad hikers trudge out with cagoules and those ski pole things. Most people obviously drive up here but I do meet a Swiss guy where I’m staying, who took a four hour bus ride from Melbourne.

I’m standing in the Youth Hostel kitchen while some English guy who is meticulously chopping carrots and mushrooms for the bolognese he’s making for this evening’s meal, tells me of his ambitious plans for a final mad dash across the state before flying home at the weekend. Youth hostels are the only places where I will engage with other guests. I am sure there’s something about the hotel environment which encourages me to adopt this expression of “don’t try and smalltalk me at the breakfast buffet.” Whereas, there’s an excitement about youth hostels — (and before you start you don’t have to be twenty to stay in them, there are people of all ages) — hostelers are not tourists, they are travellers, maybe Dutch, French, Australian, usually on a budget and they take time to see a place, not just visit somewhere to tick it off their list.

A German girl comes in and says that there are kangaroos on the nearby cricket oval. We go and take a look.

So, as far as conversation goes when you’re travelling, the rule of thumb seems to be —

Hotels — Ignore; Youth Hostels — Engage; Camping — Get pissed with your neighbours.

There are three reasons why I decide to drive everywhere. 1) I’ve got limited time 2) I’m by myself. 3) It’s hot…. I’m sure therefore, that I miss stuff but I still feel that I have immersed myself sufficiently in the experience.

I can’t decide whether these kids are brave or foolish as I watch them edge out onto the ledge at The Balconies which is a feature at Reed’s Lookout. I’m certain I wouldn’t risk it now but I wonder whether I would’ve tried it thirty years ago or whether this is the Facebook generation that feels the need to post stuff like this to get as many “likes” as possible.

I could easily stay longer but I feel that I should move on, as I want to squeeze in another area before I go back to Melbourne. So, tomorrow, I am going to the Goldfields in search of the shiny stuff.