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Travel guide The Grampians

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Grampians National Park
  • View from The Balconies, Photo: Daryl Wisely
  • Cave of Hands

"The Grampians is definitely one of Victoria's most iconic National Parks. The ancient rocky peaks, rich natural and cultural heritage and visually stunning landscape make the area simply fascinating to visit. Whatever the time of year, there is so much to experience.”

Grampians National Park Interpretation Ranger, Tammy Schoo

Out of the flat farmland plains of Victoria's south west rises a sudden range of mountains. The rugged Grampians, which are in fact four distinct mountain ranges, were formed over 400 million years ago in a time when the ocean covered most of the state of Victoria. The rocky peaks rise to 1100 metres and form the southern tip of the Great Dividing Range.

The name “Grampians” comes from the first European to explore the ranges, Major Thomas Mitchell. In 1836 on an expedition through Southern Australia, Mitchell aptly described the ranges as ‘the garden' of Victoria. Among the impressively rich showing of over 900 indigenous plant species, some 26 species are ‘endemic'.

To the Aboriginal people who occupied the mountains from at least 22,000 years ago, they were Gariwerd - "the nose-like or pointed mountains." Interpretation Ranger, Tammy Schoo says "if you are interested in what defines the area, it is definitely the strong links with cultural heritage. There are over 100 rock art sites, representing some 60 per cent of known Aboriginal rock art found in Victoria."

Visitors can view five art sites including Bunjil's shelter on the eastern side of the 168,000 hectare Grampians National Park; Ngamadjidj in the North, the Manja, or hand-stencil site, and the Gulgurn Manja, or children's hand print site. "The most spectacular site in a rich cultural landscape is the Billimina shelter in the west of the park, which depicts over 2500 different motifs," Tammy says.

Brambuk the National Park and Cultural Centre is the core of cultural interpretation in the Grampians. Located at Hall's Gap, in the heart of the mountains, Brambuk is a unique piece of architecture in that it has been designed to mimic the shape of a cockatoo spreading its wings.

Brambuk means "belonging to" and in a series of displays, it interprets the past and living present of Aboriginal connection to land. "It is one of the most essential places to stop and visit. It's an important place not only to get an idea of Aboriginal culture, but to get extensive information about all there is to do in such a diverse park," says Tammy.

If it is walking or touring you are interested in, the opportunities are endless. Many areas are accessible to car travellers as well as to walkers . "The walking can be challenging, however there are a variety of walks to cater for all levels". A favourite of mine says Tammy "is the Mt Staplyton walk. On the way up you find yourself amongst a sea of rocky cliffs and heathy vegetation, but when you reach the summit you can look south over ranges and take in some of the most spectacular natural scenery you are ever likely to see. It is truly breathtaking."

Many visitors arrive in the peak wildflower season of spring when the bushland erupts in shows of magnificent colour. Although throughout the year there is always something flowering, spring is definitely the season to witness the wonderfully diverse flora.

"By far the most visited of the scenic sites are Boroka Lookout, a great place to watch the sunrise; Reeds Lookout, a fantastic place to watch the sunset, and MacKenzie Falls a great place to let the rumbling waters drown out time itself."

Along with nearby Mt Arapiles, the Grampians is very much a premier rock climbing destination, especially for international visitors. Once they have conquered the numerous climbs at Arapiles, there are some fantastic climbs in the Grampians particularly in the Summer Day Valley Area in the Park's North.

Experiencing this landscape is easy with a guide, and there are over 80 tour operators licensed to take you abseiling, bird watching, canoeing, fishing, horse riding, rock climbing, bushwalking or night walks. Whatever the season there is always something new to experience.

A visit to the Grampians National Park will provide visitors with a unique opportunity not to be missed. "Something that is amazing to witness right now is the fascinating relationship the Grampians landscape has with fire" Tammy says.

In January 2006 a large bushfire swept through just under half of the National Park initially leaving behind a dramatic blackened landscape. Interestingly though, this landscape has evolved with fire, so many native plants and animals have special adaptations that help them survive and successfully recover from fire.

Right now the landscape is a sea of vivid green. There are trees re-sprouting, new seedlings in the ash beds and plenty of animals recolonising. You can also witness many fantastic rock formations previously hidden by vegetation. It is a fantastic time to witness the demonstration of magical ecological processes.

Naturally however, some visitor sites were affected by the fire and while many have already been re-opened, the next twelve months will see further work done on popular roads and walking tracks such as the Wonderland Range.

For further information on the Grampians National Park please contact Parks Victoria info@parks.vic.gov.au or visit our website: http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/.

About the author
Parks Victoria wrote this article

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  Great article I was wondering where I could find the cave of hands that is photographed ?
Posted on Sep 08 2013 at 09:13

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