Tuesday, 23 June 2015

When We Stray Upon Stray Memories

Halls Gap, Victoria

More than once in our lives we’ll stray upon memories we never thought existed. One of these experiences I had in 2014 when my cousin and I stopped in Halls Gap, the gateway to the Grampians, or ‘Gariwerd’ (in the indigenous language). We were on a tour coming home from Adelaide and the Grampians (which will one day have a post of its own) was included. Unfortunately, bushfires were on the go and we were taken to Halls Gap instead. Understanding of the decision made, one could even call this a ‘happy accident of a trip.’

Halls Gap, Victoria (taken 2014)

Humbled, the town stands surrounded by clean bush air. It was founded by Charles Browning Hall in 1841 and is, today, a tourist favourite. The traditional people include the Ngamadjidji Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung tribes, their presence dating back to 17,000 BC. At first sight I liked the place, but it wasn’t until after a closer look that I realised the same trip had been made years before as a child. 

Northwest to the Victorian capital, it’s about a three hour drive by car (253 km). There is a public transport route which includes buses and trains, but if you’ve got wheels I recommend you use them. The bigger walks are easily accessible this way. This little stint only lasted a night but we were able to get some bushwalking in and a trip to the cultural centre, which was where that hidden memory surfaced.

When it came down to eating and sleeping our tour guide took us out for kangaroo souvlaki to the Basecamp Eatery on the main road which had a rustic feel about it. Other eating points worthy of mention are the Black Panther Cafe Bar and the Livefast Lifestyle Cafe. Sleeping wise, our guide at the time had us down at the Brambuk Hostel which was in walking distance of town; comfortable sleep was had, despite the 4AM wake up. FYI for nature junkies, the local birdlife was on display and they weren’t camera shy. On the most recent stay (in 2016) it was Tim's Place, a humbled little hostel that's right next to the local oval where the kangaroos like to gather at sunset (watch out for the roodoos on the ground). 

Halls Gap, Victoria (taken 2014)

Bushwalking in these parts was refreshing and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. The scenery is its own reward, but make sure you have some comfortable shoes. It lasted for about two hours, give or take, but it was enough to get in the local flora and fauna. Kangaroos and emus were ever present, along with a laughing kookaburra and an echidna lying amongst the shrubs. I wouldn’t doubt finding a snake though so take care in where you tread. The views were picturesque so have your camera on hand and a bottle of water also. We went in the summer and the Victorian heat can get high.

The bushwalking all started from Brambuk, the National Park and Cultural Centre, a stop you should make. With award winning architecture (which one could lose themselves in), the cultural centre has a focus on education, primarily about the land and aboriginal presence which stands out amongst others in the state. Many activities are on offer and they have a dreamtime theatre which was where my hidden memory surfaced. Delighted I was at the experience, despite said memory featuring me jumping out of fright.

Halls Gap, Victoria (taken 2014)

The Gariwerd creation story features the giant emu, Tchingal. The good people at the centre sent me a link in which to relearn the story and I’ve come to the conclusion that Tchingal was a trickster, much like Loki from Norse mythology (I studied Myths and Symbols so I’m programmed for this). Anyway, it was in my youth that I first learnt about this giant emu that all present day emus are descended from, and upon my second visit to Halls Gap everything started coming back to me.

Standing in the dreamtime theatre is a large and possibly life-like replica of Tchingal (myths are open to interpretation) that at one point in the past scared the hell out of me, much to the parentals amusement. What I will say (and remember I’m prone to traveller’s regret) is that I failed to get a photo of the replica on my second visit, but there is an image in the links below. That said, upon the 2016 return visit I did learn that photography inside the cultural centre is a big no no. Was I bummed... maybe.

Halls Gap, Victoria (taken 2014)

Knowing my time in these parts was brief (now wishing it had been much longer so that's why you need to bring your own wheels), I would happily make the trip again; I’ve since learnt that there’s a zoo up there also with both native and exotic animals on display. With a bit of everything in the mix, Halls Gap caters for all.                 

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