Halls Gap, Australia: Our Rainmaking Powers Dwindle

I know I’ve said this more times to mean anything now, but I’m going to have to rush through the rest of these posts, I really need to catch up. So, in the interest of time, I won’t be displaying any pictures here, but I’ll try to keep providing links to the picture albums.

The next morning I went with Colin on a short hike around the mountains near Tim’s Place. At the foot of one such mountain, at the edge of town before the highway creeps up the hill and out of town, we walked through a cricket oval to reach a hiking track. The oval was a fond foraging area for the local kangaroos, and that morning about 15 of them were milling about the edge of the forest. They were completely unafraid of us, only moving a few feet in response to our nearby footsteps. One of them, as we walked around the area trying to find the trail, we passed one that must have been about 4 – 5 feet tall while crouching, with massive and powerful legs. Colin didn’t even notice him until we were about 5 feet away, and the kangaroo only ran off into the forest as we walked directly behind him.

Colin and I followed the highway up the mountain until we saw an opening in the forest with a trail sign.

Colin was an agent, representing a performer who was playing at the jazz festival, and he had to be back in town by 9:30 for breakfast with his client. He told me about his other business ventures, such as creating and marketing a line of health food products.

As Betty had explained to us the night before, Tim was best friends with one of her sons, and after Tim’s parents passed away, Tim drew closer to Betty and her children, soon becoming almost an adopted part of the family. After Tim opened the hostel, Betty would help him out by taking care of the place for some time during the week. Colin and Tim had known each other in primary school, but Colin was closer friends with one of Betty’s kids, one of Tim’s adopted brothers.

Back to the story: Colin and I hiked through some of the wilderness, mostly mild inclines and easy terrain. On the way back, however, perhaps for his desire to work up a sweat, but I suspect it was because we were out of time, Colin started jogging back down the track. I was in it for the exercise and welcomed the change of pace. We jogged back down the road and Colin split right to head into town, I went left back to Tim’s.

By the time I got back, the others had risen and were eating breakfast. The weather had started to improve a little bit, but we were still eager to wait for sunshine before heading to more lookouts. To pass the time, we drove east towards Stawell and one of the many Aboriginal rock art sites. Bunjil’s shelter, which was recommended at the visitor’s center, is a depiction of Bunjil, a Creator-type deity who was involved with forming the landscapes, people and animals of the Aboriginal lands during the creation of the world, known as the Dreaming or Dreamtime. Bunjil is accompanied by two animals. The paintings were quite well maintained for being several thousands of years old, but we were expecting more, like what we had seen in photographs and tourist books: caves that are nearly wallpapered with rock art.

Back in Halls Gap, Steffen and I returned to the bakery for lunch. We rejoined the girls and sat on the lawn outside the row of shops to eat, and soon ran into Colin, who was on his way out of town.

After lunch, we went back to the visitors center to check out some of the exhibits on display in the cultural center behind the information building. The cultural center was quite informative, devoted to documenting the origins, treatment and hardships of the Aboriginal people from before, during and after European contact. The photographs and descriptions mirrored how the Native Americans¬† in North America had been affected by such colonization. Aboriginals had been confined to reservation-type mission settlements, forced to wear European clothes and play European games like cricket. They were driven from their native land by settlers who reneged on treaties and agreements and their children were taken from them because the Europeans didn’t believe they were fit to raise them in a modern culture. They suffered from diseases unknown to the Australian continent, and even today suffer higher mortality rates, lower life-expectancies and are plagued by social inflictions such as depression and alcoholism.

On a brighter note, there were also several exhibits showcasing traditions such as the making of tools and basket weaving. And a killer video on the Dreaming and how the natives believe the Grampians (the Aboriginal name for the area is Gariwerd, which means “Place of Annual Senior Citizens’ Jazz Festival”) and surrounding land were formed. I don’t remember the details, it reads like one of Aesop’s best, played out by Hunter S. Thompson on another acid trip, but it involves two hunters chasing some large bird-like beast through the valleys, creating rivers and mountains in their wake.

To quell our 21st century, college-educated (perhaps unimaginative?) curiosities, there was another half to the video that told the scientific story of the Grampians, that the sandstone rock was hardened while still under water, then thrust upward by tectonic forces.

Next we headed up the road for a trio of sites: The Balconies, The Pinnacle and McKenzie Falls. The Pinnacle and Balconies were nothing more than lookouts, however the Balconies form a kind of ledge.

Previous visitors were lucky enough to get to stand on them, but we were blocked by a railing. I was considering hopping it to get that perfect shot, but I thought about how the story would sound in next year’s Lonely Planet — how I would be “that guy” — and decided against it. Which guy, you might ask? This guy:

The area was still recovering from a bushfire, which is always nice for that beautiful contrast of crispy black bark and the bright green regrowth.

McKenzie Falls was fantastic, and the four of us spent quite a bit of time there, just sitting near the pool of water at the bottom.

Yep, that’s right, a friggin’ rainbow. We headed back up to the car and caught the lookout from the Pinnacle before heading back to Tim’s for dinner.

That night we had breakfast-for-dinner, some eggs and veggies, chatted outside and generally enjoyed our last night in Halls Gap. The day had turned out beautiful, the wind and rain only memories. Since there wasn’t much else to see in Halls Gap, other than doing some serious, several-hour long walks, we had decided to head to Adelaide in the morning. I bought a flight from Adelaide to Perth for Thursday, giving me only 2 1/2 days there (and from what I heard from Jake, that was plenty).


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