Day 15 (November 23, 2017 – Melbourne, Victoria, Australia): “The Prom”
I managed to awake to my 5:45am alarm, which meant that I must have not heard the 5:30am alarm. I guess these things happen when you sleep right around midnight the previous night.
Knowing that Julie was going to tour Melbourne CBD again, I was left on my own to go waterfalling in the Gippsland area. I knew that I needed an early start if I was to get to all the target waterfalls while also getting to experience the Wilsons Promontory (also known as Wilson’s Prom).
The waterfalls I was targeting were the Toorongo Falls and Agnes Falls, which were two waterfalls that I did the last time we were here. However, I was leaving out Cyathea Falls as that would be too ambitious to fit in as it was even further east than both waterfalls (somewhere south of Traralgon).
This time, I called in for the valet so by the time I went downstairs at 6:25am after having a breaky (and Julie fought me when she got up to prevent me from having my death by chocolate brownie that I picked up at Apollo Bay), I was out the door and driving to the southeast.
Pretty much from the get go, I was following Batman Street, which was already a toll road. And it went right onto the Monash Freeway, which was also a toll highway. So now that I knew that the rental car was equipped with one of these transponders, I heard the beeps that let me know that they were tallying up the tolls as I passed through.
Since I had no idea how much toll I’d be paying, I had a sinking feeling that it would amount to at least $100 AUD. We’ll see when I get back what the damage was.
The drive east on the Monash Freeway eventually got me towards Warragul, though the GPS had me exit the freeway where the next road took me in the direction of Mt Baw Baw.
I pretty much followed the road towards Mt Baw Baw until I started to see the Toorongo Falls Scenic Reserve signs. Eventually after taking the Toorongo Falls Road, where the last 1.2km was unsealed, I finally reached the dead-end for the Toorongo Falls car park at 8:05pm.
The signage here stated that this part of Victoria was one of the state’s rainiest parts. That was interesting because I had been following the Bureau of Meteorology before this trip, and they had been saying that Gippsland had been lacking in rain this Winter and Spring season.
I quickly got my stuff together and proceeded on the familiar loop hike that was more of a lollipop loop where the signage had me hike in an anticlockwise manner passing by the Toorongo Falls before making it all the way to the Amphitheatre Falls before turning back to the car park.
The Toorongo River seemed to have a pretty healthy volume this time around (though it was also flowing pretty nicely the last time I was here 11 years ago). But the trail ascended quickly up some switchbacks and steps pretty much right after I reached the bottom of the loop where I started to go anticlockwise.
This trail didn’t seem to have a lot of traffic (or at least maybe I was the first one on this trail today) because I found myself running into spider webs and they’d brush against my face whenever the vegetation was close enough together to make such an arrangement feasible for the spiders here. So I ultimately found myself with one hand forward chopping the air with the other hand holding onto the camera. That way, I hoped that the hand would hit the web first before my face would. At least that was the theory.
Even though the forest was cool and crisp at this time of the morning, I was already working up a little bit of a sweat. Eventually at about 8:30am, I reached the familiar viewing deck for the Toorongo Falls, where I got to see the main tier though there were more cascades further downstream (so the falls was actually taller than the viewing would lead you to believe). I was even able to see glimpses of the waterfall on the way up though there was never really a clean view until the viewing deck due to all the overgrowth of ferns and trees.
While I was checking out Toorongo Falls, I was startled when a branch fell from above right onto the viewing deck! Luckily I was standing on the bench to try to get a clean look at the falls without the railing in the foreground. Still, with the size of that branch, it might have hurt but wouldn’t have killed me had I been bonked on the head with this branch. But if it was anything bigger, I wouldn’t have been so lucky.
After having my fill of the Toorongo Falls, I then decided that I would complete the loop and head over to the Amphitheatre Falls. At least the uphill part was pretty much over as I continued for the next 15 minutes going on a relatively level trail before it descended towards the metal viewing deck for the Amphitheatre Falls. Since the trail leading up to Toorongo Falls pretty much followed its creek, I noticed that Amphitheatre Falls seemed to be on a separate creek. This was further confirmed when I had my fill of the small falls and went to complete the loop, which pretty much skirted the creek.
Eventually at 9am, I got back to the car where the morning sun had penetrated the car park and even was shining right on the parked rental car. I guess I picked a bad spot to keep the car and the stuff inside cool.
Next, I drove off and headed deeper into Gippsland. With the early morning start, I felt like I had some momentum working for me. But now, I had a choice of what to do next – their go straight to Agnes Falls (ETA 11:15am) or to Squeaky Beach in Wilson’s Promontory (ETA 11:55am). I ultimately decided to go to Wilson’s Prom first as I wanted to listen to Dr Karl and the science hour on Triple J, which had largely eluded us on this trip so far (even though I knew I could stream the podcast back at home though I like the musical interludes that you don’t get on the podcast).
So the drive went pretty uneventfully as I went southwards on twisty forest roads eventually briefly hooking up with the South Gippsland Highway. Along the way, a sign saying something about the World’s Tallest Tree caught my attention, and when I saw that it was only 1km off the road I was on, I decided to go for a look.
Well, it turned out that there was nothing more than some signage saying that the tree was felled in the late 1800s and that the height of the tree had it fallen would stretch as far as some white post further east down the road. It was kind of a disappointing visit, but then again, if it was genuinely the tallest tree alive, there would have been a lot more tourism infrastructure devoted to it.
Anyways, once I got on the South Gippsland Highway, it didn’t take long before I continued heading further south towards Wilson’s Prom.
When I eventually got to the entrance gate for Wilson’s Prom National Park, the signage said the entry was free but take a visitor guide. So I promptly did that, then heeded the slower speed limits due to the possible presence of wildlife (especially wombats and these lemur-looking things).
By about 11:45am, I stopped the car at the Norman’s Lookout. While there were already some really nice views of the blue waters off the coast of the Wilson’s Prom’s western shores, I couldn’t really capture what I was seeing as I was driving.
So the Norman’s Lookout would have to do. But once I pulled up and walked right up to the lookout, I could see some offshore islands and some hints of the blue green waters below. However, the beaches and the waters looked kind of flat given the thick vegetation in the foreground.
By about 11:50am, I eventually made it to the fairly busy Squeaky Beach, which was one of the main attractions of the Wilson’s Prom. The sun was already out and quite intense at this time of the day, and after taking the 300m walk towards the beach, I then walked onto the blindingly white sands, where each hard step actually produced the namesake squeaks.
Apparently, there was something about the properties of the sand here that made them squeak (upon a hard step), and it was almost as if you had to do a D.D. Dumbo walk to get that sound out of the sand.
This place was simply too surreal and peaceful to be spending only a few minutes here. I really wished that we spent the night at one of the accommodations here (I’m sure they’d be basic) just so we could chillax on the sands of this beach as well as the nearby Norman’s Beach.
The blinding white sands contrasting the colors of the Southern Ocean really reminded me of my Whitsundays experience or even the white sand beaches of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu, especially at Port Olry and Champagne Beach.
At 12:35pm, I made it back to the car. Even though there were probably about two dozen people or so here, the beach was big enough and spaced out enough that it felt divine and relaxing here. It was certainly no St Kilda Beach in the ghetto and superficial factor.
There were even orange tinged rocks that reminded me of the Remarkable Rocks on Kangaroo Island that we had seen barely over a week ago.
The knobby granite mountain backing the beach was apparently Mt Bishop. Looking against the sun, it wasn’t easy to photograph satisfactorily, but it was ceratinly an imposing feature.
After driving even further towards Tidal River, I eventually went through the 10km/h stretch eventually leading to the car park for Norman’s Beach at 12:45pm. There was actually a tour bus that was here as well as some scattered cars parked about the mostly empty car park.
But when I walked down the sandy footpath towards “Ramp 2”, I got to see the mostly protected beach as well as some even calmer parts where freshwater was cutting through the sand and mixing with the sea water around some mini-island, where the water was probably about ankle deep. The kids that were here loved playing there.
Meanwhile, when I walked up to the wet sand portions, I saw those familiar balls of sand accompanied by some holes, where clearly there were some little crabs that lived beneath the surface here.
By 1:10pm, I had had my fill of Norman’s Beach and returned to the car. I then had myself a quick lunch of the smoked salmon on leftover gluten free bread. After that picnic meal, I also finished off the chocolate chip cookie though it was not soft and moist since it was several days old since I had purchased it at the bakery in Apollo Bay.
Next, the drive headed back north in the direction of the town of Foster. As I was making my way back to the South Gippsland Highway, I saw that there was one gas station offering a price of $1.34 per litre, which was the cheapest that I had seen this side of Victoria. I started to catch onto the fact that the closer to the city you get, the more expensive the gas (which was opposite what we were used to back at home).
Eventually, I wound up in the town of Toora, where I started to see an Agnes Falls sign. At one turnoff, it said that the drive was about 15km long to get to the reserve. The GPS said there was another turnoff a short distance later than was 11km long, but I wasn’t sure if it would be too narrow or unsealed.
It turned out that the first route I chose was all sealed even though it was a little longer than the other options.
At 2:30pm, I finally made it to the Agnes Falls car park, where there was a toilet and a couple of other cars already parked here in the shade. After I pulled in and tried to leave the car in a shady spot, another car also pulled in.
The path to the lookouts for the falls was a mere 200m, but I could see some picnic area that I didn’t recall was there before in 2006. Regardless, I kept my focus and documented the trail as well the various angles of viewing Agnes Falls.
It turned out that there was a weir or diversion channel near the top of the Agnes Falls. I wasn’t sure if this was open or not, but that explained why there was some kind of grating as well as underlying concrete brink across the very top of the falls.
Like before, the sanctioned views left more to be desired due to the overgrowth, but I was still able to manage the full height of the falls when viewed awkwardly from the more set back lookout. Meanwhile the more falls-focused photos could also very easily have been accommodated.
Anyways, I returned to the car at 3:05pm, where I had completed the 800m round trip walk (400m each way). The skies remained blue and sunny though there were definitely thunderclouds on the horizon and appearing to head in my direction. Luckily for me, I had gotten my fill of this place before the thunderclouds would have a chance to innundate the area.
By about 3:30pm, I made a stop at the Endeavour Gas Station near the town of Foster, which sold their gas for about $1.34 AUD instead of $1.45 and above per litre that I had seen so far.
The drive would continue heading west northwest along the South Gippsland Highway. The drive was otherwise uneventful except for a brief stop at the Coles in Lynwood Village as I was trying to return Julie’s stuff that she couldn’t take on the plane with her).
So I found myself back within the chaotic streets of Melbourne, where there was actually traffic on the Monash Freeway and leading all the way towards the Melbourne CBD. At least while I was waiting at a light, I couldn’t help but notice the Rod Laver Arena off the corner of Olympic and Batman.
So now I could finally put a place to the name whenever the Australian Open World Tennis Tournament (one of the majors of the ATP tour) would be televised. At least I could finally identify the geography of such a world famous sporting venue that I would intermittently see over the years.
Eventually at 6:30pm, I finally returned to the room after making my attempt at cleaning out the rental car so we could re-pack everything back in our room. Given the intense traffic that I had to face, it had costed me another 30-45 minutes.
I knew that the consequence of all these delays would be that we’d have to wait longer to finally get our shot at the Spanish Tapas place instead of getting there early and having a less hectic experience.
Whilst we were back at the room, we couldn’t help but notice some kind of commotion with people speaking into microphones addressing other colleagues or something and some clapping. Clearly, something was going on at our accommodation though it was probably none of our business as it was some conference or business function full of well-dressed professionals (as opposed to us sloppy tourists in jeans and T-shirt or something).
By around 6:45pm, we promptly walked to the Movida Spanish Tapas bar, and were told that it might be 30 minutes wait before we’d be seated. So in the mean time, we killed time by taking pictures within the graffiti laneway as well as some of the rif raf outside of this little charming alleyway.
Ultimately, we were seated before 7pm, and we sat at the bar so we figured that the food and service would be pretty straightforward.
We wound up getting three appetizers and two raciones. We got things like the beef tartare, some kind of Wagyu “brisket” in a toasted bun, and cebolla (lettuce with some fancy dressing or sauce). Our raciones consisted of garlic prawns cooked in cidre, broccolini, and a Wagyu with truffle oil and eggs.
It was a very good meal, and we could have easily tried the chocolate con churros except Julie was still not over her condition, and I was wavering still on coming down with something or my body fighting it off.
Amongst the noisy ambience of the confines of Movida, Julie was regaling me with what she was able to accomplish alone in the Melbourne CBD whilst I was out and about alone in Gippsland. She said we wound up going to some kind of civic buildings with some old school royal architecture and stuff.
When we were done eating at Movida, it was raining pretty hard outside. Still, we had to go back to Coles so Julie could return the pasta jug so we wouldn’t have to worry about taking it onto the flight to Tassie tomorrow morning.
After successfully returning the pasta bottle (and purchasing yet another bottle of kefir), we’d eventually return to our room at 8:40pm, thereby ending the last of our days in Melbourne. After spending this last night, we’d be off to Tassie for 9 more nights before this trip would end.
We’re two-thirds of the way done with this trip, but I was really looking forward to going back to the bush and away from the city. That said, I was concerned about the forecast calling for rain over the weekend in Tassie so we’ll have to play it by ear whether that would impact our plans or not…
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