Brother: Sis, instead of meeting up over dinner, why don’t we go somewhere for a weekend and do some photography?
Me: Sure…. where?
And that was how it all begins.. our trip to the Grampians was planned for a month or so. After looking through instagram and google, we saw some pretty epic shots made at the Grampians which got us all pretty hyped up as we have been living in the city and surrounding suburbs all these while and we are quite hungry for a bit of nature and fresh air.
Grampians is a National Park in the state of Victoria, Australia. While I’ve been living in Melbourne for close to 10 years (all in) now, I have actually not been to the Grampians. It is a 3 hours drive away from the CBD after all and we don’t own car as we don’t need one living in the CBD. A quick search brought me to Halls Gap being the main town area in Grampians and I started looking for accomodations here. I’m not so fussed about accomodations when I’m travelling to be honest. As long as there’s a decent bed and a clean bathroom, I’m all good. In fact, I’m quite keen to do a camper van trip one day! But, seeing that there’s 4 of us and it’s in the middle of winter, camping would have been quite a bad idea. Not looking forward to freezing ourselves silly. We ended up choosing a 2 bedroom cabin at the Halls Gap Caravan Park and it was all we needed! Booking was made easily from their website and upon confirmation, an email will be sent to you with directions on how to collect the keys if you arrive after hours.
As 3/4 of us are working, we have decided to leave for Grampians on a Friday night. That way, we can get up earlier on Saturday and have the whole Saturday exploring Grampians. We will also have chance to do some astrophotography (a first for us btw) as we are trying to make use of the unpolluted night sky. After a quick dinner, we left for Grampians at about 8PM. While we were about 1/3 through, I looked up the sky and realised that I can actually make out the milky way with my bare eyes! The highways are really dark in Australia especially when you’re quite out of the city. This is the first time I’ve seen this. I’ve never knew you can see the milky way with your bare eyes. Granted of course, it was a very clear night sky that night.
We finally reached the caravan park at close to 11:30PM, took the keys from the box indicated in the email and checked into our cabin. It was freezing that night. But, luckily the cabin is equiped with a heater at the living area and the beds are equiped with electric blankets. The bad thing about having the heater on this way tho, is that it got a little too dry at some point and I’ve forgotten to bring my lip balm…. *sigh*
So, you would think that we will go straight to bed especially since three of us got up early for work that day. Nope…. we immediately got our photography gears, some torchlights, got back into the car and head towards Reed Lookout. It’s about 18 minutes drive from the caravan park but it’s really not that far. It’s a great place to do astrophotography because you don’t have to hike in the dark to get to somewhere for an unobstructed sky. The lookout is right at the carpark. And, as it’s in the middle of the night/early in the morning, there’s no one in the carpark anyway so you can do your photography right at the carpark.
I tried a few shots directed at the sky looking straight at the milky way, a couple of shots towards the lookout point where my brother has set up his camera, a couple of shots from the lookout over looking the Grampians, and I also tried to so some light painting with our car but failed miserably… lols (Check out my picture post on my Grampians Astrophotography which I will be posting up shortly). It was our first time and we didn’t have the right light painting tools. We’ve learnt a lot that night on astrophotography and we believe we can only be better from here on. We still had an awesome time and I’m very happy with some of the pics we took that night. I’ve learnt that I can probably drop my ISO a little bit more to reduce the noise and increase the shutter a little bit longer the next time I do this. By the end of our photography session, about 2 hours later, it suddenly got pretty foggy and it kept fogging up my lens so I had to stop. It was also getting a little too cold and we’d decided to head back to sleep. We have after all, planned to wake up at 5AM for a sunrise hike!
After sleeping for barely 2 hours, I got up at 5AM on the dot, had a quick shower and head to Mt William carpark. The drive to Mt. William carpark in the wee hours of the morning means that you will need to be extra careful with wildlife. Drive safely and slowly so that you don’t hit any wild kangaroos. There’s lots of them and they love to jump out onto the roads from time to time. The hike to Mt. William is only 45 minutes one way but it’s a pretty steep hike especially at the beginning of the hike. It was pretty strenuous but we persevered and made it right before the sun rises. We managed to capture a few shots before the actual sun rise and while the sun was rising, the blanket of fog rises together as well. We were quite bumped out as we couldn’t see the view we wanted to see. However, we made use of the situation and had fun taking some silhouette shots caused by the sun rise and fog instead. At least I got to see the view before the sun rises. A family of 4 came an hour later while we were packing up and I felt sorry for them as they didn’t get to see the view at all. On our hike down however, the fog started to clear a little and we got the see some of the views on the other side of the mountain.
We head back to our cabin after that as I had to register at the cabin for late comers in the morning. What greeted us at our cabins however were wildlife! Lots of wildlife! We saw a deer, some rabbits and lots and lots of wallabies! All at the vicinity of our cabin. So in awe of the amount of nature at Grampians! While back in the cabin, we made an easy breakfast consisted of german sausages, boiled eggs and baked beans. We’d forgotten the oil. Lols. Didn’t occur to us that we will need to bring our own cooking oil. Hence, the boiled eggs. Sunny side up would have really hit the spot… And oh, we had also forgotten ketchup and chilli sauce. Lols….It’s okay, you live and you learn!
We then continue our day with another hike. We headed back to Reed Lookout from last night to catch the view at daytime. From the carpark, it’s a pretty quick walk to The Balconies. While I really wanted to get an epic shot from the Balconies, the epic shot spot has now been made out of bounds as it’s a pretty dangerous route. It was quite rocky for that part and as it’s quite wet and slippery, we decided not to pursue for the epic shots. Me and the brother did head for another route and ended up on top of the “epic shot spot” instead. From the top, I really thought we are at the edge. Didn’t realised that we are still quite a distance from the edge.
From the Reed Lookout carpark, it’s another short drive to Mackenzie Falls carpark. The signpost from the carpark says that it’s about 570m to the waterfall. All we thought was “oh, this will be the shortest walk/hike we have today then!”. Well, we were quite wrong. While the distance was the actual distance if the carpark and the waterfall is a flat plane, the base of the waterfall however is actually quite a walk down and while walking down is not so much of a deal…. climbing back up was a pain. And, it was definitely not 570m. That being said, the waterfall is pretty cool. I bought a Hoya ND filter (6 stops) right before the trip just for some waterfall shots and I’m really happy with the results. I’m not good with photoshop but I’m sure someone with the skills will be able to make my shots look fantasy-like. Hopefully, one day I’ll be able to come back to these photos and make some fantasy waterfall pictures.
We made our final stop of the day at Wonderland carpark, the start of “The Grand Canyon” walk. While i’m sure it’s nowhere near the actual Grand Canyon in US, I’m sure it will still be pretty cool. However, as it’s already close to 4PM and we are pretty tired by now, we decided not to go all out for the Grand Canyon-Pinnacles walk and go for the Grand Canyon loop instead. I was actually quite disappointed with the loop as we didn’t really get to see the “Grand canyon” side of the walk. The loop is outside the “grand canyon”. Oh wells, there’s always a next time. I’ll make sure I see this the next time I’m here.
After that, we had a really relaxed evening.. had a nap, made a really good steamboat dinner (we brought our induction cooker steamboat set) and it was perfect for the cold weather. Ended the night with some card games.
We left back to the city the next morning after having our brunch at a local cafe at Halls Gap. Would definitely recommend the Grampians if you like nature and hiking and wanted to see another side of Australia. I will posting more pictures on the following posts. Do check them out later and leave your comments below! 🙂
Til the next post, keep experimenting!