Red Rock is a dormant volcano near Alvie in western Victoria which offers spectacular views of lakes, craters and dramatic landforms that are the result of volcanic action over thousands of years. It is believed to be a younger volcano than others nearby such as Tower Hill near Warrnambool, Lake Purrumbete near Camperdown, and Mt Elephant at Derrinallum. The views from the lookout are breathtaking: craters, lakes, hills and folds that rise dramatically out of the earth, and a patchwork of farms that thrive on the rich volcanic soil.It’s no wonder they call this “Lakes and Craters Country”.
On Coragulac Hill near the peak of Red Rock, is the War Memorial for Alvie and Dreeite servicemen who fought “for God, King and Country” as stated on the stone memorial. As I stood and read the names, I was very aware of the fact that it was exactly 100 years ago that some of these men were fighting and dying for our freedom. I spent two minutes in silence and finished with “Lest We Forget”. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
A path along the foreshore and up to the rotunda contains bricks engraved with dedications and messages from local people. This was definitely my favourite.
The artwork is in the shape the footpad of the Tachyglossus, a now-extinct relative of the echidna. It includes totems of the local Gulidjan/Kolacgnat tribe as well as a boomerang, a gum tree leaf and an outline of Red Rock, a dormant volcano visible on the other side of the lake. It is surrounded by native grasses and plants, and a stone wall that represents British settlement.
In the early Autumn, the Hopkins River meanders lazily through the beautiful farmlands of western Victoria, gurgling and spilling gently over these rocks and falls near Cudgee, just north of Warrnambool. The water level is so low that some parts of the stream are cut off, forming rock pools in the river bed above the falls. Cows graze along the banks and drink from the cool, fresh stream.
When the river is high and fast, the falls are turbulent and powerful, and the stream below is far too deep and unsafe for cows to graze so close to its banks.
The Stony Rises are found between Camperdown, Pirron Yallock and Cobden in Victoria’s Western District.
The fields are full of volcanic rock, a testament to the fact that the dormant volcanoes in the area were once far more active than they are now. Ever since settlement, local farmers have used these rocks to create stone walls that divide their farms into paddocks. While some have fallen into disrepair, others are still maintained and used today.
Lake Purrumbete is one of the volcanic crater lakes near Camperdown and Cobden in the Western District of Victoria. It is well known among those who love to fish, but many other people have never heard of it.
Moorhens are common in western Victoria, nesting on the edges of lakes and farm damns.
The Lake Edge Cafe is on the western shore of the lake. It offers lunches and a range of delicious home-made cakes, tea and coffee, cool drinks, and is licenced to serve wine and beer. There’s plenty of parking, and whether you sit inside or out on the deck, you get a great view of the beautiful lake and surrounding scenery.
Lofty mountain ash and other gum trees in the old-growth forest with tree ferns lining the edge of the road.
Younger trees pushing the boundaries of the car park at Melba Gully.
A view through a forestry/logging area deeper into the Otway Ranges.
Kangaroos enjoying a feed on fresh green grass in a clearing on the road into a logging area.
Driving through the Otway Ranges from Princetown to Cape Otway, the road snakes through lofty forests of mountain ash, often lined with tree ferns and vines. In more than one place there is old growth forest on one side of the road and views of the Southern Ocean on the other. Pine plantations dot the landscape, sometimes prim and green, sometimes cut and messy.
We took an “unscheduled detour” down a dirt road that led to one of the plantation logging sites. The bush hugs the side of the road even more closely, enormous trees towering overhead. I have no idea how those enormous log trucks negotiate those tight bends on a narrow road, but the signs that warn one to “proceed with caution” should not be taken lightly.
As we took advantage of a clearing to turn around and head back to the main road, we saw a mob of kangaroos in their natural environment. There was a big male in the group who would have easily stood six feet tall. I think he is the biggest kangaroo I remember ever having seen.
We headed further east to our destination for the evening: Melba Gully.
Melba Gully is tucked into the Otway bushscape not far from Lavers Hill. It offers beautiful scenery and some well-maintained tracks for walking. During the day it is magnificent, but as the sun drops behind the forest the gums and ferns take on an other-worldly quality and one’s other senses become more alert. The chatter of the birds and the gurgle of the Johanna River at the bottom of the gully become more prominent. The smell of the eucalypts and the damp forest floor is refreshing and clean.
At the end of the track is a section of boardwalk which keeps visitors on the track and out of the surrounding forest. All along this section of the walkway, glow worms twinkle like fairy lights. It’s a bit like looking at the stars in the night sky except that these tiny creatures are embedded in the bank about a meter away from where you stand.
It’s a beautiful, serene place to enjoy a little of nature’s magic.
If you ever have the chance to visit, wear good shoes for walking and take a torch so you can find your way back up the track in the dark.
This old bridge formed part of the railway line between Cobden and Camperdown. It can be found on Sadler’s Road, Naroghid.
Most of the rail trail between Camperdown and Timboon can be walked or cycled. It weaves through the outer edge of the town of Cobden, where these pictures were taken.