Hahndorf to Halls Gap

After our weekend of sleeping late we rose early this morning because we had about 500 km to travel and things to do along the way. We were ready and on the road a little before 7:00 am. Driving east we were treated to direct views of the rising sun lighting up the clouds.

Majella paused at Murray Bridge to fill up with fuel. It was a little cheaper there ($2.02) than it had been on the mountain. The road was good and with the speed limit at 110 kph we made good time. We admired the silo murals in Coonalpyn but did not stop for photos, thinking it would be difficult to find a position for a full uninterrupted view.

Two hours out we paused at a rest area to change drivers and drove on. I paused momentarily while we looked and wondered why anybody at Keith thought it might be a good idea to put a land rover on a pole. At Bordertown I drove in and around the streets until Majella navigated us to see Bob Hawke’s childhood home close to the centre of town. Although we had looked for it on our 2018 trip we had not managed to find it. Beyond Bordertown, we drove through Nhill and bypassed Dimboola.

Morning tea was in the rest area by the Pink Lake. We strolled down to the lake and out across the damp salt and then returned to drink our coffee. Majella drove on from there.

At Horsham we filled up again ( a bargain at $1.99) and then found a bakery where we bought salad rolls for lunch. It was a public holiday in Victoria and South Australia so there was not much happening in towns. We ate our salad rolls in the rest area by the Green Lake just beyond Horsham.

A little way on from there we turned off the main road and onto the Northern Grampians Road toward Wartook. In my planning I had decided that it would be better not to take the main road to Halls Gap. Driving in by the back road would allow us to see some key features without backtracking tomorrow morning.

First stop was at Zumsteins where Walter Zumstein, a WWI veteran, and his Scottish wife established early tourist accommodation in the 1920s. There are still remnants of a couple of pisé (rammed earth) huts standing and traces of the swimming pool he excavated with pick and shovel over 5 years are still visible. We walked around the historic area to see what we could. Unfortunately most of the signage is faded and barely legible.

There is a 3 km walk from that point to Mackenzie Falls further up the valley but we chose to drive to the top of the falls. From there were walked down the well maintained concrete path with its 260 steps to the foot of the falls and back up again. The falls were spectacular, with a strong flow of water, and well worth seeing. By the time we reached the top again we were hot and thirsty. Majella strayed to a nearby lookout on her way back to the car and subsequently decided she did not need to see the other lookouts.

She drove out of the car park and took a wrong turn that brought us to Wartook Lake, a reservoir in the headwaters of the Mackenzie River. I walked across to the outlet through which the water rushing down to the falls could be seen. 

We drove back to the main road and on toward Halls Gap. Not far along we came to the car park for Reeds Lookout and The Balconies. We enjoyed the views and then took the 1 km walk to The Balconies. It was well graded and gently undulating but with no serious ascents or descents. The Balconies are spectacular outcrops and there was evidence that in times past it had been possible to crawl out onto the lower balcony. The safety fencing now prevents that for all but the most foolhardy adventurers.

We drove on from there to Halls Gap and found our motel around 4:30 pm. That allowed us time to relax before venturing out to look for dinner which we found at the Rock Paper Scissors brewery in town. Majella had fried barramundi and prawns on sweet potato chips with apple cider. I had chicken burger with chips and a beer.