Dirk and Elise's Victoria trip photos for friends and family
In February, Elise went to a CSIRO sponsored conference called "Upscaling Downunder" and I tagged along as conference spouse. This meant that while Elise was busy with talks and workshops, I could go about and explore. What follows are some photographic highlights of our trip. They are more or less in order of being taken, at least regionally. Just click on a photo to get a larger view. If anyone ever comes to AU, I highly recommend visting Victoria and the region around the Yarra Valley.
We did not go into Melbourne, so please do not ask us what the city is like!
This is one of the many panoramic views the Yarra Vally offers along it's winding roads.
We left the Melbourne international airport and headed straight to the Yarra Valley to our 1st stop, Healesville. We spent two nights there and really vacationed. Our 1st visit was Mt. Donna Buang and the temperate rainforest that surrounds it. The images do not do justice to the scale of the whole area.
Here is a grand view of the "Mountain Ash" Eucalyptus trees in the area. The trees are around 30 to 50 meters tall. Notice the ferns in the foreground, more on them later.
I made Elise drive most of the trip and the Donna Buang trip was especially treacherous. Imagine a gravel road 1.5 car-widths wide with a rock and gravel wall on your left (drivers side around here) and a shear 1000+ meter drop on your right. Doesn't sound too bad huh? Did I mention that nearly every turn is a hairpin turn? I think Elise deserves a round of applause for her driving efforts while in Victoria.
Here is a little tidbit that we learned during a bus tour. In 1939, the Yarra Valley was engulfed in a major brush fire and the whole region was burned clean, including a few timber towns. Once World War II broke out many Germans and Italians fled to Australia and were held in internment camps. Some were given the option to work and get paid while being POWs. These poor souls replanted the whole region by hand with grub-hoes. It was quite a feat!
The misty top of Mt. Donna Buang.
After the long morning drive, we finally got to the top of Mt. Donna Buang. It is over 1300 meters in elevation and was the 1st real topography we have seen since moving to AU. The top was mist enshrouded and it was pointless to climb the 30 meter observation tower since we would not be able to see anything. The mountain sees snow in the winter and several long toboggan runs are set into the mountain side. Overall it was a nice "New Englandy" place to hike.
A wild alpine(??) violet that we found growing on top of Mt. Donna Buang.
The entry sign to the "Rainforest Gallery" at Mt. Donna Buang.
Elise and I had thought that the Rainforest Gallery was an art gallery at the base of Mt. Donna Buang. It actually was a walk through a gallery of temperate rainforest trees. The sign above says that there are two major trees here, the "Mountain Ash" and the "Mrytle Beech". The ash is not truly an ash, but a gum (Eucalyptus) and the beech is not truly a beech, but a myrtle. They seem to like to name trees after European trees here based primarily on the look of the wood, oh well. That is why Tasmania has a "Tassie Oak" which is really a gum.
15 meters may not seem like that high, but it sure feels high if you look straight down and a parrot flies by your head.
Here is a picture that shows Elise on the walk next to one of the gums. The photo is overexposed at the top due to the dark understory.
This should give you a sense of the lushness of the understory on the walk.
Aside from the gums and myrtles the region is home to several species of tree ferns. The image above is a nice example of one standing alone but in general they grow in clumps.
Here is an interesting fact about the rough and smooth barked tree ferns. Both are used in gardens, but the smooth tree fern can be cut off anywhere along it's trunk, have it's fronds trimmed off, and then be replanted. The rough barked tree fern, however, must be dug up whole and moved. Guess which one is used in most gardens =;>
Some epiphytic ferns growning in moss which in turn is growing on an old myrtle(??) tree. The gallery is a little damp.
The historic water wheel in the town of Warburton.
After the Rainforest Gallery, Elise and I drove down to the old lumber town of Warburton. It is now a tourist town of craft shops and cafes - not a bad place to have lunch, which we did. The building the wheel is attached to now is the history museum. We learned a lot about the old style of logging that was done in the region in the past and the protected watershed there today.
An echidna at the Healesville Sanctuary.
You're probably thinking that we would be tired by now. Nope! On the way back to our motel/B&B we stopped at the Healesville Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is internationally known for being able to successfully breed platypuses (platypi??). I am sorry we do not have any photos of the platypuses but they were in a "darkened" exhibit hall and I didn't have my flash. I also could not take pictures of the marsupials in the "creatures of the night" exhibit for the a same reason.
The famous Aussie Dingo.
We did see a fair number of Aussie animals at the Sanctuary, including koalas, dingos, lyre birds, echidnas, platypuses, and of course kangaroos and wallabies. There is no sense in showing all the animals to you, mostly since I did not take too many photos.
A hawk owl from the birds of prey show.
One of the great exhibits at the Sanctuary was its native raptors show. Several times a day trainers come out with several birds and let them fly across the audience. One fella almost lost his hat as a barn owl swooped over him. My favorite bird from the show was the hawk owl shown in the image above. It is one of the "visual owls" unlike the barn owl which is a "hearing owl". The eyes were an amazing bright shock of yellow. The image does not do them justice.
After the sanctuary, Elise and I went back to the motel, freshened up, and then went out for dinner. We went to the local RSL, the Austrailian VFW, and had a nice home made meal at their bistro. We chatted with the doorman for awhile. He was a Swede that had moved to AU for work reasons I think. He was nice and we got a bit of the local flavor since he had been there for 20+ years.
The Rose Stairway at the Maroondah Dam.
After dinner Elise and I went and saw the Maroondah Dam, including the "Dam Wall" and yes, I do love to say it. You must think we'd be tired by now and yes we were, but not tired enough to ignore ice cream. A day that ends with ice cream is a good day in my book.
"The Bushman and son" in Marysville.
The next day we drove to Marysville, the location of the conference. The road followed an old trade route called the "Black Spur" and was more winding than a snake. Again, Elise drove this section of road - she is becoming quite the slalom racer now.
Marysville is quite the tourist town and when we "rode into town" there must have been around 30+ motorcycles at the various cafes and shops. The winding roads and magnificent scenery make this a favored place for them, but unfortunately they are eager to pass everyone even in no passing zones!
Caution, Lyrebirds in area sign.
The region is home to the Lyrebird, which has beautiful plumage that the male displays during the mating season. They have the distinction of being able to mimic any sound especially other birds. For those of you who have seen the BBC's "Life of Birds", you might remember they also mimic car alarms and high speed camera shutter motors.
Elise, fern trees, and "Mountain Ash" on Lake Mountain.
During that 1st day in Marysville, Elise and I explored the nearby area and visited Lake Mountain. This is a ski resort in winter and an alpine(+/-) trekking area the rest of the year. We went for a 4+ km walk on the mountain top and enjoyed the cooler mountain air.
The image above shows the scale of the "Mountain Ash". Elise is the blue blob at the bottom. While we were on Lake Mountain we saw plenty of wombat scat (no. I do not have photos), and we even found one of its active dens. Now if only we could have seen a wombat in the wild.
A fern glen on the "Tree Fern Glen Walk" in Marysville.
The first day of the conference Elise spent all day there and I got to trek around on my own. I went on the "Tree Fern Glen Walk", a 8km round trip walk from the center of town. It ends at a place called Stephenson's Falls.
Stephenson's Falls on the "Tree Fern Glen Walk" in Marysville.
These falls are 82m high and are lighted at night. The power for the light comes from a turbine downstream. Elise and some friends of ours went here one night and we saw a baby tiger snake.
A fern tree fiddle on the "Tree Fern Glen Walk" in Marysville.
A wild fuschia on the "Tree Fern Glen Walk" in Marysville.
The week at the conference was uneventful for me. I went to some of the talks and did not explore as much. We made some new friends that actaully live in Perth as well. One night I went on a night time bush walk, but Elise was not feeling well so she did not go. On the walk we saw ringtailed possums and I spotted a baby greater glider, the largest gliding mammal in AU. When I returned, Elise felt better and we went on our own roadside bush walk and we saw a koala and possums. The poor koala was spooked by us and tried to escape by climbing a concrete telephone pole. It took it about 6 tries before it realized it could not climb concrete.
One day during the conference the whole group went on a bus tour of the Yarra valley area and we had dinner at a vineyard. Ah fine wine, fine food, and a sober bus driver - what more could a bunch of geologists, engineers, physicists, and mathmeticians want?
On the way back to the airport Elise and I stopped at a hedge maze. I hope to have the roll of film filled soon so you can see that too.