Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Treasures in your own back yard

I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to live where we do. Apart from the inconvenience of hit-and-miss public transport services, there aren't too many downsides to life on the urban fringe. One of the things I love the most is the abundance of bushland, parks and open spaces that surrounds us.

Recently I realised that there were a number of local parks and conservation areas that I'd never set foot in. One in particular, Quarry Hills Bushland Park, I drive within view of almost every day, and yet I hadn't managed to explore there at all. Well, yesterday I remedied that.

In spite of iffy-looking weather, I headed off to explore. 

Is there rain in those clouds? Yes, no, maybe?
I picked a medium-length route - they range from 1km to 9km - that included the "Eagle lookout". I thought that sounded promising and set off from the car park.

Nice wide, well-maintained tracks to follow

And all signposted as well
Less than a minute into my walk, I heard something crashing through the dry grass on the hillside to my left, and caught a glimpse of two kangaroos bounding along the ridge. Of course by the time I got my camera pointing in the right direction, they'd moved. But I spotted them a bit further along, although one was only visible as a blob in the grass.

A couple of locals, lurking in the long grass
It was a pretty steep climb up to my first viewpoint, the "Soaring Shelter".

There are at least three shelters at strategic points, with views
This spot has an excellent view across to the west. You can see the You Yangs and Mount Macedon, and everything in between.

Love the descriptive signage with landmarks all labelled
There's also a decent view south.

That's the city way over there. It's only 25km or thereabouts; looks further.
From the saddle in between the two main hills, you get a view of nearby suburbia and across to the Dandenongs and Yarra Ranges. 

Close to civilisation, and yet so peaceful up here. 
I read the sign below and thought "fat chance of spotting a kestrel..." Actually, I was more concerned about avoiding snakes, so had my eyes fixed on the ground most of the way.

A bit of wildlife information
Then as I was mucking around getting some pics of the dramatic sky (and a passing Qantas jet)....

The airport's that-a-way
...I spotted this:

Wish I'd brought my telezoom lens
There were actually two giant birds, but I couldn't get both in shot together. I have no idea if they were Nankeen Kestrels, Black-shouldered Kites or Brown Falcons, but they were impressive to watch.

Heading up to the next lookout - this one has cantilevered viewing decks
The next viewing point was a good spot to take a break and just enjoy the scenery.

Nice to see where our rates go...

Looking across Mernda towards the Kinglake Ranges
I could have gone a lot further - the track continues on for several kms to the Granite Hills. Which, one assumes, contain granite. But I turned around and headed back towards the car. Mostly downhill, thankfully.

Pretty wildflowers
The whole area is a volcanic plain and there's evidence of old volcanic activity everywhere:

There are huge areas of exposed basalt all through these hills
It's such a thrill when you want to dig a post hole or plant a tree in your yard and you get down about 200mm and hit a huge chunk of the stuff. Really makes you appreciate nature...

Anyway, it was a really enjoyable walk, and I'll be heading up there again to check out the bits I didn't get to see this time.

For any locals who might be interested in visiting, I'll give you a few tips:

- Access is good - you can drive right into the car park from Gravlier Way and the tracks lead off from there.
- Tracks are wide and well-kept, but the top surface is loose gravel, which can be a bit hazardous on the uphill/downhill sections, so watch your step and wear decent shoes.
- The weather on top of the hills can be quite different to down below. If it's windy, it's likely to be quite chilly. If the sun comes out, you'll be hot. Wear light layers that can be added or removed easily.
- Carry water. You may not want to drink too much though - there are no public toilets.
- Don't forget your camera.


A-M said...

I love that view of far away Melbourne. Oh to be that close to Melbourne! You live in a beautiful part of the country! A-M xx

Kek said...

I wouldn't live anywhere else, A-M.

Now and then I wish we were closer to the city for easier access to concerts, galleries and the huge choice of restaurants and bars.

But then I see a mob of kangaroos grazing a few blocks from my front door or the wedge-tail eagles soaring overhead and I'm grateful for being out in "the sticks".

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful view - sounds like a fabulous place to walk!

Kek said...

It sure is, Anna. :) I plan to go back very soon and get a view of the sun setting...