Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mt Victoria - Mt Donna Buang Day Hike - 23 March 2014

Mt Victoria / Mt Donna Buang Day Hike

Off we go again! My second walk now with the Diamond Valley Bushwalking Club, and it was a beauty!
We arranged to meet in the Eltham Community Centre car park at 8.00am, ready for an 8.15am departure. I turned up early (as is normal for me, I'd rather be a good half-hour to an hour early than 5 minutes late) and found Ritchie there waiting, having caught an early bus in. We chat for a while until the rest of the group arrives, then pack our gear into two cars and head off for Warburton, at the base of Mt Donna Buang.
As we drive, we chat, and I can see the scenery change as we get closer to our walk start point. The hills grow in stature, the flora transforms from brown with hints of new growth into a dark rich green quilt of life draped over the mountains. Arriving at the town of Warburton is like stepping into another world, it really is a little piece of paradise! Nestled in the valley with mountains all around, sitting on the banks of the Yarra (at this stage, the river is small and CLEAN and beautiful) the place is straight off a postcard.
We park at a small picnic shelter near the base of the Warburton Golf Course, next door to the Senior Citizen's Centre on Damman's Road.

Preparing to head for the hills...
At about 9.20am the start of the hike takes the ten of us straight up Martyr Road beside the golf course, and this is a right heart starter, being rather steep, a good warm up for the legs, and we haven't even reached the start of the trail yet! The weather is cool, and we can see a veil of mist and cloud hanging around the top of the mountain. Perfect!

Getting fired up early climbing Martyr Road.
We gather at the trail head, with a quick rundown of the track from Peter (our walk leader, along with his wife Sandra). I was a little dubious about the sign stating that this 12km return walk should take us around 7 hours, as I usually cover ground fairly quickly, but I was about to find out that the sign wasn't as far off the mark as I thought! We hit the trail, diving headlong into the undergrowth with vigor.

7 hours! What! Surely that isn't quite right? Or is it....
What a spectacular place to walk! The narrow track threads it's way around tall, straight gums, with ferns filling the gaps below. The track itself is a well-beaten path, very easy to follow, but narrow, with occasional spots where we can step aside to let other walkers past. It's almost impossible to get lost, as steering off the track will find you either facing a thick, almost impenetrable wall of vertical undergrowth, or falling down a steep mountainside and eventually being caught and held by trees, ferns and fallen foliage and branches. Don't think it's overly dangerous from that description, as it is not (as long as you are careful), but it is a very steep walk. There are occasional steps in this first section, but none later on.

Into the ferns!
The track makes it's way past cleared farmland, at one stage following the fenceline of a paddock, and the views across the top of the clearing towards the mountains on the other side of town are breathtaking.

Photos really don't do this scenery justice.
We continue up for a short distance and then come across O'Shannassy's Aqueduct. This has a wide track beside it, and Peter informs us that the aqueduct travels for around 30km. It looks like a nice peaceful walk, and a gentleman passes us and says g'day as we chat, taking his dog for a walk. At this point, Sandra joins us and we are informed that one of our group has decided to head back, as he is finding the ascent slow going and he does not want to hold the group up. We are naturally disappointed, and would love to have him with us, but understand and respect his decision totally. He heads back to the cars to entertain himself in town whilst we continue on.

O'Shannassy's Aqueduct.

 Now we get into the serious stuff! The ground becomes steeper now, with a constant climb of somewhere between 30 and 45 degrees, and at times the track is a low tunnel through a thick cover of tree ferns, requiring an even more bent over gait to navigate. My trekking poles help a lot on the climb, allowing me to stand more upright and push along with my arms, taking quite a lot of strain and effort off my legs.

Yes, it is steep!

And we climb, and climb...
After a solid 2 hours of climbing, we find a slightly wider section of track that will allow others to pass and stop for a break, and have a small snack and a well deserved drink. It's a bit of a balancing act, due to the steep terrain, but we prop ourselves and packs against trees and walking poles and relax. The crew is holding up well, with a bit of huffing and puffing, a few tired looking faces, but overall a steely determination to conquer this hill! After a short rest and refreshments, we hit the trail again in earnest, and it takes a few minutes to get the legs back into a steady comfortable rhythm.
Break time. Phew!
The trail is damp underfoot, with slippery patches of mud, wet bark and leaves and tree roots all trying to catch us out. Care is required to ensure that each footfall is solid and stable else our shoes lose traction and a quick slip and stumble is caught before it turns into a fall. The higher we climb, the more the mist rolls in, until it feels as though we are walking in the clouds. The scenery takes on a beauty that is not present on a clear day, and changes the entire feel of the place.

We reach the mist...

...or the mist reaches us.

Beautiful scenery!

Gums in the mist.

 Soon we reach our next waypoint - Mt Donna Buang Road. We step out of the bowels of the forest and onto the man-made road surface, and it's a feeling of relief that the hardest section is done, mixed with a little disappointment that we have to leave the cocoon of nature.

Mist across Mt Donna Buang Road.
After crossing the road,  we stop to regroup and wait for other members to complete the climb. Here we discover some uninvited hitch hikers on board, and remove them carefully, with some members of the party (we won't mention any names, will we Ching?) rather upset at discovering leeches on their person, and doing the special "Get that leech off me" song and dance! A gravel access track carries us past a gate and up the hill 600 metres or so to arrive at the transmitter towers of Mt Victoria. This is our morning tea break, and it is a relief to sit down and eat. By this stage we have our pack rain covers on, and our jackets are wet from the mist and a light rain that is falling gently, adding to the white cloak that restricts our vision. The temperature has now dropped significantly from when we started our trek.

Transmitter towers on Mt Victoria.
The hum of a generator accompanies us as we rest, and chat is minimal as we take in our surroundings and sustenance, and carry out more leech checks, removing a few more of the little buggers. As we are running a little behind time, Peter soon has us up and heading onward again, this time along the ridge line which will carry us from Mt Victoria across to the summit of Mt Donna Buang. This section of the hike is truly magnificent, as we walk through a sea of ferns enveloped in mist. The trail is relatively flat, and much easier to move along at a good steady clip. "Other-worldly" comes to mind, with only the sound of our own footsteps and breath echoing through the forest. Originally growing up in the Mallee area of Victoria, I had not come across this type of scenery until recently, and it really does take the breath away with it's beauty. I could quite easily move to Warburton and walk here every day. Perhaps when I retire...

A sea of ferns

And yet more ferns! Wonderful...
Between the ferns I spot a brightly colored object on the trail. "Someone has dropped a jelly bean?" I wonder. I realise I'm wrong when a short distance up the track I find this:

Amazingly bright berries!
I stop and marvel at the moss growth on a tree trunk, like a miniature forest growing at right angles to vertical:

The walk continues until we reach the summit of Mt Donna Buang, which we also find enveloped in mist and cloud, shrouding any hope of views from the observation tower. It's lunch time! Woohoo!

We made it to the top!

Observation tower on Mt Donna Buang summit.

A selfie in the mist!
The shelter is very welcome, and gives us a chance to down lunch out of the rain and cold breeze. The fire wasn't lit, but would be wonderful for the ski and toboggan folk (and hikers) during snow season.

Fireplace in the shelter

Applies everywhere you walk if there are no bins.
With some food in our bellies and rested legs, it is once again time to head out into the mist and make our way through those wonderful ferns. I stop and take a couple of pics of an old shelter that has collapsed, perhaps under the weight of the leeches? ;-)

Collapsed old shelter.
Keep going guys!

 We make our way back down the mountain, this time taking a shorter route through the forest to reach Mt Donna Buang Road a little quicker. The group follows the road a short distance to rejoin the track that we followed on the climb up earlier in the day. You may think it's much easier going down, and it is certainly less effort, and it only takes us half the time, but it is still very hard going. We need to be more careful with each step, as it is very easy to slip on the damp ground, and again the trekking poles are a godsend, helping to add stability by giving me an extra couple of contact points on the ground. Even though my arms are doing a lot of work, my legs feel rather tired by the time we reach the aqueduct.

Heading down...

Back at the paddock.
It's another short hike now heading back down Martyr Road to the cars, and Peter and I have made it back down in just on 2 hours, including a couple of stops along the way. We arrive at the cars at about 4.20pm. The whole hike has taken us 7 hours including stops. The sign wasn't far wrong.
At the picnic shelter, Peter and Sandra pull out a surprise for us all, afternoon tea! Tea, coffee, biscuits, homemade muffins and fruit slice are all greatly appreciated after our hard days exercise. We meet up again with Alistair who has also spent the day walking, and has wandered through town, checked out some of the back streets, and walked both sides of the Yarra River through town. A most enjoyable day for him too!

Back at the shelter for afternoon tea.
A big thanks goes out to the Diamond Valley Bushwalking Club for a great day full of friendship and fun, and to Peter and Sandra for leading such a spectacular walk and treating us afterwards. Wonderful stuff!
I can't wait to head out on the next walk. Now, where is that walks program...

Happy Trails!


No comments:

Post a Comment