14 June 2010


Sorry! I meant to get back to this blog sooner with photos and stories of our adventures in the Dandenongs, but life happened (as did a cold, yuck) and so it's a week later and I'm only just posting! Anyway, we had a fantastic time. You can see all our pics here, or you can look at photos just from the Saturday here or the Sunday here. We'd planned to do all of this, but we decided to cut the second day short and go home for hot baths and curry. Instead this is the route we ended up taking.

My parents visited for my birthday, so they kindly drove us out to the starting point at Kalorama and joined us for the first stretch up to the cafe/observatory at the top of Mount Dandenong. It got our blood pumping, as it was quite steep in places. Our maps also failed us slightly, which didn't exactly surprise us (since when has the Melways been accurate for walkers?), but we hoped that it wasn't the first sign of disaster! The air was cold, and the clouds were closing in around us lending a very atmospheric mist to the trees. There weren't many people out and about, but we did see a number of robins - both white-capped or scarlet robins and some variety of yellow robins.

d, j, j & e: the before picture!
Us and my parents in Kalorama Park, before we had to climb any hills!

the view from kalorama park
The view to Silvan Reservoir (we think) from Kalorama Park.

d strikes out ahead
D heads into the mist . . . with the map!

E on the slopes of Mount Dandenong.

autumn sunshine
The sun breaks through for a minute! We stood here and watched a number of robins flitting about.

From the top of Mount Dandenong you can see right back over the city, and it's an amazing view. Or so I'm told! We could only see clouds, clouds and more clouds. It was a little bit like being in an aeroplane, in fact! We stopped at the cafe and had hot chocolates and coffees alongside the half a dozen cyclists that appear to be the regular clientele. As we were sitting outside, the cloud rolled in around us - we could see it moving - so we beat a hasty retreat to the warm and comforting interior! After morning tea, E&J headed back to the car, while D and I continued on our way.

Video: The cloud encroaching on the cafe at the top of Mount Dandenong.

the view you have on a clear day
The view from the top is meant to be spectacular... this was our view!

latitude & longitude at mt dandenong, 2069 feet
Latitude and longitude: trig point in the cafe!

d in the giant's chair
D on the giant's chair - click through for more info.

We immediately 'lost' the path. I have no idea what we did wrong, only that the map in no way matched what was on the ground. In the end we had to guess where we were in accordance to the border between private and state forest marked on the map with a change in shading and on the ground with a barbed wire fence. We bushbashed our way down the hillside until we found the track we (hoped we) were meant to be on! Auspicious. We soon passed the cairn marking the 1938 Kyeema crash site, and paused a bit later to take in the marvellous view (we could just make out some of it through the mist). And then . . . the transmission towers! They occupy a slightly mythical status in my mind - I often judge how clear a day is by whether I can see them on the top of the mountain on the horizon, and use them as a kind of compass point. They're like the pointer stars for the Southern Cross or something! Anyway, we couldn't see our house from there, but the towers looked quite excellent fading away into the mist above us.

identify this fungus! (1)
At least getting off the beaten track (even inadvertantly) gives you the opportunity to see more flora.

kyeema crash site
Kyeema crash site.

view over melbourne
The view!

transmission tower in the mist
First glimpse of the tower/s.

get an eyeful... (*groan*)
Like reaching the end of a rainbow or something.

From there, we headed downhill, and downhill, and downhill. Well, I guess that we had been at the highest point in Greater Melbourne, so that was really the only way to go! We enjoyed the solitude, the tall trees, the tree ferns, the sound of rain and of birds calling and scratching through the undergrowth. After a while, we made it to the Doongalla Homestead site where we decided we might as well break for lunch. Doongalla history bite:
A homestead was built on this picnic ground in 1908 as 'Invermay' and later renamed 'Doongalla'. It was destroyed by a 1932 bushfire although the servant's quarters and stables remain. Later owners continued to log the forest until the government bought back the estate in 1950 and it was declared a reserve. (source)

It was lucky we had lunch when we did, because just as we were finishing we heard a whooshing sound sweeping towards us, and the rain began to pelt down, sending the young family across the picnic ground running for shelter. We shrugged, donned our raincoats, and set off with the air of seasoned walkers.

the track down the mountain
Down off the mountains...

candle flames
... to the Doongalla homestead site.

camellia (?) at doongalla homestead site
Camellias in bloom outside the Doongalla toilet block!

The rain stop-started for a bit, and settled into a light drizzle as we slogged our way up Dodds Track. By the time we'd reached the top of the hill (this was only the 8km mark - without adding kms for ascent/descent - but it felt like we'd been walking a lot longer than that!) the drizzle had retreated into cloud once more and we were treated to the eerie sight of charcoal-trunked trees looming out of the fog. The next section of the walk was relatively easy . . . which was just as well, as we missed a turn-off a kilometre or so later, and walked the wrong way for about a quarter of an hour! By the time we retraced our steps past a wee farm with the goats and chooks, the rain had started up again, and I was in desperate need of a cup of tea. We quick-marched (by which I mean 'trudged') into Sassafras and plonked ourselves onto the tiny sheltered space in front of the hall, dislodging a few cyclists in the process. The cup of tea was excellent!

j & d after lunch
A break in the rain after lunch.

fuuuuuuuuuuuuuu... dodds track, i think this was.
D on Dodds Trk - not only was it steep, it was muddy and slippery, and half washed away.

reminds me of joan phipson's "the cats"
Mist on Bradley Track.

eerie - mist and burnt trees
A recent fuel-reduction burn left the scent of charcoal hanging in the mist.

it's gonna get you!
A somewhat scary tree!

j: definitely time for tea!

At Sassafras, we joined the Sassafras Creek Trail, dropping down into the gully as dark clouds drew in and the light began to fade - and it was only 3 o'clock! The trail is marked on Google maps, which is usually an indication that it is a fairly well-used path and often means that it is a paved bike path, so we were expecting a not-very-track walk, probably just to the side of The Crescent/Sassafras Creek Road. Well, as we later found out when talking to a university student tracking small mammals in the area, the path is well used - by creatures, and also by the Oxfam walk participants/masochists. However, it is in no way the path we were expecting. Instead, it is a lovely single-file track that takes you deep into the gully, skirting the edges of the creek. It is also a great place to fill your walking boots with water on a rainy day! I hadn't thought to don my waterproof trousers, and the narrow path meant that my legs were constantly brushing water off the bracken and other low-lying vegetation, creating a waterfall into my shoes.

It was absolutely pouring with rain, and the sky was getting very dark as we decided to abandon the creek trail and pick our way along the shoulder of Monbulk Rd (FYI, there is no footpath on the side - it might be better to stick to the creek). By the time we reached our B&B we were absolutely drenched, and extremely thankful to find our room equipped with a good heater, an iron and a hairdryer (as well as a kitchen, couch, hot shower, and comfy bed) so we could spend the evening drinking our bottle of wine, watching TV, and attempting to dry out our belongings.

We decided that it had been an excellent and very memorable day!

three of hearts
On the way down into Sassafras Creek - this is one of the last pics I took before it got too dark!

castle stone inn
Our B&B, Castle Stone Inn, the following morning. Recommended.

On Sunday morning we woke up to find that - hooray! - most of our things were dry, or only very slightly damp. The arrangement at this B&B was that we were given all the ingredients for breakfast and we got to make it for ourselves in the little kitchen. So, for breakfast we had toast with vegemite and cheesy scrambled eggs with mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach. Yum. We packed up, settled the bill and headed out - this time, I was wearing my waterproof trousers from the beginning, even if it wasn't really raining!

j & d at the start of the second day
The start of the second day.

monbulk rd, sunday morning
Monbulk Rd after rain. I was all turned about after walking so long in the dark, and it took me a long time to get my head around which way was east!

Our first map-related incident occurred only a few minutes later, when we discovered that Hillandale Road is not actually a road at all, but a ragged strip of grass between two properties at one point, and an apparently private driveway at another. Undaunted, and armed with naively puzzled expressions and friendly greetings for the neighbours, we walked its entire length anyway, and emerged into The Patch. The Patch has to be one of the loveliest little areas in Melbourne, and autumn (late as it was this year) is a wonderful time to admire its colours and rolling hillsides.

white heath? not sure what this is...
White heath? I think?

the patch / kallista
Horse grazing, The Patch.

autumn leaves, the patch
I love how these leaves fall flat on their faces, with their little stalk-tails poking in the air.

We cut through the park, past a tree full of black cockies, around the edge of the school, and then . . . DUN-DUNNNNNN! Allow me to quote from the blurb on one of the photos I took:
this was an amazing, slightly worrying and VERY STEEP section of the walk! don't believe what google maps says, crerar rd and ward rd don't really exist as anything but shrub and tree filled 'gaps'; between private properties! we wondered if we were trespassing, but it looked like a few people had walked the way we did, so we decided we'd just push through and hope we could make it to the main road! these goats and alpacas joined us (albeit on the other side of the fence), and we thought they were either waiting for us to feed them or waiting us to fall into their dastardly trap so they could eat US! *gasp* ... anyway, yes, this was a very steep hill, and we had to take numerous breaks to admire the view. fortunately, the view was very admirable!

I've had a poke around the internet, and the only mention I can find of what the deal is with these 'roads' comes from the Victoria Government Gazette No. 123, 31 October 1984.


Notice that an Amendment has been Prepared and is Available for Inspection: Amendment No. 23—1984

Notice is hereby given that the Shire of Sherbrooke in pursuance of its powers under the Town and Country Planning Act 1961 has prepared an amendment for the purpose of: Creating a new zone in the planning scheme ordinance entitled Special Restructure Zone.

Rezoning to Special Restructure Zone the following areas:
Lots 33-37, 53-57, L.P. 5809, Boundary Road/Benson Street, Emerald.
Pt. C.A.'s 1, 2 & 3, Parish of Monbulk, KaHista[sic]-Emerald Road/Crerar Road/Ward Road, The Patch.
Lots 86-89, L.P. 10708 and Lot 1, 22288, Belgrave-Gembrook Road, Menzies Creek.
Pt. C.A. 39, Section H, Parish of Monbulk, The Patch Road, The Patch.
Pt. C.A. 10, Section A, Parish of Narrée Worran, Grantulla Road/Jacksons Hill Road, Kallista.

A copy of the amendment has been deposited at the Shire Office, Glenfern Road, Upwey and at the Office of the Ministry of Planning and Environment (Plan Inspection Section), 5th Floor, 235 Queen Street, Melbourne and will be open for inspection during office hours by any person free of charge.

Any persons affected by the amendment are required to set forth in writing any submission they wish to make with respect to the amendment addressed to the Shire Secretary, Shire of Sherbrooke, Glenfern Road, Upwey by 1 December 1984 and state whether you wish to be heard in respect of your submission.

5310 K. E. MATSON, General Manager

Also, the Yarra Ranges Planning Scheme tells me that there is a "Restructure Plan for Old and Inappropriate Subdivisions in the Yarra Ranges Shire, August 2008". Any thoughts, land and property experts?

perfect mushroom #174
Another mushroom that DB wouldn't let me eat!

the patch in autumn
View from Ward Rd, near Crerar Rd. Don't be fooled - it's steeper than it looks!

And then it started to rain. Despite our map, we made it to the main road (up someone's driveway!) and into Sherbrooke Forest. It was like being on home turf again - we've walked here lots of times - and it was with a mixture of relief and a small sense of anti-climax that we dove into the bush along (FINALLY) a well-signposted track. (I have no idea why Sherbrooke manages to be so well signposted when the rest of the national park is so poorly signed!) It was around about here when we looked at each other and decided that getting home before 8pm and having time to laze around for the last few hours of the weekend was a more appealing option than walking another 10km in potentially nasty weather. We stopped for a hot chocolate at Grants Picnic Ground (where the cockies, rosellas and galahs were in full attendance), with half a mind to continue if the weather cleared. It didn't, so we struck off along Coles Ridge Rd (for some reason I am inordinately fond of that road - it's so lovely) and headed down to Belgrave, just in time to see Puffing Billy leave the station.

sherbrooke forest in mist and rain
Sherbrooke Forest in the mist and rain.

sulphur crested cockatoo tree
The little-known Lesser Cockatoo Tree, a very rare species.

And then the sun came out.

d in belgrave

We grinned wryly, went and ate a tart at the Queen of Tarts cafe, then hopped on a train and headed back into the city. That evening after our baths we ate delicious curry and decided that this was an excellent end to an excellent weekend.

A+, Would walk again!


  1. Looks like you had a fantastic time, I'm envious! I particularly like the mist effects in the distance on your second picture.

    Maps showing trails that prove not to be there, yes, an old friend that one. Been there, got lost, ended up in the peat bog...

  2. oh, maps. i love them so much, even when they lie to me and lead me astray!