THE RAZORBACK // Mount Feathertop, Australia

I think I have officially found my favourite hike in Australia (that I have done so far) – Mount Featherop via the Razorback. This hike has been on my to do list for awhile, but being located in the Victorian High Country it is no short day trip. Thanks to yet another sporting event holiday, Chris and I packed up our car on the Melbourne Cup long weekend and hit the highway in order to explore the mountains.

Mount Feathertop is the second highest peak in Victoria. At 1,922m above sea level, it is pretty pathetic compared to mountains overseas! There are a number of trails that lead to the peak, but the most popular and most picturesque is the Razorback.

Beginning at Diamantina Hut, just outside of Hotham Heights, the track instantly offers panoramic views of the High Country. In the above photo we have barely even left the carpark and I was already getting a bit trigger happy with my camera!

The track is 11km one way, making for a long day walk or a popular overnight hike. We planned for a day walk, which was manageable with a few stops and by setting off early.

In the below photo you can see the ridge of Mount Feathertop in the distance. At least we always knew where we were going!

The Razorback follows a ridgeline the entire way, so we were often treated to views of the trail winding away in the distance.

Even though it was early November (aka well and truly Spring weather in Australia) there was still snow atop Mount Feathertop.

After a quick lunch stop near Federation Hut, it was only a kilometre or so up to the peak. It was a narrow and steep track, and I was struggling due to the higher elevation. How I am ever going to survive the elevation in real mountains is beyond me!

And then we were there! I will let the photos speak for themselves.

We had views over Ovens Valley (where Bright is located), the Kiewa Valley, and the highest mountain, Mount Bogong.

The walk back down was undulating and hard on the knees at places, and the views continued to provide us with entertainment. The weather was absolutely perfect.

It was a sigh of relief to take of our shoes and sit down in the car after 22km. We managed the hike in 6 hours, including a number of short breaks for lunch, snacks, and photos. Rather than drive too far after a long day on the trails, we opted to stay in the nearby ski village of Dinner Plain and explore the area for another day.

Looking back at these photos, I am still so amazed at the beauty of this trail and this part of the world. The High Country has undoubtedly become one of my favourite places to explore in Victoria, and I am glad I have managed to get up there a few times this year.

– Reanna

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VARIOUS VOLCANIC VENTURES // Mount Gambier, Australia

After our unexpectedly wonderful adventure at Budj Bim National Park, we jumped back on the road to cruise across the border to South Australia (including a quick lunch stop at a quintessential country bakery!). The city of Mount Gambier was not far from the border, so before we knew it we had reached our destination.

The main attraction of Mount Gambier is its volcanic landscape, featuring crater lakes and sinkholes. Our caravan park provided us with a map and a list of the top things to see in town, so we were quick to pitch our tent and spend the afternoon exploring.

The Blue Lake of Mount Gambier is undoubtedly the number one attraction of the town. I won’t pretend to know anything about volcanic formations and the history of the lake, so I will leave it by stating the obvious – the lake is a stunning shade of blue! In summer it becomes even more bright in colour. The lake is also incredibly deep, with an average depth of 72m.

Just across the road from the Blue Lake is Crater Lake, another body of water with volcanic origins. Seeing this lake after the Blue Lake certainly allows you to appreciate how stunning the blue colour really is.

Crater Lake also featured an ‘animal reserve’ of sorts. We had a wander through and encountered a few kangaroos, including a few joeys that were getting too large for their mothers pouches!

My favourite part of Mount Gambier was the view of the lakes and the surrounding town from the Centenary Tower, a lookout tower located just off the road going down to Crater Lake. Reaching the tower involved a short climb up an incredibly steep hill, but the views were absolutely worth the exertion.

The surrounding landscape was distinctly flat!

Mount Gambier also features a number of sinkholes, which have now turned into wonderfully green gardens of sorts. The Cave Gardens are located right in the centre of town, and you wouldn’t even know it was there until you almost fell in!

Sadly, the natural beauty of the cave was disrupted by some flashing colourful lights. Apparently a sound and light show is also run at these caves, which seems like a sad take away from the uniqueness of these places.

Upherston Sinkhole is located a bit further down the road, and is substantial bigger than the Cave Gardens. You can walk down into the base of the sinkhole and enjoy the (somewhat out of place) picturesque gardens.

Imagine finding something like this in your paddock!

After our night in Mount Gambier, it was back on the road for yet another volcanic stop. Located just 20 minutes out of town is Mount Schank, a former volcano that now features a small walking track around the crater.

The 3km track takes you up from the carpark and walks right around the rim of the crater, offering views across the mountain and across the flat landscape. You can faintly see the hill of Mount Gambier in the photo below!

If climbing up and down hills is you thing, there is a further track that can take you into the centre of the crater. We opted out of this option, wanting to save our legs for another hike we had planned later in the day.

And there we have it – an unintentional volcanic tour of far Western Victoria and Mount Gambier! It was not my plan, but we saw some diverse landscape we might not have normally come across in our explorations around Melbourne.

– Reanna

LAVA CANALS & SURPRISE LAKES // Budj Bim National Park, Australia

An alternative title to this post, and those to follow, could be the ‘volcanic tour of southern Australia’. Quite unintentionally, our recent road trip across the South Australian border to Mount Gambier took us to quite a number of volcanic locations. Considering I know next to nothing about geology in any shape or form, it ended up being a fascinating experience, and quite humbling to think about just how much of a mere blip on Earth’s history we are.

Our road trip took us across inland western Victoria, a rather barren area with a rabbit warren of back roads. Whilst researching side trips to break up the drive to Mount Gambier, I came across Budj Bim National Park (formerly known as Mount Eccles) on the map.

There was very little in the way of information online (though the Parks Vic page is now updated!), and even less when we arrived at the small park. We followed what we could of the old wooden signs and managed to explore a 6km trail around the park.

The park is located on a now extinct volcano, with the path we followed taking us through a ‘lava canal’. The canal was like a small valley, with rocks piled up on both sides of the track. In keeping with the mildly overgrown feel of the park, the rocks were covered in thick green moss, which made the whole area quite beautiful.

Despite still having no idea where we were actually going on our hike, we eventually managed to follow the various trails to Lake Surprise, one of the craters of the volcano.

Relieved that we were not completely lost!

We followed another track around the rim of the lake, which offered some excellent views over the park, before finding our way back to the road.

Budj Bim was certainly an unexpected find, and despite the lack of information it was a good little hike to break up our drive. We only encountered one other hiker during our time at the park, as it is quite remote. But in saying that, if you are ever in the middle of nowhere in western Victoria, swing by this area!

– Reanna

SNOW SHOWING PT. 2 // Mount Buffalo, Australia

I left off part 1 of our snow shoeing escapades battling our way up a track to Le Souef Plateau. Eventually we emerged from the trees to the plateau and found ourselves surrounded by the most spectacular 360 degree views of the mountains.

The plateau is also home to a very precariously placed rock called the Sentinel. Nature is pretty wacky (and physics defying) sometimes!

It was such a stunning morning to be up in the mountains. Despite the gloom of the day before, the sky was completely clear and we could see quite far into the distance, offering views of Mt Bogong and Mt Feathertop. Having the plateau completely to ourselves was also an added bonus.

Modelling my new (rented!) snow shoes!

After I took another 100 photos, we made our way back down to our car again for a further short drive down the road to Crest Valley. The carpark here was packed when we arrived, but we managed to squeeze in among all the families with toboggans and get our shoes on again.

The ‘Horn’ of Mount Buffalo watched over us as we made our way over to the Bogong Loop, a graded cross country ski trail that can also be used by those with snow shoes.

We followed the orange markers away from the car park and across the plains. The route was about 4kms in total, and took us through some stunning alpine winter scenery.

We came across a few cross country skiers, and two other groups with snow shoes. One group had the traditional wooden tennis racket shoes, which made our rented plastic ones (complete with crampons) look pretty slick.

Despite the ease in my step in the above photo, I can assure you I looked incredibly uncoordinated during the entire experience!

Eventually we stopped for lunch and perched ourselves on a rock in the sunshine. We could have easily stayed there for hours, if it weren’t for our poor preparation in forgetting sunscreen. I definitely had a red face that night!

Considering neither of us had any idea what we were signing up for, our experience with snow shoes was fantastic. I cannot ski or snow board, so it offered a great way to explore the winter environment without any real skill. I only wish we had attempted it earlier in the snow season so we could go out again!

– Reanna

SNOW SHOEING PT. 1 // Mount Buffalo, Australia

I managed to get to the snow twice this year (in Australia anyway!), and both times were outside of the Winter months. We had some unexpected early snow in May whilst hiking around Mt Bogong, and more recently Chris and I spent the first weekend of Spring in the snow at Mount Buffalo.

Mount Buffalo is around a four hour drive from Melbourne, and is a great place to add on to a weekend trip to the nearby valley town of Bright. We have been to both Bright and Mount Buffalo before, but decided to explore the region in the cooler months and participate in a trail run in Bright.

Our full day in Bright was spent running along the Ovens River and exploring some local wineries.

The day was a bit overcast, but we were still able to get some stunning views of the mountains surrounding the valley.

The next day we headed into Porepunkah to pick up some snow chains from the local ski shop in order to head up to Mount Buffalo. Our initial plans were just to hike, but after seeing some girls from Melbourne Girls Outside try snow shoeing recently, I decided that it would be fun to try out as well! The ski hire shop was able to fit us out with some pretty high tech looking snow shoes and ski poles.

We drove up to Dingo Dell Cafe (thankfully without having to put on the snow chains!), the main shop and information centre for the mountains snow season. Tobogganing and snow play are the main attractions on the mountain, but a lovely chap from the ski school approached us as we awkwardly attempted to fit our snow shoes in the carpark and offered some great tips on trails to follow. After a few final adjustments to the shoes, we trudged our way slowly up our first trail – the above hill!

It was only a short track that was clearly marked and recently graded that took us to Dingo Dell Lookout. Despite the short walk, the views at the top were amazing!

An elusive photo of my face. Chris has apparently discovered the zoom function on my camera.

We made it back down without a hitch, and jumped back in the car to drive to another track recommended to us at starting from the Cathedral picnic area.

After some exploring to determine the start point of the track, we located a laminated print out sign indicating there was a snow shoe trail on the side of the road. Being the depths of winter, the track was marked by the tiny blue signs you can see below!

There were periods of time where we would lose track of the signs and have to guess the way, before eventually spotting a further sign up ahead. Apparently no one else really goes snow showing along this track at Mt Buffalo, as there were no previous markings to follow!

Here is a quick snap of our snow shoes – they were pretty fancy compared to some of the other flipper/tennis racket type shoes we ended up seeing later in the day. Once we worked out the 20 straps and buckles on the shoes, they were quite easy to put on over our hiking shoes.

The track was only a kilometre or so long, and eventually lead us to Le Souef Plateau, where we were treated to stunning 360 degree views of the mountains. But that will have to wait for the next post…

– Reanna

RAIN, HAIL & SHINE // Wilsons Promontory, Australia

These photos are from mid August, when I organised a weekend away in Wilsons Promontory National Park with a couple of other leaders from Melbourne Girls Outside. We spent two nights in one of the group lodges at Tidal River with 24 women from all walks of life who had come together to enjoy some hiking. I still can’t believe we pulled it off!

The weekend was a challenge for me in a number of ways, but I pushed through and am admittedly a little proud of myself. Physically, it was exhausting leading a 20km hike in the rain on Saturday, and mentally tough to continue on in spite of the terrible conditions. The constant socialisation required in the event was also hard for a socially awkward introvert such as myself, but I enjoyed the challenge and met some wonderful women I might never have crossed paths with.

Everyone arrived on the Friday night, and on Saturday we split off on to two different hikes. I co-led the longer 20km return trek to Sealers Cover. As mentioned above, the weather was not in our favour and it ended up being a very long, very wet hike that made a typically easy hike a very hard one.

At least we had some views of the beach when we arrived! Though after ten minutes huddling under the trees we decided it was best to keep moving so as to stay warm.

In the afternoon, after we had all dried off and warmed up, the skies cleared momentarily and a group of us wandered down to Oberon Bay to walk along the beach.

Wilsons Prom always brings back so many memories of my childhood, from family holidays, to school camps, and teenage weekends away.

On the Sunday, I co-led another hike up Mt Bishop, whilst a second group took on the iconic Mt Oberon. The rain was again not in our favour, and we were originally treated to the below view.

In the five minutes it took to walk along the final stretch of track to the main lookout point, the sky cleared and we were treated to stunning views over Oberon Bay below! We could see Mt Oberon from our lookout point and it was covered in clouds, so my fellow hikers and I felt very lucky to have had this brief view.

Oh, and then it started hailing sideways!

Whilst it was a tough weekend with poor weather, it was worth the effort and I certainly felt a sense of achievement coming away from it. The Melbourne Girls Outside community has been so great to be a part of, and has encouraged me to push myself further by becoming a leader. Hopefully I can fit in a few more hikes with the group before the year is out!

– Reanna

TWO OUT OF THREE AIN’T BAD // Adelaide, Australia

I am beginning to take the approach of trying to squeeze in at least one hike on holidays and weekends away. It is such a wonderful way to visit a new area and explore part of the world you might otherwise have missed. Plus, the little bit of exercise evens out all the holiday indulgence, right?

On our way back to Adelaide after exploring the Barossa Valley, we detoured to Morialta Conservation Park. Located on the eastern edge of the city, the park is full of hills, greenery, and some stunning waterfalls. It is hard to believe we were only 15 minutes from the city centre!

We took on the Three Falls Grand Hike, which despite being 7km was described as a challenging hike that would take over three hours. Whilst there were some steep hills, we managed to complete the circuit in under two hours, allowing us time to grab some lunch before heading to the airport.

As the name of the walk suggests, the circuit passes three falls within the park. However, due to confusing signage (and possibly lack of research on my behalf!) we missed the second fall completely. At lease we had some stunning views of the first fall and Adelaide CBD to make up for anything we missed!

It was a great little walk that certainly woke us up out of post Barossa Valley stupor.

Looking through the trail hiking site for Adelaide, it seems there are plenty of hikes just a stones throw from the city. So if I am ever back, I will be sure to make my way up to the hills!

– Reanna