Posts Tagged ‘Hall’s Gap’

I’ve never felt as unqualified to write about a topic as I do with this one.  This blog has been dedicated to our adventures in our time in Oz and we share our learnings and reflections with you, our readers.  And so it will be with this post.  Aboriginals in Australia, however, is something so complicated, so historic, so beautiful, and yes, sometimes so tragic and horrific, that I barely know where to begin or how to do it justice.  That caveat is the only way I could begin this post.

Let me just say that by far my favorite thing about the Grampians was the history of the Aborigines on the land.  The Aboriginal culture is the longest-surviving and living human culture on the planet and it was incredible to me that we could drive four hours outside of Melbourne and walk on paths that they had trod and appreciate some of their famous rock-art sites.

We left Hall’s Gap and headed towards the Gulgurn Manja Shelter, off Harrap Track via Glenelg River Road and Henty Highway. Once off the River Road and the main highway, the road became much more desolate.  I felt like we were visiting some remote time-warp since we traveled along a vast red dirt road and encountered more kangaroos, wallabies, and emus, than humans.

After a twenty minute walk to the shelter from the carpark we came upon the shelter, where it’s believed Aboriginals came to seek refuge from the elements.  Manja symbolises the link between the Jardwadjali (the Aboriginal group) and their land.  In the shelter there are 24 hand stencils, formed when hands were placed against the rock and a mouthful of ochre was sprayed around them.  The Manja shelter, I’m told, has more hand stencils than any other site in Victoria and it is believed that the hand stencils were a way of recording a visit to this incredible rock overhang.

The second shelter was visited was Billimina, a short 10 minute drive from Manja and also a twenty minute climb from the carpark.  This shelter featured human-type figures (which historians believe were specific to the Jardwadjali clans such as the Tukallut balug and Whiteburer bundidj).  This shelter also featured small bars which are common in rock-art sites in south-eastern Australia.  Many believe the strokes indicate how long the Aborigines spent at that site, the number of people who visited, or special ceremonial events.  These were formed with red ochre mixed with water, egg yolk or animal fat to bind into a paint.

Finally, we visited Bunjil’s cave, about 11 km south of Stawell.  The cave is one of the most prominent rock-art sites in Victoria.  Bunjil was the creator spirit or diety, according to Australian Aboriginal dream-time stories and the art depicts Bunjil with his two dingoes.

It was almost incomprehensible to be standing near these ever-important historical art sites which are believed to be 10,000 (some believe 20,000) years old.

It was serendipitious that during our visit I happened to be reading a book from an Aboriginal man, Ambrose Mungala Chalarimeri, called Man from the Sunrise Side which is a narrative about his experiences growing up an Aboriginal in Australia.

Ambrose talks about how many of the Aboriginal youth have little-to-no knowledge of their culture and history and therefore, much of it has been lost.  I found it interesting that one of the pamphlets in the region says that ‘much of the knowledge about the art has been lost but what remains is information passed down from generation to generation in aboriginal communities’.  And is often the case, I wondered what I could do to help to preserve the culture.

In the book he also points out how so many people have taken pictures of the art sites throughout Australia and have sold the photographs on postcards, in prints, and in other forms, of course, for a profit.  He expressed frustration that these people didn’t ask for permission to take photos and sell his culture’s “intellectual property” and I tended to agree with his perspective.  I, of course, just took photos for memories, and educational purposes, and to share with you.  I hope you find them as fascinating as we did.

Click HERE to read more about these Aboriginal rock-art sites

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Little did we know…

  1. Just less than four short hours outside of Melbourne, a spectacular mountain range looms in northwest Victoria.
  2. The Grampians National Park covers 167,000 hectares and is one of the largest National Parks in Victoria.
  3. The Grampians is home to many important historical Aboriginal rock-art sites.  Some of which we visited and mention in an upcoming post.
  4. The national park includes 600 km of roads and 160 km of walking tracks.
  5. There are lots of things to do in the Grampians ranges from walking, hiking, rock climbing, indulging in spa treatments, abseiling, site-seeing and wine-tasting.

We recommend…

1.  Doing the Central Grampians half-day drive and stopping at the lookouts.  Most are less than a kilometer walk from the carpark, although there are a few that can be accessed via longer and more challenging hikes.  We really enjoyed the Boroka Lookout…

and the Balconies lookout…

2.  Take a walk/hike to Mackenzie’s falls known as “mingunang wirab” to Aboriginals meaning ‘black fish floating on top of water’ but be prepared for quite a steep walk down to the falls and then as you may have surmised, a pretty intense climb back up to the top.

3.  Stay near Hall’s Gap which serves as a good base for visiting the Grampians.  We loved our night at Corella Rise B&B.  Read our post about our stay.

4.  Don’t plan on a nice dinner or evening out in Hall’s Gap.  We had a less-than-enjoyable evening out at one of the local supposedly “nice” establishments.  Without naming any names, let me just say….it’s a tourist town and you’ll get tourist food and tourist service, if you’re lucky.

5. Do visit some of the Aboriginal sites.  In Victoria there aren’t many places to get an up-close glimpse into the longest surviving culture in the world.  More to come on this in a future post…

Overall, DO visit the Grampians.  There is a lot to do and see, of course, but you can also just relax and take in the beautiful scenery.   It makes for a great weekend or long-weekend mini-vacation from the city.

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