Leader: Trevor Pescott
Who needs the Great Ocean Road with its endless lines of tourist vehicles whenyou can explore some of the emptier back roads of the Otways, and get to know other field nats as you car-pool with different people each day? Not us. And while the rough roads got windier, and the windscreens got dustier, the convoy ribbons fluttered cheerily as we explored the inner regions of this picturesque area of tall trees, steep gullies and rolling hills. It didn’t take long to realise why Dick had urged everyone to buy one of the touring maps – if you didn’t have one to check, you quickly had no sense of where you were.
Leaving the Forrest Hall, we turned off down Roadknight Creek Rd, then along Ridge Rd, Bridge Track and Lardners Track (check your map, guys, check your map) and finally East Gellibrand Rd to Gellibrand. Then it was time for a short comfort stop and the opportunity to sneak a quick morning cuppa (hoping Dick didn’t find out what a soft lot we were). We admired the collection of photos in the informal information centre showing the heydays of the Otways timber industry, and the daily lives of early white settlers, before heading off to Beech Forest and then Hopetoun Falls.
Here the birdos were delighted to spot a couple of Rufous Fantails in the trees just below the falls viewing platform, while the plantos were equally excited when Trevor showed them a small Snowberry plant (Gaultheria sp.) growing in the carpark area. Later in the week, Neville Walsh referred to the tiny Otways population of this plant, which is more commonly found in Tasmania.>
All 198 steps down to the beautiful, moist area at the base of the Hopetoun Falls were negotiated, although the effort proved memorable for several of us. Then, once everyone was back up top once more and had regained their breath, we headed off to the Redwoods plantation for lunch. This attractive green area was quiet, apart from the shattering noise of two empty timber trucks rattling past over the bridge, but its real attraction wasn’t obvious until we walked in under the canopy of the 69-yr old Redwoods. Another world, as one group member noted, with light, sound and an atmosphere that was totally different from the Australian bush outside.
The real world of the Oz Long Weekend hit hard once we reached the Great Ocean Road with its cars, people and fast food. Maits Rest offered us an easy, absorbing walk through cool temperate rainforest, with fungi and ferns the main focus. The steady stream of smartly dressed day trippers made several of us determined to return, mid-week in winter, when this beautiful place would be wet and dripping – and empty.