Otways hiking – 3 Waterfalls & a Canyon

When my friend Claire posted a link on Facebook a couple of months ago advertising a day in the Otways called “Waterfalls & Canyon”, led by an experienced guide (for a fee), my response was ” why pay someone?  I’ll take you…..”  After all, this is the kind of thing I’m hoping to do for a job in the near future.  A little later, Claire contacted me to ask if I was serious, and before I knew it we had a group of 6 set to go.

It was easy enough to find details of the hike in question.  A quick Google search led me to traikhiking.com.au and a 23km version of “waterfalls & canyon”.  In one day?  Maybe pushing our fitness & motivation levels a little.  Gotta say though, Trailhiking has an abundance of information and tips on hiking all over Australia – well worth checking out.  As luck would have it I cleaned out my study not long after that and came across this handy leaflet I’d picked up last time I visited Lorne. 8.6kms – much more realistic for this time poor group.

The day began in  relaxed fashion at Mantra Resort in Lorne.  Stacie and myself had decided to head down from Melbourne on the Friday night and were lucky enough to find a very reasonable deal which included a fabulous buffet breakfast.  Not quite all of it fit into our tummies though and a couple of danishes had to be escorted from the premises wrapped in napkins.  Sadly, I neglected to take my phone to breakfast.  I assure you that if I had there would definitely be a mosaic of foodie pics right here.  Instead, all I got was a photo of the pretty bathroom accessories and a moody view out of the window towards the beach.

Next stop was the nearby tourist information centre where I picked up yet another book of inspiration to return to this beautiful part of Victoria.  As luck would have it – it included a detailed account of the walk we were able to embark on (among many others).

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We still had a little time up our sleeves before meeting the rest of the group so we made a quick detour to Erskine Falls, around 10kms north of Lorne.  At 30 metres, Erskine is one of the tallest single drop falls in Victoria and is a popular tourist destination all year round.  The day was shaping up to be perfect weather so we decided to beat the crowds.  The first viewing platform is just a short walk from the carpark.  There is a longer one to the base of the falls but there was no time for that today.  Another excellent reason to return!

It was now time to head to the agreed meeting point at Allenvale Mill car park.  The Otways region is rich in logging history, with plenty of relics of days gone by to help make walks interesting.  By this time we’d received news that Claire was unwell and wouldn’t be joining us.  Such a shame as she was the inspiration for this day in the first place.  We decided to push on anyway – yet ANOTHER great reason to return (get the impression it will be soon).

I must say one of my hardest choices on the day was which camera to carry.  I knew my Nikon D90 and wide angle lens would be great for landscape shots but the prospect of carrying it was not at all attractive.  Instead I opted for my compact Nikon 1AW1 with an all purpose zoom lens, complemented by my phone camera.  A wise choice.  Bulky DSLRs are no fun to hike with.

Once Diane, Leicia and Jenny arrived it was time for a quick gear check and we were off.

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The Fabulous 5 ready for action

The hike begins on the opposite side of the road to the car park and starts out gently – meandering along some nice flat trails, over a river, around some private property, then on to the track along the Saint George River.  The whole hike is more or less well sign posted as long as you keep your eyes open.

As the track climbed steadily we were treated to pretty views along the river.  It was about this time that the novelty began to wear off though, as the track became steeper and steeper.  Despite this, we soldiered on – perhaps a little quieter as breathing became harder.  Maybe it was the altitude…… maybe it was the buffet breakfast.

Thinking we were probably close to the end of the upward climb, our hearts sank as we rounded a corner to see a ridiculously steep section heading straight up.  Oh well, surely this was the last tough part.  As luck would have it, we survived the climb and it was indeed the toughest part of the whole hike.

Not much further along, we arrived at Phantom Falls – a very pretty waterfall with good flow this time of the year.  Stacie and I ventured down to the base while the others chilled out up at the viewing platform.

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Once back up top we continued to follow the signposts to “the canyon”.  Just “the canyon” – not to be confused at all with the Grand Canyon.  This was the final sign before the entrance to the grand canyon.  Arrows pointing down?? Unusual.

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Downwards it was to be though.  This was by far the coolest part of the hike.  All advice had been that the hike is best done in an anti clockwise circuit just to enjoy this bit.  Diane was the first to descend – as she went deeper and deeper she declared that it was just like caving.  As we followed suit, the cave soon opened up to an area which would have looked quite natural with some fairies flitting through the air and pixies perched on the moss covered rocks.  Just magical.

The five of us walked through the canyon, some space between us all as we breathed in the natural beauty.  All too soon it was time to make the climb up and out.

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From here on the track was fairly level, heading slightly downwards towards Henderson Falls.  I took a photo to show Claire just how moist it was as I know she would have loved this part of the hike.  I was glad for the opportunity to my new waterproof Keen boots to the test.

Henderson Falls was our goal to reach before stoping for lunch.  As luck would have it – this was the perfect location, right at the base of the falls with plenty of space to spread out, relax and cook up some food and a nice hot cuppa.  What a stunning place to enjoy a bite to eat!

With lunch out of the way we were feeling rejuvinated.  We’d been making good time on the hike so far and were now on the homeward stretch.  Once again we spaced out and enjoyed our surroundings.  I couldn’t help but stop every now and again to take photos of fungi and ferns – some of my favourite things.  The Otways is a temperate rainforest environment supporting a diverse range of plant and animal life.

The last waterfall of the day was Won Wondah Falls.  The view from the platform was nice enough as the river cascaded down over the rocky falls towards the river far below.  There didn’t seem to be any easy way down lower for a better look and at this point of the day we were content with a few snaps before starting the last leg back to the cars.

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From here the track soon joined up with Allenvale Mill Road and we headed towards the finish line,  spacing out again, each of us walking (or walking and talking) at our own pace.

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With the walk completed, we had another cuppa, packed up and went our separate ways home.  It was a lovely hike – a little bit of challenge and a lot of beauty.  The Otways is an area rich in opportunities for hiking, 4wding and with the coast to the south, so much more.  We really must return soon – and with Claire next time.

Some stats from the hike captured by my Samsung Gear Fit Pro.

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Stacie and I made the wise decision to stop off at the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery (well, more of a “hey, see what we just passed? Let’s turn around and go back there!”) on our way home.  I have NEVER seen so many varieties of chocolate before.  It was a tough decision to only pick a couple of items to take home.  It was a little cold to partake of the icecream but WOW!  No way I’m driving past here on a hot summer day again.

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The day was drawing to a close.  I dropped Stacie off and went home to the family, feeling a little tired and a lot accomplished.  A bubble bath was the best possible end to a fantastic adventure.

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