It doesn’t get much more Australian than this. Cloudless blue sky, dry creek beds and black stumped grass trees. Add to that the singing crickets, rocky outcrops and winding gorges in the cold, blue shadow of afternoon and you have a great way to spend a rare, sunny, winter day in Victoria.
The eastern ranges are so interesting that it’s easy to overlook all the hilly nooks and gullies dotting the western side of Melbourne. The Brisbane ranges are about an hour and a half west of Melbourne and 30 minutes north of Geelong. They’re quite approachable, only 440 metres high at the peaks and criss crossed with deep gorges of layered rock and (I assume in the springtime) flowing creeks.
After too many bleak and chilly weekends huddled indoors in front of Netflix, we finally had a weekend of crisp winter sunshine. The shorter daylight hours meant we either needed to get out of bed and be gone early (yeah right) or pick somewhere a little closer with a track that’s a only few hours of hiking.
The Brisbane Ranges looked like a good option. The Ted Errey circuit is about 8km and 3rs return and promised a range of different landscapes to keep it interesting.
I tell you what though, it’s ridiculously hard to find. I’m guessing the Brisbane Ranges aren’t a high traffic area. Signage, car parking and park infrastructure are almost invisible from the roadside and the GPS didn’t recognise any of the access roads to the park.
We eventually turned into what seemed like a very long driveway (Switch Road) that curved down to the bottom of the range at the Stony Creek Picnic Area. We passed a couple of kids playing around in the long grass while their parents barbecued nearby. One of them said a friendly hello to us, which shouldn’t have been remarkable but somehow it was. In today’s isolated and fearful culture, it’s nice to know that some kids still have an oldschool, outdoorsy, curiosity and manners.
The first thing that struck us about the trail was the stepping stones, lovely big rocks set deep into the creek bed were left stranded and purposeless for lack of rain.
We followed the trail through the gorge and accidentally came out at the Anakie Gorge picnic area. We’d missed the Ted Errey Circuit turnoff completely. The trails are marked well at either end, but not within the trail itself. Ted Errey branches off from the Anakie Gorge Walk and if you approach it from the Anakie Gorge picnic area, you might even have half a chance of spotting it (maybe).
Once you find it, the ambling trail quickly changes to a fairly steep ascent of 120m up to Nelson lookout. Once you’re up though, the views are wonderful and the landscape levels along a ridge line. I wasn’t overly impressed by the walk, not until this point. The mysterious, blackened trunks and tall grass trees up the top made the scrubby, dry gorge seem worthwhile.
We found ourselves at Switch Road again, the fading sun lighting the hilltops. A deep chill had long set into the gully and the descent back to the car felt like plunging into a cold pool.
The eerie rock formations of the region weren’t present in the Brisbane Ranges, but they called to us on the way home. There seemed to be so much more to explore and come back to, including the YouYangs just around the corner.