With grasslands, forests and the Lederberg Gorge, carved out by the river; the Lederberg State park is located in the state of Victoria, in southeastern Australia.
The trails fan out from the O'Briens Crossing campground in the north. Part of the Lerderderg Track runs from Northwest Blackwood to Bacchus Marsh in the south. Wildlife in the park includes kangaroos, echidnas, and birds such as wedge-tailed eagles and cockatoos.
For this weekend outing, 14 adventurers gathered on the shore of O'Briens Road, at the beginning of the Whiskey Track, eager for a good walk, fresh air and natural settings worthy of a good conversation with friends and family.
This is an area that was formerly the object of mining exploration approximately 100 years ago, so you can still see remains of human work. Stacked rocks and even tunnels to divert the course of the river and allow excavation are still visible and are part of the appeal of this walk.
First stage: Whiskey Track
The beginning of the route along the Whiskey track is a slight climb, enough to warm up the legs on a path of maintenance vehicles in the park, so the hiking poles They are not necessary.
After a stop for a well-deserved light lunch after a couple of hours of walking, we crossed the vodka track heading towards the Lerderberg Gorge, a cliff between the mountains up to 300 meters deep that the river has dug in a process of natural erosion. that has lasted thousands of years.
And this is perhaps one of the greatest geological attractions in the area. Stone walls on both sides of a river that slowly and calmly zigzags between the stones, with just a few waterfalls.
Far away some Wallaby flee from human presence, although we remain vigilant in the bushes keeping our distance.
After a steep descent towards the river, an extremely steep ascent awaits us to be able to overcome the other side of it.
This group of hikers has had to make the best use of their hands and feet to balance the weight of their backpacks and their own to be able to propel themselves safely up very slowly.
Our leader, Jopie, attentively coordinates the vigilant climb in the event of any incident. At the base of the river, his wife acts as a “whip,” usually used by a skilled hiker at the back of the line to make sure no one is left behind.
Our group has rules that we discuss before we start walking, no matter how experienced the participants are, some of them are:
Introduce yourself by name in a circle to see the faces and know how many members there are before starting the walk. Discuss the route with map in hand. The tour leader always carries a few copies of the map with the route marked for clarity. The whistle rule: Our club uses 3 codes. One whistle to locate, two whistles to regroup, 3 whistles for emergencies. Stop at intersections if a member passes. This is to prevent separate members on the walk going in the wrong direction. If you need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the road, leave the backpack crossed in the middle of the road so that the person who serves as the whip stops to wait for you to return from your "environmental management".
These are just some of the measures that are successfully implemented in each of the tours to avoid accidents.
The night of camping.
After slowly ascending the previous ridge, the rest of the way to our camp is a slightly winding path between trees and a path full of accumulated eucalyptus leaves and bark.
The camp is well located on one side of the trail, and with abundant river water nearby.
The water in this segment circulates quite well, so there is no need to filter or add purifying tablets. Just boil, just in case.
Today, in my case, I am going to test the new DROP one-person tent. And when I got to the camp, my first surprise is that I have set up the tent in less than 2 minutes, YES, as you read it, 2 minutes, because my new tent does not use a frame but only hiking poles and just a few stakes.
Certainly losing weight on the team has made a difference in my performance along the way. I usually carried my North Face Storm Breaker that weighed about 3 kilos, while this new tent only weighs 700 grams.
After locating and setting up the tents, it is social time, to cook together and enjoy a campfire
The members of this excursion, except for a couple of them, are veterans of the mountain, and as such, we already have a menu adjusted to the needs and tastes of each one.
At dehydrated food, canned food, and even foil-wrapped potatoes around the campfire are on the menu.
In my case, one of the advantages of making my own dehydrated food is that it weighs less, and that is what I like. (What better than a mushroom risotto with Parmesan cheese for dinner, and an instant soup to warm the bones).
The "social hour" does not last long, as the rain falls abruptly, making us run to our shelters, and putting out the bonfire that we had so excitedly lit.
Some retain the intention of talking from store to store in the rain, but the water, the cold and the night lull the most talkative.
The rain increases at night, almost incessant. It has been a good idea to add an additional footprint to my tent to prevent moisture from getting onto the floor and to keep the equipment free of mud and water.
Around five in the morning, the temperature reaches 3 degrees with a wind chill of -1C. It's one of the reasons why having the right gear can make the difference between a nice, restful night, or a tiring night.
Another advantage of the drop in temperature is that the snakes that abound in this area in summer, such as the brown snake or the red belly black, are in their hiding places maintaining body heat.
Remember: When storing the sleeping bag at home, store it in a large bag. Do not keep it compacted, in this way the feathers are kept separate and you achieve better insulation on cold nights.
Second day: with the company of the river.
The morning begins in the mountains with the sunrise, not with an alarm. And the first thing is to eat breakfast well enough to be able to keep your energies at peak.
After many trials and failures, I have come to the conclusion that cereals are not good for me for a high caloric demand in the mountains. So my breakfasts now are dried lentils with bacon, a hard-boiled egg, and some yellow cheese. Healthy fats and enough protein to get you started.
The trail we take is winding, winding along one side of the river the entire time. Just a sidewalk at least half a meter wide. Some ups and downs, but moderate.
In some parts of the path there are some fallen logs and rocks that we have to avoid, but nothing too complicated.
Certainly walking along the river is very relaxing and cool. The sound of water and pure air are a natural relaxant. While the cliff walls in which we find ourselves is a shield against the incessant emails and messages from the outside world.
Making a “morning tea” next to the river is extremely pleasant, especially looking through the clouds for a patch of sun to warm up and take off your raincoat, because even though it hasn't rained like the night before. A latent drizzle refreshes us a bit during the morning.
Likewise, the temperature has risen a bit, but 9 degrees Celsius is not to stop for long. The muscles get cold, and the bones go numb from the humidity. You need to walk again to keep warm.
The rest of the East Track takes us back to O'Briens crossing, where slightly more urban campers find themselves camping by the river with their children and pets.
Some of the girls are happy to see the existence of a decent bathroom, so we make a logistical stop for those who want.
From there we follow the Backtrack on a relatively gentle route along the side of the mountain, with views towards the bottom of the ravine.
Upon reaching the intersection with the Gribble Track, we stop for lunch, and for an optional walk to the Tunnel.
This stone excavation, as we mentioned earlier, was one of the works made by the miners in the area to divert the riverbed and allow mining exploration.
It is worth noting that the little amount of gold found, although it was the ruin of the miners, was luck for nature as it did not have consequences of great magnitude due to human interference.
We return to the road looking for the Kangaroo track route, and our leader, with great experience in navigation, decides that we make a shortcut at a time when the trails are approaching to avoid us a couple of kilometers.
This climb, barely 60 meters long, is extremely steep, and difficult to climb due to the amount of loose leaf litter that makes the climb slippery. However, our leader was correct because as soon as we reached the top, the Kangaroo track is in plain sight.
Only about 2 kilometers separate us from the vehicles. And already knowing that the end is near, we get a little more relaxed to talk as we walk the final stretch.
As always, seeing the vehicles parked in the distance, after a 28-kilometer walk is pleasant. How nice the idea of a shower and a hot coffee while driving back to the city.