Long weekends are always good reason to take off out of the city for a few days. For the Queen’s Birthday weekend this year, we decided to head back to the Grampians, just as we did exactly one year ago. The beginnings of a tradition unfolding.
The Grampians National Park is a huge, rugged and beautiful area in the North Western part of Victoria. On our trip last year, we explored some of the Northern region of the park, around Halls Gap. This year we decided to check out the Southern region, which is closer to Dunkeld. Our campsite was a small one called Jimmy Creek. When we arrived on the Saturday morning, we were pleasantly surprised to see only a couple of others sites occupied. Gradually as the day went on though, quite a few more groups turned up and the campground ended up close to full.
The bush setting of the campground was peaceful even with the people arriving and setting up camp. The air was fresh with eucalyptus, the kookaburras were laughing and the sky was clear although the winter air still chilly.
We set up our tent, unpacked and enjoyed lunch in the sunshine after our three hour drive. We both agreed that the afternoon should be spent climbing some kind of a mountain. Given the beautiful weather we had been blessed with, it would be rude not to.
Mount Abrupt was the chosen mountain and we set off. My terrible sense of direction took us on a road on the complete opposite side of the mountain of where we were meant to be. Unsure of which road we were on, or where we were at all, we considered turning back. Just after this idea was aired, we ended up at the carpark of the Mount Sturgeon hike. This was the other mountain we wanted to climb during this trip so we thought we would do it while we were there.
The hike begun on an easy, sandy trail, between tall gums and past shy wildlife. The grade begun to increase as did Dante’s speed. I wasn’t sure if he was walking unusually fast, or my fitness had decreased a little. Usually when we hike we keep the same pace but I was started to find it challenging to keep up.
As we passed over some rocky sections, we started to get nice views of the neighbouring mountains and surrounding areas. I suggested we stop for a quick photo on one of the ledges we passed, but Dante was not as keen. “We need to make it to the top before the sun goes down, I don’t want to miss the view up top.” Okaaaayyyyy. It was about 2 or 3pm by this stage, so I did think it was a bit dramatic to worry about the sun going down. Dante kept on his brisk pace as I scampered behind him. Heart pumping and sweat dripping down my face. He was making this hike more of a workout than it needed to be!
We passed some other hikers who were making their way down. “You’re almost there”, “Just a couple of windy bits then the last part of the peak”. It wasn’t too much longer until we had a clear view of the peak and started to close in on it. I had not even seen Dante so motivated to get to the top of a mountain, and I was soon to find out why. He went off onto a ledge and was checking out the view and I decided to do the same, take it all in and capture a few snaps.
He called me down for a photo where he was standing. Having trouble getting his phone to set up for the photo, I offered my GoPro which was ready to go.
We got some nice photos but Dante wasn’t satisfied. “It has to be on my phone”. Again, I was like okaaaayyyyy. This is when I decided he was acting weird and just did what I was told. I stepped towards the edge of the ledge and looked out onto the view. I took this moment to appreciate the grandeur of nature. Mount Abrupt stood directly in front, with its, well, abrupt angle reaching towards the heavens. The clouds hung in the perfectly blue sky. The bush surrounding offered greens, browns and everything in between. I turned around to see why Dante was taking so long to join me and saw him reaching into his pocket. Isn’t his phone already set up on that rock? I thought to myself. I looked back to the view and then back around and saw Dante on one knee, holding out a tiny box with a shiny object inside. “Melissa Ensink, I love you SO much. Will you marry me?”
I was completely lost for words (not a regular occurrence) and short of breathe. I eventually said ‘Of course’ and we lived happily ever after.
Well, first we celebrated and took in the view together. Then we had to make it back down the mountain. After all of this going on the sun was starting to get ready for bed. While we were getting all loved up, the temperature had dropped and we realised that although we got the view in the sunlight, we probably weren’t going to get all the way back before dark. So we set off downhill, chatting excitedly about what had just happened. Thankfully the pace was more manageable now that Dante could relax!
Once we got back to the car we called our families to share the news. We then drove back to the campsite for dinner, red wine and dark chocolate around the camp fire. What a day!
Our second day was not as surprising or exciting, but was pretty wonderful. We were feeling the newly engaged high for sure! After breakfast, we went to Halls Gap for coffee and tea and to let our close friends know of the news. We wanted to hike to Mount Abrupt so headed this time down the correct road to the trail head.
Again we were met with a challenging hike, although the pace was much more manageable this time! The terrain was similar to Mount Sturgeon, but much rockier and steeper in some places.
The sky wasn’t as clear either and as we climbed higher, we begun to be enveloped in the clouds. The views on this hike were also beautiful, but because of the clouds, we couldn’t see as much. There were some great look out points and ledges along the way, which we made use of for some scenic pics.
The top of the mountain was windy and very cold! We explored around a little before deciding heading back down was the best idea.
Glad that Dante picked the right day for his proposal, we snaked our way back down and headed back to camp for lunch.
Although there wasn’t much left in the day, we took a short walk down a trail leading from our campsite. Before long, darkness fell and we headed into Halls Gap for dinner.
Once again, the Grampians provided us with a beautiful experience. It really is such a special place, and certainly for me, one of the most special places in the world.