A couple of months before this trip I sent out mails to check the availability of the dozen or so people I know that live in Australia. The vast majority of them have emigrated from England with one of them being critically acclaimed dark fiction writer Mark who I used to work with in Hull (UK). I left that job in January 2001 to go backpacking in Australia for a year (plus extended travel in New Zealand, Fiji and California) so hadn’t seen him since my not-so-emotional departure.
The original idea had just been to meet up in a cafe or restaurant for a few hours but a week before my departure he asked if I was interested in going hiking in the You Yangs. Amazingly I had actually heard of them as I had recently been researching the filming locations for ‘Killer Elite‘ (2011). The action thriller, starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro, was filmed in Victoria with many parts of the state doubling up for the UK, Dubai and Paris. The You Yangs were used to portray Oman. I jumped at the chance of combining our meeting with such locales even though I knew it was highly unlikely there would be any obvious match-up shots.
After a short trip to Sydney I returned to my sisters house for about ten hours before heading back in the direction of the same airport where I had landed just the night before. I just missed my connection at Southern Cross and then discovered the next train was cancelled due to a lack of drivers that day. Frustrating stuff but a 40 minute wait wasn’t that bad all things considered. I disembarked at Lara Station and could immediately see Mark but when he opened his mouth I wasn’t sure if I had the right guy!! Talk about picking up a local accent but not too surprising given how long he’s now lived down under.
The You Yangs are granite ridges on the Werribee Plain about 60 kilometres south-west of Melbourne. Despite only being 319 metres at their highest, they are clearly visible from afar and indeed dominate the landscape as I discovered as we drove towards them. There are a fair few trails of varying lengths and we chose to head up to Flinders Peak which didn’t take too long to reach.
We hadn’t been hiking for too long when the track turned into rock climbing and the type of terrain where you definitely need a fairly decent grip on your footwear. My water bottle fell out of my side pocket early doors and rolled back down the mountain for a fair bit in true comedy fashion so I had to retrieve that as I wasn’t quite ready to drink my own pee as the only form of refreshment!
At the foot of the mountain is a geoglyph of an eagle which was created prior to the Commonwealth Games taking place in Melbourne in 2006. Sadly it can’t be seen in the two pictures below as a couple of posers got in the way!
There are quite a few natural lookout points with huge rocks to stand on and admire the 360 degree views of the Victoria region, particularly Geelong off to the south.
The hike was full of interesting rock formations (below) offering the opportunity to indulge in some rock hopping, scrambling and unassisted climbing which the younger me would’ve lapped up without any fear or consideration of the dangers! That guy has, over the years, sadly been replaced with a far more careful and boring man who struggled at times on this hike with some of the climbing parts!
It was really great to catch up with Mark and there was a lot to talk about. It was maybe our constant chat which resulted in us not being able to see a single kangaroo despite his constant promises that we would. Beforehand, I had no expectation of kangaroos being in the area so if he’d kept quiet I wouldn’t have been any the wiser!
Mark said he’d bring all the food we’d need. My expectations of a picnic hamper full of fine wine and local delicacies were soon dashed as he only seemed to have bags of candy. Luckily I have a sweet tooth though.
At one point the simple paths were given up by my guiding light in favour of an impromptu course that cut through all kinds of vegetation. I can only assume he was keen to improve his off-trail navigation skills. I just followed. It did seem like the kind of place though where you can just head for the peaks and make it up as you go along which is more fun.
Click here to read Mark’s blog for all your dark fiction needs!
As we hadn’t seen any of the kangaroos Mark promised I insisted on getting one of those cheesy tourist photos (below) in front of one of the iconic yellow and black Australian signs.
Shortly after we left Turntable Car Park we saw an elderly couple looking up a tree at something. We pulled in behind their parked car and the guy came over to reveal that they had spotted a wild koala up the tree. I was certainly keen to see it and so we hopped out of the car and wandered across the road to take a look. You can easily identify the iconic Australian animal (below) but it’s fair to say that it’s not as good as all those cuddle-a-koala photos which many people get when they visit Australia.
Mark dropped me off in Geelong which is a place I stopped off in for a short time en-route to Werribee from the Great Ocean Road in January 2002. Geelong is full of bollard sculptures (below) which have been around since the mid nineties to “commemorate quirky and important figures and happenings from Geelong’s colourful history”.
Click here to read ‘Australia 2019 Pt VI: At One Of The World’s Most Famous Cricket Grounds But For A Different Ball Game’