Driving through the Otway Ranges from Princetown to Cape Otway, the road snakes through lofty forests of mountain ash, often lined with tree ferns and vines. In more than one place there is old growth forest on one side of the road and views of the Southern Ocean on the other. Pine plantations dot the landscape, sometimes prim and green, sometimes cut and messy.
We took an “unscheduled detour” down a dirt road that led to one of the plantation logging sites. The bush hugs the side of the road even more closely, enormous trees towering overhead. I have no idea how those enormous log trucks negotiate those tight bends on a narrow road, but the signs that warn one to “proceed with caution” should not be taken lightly.
As we took advantage of a clearing to turn around and head back to the main road, we saw a mob of kangaroos in their natural environment. There was a big male in the group who would have easily stood six feet tall. I think he is the biggest kangaroo I remember ever having seen.
We headed further east to our destination for the evening: Melba Gully.
Melba Gully is tucked into the Otway bushscape not far from Lavers Hill. It offers beautiful scenery and some well-maintained tracks for walking. During the day it is magnificent, but as the sun drops behind the forest the gums and ferns take on an other-worldly quality and one’s other senses become more alert. The chatter of the birds and the gurgle of the Johanna River at the bottom of the gully become more prominent. The smell of the eucalypts and the damp forest floor is refreshing and clean.
At the end of the track is a section of boardwalk which keeps visitors on the track and out of the surrounding forest. All along this section of the walkway, glow worms twinkle like fairy lights. It’s a bit like looking at the stars in the night sky except that these tiny creatures are embedded in the bank about a meter away from where you stand.
It’s a beautiful, serene place to enjoy a little of nature’s magic.
If you ever have the chance to visit, wear good shoes for walking and take a torch so you can find your way back up the track in the dark.