When you jump in a new (second-hand) car and head off to the horizon, there are worst places to end up than the Dandenong Ranges. On Sunday, literally minutes after sorting out all the adult stuff like insurance for our new automobile baby, we make an impromptu decision to hit the road for a wander somewhere new. Somewhere new is a bit of a misnomer for us to be honest, because in Melbourne everything feels new. We are strangers in a strange city, familiar to each other only. It’s an unusual feeling after small-town Darwin.
Still, the Dandenong Ranges are temptingly close, and with autumn the potential for colourful foliage and cool almost-winter air leaves us breathless in anticipation. Even with some light Sunday traffic, we make the ranges in under an hour from our new digs in Fitzroy North. For some reason we end up on a somewhat muddy, but hard-packed mountain road instead of the mountain highway we were aiming for, but we’re heading up so it’s good enough.
We end up at the Woolrich Lookout over the RJ Hamer Arboretum, which surprisingly is exactly what we were aiming for. I just picked the spot randomly after scanning a couple of local blog guides, but it turns out to be exactly the kind of place to start what I imagine will be several trips to the Dandenong Ranges. With autumn all around us Dean and I head into the Arboretum, which is looking nothing short of stunning. For both of us the colour and the feel of the place is giving us major England vibes. We’ve been feeling a fair bit of that lately, it’s like homesickness of a different kind.
I love to see all the different plants in the Dandenong Ranges. The tropics is a wonderful place to grow up and to exist, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something about the autumn season that just calls to me. The bursts of colour in falling foliage, and at my feet little pops of mushroom red and orange have me reaching for my camera with every step I take. All around us the ferns reach out for us, and overhead the Sequoiadendron stand sentinel, guarding our way. It is certainly a new surrounding compared to Darwin, but it feels familiar too. There’s a primeval nature about it, something old and deep. In a way, cold and dark though it might be from the outside, it’s comforting. Like we were meant to be here all along.
We wander in the woods until rumbling bellies bring us back down to our reality. Somewhere above the tree-line there’s a little community we drove through on the way down, begging a short exploration. Lunch ends up being a simple pie in a square of grass behind the shops. The Pie In The Sky venue is much to full for us to be comfortable eating there. Introverts to a fault we instead balance our lunch on fragile fingers, shifting as it cools from piping hot to somewhat edible. Even though it’s hardly fine dining, the flavours are satisfying and comforting, as only hot pies on cold days can be.
There’s something about this mountain spot I really love. I think that, however long we end up spending in Melbourne, we’ll probably find ourselves here a few more times. After all, it’s such a short distance from the city, but it feels so far away. There’s magic in places like that. I’m going to do a bit more research for our next trip, dig deeper and find some other places that might offer good, out-of-the-way bush walks. We saw a few geocache trails as well, so we’ll definitely be back for them.
As we make our way down the Dandenong Ranges, now on the correct road, our slightly muddy car looks a little out of place. I imagine those driving past us wonder just what roads we drove down, what adventures we have had in our little blue chariot. Let them wonder I say.