By Tupur Chakrabarty
July 2021. It was the school holidays. Victoria’s fourth lockdown had ended about a month ago. We must’ve had quite a bit of rain over the past few days because when the forecast for the 5th of July showed an overcast day but only 0.2 mm rain, we thought it wouldn’t be an issue. We were desperate to go on a proper hike and Werribee Gorge Circuit Walk sounded like one!
We watched snippets from as many videos as we found on YouTube, and also read up on the trail. The Parks Victoria page and AllTrails entry were useful. What we knew so far was that the circuit would be between 7.6 and 10 km, an easy length, and we were confident we had the bushwalking experience needed to tackle a moderate or Grade 3 trail. We’d be happy if we could finish in 4 hours, but there was no rush – we’d allow ourselves plenty of time. We’d take water, some nuts and fruit, and lollies.
Most sources recommended walking anti-clockwise, starting from the Quarry Picnic Area carpark, and this is how the route looked on Google: Quarry Picnic Area > Eastern View Lookout > Western Lookout > Needles Beach > Lionhead Beach > Meikles Point Picnic Area > Quarry Picnic Area.
It took us about one and a half hours to drive to the Quarry Picnic Area carpark. We first parked in a small area on the right just after the gravel road started, but then we changed our mind and drove another 750 metres to the Quarry Picnic Area carpark. It was 10:45.
Interestingly, soon after we started the hike, we passed through that smaller parking area to briefly go on the road and then turned left to continue on the trail. The trail was clearly signed – blue for the Short Circuit, and orange for the full circuit.
The trail to Eastern View Lookout was wet but quite wide. The steady climb wasn’t the most inspiring though becasue the view was hidden behind the vegetation. But when we reached the Lookout, we were thoroughly compensated.
Western Lookout was only a short distance away. The trail became much narrower and was covered in small rocks. The sky was still overcast. As we climbed higher, the view stayed with us.
No sooner had we left the Western Lookout than rainclouds rolled in and it started drizzling. Our climb was slower than before because the trail was now very wet and the small rocks were slipping from under our feet. After a hard slog, when we felt that we were standing on the top of the hill, the drizzle became rain.
Okay. Time out. What do we do now? There is no shortcut after the Short Circuit. So we either head back or keep going. Either way, we have to descend in the rain. And I’m not the most surefooted person in the world!
We decided to keep going.
We came down to the bottom of the hill completely drenched and stood next to the roaring Werribee River. Our hands, clothes and shoes were muddy. The rain had stopped, and even though the trail was very muddy, we were relieved that there was no more rock scrambling (or so we thought!). The sun was out too! We started towards Needles Beach.
The rock wall on the way to Needles Beach may look challenging, but it was actually fun! The strip to walk on is wide enough and the wall has plenty of holds.
We spent about 10-15 minutes on the beach. It would be a lovely spot for a swim on a hot day and a picnic.
The walk to Lionhead Beach was a short one, and the easiest stretch so far. The only challenge was avoiding the boggy parts of the trail, but that was an issue only because of the rain. The features of a lion’s head on the rockface are quite prominent, but here’s a close-up too just in case!
We had walked about five kilometres, and there were three more to go. The most popular part of the trail is the cable crossing, which is probably only a couple of hundred metres from Lionhead Beach. But there was a part where it was only possible to go forward if we hoisted ourselves a couple of metres. There were holds on the rock, and small, careful steps were all we needed to cross the high and narrow strip. Finally, we were at the cable crossing!
The cable crossing is only 50 metres, and it does feel like the fun is over even before it has started, but this was actually the funnest part of the trail! The river was higher than we’d seen in videos, and I was thankful for the cable as we made our way across the slope.
The rest of the trail was a gentle walk with the river running below through the gorge. It took us another 25 minutes to arrive at Meikles Point Picnic Area. We spotted a fairywren with its bright blue feathers dazzling in the sun. It was too fast and too far for our cameras!
We started the final stretch of the walk on the yellow gravel road (Myers Road). We saw a kangaroo with her joey. She stood absolutely still until we started walking again.
Another 1.5 kilometres later we were back at the Quarry Picnic Area carpark. It was 2:45. It had taken us exactly four hours to complete the 8-kilometre circuit.
This hike was so adrenalin-charged for us that we felt no hunger or even thirst for its entire duration! The moment we reached the car, however, we were hit by both. The fully stocked drink bottles and snack packs were finally used!
We would like to walk Werribee Gorge Circuit again but would probably pick a drier week and day!
This post was first published in the blog Travels that make us.
Contributing Author: Tupur Chakrabarty is an education manager. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and daughter and dreams of endless travels in wondrous lands.
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