Day 22: The Grampians to Mount Gambier

On this day, our group went to the Brambuk Cultural Centre in Halls Gap that told one of the dreamtime stories or creation stories by the local aboriginal population.  Dreamtime stories are Aboriginal legends that explain how various land formations such as the Grampians came to be.  Sadly, due to the decimation of the Aboriginal people and their culture, the story told at the center, which recounts one of the Grampians stories, is one of the few remaining stories available from the people indigenous to Victoria.  Aboriginies are actually one of the oldest continuous civilizations on earth, dating back to at least 15,000 years ago.  The center also recounts the tragic story of these people, how they succumbed to the diseases of the Europeans, were generally treated miserably.

From the cultural center, we headed into the mountains.  Unfortunately, there was too much fog that day to see the Balconies, so we headed straight for McKenzie Falls, a beautiful waterfall in one of the Grampians gorges.

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From the Grampians, we made our way back to the south and crossed the border of South Australia.  Our destination for the night was Mount Gambier, a town that sits on top of a dormant volcano.  One of the main attractions in Mount Gambier is the Blue Lake, a crater lake in the caldera of an ancient volcano.  It turns a deep shade of cobalt blue typically starting in the month of November.  Scientists posit that the change of color occurs due to formation of calcium carbonate as the lake warms up.  The result is a mystifying and gorgeous sight.

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For the night, our accommodations were truly unique.  We stayed in the The Old Mount Gambier Gaol, a prison dating back to the 1860s.  The building had used been as a correction facility until the mid 1990s and was purchased by James, a Mount Gambier native, in 2010.  James traveled all over the world in his 20s and 30s, but came home when the opportunity to purchase the gaol came up and turn it into something for travelers.  Informative plaques are present throughout the gaol, explaining the use of the room and some of the history and stories.  The gaol housed both male and female prisoners, was witness to both a child’s birth to a female prisoner and a number of deaths.  A few of the prisoners were executed on site.  Still present in the gaol is a mural designed by one of the prisoners.  James takes great pride in restoring the gaol and making it a comfortable and unique place to spend the night.  The gaol has actually also become a popular spot in Mount Gambier for weddings– what a fitting place to start your life sentence with someone!

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