I am a keen traveller. Currently rediscovering my own backyard and the rest of Australia. I enjoy nature, history and the quirkiness of what the world has to offer.
Published March 20th 2021
Dad’s Sunday Drives
When I hear the word, 'Walhalla', I am immediately transported back to the 1970s. Dusty, windy roads. Car sick brother who always got the window seat. No radio in the car. No air conditioning. No seatbelts. No choice but to go on one of Dad's Sunday drives which was often to the township of Walhalla. (We probably only visited a few times but it seems like hundreds)
But here I am with all the choices of what Victoria has on offer and I chose to go on my own road trip to Walhalla but with the creature comforts of 2021. Walhalla can be visited from Melbourne in a day. It's about 190km from Melbourne, which equates to about 2.5 hours of non-stop driving each way, longer if you decide to stop at townships along the Princes Highway. For those who enjoy driving, go for it but I chose an overnight stay.
Walhalla township hasn't changed much since the 1970s, except this time the roads were made all the way but the last section has still kept its curves through lush mountain vegetation and a steep drop to one side. Up until the late 1990s, the town relied on generators to power it but some aspects of the 20th Century eventually made it to town – electricity, no more generator humming in the background.
Driving into town, a lot of 4WDs were passing me in the opposite direction as the surrounding area is a mecca for 4WD and off-road bike enthusiasts. I arrived in town on a Sunday afternoon and could hear the sound of bagpipes being played. I didn't see the piper but the music was clear and in tune.
There were many cars parked outside the hotel and along the street. Walhalla has about 20 permanent residents whilst the rest are day trippers or holidaymakers. During the 1880s, Walhalla was a hive of gold rush fever. The now tree-lined hills were bare and there were pubs galore to quench the thirst of parched miners.
I let myself into my night's accommodation, a house which I had booked online but not through one of the big major online booking systems.
I then explored the township. The Old Walhalla Post Office gave me a glimpse into the life of a postmistress. Entry is free but a donation is strongly encouraged. I looked in the windows of the other shops but I was on a mission to get to the cricket ground.
I missed the start of the track off the main road and walked to the other end of town, which is no big deal as the township isn't that long. Returning the way I came I saw the sign indicating the start of the cricket path. At the bottom, there were five to six natural walking sticks to help the walker navigate the steep steps at the start and then a zigzag path that is a steady incline of up, up and up. UP!
I wish I'd bought a thermos of tea to enjoy while I drank in the view from benches along the way. At strategic intervals, there are information panels that give the walker an excuse to catch their breath by reading the plaques. They give an insight into the gold rush life and the unusual events of the time, in particular one about a football game. The lengths the teams had to go to replace a ball and also their fitness as they had to walk up the hill first and then play. Another recounting a sad tale about a young woman with smallpox and her husband. It's well worth the walk just to read the panels.
Finally, my feet made their way onto the empty cricket oval. There were blackened tree trunks from the recent fires a few years back but many were bouncing back with young leaves on them.
The only people I passed was at the very start and as I was leaving a father and his young son made their way onto the ground. Son with a cricket bat and ball in hand ready to take on his father. On the opposite side, a 4WD arrived so there is another way to get there, ask in town for directions.
Back in town, it was after 4:00 pm and I found it nearly empty. Many of the shops and museums were closed. I enjoyed a well-deserved ice cream and perused the chocolate bars on offer. Some I hadn't seen for years and others were new to me.
No television reception. I had planned to spend time looking at the starry night sky but being in a valley with steep hills I only got a sliver of night sky. A mopoke owl kept me company as his call broke the silence of the night. A restful night even though the cemetery was my neighbour.
On the way to the cemetry
Most cemeteries are on flat ground but not here in Walhalla. Terraces of headstones with haphazard paths between them led me through the cemetery. I should have been born a mountain goat.
If you have the time, there are many walks you can do most involve a hill or two. The historical train doesn't run every day and the mine has set hours that you can explore with a guide.
Walhalla is a great place to set yourself as a base and explore the area, but be aware, that there are limited supplies at the shop,s so bring what you need with you. Moe is the closest large town and Rawson has a small general store.
Growing up there was a drawing of a Walhalla pub hanging above the fireplace given to my Dad from a non-carsick brother. Coincidentally it was where my father won '2 bob' playing cards. It must have been a lot of money for him to constantly mention it. Maybe he hoped to win more on those Sunday drives.