When travelling, the weather plays a large part in forming a first impression of a place. Usually, when it is cold and rainy, this is unfavourable. However on our recent day trip to Lake Mountain in Victoria, such conditions served to enhance our experience!
Lake Mountain is situated in the Victorian mountains just some 118 kilometers from Melbourne, so it is easily reached for a day-out from the city. Incidentally, there is no lake at Lake Mountain, the area was named after George Lake, who was the Surveyor-General of the area including the mountain.
But it is not just Lake Mountain that is of interest, I felt I was entering a different world at the historic town of Healesville , which was surveyed as a town in 1864. It was named after Richard Heales, the Premier of Victoria from 1860–1861. The town became a setting off point for the Woods Point Goldfield with the construction of the Yarra Track in the 1870s.
Today, Healesville has a very arty feel about it, which is demonstrated by the quaint shops on the main street. Healesville Hotel is a true country pub and had three open fires roaring in retaliation against the cold and wet conditions outside. It was like stepping back in time.
In contrast, the next town of Marysville was completely new. Like Healesville, it was also established as a stopping point on the Yarra Track, the route to the Woods Point and Upper Goulburn goldfields, with a butcher’s shop and store in existence by the time the town was surveyed in 1864.
However, on 7 February 2009, a bushfire destroyed most of the town, including the primary school, police station, The Cumberland Hotel, and almost all of its houses. The entire town was declared a crime scene and was effectively closed off while Victorian and Federal police recovered bodies and conducted investigations. It was reopened to the public on 23 March. Reconstructing the town began immediately, and today it is thriving again as a dormitory for visitors to Lake Mountain.
It’s a steep drive up the mountains from Marysville to Lake Mountain, but in the muted light of the rainy and overcast weather, the drive through the thickly wooded forests invoked exactly the atmosphere of that Frederick McCubbin masterpiece ‘The Pioneer’, which he painted in the nearby Mount Macedon area.
It was snowing when we reached Lake Mountain Alpine Resort, and we were surprised at the large number of cars crowding the car parks. There must be a lot of people watching the weather reports in Victoria. Being from Queensland, it was a novel experience seeing the Australian bush covered with a mantle of snow, and even more eerie were the skeletal trees – the remains of the 2009 bushfires – still prodding at the heavy fog engulfing the area.