NOW: The Dandenongs – Kirth Kiln, Gembrook, Marysville.
In the 1940’s the First World War made petrol a scarce commodity. Those with cars became creative and developed charcoal burning “boilers” to fuel their cars. This charcoal was made in kilns like the one which has been restored at Kirth Kiln near Gembrook in Victoria.
There was a dusty but shady campground here with a toilet but the main attraction in this area is the Puffing Billy Steam Train. Staffed mainly by volunteer enthusiasts, Puffing Billy wends its way from Belgrave to Gembrook. On the steepest section from Lakeside to Gembrook the train is hauled by a diesel loco. We travelled from Lakeside to Belgrave return with the steam loco however, most people seemed to travel from Belgrave as it is closer to Melbourne.
Amazingly, Puffing Billy passengers are encouraged to sit on the side and hang their arms and legs out! The guard in our carriage actually encouraged us to hang out the side of the train – “We haven’t had an accident in 40 years,” he said.
Travelling through Healsville we tasted and purchased wine from Innocent Bystander where the winery is right in town. Our next camp was in Marysville. The devastation of the 2009 bushfires is evident all around. New buildings stand in the valley township surrounded by hills of ghostly white tree trunks. The fire was so intense that not even the gum trees survived. The community remains on high fire alert particularly on hot, dry windy days.
We are in the mountains now –tall forest and steep climbs. We visited Lake Mountain a cross country and tobogganing resort in winter and a hiking and mountain biking centre in summer. There are interpretive walks of all levels and views across Marysville to Melbourne on a clear day. Funny how it’s rarely a clear day once we’ve climbed up for the view!
We also walked the Murchison Track and visited the falls. The tall dead trees stand as a constant reminder of the power of fire. As the bush tries to regenerate and the forest fuel builds the community remains cautiously anxious about fire.
NEXT: Walhalla, Licola and the Alpine National Park.
On The Emu Track
Cheryl and David.