Just 30 kilometres out of Melbourne’s city centre are the Dandenong Ranges. The Dandenongs are a set of low mountains, their valleys and hills covered in thick, temperate rain forest. Scattered throughout are walking tracks, magnificent gardens and pretty villages, with names such as Ferny Creek, Gembrook, Sherbrooke, Sassafras and The Patch.
It’s not far, by car, from where I live in the south-east but I hadn’t been up there for ages. As usual, I was taking for granted what was close to home. It was time for a serious dose of nature. I headed out and just twenty minutes later was on the Mt. Dandenong Tourist Road, which winds its way around the hills to Mt. Dandenong. From the lookout there, you can see all the way across to the city and to the majestic sweep of Port Phillip Bay.
Past Ferny Creek, I turned off into Sherbrooke Forest for the walk to the Sherbrooke Waterfall. I’m an absolute sucker for waterfalls. I can’t not turn off, if there’s a sign for one. Luckily, I’d remembered to bring a coat and scarf – it’s always cooler up in hills. I breathed in the crisp air and allowed the noise, the traffic and the hype of the city to ease away, just for the moment.
A little way along the track, I heard a strange scraping sound and stopped to check it out. There, in front of me, was a lyre bird, the first lyre bird I had ever seen in the wild. Lyre birds are notoriously shy, normally, but this one was strutting around as if I wasn’t there.
Lyre birds are brilliant imitators. I stood for a good quarter of an hour, unable to drag myself away. A cacophony of bird sounds issued from him/her: cockatoo, kookaburra, crow and others I couldn’t identify, along with clicking noises and the scraping sound. Periodically, he stopped to flick leaves about and dig in the undergrowth, before bursting into song again. I was over the moon.
I moved forward but he eased away, keeping just enough distance between us for his comfort, and eventually disappeared behind a tree. I took the hint and wandered on down the dirt track.
Enormous trees zoomed toward the white sky, Sassafras and Mountain Ash, some of them 200 years old.
I missed the waterfall at first, tiny as it is and hidden by ferns. Maybe in winter, after plenty of rain, it would make a better showing.
But it’s a beautiful spot, none the less, looking over the stream as it ripples its way under a cute bridge and down the steep hill, to eventually end up in Port Phillip Bay.