This post describes the third and final day of my walk on the Great Southern Rail Trail.
Feb 25, 2019: Meeniyan to Leongatha via Koonwarra (16km)
I woke up even earlier than the day before and checked out at 7am, the cafés weren’t even opened. The idea of spending the day wandering in cafés and shops was tempting but the seduce of nature and solitude is too strong to resist and I wanted an early start to make the best use of the cool morning temperature.
Tanderra Park, Meeniyan
The trail from Meeniyan to Leongatha passes through Koonwarra, which is 8.2km from Meeniyan.
“This 8.2km section of the trail winds its way through Black Spur, named after the creek that flows beneath. Experience the history of the railway as you cross restored and rebuilt trestle bridges, originally constructed in the 1880s. Pass through lush fern gullies under a canopy of trees before taking in expansive views of the flats surrounding Tarwin River.”
As I stopped to take a picture of the morning sun-lit pasture, I thought I saw what was a kangaroo moving behind the grass but it turned out to be a fox, making it my first fox sighting in the wild. Later on, I did see kangaroos (and rabbits) on the trail but they were too fast for my camera.
Crossing one of the four rail bridges between Meeniyan to Koonwarra. This bridge was rebuilt alongside the old trestle bridge which has been barricaded off for safety reasons.
Back to the old days… (late 1980s)
The cool morning breeze was rejuvenating and there was a sense of excitement in the air. I felt like a new kid in town, closely observing my surroundings, watching the locals going about with their daily routines and hoping to meet some friendly new friends. There was a bunch of pretty pink flowers in bloom, unfortunately, I didn’t catch their name.
As I looked up at the trees, I saw a gray ball of fluff hidden behind the branches. Can you see what it is?
I shouldn’t be surprised to see a koala but I wasn’t expecting to see one. I usually saw them in zoos, conservation parks or places where there is known to be a high koala population. This is not one of those places. Even if it is, I don’t recall a time I saw a koala and wasn’t excited. I tried to keep cool but on the inside, I was jumping up and down excitedly, screaming “KOALAAAA!!!”
As I continued my walk, I thought how lucky I was to see a koala and how lucky I’ve been to come across so many interesting wildlife that I’ve not seen before. Before I realised, my thoughts were interrupted by a group of loud birds that reminded me of the sulphur-crested cockatoos. I caught a glimpse of one in a tree ahead of me, it looked like a cockatoo but it was gray in colour, which I’ve not seen before. I tried to take a picture of it but it flew off before I could take one. They were everywhere yet we were like playing hide and seek. I also heard a soft cracking and thumping sound, like something light was dropped onto the ground. I turned my head and there it was, a Gang-gang cockatoo munching on a buffet of fresh red berries.
Had this cockatoo been here all this time while I was trying to find his mates that were flying from tree to tree? The males are easily distinguished by their wispy red crest. Suddenly, the place was buzzing with activity as the gang of Gang-gang took over. Even their name sounds delightful.
Not long after, the male was joined by Lady Gang-gang. As you can see, they looked very much in love…with their food! It was such a joy to watch the two blissful and contented cockatoos enjoying their breakfast feast!
Another bridge crossing
A mature Crimson Rosella (the young ones are green)
I reached Koonwarra around 9:45am. With 7.8km left to go and seeing it was already getting warmer, I continued on. Passing through an avenue of trees, I noticed these tiny doors under the trees. Are they some kind of art installation or is there a further story behind these doors, I’m not sure. Perhaps they open up a portal to another dimension?
I think this was the same plant I came across in Day 1. It probably is a kangaroo apple.
On the road to Leongatha…
Old railway tracks
Finally arrived Leongatha around 11:45am, marking the end of my 3-day walk on the Great Southern Rail Trail, from Toora to Leongatha.
Leongatha was originally known as Koorooman and renamed Leongatha in 1891 when a township was established on the arrival of the railway. Today, it is the commercial and civic centre of South Gippsland and hosts an annual Daffodil Festival. The town has a long agricultural heritage with a major dairy processing facility just north of the town centre, producing milk-based products for Australian and overseas markets.
Historic images of the last passenger train leaving Leongatha in 1993 (Image source https://www.facebook.com/pg/swgt.org.au/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1101611416579770)
Present day at the old train station
As I sat down to enjoy my first proper meal in three days, I looked back at the pictures I’ve taken. I have been blessed with fine weather and envy blue sky. I came across many different and interesting personalities on the trail. The shy echidnas, the vivacious gang-gang, the glossy yellow-tailed black cockatoos, the laid-back koala, the colourful rosellas, the watchful magpies, the handsome blue wrens, the hard-working cows and many others I couldn’t name. It gave me a breathing space to walk and the solitude I needed but couldn’t enjoy back home. The road to Leongatha is long and when the sun is shining bright and the legs are aching sore, it can feel like eternity. Times like these, all I have to do is to keep walking, listen and attend to my body’s needs. In fact, all I have to do is to walk and let nature work its magic. There is no doubt in my mind that I’d do it all over again if I have to, from start to end. Obviously not there and then but given some time and rest, I will do it again. I say this not because I’ve forgotten how tough and tiring it could be. I say this because I love doing it and you don’t stop doing what you love just because it’s tough. Although doing the things you love will make you happy, love is not all about happiness, it’s also about doing the things that scares you, sometimes putting up with the things you hate and hanging in there through tough times. Have you ever found yourself returning back to the very thing that hurts you? Some call it stubborn or maybe they just don’t understand the depth of your love. And just like that, a light bulb moment, the answer was revealed right in front of me. I have failed so I’ll try again. I’ll try again because it is what I love and want to do. If you thought the answer was too simple and that anyone could have told me the same thing. No, it isn’t. I need to walk it myself to experience it. Each individual’s healing process is personal, for me, it’s nature and solitude and I need to see it and feel it for myself in order to remind myself what I’m doing it for.
It’s only a month since my walk but it felt like a long time ago. I’m not sure that is a good thing. City life has the ability to demoralise and dampen motivation. I just have to keep reminding myself of that feeling I felt and to hold on to it for as long as I can.
The end. Thanks for reading.