I am sure at least a few of you may wonder why I took the inland route as opposed to the celebrated Great Ocean Road. I assure you it was not because it’s shorter. I have been down the GOR three times already, once by helicopter.
I had been to Halls Gap once before, but it was in late winter and not its best month. The summer is much better. I wanted a day in Halls Gap, not for rest, but to enjoy the freedom that can be attained from climbing its hills unencumbered. My first climb was Mt. William: bitumen (asphalt), rock, dirt, plants and an average of a 13% grade for 10 km. Even turns carved nicely into the mountain. It reminded me of the climb behind Sandia Peak outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Upon reaching the top, I met Laura from Wyoming and Stephanie from France. A PhD student and intern from Melbourne University respectively. Laura is a botanist collecting samples, and Stephanie helps her. I brought up the similarities of Sandia Peak and Mt. William, and she confirmed my speculation. Both are "Questa" formations. I can only assume a similar formation sits on or close to Questa, New Mexico by Taos and must be the name sake of this formation.
Forgive me if I get this wrong, but a Questa formation is when sand, silt and dust settle on an ocean floor. The ocean dries up, and the land is compacted into sandstone. Later, tectonic action lifts the ground creating on one side a steep section with exposed layers. The other side slopes less steeply back down, creating the hill I just climbed. On the steep side, the view of patchy bush and tree-lined roads among the golden grass gives the impression of an ordered savannah. Hills, small from up here, dot the landscape. In the distance lies Ballarat, home of some of the richest gold deposits in the world. Behind me the land slopes green into a valley before towering up again into another ridge. This rough patch of land was so unlike anything I had yet passed through on this trip – replace the gum trees with Douglas fir, and this would be like my childhood camping in New Mexico. I zipped down through town, chilled with the help of gravity taking me downhill. I raided a bakery and climbed back towards Horsham, this time stopping at the lookouts to admire these Questas.