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Showing posts from January, 2022

Back to where it began

It's Australia Day. That's its official name. Also called Invasion Day. Either way, it commemorates the First Fleet's landing in Sydney Cove. Or, on a personal note, our return into Sydney back from our holiday in the south.  Basically the only nod we made to the date was sharing a lamington for breakfast. A pink one bought from the Beechworth Bakery in Bendigo yesterday. You could say we spent the rest of the journey back from Gundagai celebrating the Australian countryside, but we didn't really. It's a route so familiar that it was basically let's just get home with some remarks about sheep the colour of the dry Patterson's curse in the fields and the elegance of the spinning wind turbines past Yass. We hunted cheap fuel and were surprised to find the Caltex at Marulan even less expensive than Sydney. It is another town that mainly seems to exist as a service centre for those passing through. I don't know why I find such places so attractive. Maybe it&

Jelly slice

With a roar of their engines and the hiss of brakes the trucks turn at the big Hungry Jacks sign and behind the yellow and gold Shell service station. There in the fast food restaurant is an arcade games room and a shower, a chance to freshen up and relax after a long drive. Gundagai is a major rest stop on the busy Sydney to Melbourne route. We could have made it from Bendigo to Sydney in one go, but I'm glad we decided to break our journey here. Two years ago Gundagai was bone dry, the land around our motel parched and cracked, even the weeds dead and crumbling. The night air was filled with dust and smoke and even a brief shower was more mud than water. This was the time of the great fires.  I took a walk back to that motel this afternoon. The exterior was freshly painted and there was green on the ground. There were no big dust clouds kicked up by the trucks making their way past.  The motel we are staying in is much nicer, the room large and clean, the swimming pool warm. It m

From blue to gold

It is time to leave South Australia and begin our journey home. On the way out of Mount Gambier, home of the Blue Lake, we stop at the Engelbrecht Cave, another sink-hole, but it is not yet open for the day. Our destination is Bendigo, but we are not taking the direct route. Instead we are detouring via Halls Gap and the Grampians/Gariwerd. This frequently takes us off the major highways and on to country backroads. We go past pine plantations, eucalypts forests and grassy plains. Through villages and tiny towns, some just a few houses, others have a pub or a general store. I have only been to the Grampians once, almost thirty years ago, and that was by train and bus. Now, from the south, the first sight of the mountain range is amazing. A sequence of granite waves breaking over the landscape. After stopping by the roadside to admire Mount Sturgeon, we continue into Dunkeld, then turn off into the road to Halls Gap. To our left the ridges and mountains of the Grampians. I only wish tha

Lobsters, limestone and lakes

A small flock of pelicans stand on a pipe leading into Lake Albert. A few of the splash into the water, to glide in pairs on the glassy early morning surface, or to soar elegantly into the grey skies. It is difficult to tell where the lake ends and the sky begins, such is the mirror effect. Bullrushes pierce the waters, like whiskers on a brush. I am eating my breakfast, a "Hawaiian" meat pie from the bakery opposite and saying my farewells to Meningie and its pelicans. First time eating a meat pie with pineapple, but it works! I feel like I could stay here a lot longer, despite Meningie's lack of, well, everything. I don't think the others agree. We drive out of town towards the Coorong, saltwater lakes separated from the ocean by a line of sandhills and made famous by Colin Thiele's book Storm Boy and its two film adaptations. The Coorong is a magical place with very little in the way of human settlement, just the scrub, the long lakes and the distant sandhills.

Horsepower and mullets

Cars. Boats. Trains. And a tram pulled by a horse. Our Murray River journey continues with a drive to Goolwa, a river port that once handled paddle steamers up the river system. Past the McLaren Vale vineyards and through bucolic hills and towns.  Confused by the GPs we drive over the steep Hindmarsh Island Bridge and back, before finding the Goolwa Wharf. We are here for the Cockle Train, a half hour heritage steam train ride from Goolwa to Victor Harbour. Whistles sound and handsome locomotive 621 arrives at the station towing wooden heritage cars. This line was once horsedrawn and runs along the beach for the second half of its journey. It was popular with the fisherman who dug up the cockles from the beach sands, hence the name.  The old seats are not always the most comfortable, dependant on the state of their springs. But the windows open, letting in the scent and the soot of the steam engine while hopefully diluting any covid air from the white Australian males who struggle with