Most of Victoria is parched and baking in the heat. Some parts are already on fire.
The road out of Melbourne is a strip of molten licorice. Off to each side, everything is yellow. Not wheatfield yellow or canary yellow but faded dust yellow. Here and there, clumps of straggly eucalypts; occasionally a line of old broken pine trees.
The road follows long low rises and shallow falls. It's like driving across a series of saucers. Top a rise and you can see cars far ahead crawling up the next rise like hot bothered scarab beetles.
Then the yellow turns to dirty olive scrub and stark hills with their sides gouged bare. The farmlets and occasional shacks turn to broken lines of houses, then endless car lots, dusty motels, caravan parks and eventually shopping malls. One of the few cities not built on or near a natural water supply, Bendigo was built over the goldfields. But you can't drink gold. The city is a gaudy, ostentatious and faded Victorian where fortunes were made and lost in the 1860s. The Sacred Heart Cathedral dominates the entry into the city, sitting high and proud, way up on the hill, well out of the tawdriness and the golddust.
The road out the other side of Bendigo is lined with yet more car lots. Dozens of them. There must be more cars for sale in Bendigo than there are people. Soon the city is a just a smudge in the rear vision mirror and now we're off the main highway, riding a B road and heading towards river country. Now the soil is red and the vegetation is the scrub of the desert. Signs warn of kangaroos: they're always bounding across the road and getting hit by cars.
Another couple of hours of this and then a right hand turn and another twenty minutes and a left. Then, shimmering in the distance and the heat, is a wheat silo and a water tower and a couple of church spires. That's our town.
Every small town like this has a general store on the main street under a vast verandah with a dog tied up out the front, a screen door that bangs behind you when you go in and is cooler than any airconditioned building even though it has no airconditioning.
The main street is wide enough to turn a camel train. I idled the car along it and then turned left around a corner, pressed along a block or two past timber houses with cool verandahs on every side and striped awnings at the front and pulled in at the curving driveway of a white house with a grapevine looping and arching all over the front verandah making beautiful, cool shade underneath.
We had barely rolled to a stop before T.'s mother had emerged from the front door under the grapevine and had William out of the car and in her arms. She kissed him and cooed at him and he gave his best smile and gurgled.
We're here for a few days. It will be nice.
Stay cool, everyone. Or warm, if it's cold where you are.