The Western Highway bore on, a black ribbon through a flat dry nothing. Then it dropped into a bowl that used to be a volcanic crater and is now Bacchus Marsh, a small market garden town that relies on whatever water is left in the Lerderderg River, if any. Look out to the right and you can see endless rows of vegetables. They must be getting water from somewhere. Perhaps they're trucking it in.
The road lifted out of Bacchus Marsh and kept rising towards Ballan. All the way from here to Ballarat used to be emerald green. Now it's yellow brown. Not so much summer harvest yellow, but more walk-off-the-land brown.
We swung off the main road after Ballan and the exit road swept an arc over the Western Highway and pointed north. Now we were into hillier country dotted with the kinds of small towns in which no-one lives any more. Bunding. Barkstead. Spargo Creek. Towns with nothing left except maybe an old church converted into a weekender for people who want to spend weekends in a place where no-one lives anymore.
Another twenty minutes and signs started appearing at farm gates along the road. Bag's of horse manure, $2. Fresh egg's. Potatoe's, $3 for 5 kilo's. I love the way a misplaced apostrophe can mar an otherwise perfectly concise message, like a speck of mud on a wedding dress.
A straggle of towns slid by, the road curved and rose some more and then we were in Daylesford.