If you were halfway between the Pyrenees and the Grampians elsewhere in the world you’d be somewhere in the outskirts of London or maybe even in the North Sea; but I was on a road that went through a town that was called Amphitheatre, just out of the goldfields.
Amphitheatre is exactly that. It sits in a bottom of a wide bowl, the rim of which is where the surrounding hills touch the sky. It is a town like hundreds of others: small and pretty and vacant.
It’s the perfect place if you’re happy to sit in the sun on the front porch of a picture-book cottage on a north-facing hill overlooking the town and read books – long ones - for the rest of your life; or write your own books – long ones - in a sun-filled study while you gaze out of a picture window at the mountains that rise away blue on all sides of the town.
Because there’s not a lot else to do.
But it had been tempting, because there was just such a little cottage on the sunny hill above the town and it was for sale, for about a third the cost of a house in the city; and for just one fleeting moment (which lasted about a month) we could almost have made the move. That’s why they invented the Internet: so people can move to the country.
However, the house had been sold, and now someone else will write the very long book in the sun-filled study and sit on the porch and gaze at the million-year-old mountains and not live in the city ever again. (And it’s only a 28 kilometre round trip to Avoca for a good cup of coffee. You could probably do it before you switch on your notebook in the morning and write a chapter a day. Fired up with caffeine.)
I drove out of there and took a road east that cut through a rift below the peak of an old volcanic outcrop now called Ben More. This was to the west of Mt Lonarch, and as the car drifted around a curve in the beautiful green valley, where cows grazed on impossible gradients high above, I realised that the Scots had won the name game.
Either that, or that this place really did look more like Scotland than France. It’s hard to know whether the naming procedures of the early eighteenth century explorers were based on what a place looked like; or whether they were simply tearing about the countryside naming as many geographic features as possible after their home town or their mother's maiden name or their first pet before dying of thirst (Burke and Wills), being speared by natives (Edmund Kennedy), getting lost in the desert (Ludwig Leichhardt) or having a pea named after them (Charles Sturt).
The road rose up and out of the valley and ribboned across a strange green landscape made luminous in patches by the sun cutting here and there through clouds that hung almost to the ground.
Then on through the highland and into another valley created by vast propellers in the sky - the Waubra wind farm. We witnessed the bizarre sight of trees swaying in the considerable breeze while not one of the turbines was moving. Later I found out the wind farm is still under construction and they're not yet switched on. No, wait ...