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Showing posts from April, 2017

Day Seven.

Late Sunday afternoon. The town rose in slow motion out of the flat, endless wheat fields of the Wimmera, like a long tracking shot in a Terence Malick movie. A couple of grand-looking buildings came into view, boom era hotels wearing ostentatious iron lacework like a couple of ageing society dames. It's not until you get closer that you see the shuttered window, the gap in the wrought iron, the yellowing mail gathering in a dusty doorway. Nhill looks closed for business. In the forecourt of a lonely silo next to the rail line a gaudy coffee caravan was touting for business, bizarrely contrasting the swapping fortunes of country and city commerce. A Brunswick-style hipster coffee caravan in a place like this? It looked like an escaped animal from the zoo. Then it struck me. That crackly football broadcast on the radio in the middle of nowhere yesterday had been the Adelaide game – playing in Melbourne. Many of the Croweater fans make the journey by road, and Nhill is the halfwa

Day Six.

Even out here, several hundred miles from a state capital, the major highways pulse twenty-four hours. The big trucks go overnight and the ones that run by day stalk the campervanning grey nomads who check the speed limit then halve it. You may as well save your money and drive up and down the Maroondah Highway all day and then sleep in your own bed. I turned off the Sturt Highway just out of Paringa and pointed the car south towards Pinnaroo, which sounds like a party game involving native fauna. * I was spellbound by the landscape but alert to the dangers. A kind of hypnotic vigilance. Or entranced caution. I don’t know. You have to relax but expect a kangaroo through the windscreen any second. It almost happened to me once. I was driving towards Melbourne at six in the morning about ten years ago on the Northern Highway just before Heathcote. A large eastern grey came out of the scrub just as a ute was overtaking my car. We were abreast, me on the left at 100, the ute on my righ

Day Five.

I sat on the edge of the Murray River just after sundown as a nearly full moon came up. The water looked still at first glance, but through the growing darkness I could see the current rippling in the soft copper moonlight. It would carry you a mile in a few minutes. Once, in 1830, they rowed a whaleboat up the river against the tide; 'they' being explorer Sturt and his crew. The party had reached the so-called mouth of the river that ended in a lake. Sturt climbed a ridge at the end of it and saw surf breaking in the far distance beyond a mile of sandbanked channel. They were landlocked. So they rowed the whaleboat a thousand kilometres back up the Murray at the height of summer. It was either that or walk. I went back inside the cabin and picked up the day's newspaper and tried to read a story about gender diversity in the workplace. * Next morning we took the road north. The other road crossed the river by ferry and followed the Murray on its south side. We would go

Day Four.

It was raining, so I was heading north away from the coast and into some warmer weather. Before leaving town, I stopped at the main street cafe where the owner of the house worked to drop off the two-day tariff. You can just leave it on the kitchen table , she had told me, but I preferred to hand it over in person, being from a crime-ridden major city. Seems they don't have house break-ins down this way. But I had put the keys back under the terracotta pot. Same thinking: in Melbourne they don't look for the keys, they just break down the door. I drove around the coast to Kingston then struck north along Rowney Rd for 50 or maybe 60 lonely kilometres, through mixed grazing country and pine plantations that stretched away down south as far as Mt Gambier. We hit the Riddoch Highway, and traffic again, and passed through Keith, a small settlement minding its own business. Then Tailem Bend, a town that sits on top of red cliffs along the Murray River, its main street and the road

Day Two and Three.

Another small town and another open air lunch break. We stopped in the middle of town at a small park near the 'information centre' in which volunteer staff ask you where you're going, where you've been and did you see this and that along the way; and if not, why not; and you musn't miss the historic feature on the road five miles out of town on north route 6. They're just trying to be helpful. But I just wanted a map. Crowning the small park, set into an elaborate plinth, was a long white thing that looked like a narrow but very long overturned canoe. A plaque set into the plinth told the story. The long white thing was not an overturned canoe; it was one blade of a propeller from a wind turbine, an advertisement for the local wind farms. The local council website explained: While in Millicent take time out to enjoy, experience 'clean & green' ... turn left at Canunda Frontage Road. Experience the peace and beauty of the natural environment, the b

Day One.

The rain started in Gellibrand, a small town on the edge of the Otways. We had started at eight in the morning of a warm, sunny late March morning. Now it was midday and I had pulled the car into a small grassed park with one of those octagonal concrete picnic table and chairs. We sat and ate and watched the clouds gather. Down this way it can turn in minutes. I threw the lunch things back into the box I use as a hamper as the rain started and we resumed the journey into a raging storm. Deep in the forest it was black at two thirty in the afternoon. The only other traffic was logging trucks going the other way, and I pulled over tight against the edge of the bitumen as they barrelled past carrying timber to be turned into home renovations for city hipsters with Save the Forests stickers on their cars. Then over Laver's Hill, and the drive was a long coast down the mountains to the Great Ocean Road. The sky was clear now, but spume drifted across from the waves eating into th