Monday, April 21, 2014

Wimmera and Mallee, Easter Weekend

I retraced a favourite trip which I have made several times through the Wimmera and Mallee, but this time with Em.  From the colours of the deserts and salt lakes, to the dusty remains of mid-century town life, there is magic to be found out there.

As usual the rain was torrential on the Western Highway between Melbourne and Ballarat.  Arriving in Ballarat we hugged mugs of coffee between our hands and thawed.  

Proceeding through dense Easter traffic all the way to Ararat, the sun then emerged in its splendid warmth.  We laid wet clothes out to dry while eating at the local bakery.  This is the town recently appeared on that TV show, The Biggest Loser.  I wonder what the bakery owners thought.

Pushing past many a dawdler we made on to Halls Gap, and then into the hills enroute to Horsham.  Rather than fight the traffic we rode slowly through the tight mountain road, stopping regularly for scenic views, photographs, and easter eggs.

Here I am discovering that the rain we encountered before Ballarat - where we had been like Egyptians crossing the Red Sea - had killed my phone.

The summer fires have devastated the landscape.  And yet it was beautiful.  Especially with the new green shoots in the cool of late Autumn.

Through Horsham, Natimuk, and into the Little Desert National Park.  Always a pleasure at dusk: such wonderful colours.  Such wonderful flora.

Our destination, Nhill, was just up the road.  We camped in the caravan park and ate at a restaurant inside the local pub.  The restaurant had that air of, "renovated in the 1940s, last used in the 1970s".  It was marvelous.  Through big glass doors with the words, Ladies Lounge, we entered an almost silent room in which the few grey-haired patrons openly stared.  We sat down and looked about at dusty plastic flowers, prints of Canadian landscapes, and peeling paint on the ceiling.  The meals came with salad which was on a separate plate and which consisted of a slice of beetroot, some thinly sliced pale lettuce, coleslaw from a jar, and a mound of canned pineapple.

The next morning we awoke at dawn and had a fried breakfast in the 24hour truck stop.  From there it was on to those fresh roads north of Nhill: an ochre landscape and a road threading through tiny towns.  First stop was Yanac, with its old general store.

We cruised along on empty tar, alone with the sun peering between broken clouds.


And, here and there, great silos calling out to be explored.


Lake Hindmarsh was half empty and surrounded by campers.  On the bed of the lake motorcyclists broke personal land-speed records or wheelied their way over rough terrain at the edge.

In Rainbow we explored old shop windows and even older buildings.  The windows in the town are stunning in places, early twentieth century.  Some of the buildings are very nineteenth century.  And all of them are covered in a layer of dust from the nearby desert.

At Yapeet, this old shop with its painted windows.

From Yapeet we explored the edge of the national park - Wyperfield - mounting a massive sand dune to eat lunch while overlooking natural parklands.

From there to Hopetoun and then a two hour race against the dying light, leaving trails of tyre-marked dust.  Running on a single lane of tar across the land from Hopetoun, Lascelles, Sea Lake, Chinkapook, and into Nyah.

At Chinkapook we stopped at the abandoned tennis courts.

And near Nyah, the salt flats in darkness.

Pushing on in the night, ignoring danger, we made it to Nyah an hour after dark and spent the night at my mum's.

The next morning we aimed for Melbourne.  We started with a glance at the river which is just a minute away.

I took Em around Nyah West, where I lived as a child.  This piece of irrigation is one of the earliest objects in my memory.

From there we rode south - Swan Hill, Murrabit, Barham...

...and then Cohuna, for a ride along its rather special river.

We made to Pyramid Hill, to look over the landscape.

From here it was down to Bendigo, where the Easter festival was happening.  After dinner in Bendigo we raced down the Calder in the dark.  It had been a wonderful three days.

1 comment:

  1. Another great journey for me from the comfort of my chair !