Published: January 24th 2009January 24th 2009
A picturesque campsite
Lake Nagambie on the Goulburn River - we got a lake-side site before the holiday rush
At 9.30 am it was already too hot to go for a walk, but as it was our first day in Bendigo we walked around the botanical gardens and the path along Bendigo Creek - there must have been water in there somewhere but all we could see were reeds and weeds.
By the time we got back to the car it was 40 degrees. Even my knees were sweating. Back at the camp we leapt out of the car and into the swimming pool - dear reader, this is how hot it is...I have been in a pool three days in a row!
Not only has the temperature been over 40 for several days, humidity is more or less nonexistent - about 5%. This has benefits - the heat seems more bearable than a lower temp with high humidity, a load of hand washing is dry in about an hour and as a special bonus for women of a certain age, you don’t notice if you’re having a hot flush as it’s hotter outside your body than in.
Disadvantages are minimised by being glampers (glamorous campers) in a caravan with air conditioning. Pre-trip I had imagined myself
sentinal gum tree
Dead trees are left in the lakes created by daming - it creates habitat for fish but looks spooky
on the laptop writing blogs etc when the weather was inclement. Here in drought-ridden Victoria, I’m inside being serenaded by the air-con because it’s too sunny to go out.
It’s not even pleasant to take lunch outside - the hot dry wind blowing straight from the South Australian desert turns a nice fresh sandwich into toast, literally, before you can eat it. And dust...don’t get me started on dust and we haven’t even got near the outback yet!!
But we’ve heard from the camp manager a “change” has just hit Melbourne, which was also sweltering under 40 deg but plummeted to a pleasant 29deg in the space of an hour or so. If anyone was labouring under the misapprehension that Neil Finn wrote Four Seasons in One Day about New Zealand, they just need to come to Melbourne, the real meteorological subject of the song.
Now I would just like to digress here and mention something that makes us both a little irritable in this laid back, sun blessed land of the free. It is Australians’ penchant for being extremely free with who or what they claim as their own.
The Russell Crowe thing never bothered me
At school holiday time we wouldn't get a look-in for a water view site
before, but he is now the subject of a new series of POSTAGE STAMPS featuring Australian icons! And the other day I heard an announcer on ABC radio (not commercial radio - they should have known better!) talking about a new Melbourne musical production written by “well known Australian musician TIM FINN”. I was incensed.
Phew, back to the trip. We are 130km north of Melbourne and have been zigzagging around Victoria since the start of December. We had a wonderful Christmas at Healesville in the Yarra Valley with Torin and Andrea, catching up on all their adventures during six months round Asia. Their photos of The Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal made my snaps of the Blue Mountains and Murray River look a little feeble.
We also went to visit Sheila and Keith, my rellies in the Dandenongs (south of the Yarra Valley) which was lovely as Torin had not met them. All of this area west of Melbourne is beautiful - vineyards, tall forests, mountain streams, stunning views. It’s where the Victorian Alps peter out, then it gets hilly again west of Melbourne around Daylesford (where we are off to next) before the
ET phone home
Ringing the rellies on Christmas day
Great Dividing Range gives its last spectacular gasp in the Grampians.
The initial plan would have had us heading off in the vague direction of South Australia soon, but two things keep us in Victoria, which we are happy about as there is so much to see here.
We are back in NZ for most of February, arriving on the 9th and leaving March 3rd. We’ll be in Waiuku at Rhys’ parents, then Matarangi to see if the cockroaches have eaten the bach - I’m looking forward to a jog along the beach as we haven’t seen a coastline since we picked up the van in October. We’re being kindly hosted in Hamilton by Mary & Dave, so hope to catch up with some of you!
Then we have a job in April looking after the Rutherglen Caravan Park for a couple of weeks. We’re looking forward to the experience of seeing caravan parks from the inside, helping other travellers as much as we can, making some money to help pay the rest of our way and ...um...sampling some more delicious Rutherglen wines. I just hope we get to bank some of our pay before Rhys recycles
Christmas lunch under the awning with Torin & Andrea and Jay up from Melbourne for the day
the funds into the local economy!
While in Victoria we’ve travelled through what’s known as Ned Kelly Country. Much of what I knew about Ned Kelly had been gleaned from Sidney Nolan’s fascination with the man and the legend as a subject for many of his paintings, as well as other bits of pop culture trivia, such as being played by both Mick Jagger and Heath Ledger in movies.
Fortunately I haven’t seen a Ned Kelly movie, as according to the Ned Kelly Tour Guide in Beechworth they are more riddled with inaccuracies than the Kelly armour was with bullet holes.
In Healesville over Christmas we had coffee at one of their quaint coffee combination shops - this one was coffee, cheese and second hand books. I knew we were off to Beechworth next, which is one of the significant Kelly sites as he spent three years in Beechworth jail and was sentenced there before being sent to Melbourne for hanging. So when I saw Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang featured on the shelves above the havarti, I snaffled it.
A few days later I found out how much I’d wanted to read this
an Aussie Xmas
Yarra Valley smoked trout and kangaroo kebabs for lunch - YUM - and thanks Jay!
book; Rhys had our box of books out of storage under the van seats and I wondered how my newly bought book had got in there...yes...I had already bought exactly the same paperback at a book fair in Caloundra over the winter!! So if anyone is keen to read it, I will be bringing one copy home in February!
By the time we got to Beechworth I was besotted with Peter Carey’s historic novel and the legend of the Kelly Gang, but mostly with Ned. The book is written in the idiom of Ned Kelly’s Jerilderie Letter http://www.cultureandrecreation.gov.au/articles/nedkelly/
and I am reading it with an Irish accent. It is heart rending - I cannot understand how he got the moniker “larrikin”. To be travelling in this relatively harsh, unforgiving region and reading how life was probably like for the early settlers, both those sent here and those who came of their own accord, makes it more poignant.
Rhys is a bit jealous of how much time I’m spending with Ned. He considers him to be merely an outlaw and a criminal, but dutifully wandered around Glenrowan with me - the site of the Kelly Gang’s Last
Stand. It’s a depressing place in more ways than one, not least because Ned Kelly and his legend is now merely tourism fodder.
Other towns stage enactments of various episodes in the Gang’s exploits and Beechworth runs a daily Ned Kelly walking tour which was conducted by a young man in costume who called himself a historian, (I couldn’t see past his close resemblance to a McGillicuddy).
Central Victoria is also riddled with gold, or more exactly the history of gold. You have to be careful on bush walks because there are gold workings everywhere. The delightful Lake Sambell, next to the Beechworth caravan park, was the product of gold dredging and sluicing, where prospectors would dismember an acre of land in a day looking for the precious metal.
Towns like Beechworth became wealthy on the proceeds of gold in the mid 19thC, gaining some of the finest buildings in the colony at the time, but when the gold ran out and progress happened elsewhere, they were preserved as living history exhibits. Bendigo, which had the richest diggings in the world at one time, carried on prospering and is still enjoying growth as people move here out
We had twinkly lights around the awning which don't show up well - they didn't keep the mosquitos away either!
of the rat-race of Melbourne.
For us, Bendigo means heat and has given us a new meteorological term to grapple with - Raised Dust. Our walk yesterday went through crispy dry eucalypt forest and up what was claimed to be a lookout. Apparently you could see the spires of the city churches, but all we saw was a dirty grey haze that seemed to be enveloping the whole area. The wind was getting stronger and by the time we arrived back at camp it was a continual hot blast, accompanied by the raised dust - not just blowing along the ground, but being swept in from the arid Mallee region to the west in a visible brown layer.
Again we sought refuge in our well insulated van. There were bush fires to the south, so we were happy to be in a van park next to the pool. We watched Obama’s inauguration and people freezing in Washington, but it didn’t make us feel any cooler. Let’s hit that pool again.....!
Hoping to catch up with lots of you next month.
There are more photos below