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Published: September 12th 2021
Issy had a restless night. As predicted, she bumped her head on the wooden case around the fluorescent tube above our bed every time she sat up. I think she might have sat up quite a few times; I hope she doesn’t have concussion. I wonder if she’ll remember who I am. Given that I snuck outside to knock on our window last night after telling her that the hotel was haunted, it might be better if she doesn’t.
I’m very careful to follow the detailed instructions on how to use the shower to avoid setting off the hotel’s fire sprinklers. I hope that the water I can eventually feel on my head is indeed just coming from the shower head, and that the whole building isn’t instead currently getting a drenching because I missed a step.
The Murray looks more like a lake than a river in daylight, and the Renmark waterfront is lined with a good array of houseboats. We cross the river via the State Heritage listed Paringa Bridge. We read that it was built in 1927, and until 1982 also carried trains. Its central span apparently still lifts twice a day to let river boats
The Paringa silo artwork is perhaps slightly underwhelming relative to some of the others we’ve seen, but as we continue south this is more than compensated for by spectacular views of the River, and its cliffs and fringing wetlands.
We head south from Loxton away from the River towards Bordertown. The contrast between irrigated and dry land couldn’t be more stark. It looks like someone drew a line on the ground - seemingly endless rows of green irrigated fruit trees on one side and parched brown paddocks on the other.
We very quickly run into yet more glacial speed restrictions on the premise that someone’s working on the road. However as seems to be usual here in South Australia there’s very little evidence of any works actually being undertaken. On the rare occasions that there are it’s usually only on a few hundred metres. This doesn’t however stop them from imposing the speed limits on the road's entire length, even if that’s several hundred kilometres. We stop at a set of temporary lights for nearly half an hour, and are then directed to follow an escort vehicle through a very short stretch of actual roadmaking.
I come up with three possible options to explain the Crow Eaters’ bizarre approach to working on their roads. The first is that every road in South Australia is currently being worked on. I decide to dismiss this option on the basis that I think the residents would probably have overthrown the government by now if this was the case. The second option is that we’re really unlucky, and that the only roads that are being worked on are those we want to use, and then only on the days we want to use them. This also seems a bit implausible - surely no one’s that unlucky. This leaves only one other remaining credible option – someone knows in advance which roads we’re going to use, even before we do, and arranges for roadworks to be undertaken on those roads on the days we’re going to use them. This feels both spooky and discriminatory in equal proportions. I resolve to write to the South Australian Roads Minister to lodge a formal complaint. I’m not sure this is going to do much good – I’m a Victorian so he’s not competing for my vote. I also think I should probably wait
until we’re safely back in Victoria again before I put pen to paper – if they’re following our progress this diligently, goodness only knows what other horrors they might be capable of inflicting on us.
We stop at Pinnaroo for lunch. Most of the clientele at the café we go into are road workers munching away on sandwiches. I can’t help but wonder why we’re being forced to motor along at glacial speeds when the people who are supposed to be working on the roads we're on are instead in here filling their faces. I tell Issy that I’m going to go and ask one of them. I think she’s sensing that this mightn’t be a particularly sedate conversation, so fortunately she manages to drag me out the door before the situation has a chance to escalate.
We drive (very slowly of course) through the Ngarkat Conservation Park, with its seemingly endless kilometres of sand dunes and stunted Mallee scrub. It seems that this is the western part of what us Victorians would call the Big Desert Wilderness Area. Apart from their obvious penchant for road works, this leaves me wondering why South Australians are seemingly such complicated
beasts generally. I wouldn't have had to consult the Google machine to find out that ”The Ngarkat” was full of sand dunes if they’d just adopted its Victorian name.
We cross the border back into Victoria. Issy says she feels better now, and she’s not sure why. I am. There are instantly no more roadworks.
We pull over in the town of Kaniva to take some happy snaps of the silo art work. This is proving slightly problematic – a large semi-trailer is parked across the front of it almost totally blocking the view. We join a group of fellow would-be photographers silently willing the driver to move it out of the way. He senses the vibe and reluctantly rolls it forward a few inches. I’m not sure why he bothered – he hasn’t moved it far enough to make any difference.
The streets of the town are littered with cute statues of very colourfully painted sheep.
We cruise on down the highway. I spy a semi-trailer in our mirror approaching us at breakneck speed. It nearly crashes through our back windscreen, and then forces us off the road as it tears past. It seems, on
closer inspection, that this is the very same truck that was blocking our view of the silo a few minutes ago. Hmmm. He’s clearly intent on revenge, although for what we're not quite sure. We only thought he should move his rig out of the way - we didn't say anything to him. I make a mental note to remember to control my thoughts a bit more carefully from now on. I saw the movie “Duel” once. The entire film took place on a deserted country highway, and involved the forever anonymous driver of a massive truck terrorising an innocent car driver for no apparent reason. I think it ended when the car driver managed to trick the truck into driving off a cliff. There don’t seem to be any obvious cliffs in our immediate vicinity, so we decide to take the prudent approach and drop well back behind our apparently revengeful adversary.
We’re a bit over hamburgers and chips, kangaroo and emu burgers, and everything other item of supposedly Aussie cuisine we feel like we’ve been eating all day every day since we left home. We check into our Horsham motel and then head to the clearly very
popular local Indian restaurant. Our waitress looks about fourteen, although that said we tend to think everyone looks about fourteen these days. Fortunately on this occasion we’ve thought correctly – she says that if we want alcohol she’ll need to get an adult to take our order……
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