Up a bit earlier today, breakfasted, packed and said our farewells to Paul and Rosemary, who had been very good to us, and we thoroughly enjoyed their company on our wine tasting expeditions, even if we bought far too much wine!
Bye to the cats, hooked up the trailer and off we went. Joined the M1, The Prince’s Highway and headed east. It is a major road, motorway standard for a while as we descended from the Adelaide Hills then at Murray Bend it become a regular highway, the A1 or Dukes Highway; two lanes with overtaking lanes ever so often. For some reason the road was renumbered A8 at Tailem Bend. Pretty boring countryside; mostly vast wheat fields, now harvested, the occasional flock of sheep and a few trees, but that was it. The main east-west railway ran alongside the road for miles but we saw no trains. The small towns along the way have largely been bypassed, until we are much further along the road, but we did have to drive 250-odd kilometres on the same road, yawn!
We stopped in Bordertown for a sandwich and ice cream, very friendly guy in the roadhouse. We passed into Victoria and after a short while turned off the highway and onto a mixture of gravel and black-topped roads to drive through the Little Desert National Park. Wasn’t really how we had imagined; it was very poor vegetation, just scrub really and although we kept a good lookout saw no echidna, or actually much of anything else, except the scrubby bush.
Once through the Park we headed east again towards the Grampians, it took ages. At one point we thought we were getting close, only to discover it was another range, Mount Arapiles, so on we drove. Eventually we found the road leading through the Grampian Ranges, Mount Victory Road, a steep, winding road that climbed up and through a gap in the mountains, fantastic views over the interior and Lake Wartock before winding down into the small town of Halls Gap. Found the campsite but the office was closed and the entrance barrier down. Someone gave me a code to open the barrier but that did not work so we had to call the campsite and get someone to let us in, phew!
Set up camp, walked around a bit, saw some kangaroos, met some neighbours, cooked dinner, fan heater on, write the blog accompanied by a welcome Bunderberg, then bed. A long day.
Awoken early by the bloody birds, a whole concert (?) from, at least, cockatoos, corellas, galahs, kookaburras and butcher birds, but they quietened down after a while so we could catch a few more zzs. Sorted out our stay at the campsite office and arranged to collect a replacement rear light cluster that had become damaged, so now to get on with the day.
We drove to the nearby aboriginal cultural centre, Brambuk. Set up by the local indigenous people to tell their story and to introduce their culture. It was very interesting, and quite distressing at times, to read/hear their story and the ‘difficulites’ they experienced in their encounters with Europeans and subsequently with Australians, until quite recently. Ruth bought a T shirt and we bought some coasters depicting aboriginal art. Back to the campsite for lunch.
We decided we’d like to have a look at some of the aboriginal rock art so we drove back up Mount Victory Road and swung off onto the Glenelg River Road which headed south and down, twisting and winding into the middle area between the two sets of mountains making up the National Park. There were several low lying areas either with standing water to prone to flooding. It was a gravel road, mostly good but there were a few places where we had to concentrate! Actually, there were a lot of places I had to concentrate. The road went on for miles and miles, although through lovely countryside - tall eucalypts, and such lush vegetation. Ruth suddenly shouted ‘stop!’ and there on the side of the road was an echidna, a good size, digging away into the bank. A great spot, yet again; eagle-eyed Ruth. Further down the road I managed to avoid a lizard in the middle of the road, fortunately he was kind-of hunkered down. Anyway we stopped and walked back for a photo which I got and then as Ruth approached more closely he opened his mouth and hissed at her - another great shot! Ruth identified him as a blue tongued skink.
Ruth navigated us all the way through to the Buandik campground, a lovely campsite, the sort of place we’d love to stay, rather than the commercial sites we had experienced thus far. So, the aboriginal rock art at Billimina Shelter. We walked for about a kilometre on a track through the bush, lovely walk, gradually getting steeper and steeper. We came to the Shelter, a large rock outcrop with an impressive overhang and there, behind a barbed wire fence were the paintings. A little underwhelming, the artworks seemed to consist mostly of short vertical lines, suggested to be some sort of measure of how long the people stayed. However, there were also a few paintings of humans and emu footprints but not quite what we expected, given our experience at other rock art sites. Nice walk in and out though, lots of spring flowers and view of the mountains opposite. It had taken a couple of hours to get here, hence our disappointment.
Back down the gravel roads, heading for home, but Ruth decided she would like to see Wallaby Rocks, but somehow we took a wrong turn and ended up on a very ‘hairy’ track, narrow, lots of sand and difficult to drive. Fortunately, it returned us to the road, we had gone in a big loop, and we were finally able to head for the campsite (and forget about Wallaby Rocks). We did see a lot of kangaroos on the return journey, plus a few emus. None of them hung around as we approached though we did get a few photos. It was wild country. Lots of kangaroos on the sports field in Halls Gap, including mothers with a joey in their pouch. Whilst the aboriginal art was disappointing, the wildlife encounters made up for it, and anyway, it was a lovely drive through some amazing scenery.
Enjoyed a lovely dinner; steak with a bottle from Wirra Wirra. Perfect! Bed.
Another cacophonous awakening! We duly got up and got ready for the drive back to Melbourne. Just on the outskirts of Halls Gap there was an open field with probably over 200 kangaroo plus a few emu, scattered across the field, mostly resting in the morning sun. Heading east we drove through Ararat, a gold-rush era town which still had some of that era’s buildings. Dry fairly flat plains, some sheep and in some areas must have been wheat, now harvested, judging by the frequent huge grain silos by the side of the road.
On to the A8, alongside which ran the main east-west railway (heard on the radio that South Australia was to withdraw its subsidy for the Adelaide to Melbourne section) so maybe that is why we saw no trains. The Indian-Pacific train (Sydney to Perth) doesn’t run every day. We gradually climbed up to Ballarat where the bypass becomes the M8, but we swung off to have another look at the splendid gold-rush era buildings. Theses buildings are very ornate and look expensively built, all in one area at the centre of town. Ok, next stop, Melbourne. We called in at a Holden dealership to collect a replacement rear light cluster and whilst I was hoping they would fit it;”not today, mate! Fit you in tomorrow afternoon?” We drove on. Round the Melbourne ring roads and out towards Kilmore, but we called in at the huge mall at Epping to top up our food supplies for the next leg of our trip. Then a long drag up towards the Great Dividing Ranges, though it was mostly open plains at this stage.
Carolyn was delighted to see us. Her lodger Jamie picked up on the story about the rear lights, grabbed some tools and promptly fitted the new cluster. Great, time for a beer! Dinner and a long chat, lots of wine and bed, far too late!