Forum Administrator's Note:---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Normally, all of the road trips that are discussed and posted on this forum, occur in North America... But Lifey is a long-term member and a RTA RoadTrip Advisor and so we are hosting her road trip field reports from a road trip that she is currently on in southern Australia... Enjoy the journey with us!
Over half a century of traveling, we have crisscrossed the State of Victoria, every which way. So today the plan was, to just head to the border, and start enjoying South Australia, a State of which I have not seen a great deal.
But we all know what happens to plans......
I had not gone 50kms and there was the exit to Mt Macedon, and the memories came flooding back. Memories of the 60s and 70s, when with my mother-in-law, we would go visit the spectacular gardens of the grand homes on that great mountain, just north of Melbourne. I reminisced also over the picnics we would have there in some of the beautiful parks. Mt Macedon stands out with a huge cross on the top, visible for miles. We used to walk up to it. We took our children there. But thinking of Mt Macedon, one cannot avoid thinking of Ash Wednesday 1983, the day so many died and so much of the State was dessimated. (At that time the worst ever, 2009 exceeded it threefold.) On that day most of those grand homes were destroyed, as were so many of their gardens.
Also part of the Macedon Ranges is Hanging Rock, the next exit along the Calder (A79). Like Mt Macedon, it is a very popular day trip from the city. Probably best known from the novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and as the location of the film by the same name. However, to me Hanging Rock bears a much different significance. It was where we took the children to experience the Total Eclipse of the Sun. Well away from any source of artificial light, it was an experience they have never forgotten. Cannot remember, nor can I find it on the internet, as to which year it was, but I recall they were all quite young.... so probably 1980 or 81 (??).
And not all that much further on came the exit to Malmsbury, a beautiful little historic town with some magnificent blue stone buildings... and an even grander bluestone railway bridge. We once hiked to the base of it - ye can't drive there - and took ever so many photos. They just don't make them like that anymore.
This was starting to be a nostalgia journey, and that was only the first hour!
The freeway on which I was driving by-passes many of the small towns we used to pass through in those days. So when I got to the exit to Harcourt, I could not help thinking of the fresh, crisp, juicy apples we used to buy at the roadside stall. Harcourt is the heart of apple country in central Victoria, and there is no end to the many apple related products available there. Alas, the road no longer goes through Harcourt, and I was left wondering how the orchadists, who so heavily depended on the passing trade, are faring now.
By the time I got to Bendigo the freeway had long since ended, and it was two lanes the rest of the way, right through the centre of all the small towns.
Around half way to Mildura I came to the areas which had been, and still are, affected by the floods of earlier this year. It was clear that many are not happy with the insurance companies. Large posters were nailed to roadside trees, expressing their feelings.
And then it was Wycheproof! I had never been to Wycheproof before... and was quite surprised. Here, in this relatively small town, the train runs straight down the middle of the main street. This is not a light rail, this is the main trainline for all freight, wheat, etc. I have never seen anything like it. There was no fence, just a strip of grass and plants either side of the single track.
My mechanic had told me what a 'boring' trip the drive to Mildura is. I can't wait to tell him how excited I was by all I saw... grain stored in huge underground bunkers; magnificent eucalypts lining the road; gently undulating farm land as far as the eye could see; and often I was the only vehicle on the road to enjoy this wonderland.
But of course, it did not all go smootly. Before I got to Mildura I realised I had left my map of South Australia - with all my notations on it - at home. Valuable time was lost in Mildura finding the RACV office to purchase another. I had already decided to push on to Renmark, rather than stay in Mildura. However, now that we are approaching the shortest day, the sun had set before I got to Renmark, and I had not booked anything.
Now I know why some get so paranoid about booking things ahead. In this country, when you get outside the capital cities, accommodation is nowhere near as prolific or cheap as it is in the US. Did eventually find an affordable motel, but if I could not have, it would have been quite a way to the next place.