Day 43: Kerang to Lascelles
This morning we head off to Lascelles via Swan Hill, Mallee country where gypsum deposits are plentiful. The area between Kerang and Swan Hill is one of 5 main production areas. Crystalline gypsum services cement production and the agriculture sector for conditioning their soil. Their are many mounds of pure white gypsum along the highway.
We find a park by the river at Swan Hill and take a walk along the boardwalk where the magnificent paddle steamer Gem is docked. Gem was launched in Moama in 1876 and carried freight and passengers in the lower reach of the Murray. Gem also served Swan Hill as an art gallery and floating restaurant, however in 1963 it was floated in it’s own pool within the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement.
Wandering around we come across Spoons Riverside, a lovely restaurant overlooking the river with a large deck at both the front and rear of the building. We decide that morning tea is in order. The front deck is dog friendly so we take our place at a table and are served by a lovely young waiter who brings 2 water bottles. One for us and one for Cinta. We order cappuccinos and scones. The presentation is impressive, rectangular slate plates with one scone each and the butter is cut into triangles, there are strawberry segments and the whole plate is lightly dusted with icing sugar. Our mouths are watering – they did not disappoint!
Across the road is the Swan Hill Art Gallery and to my disappointment it’s closed on Monday’s. Outside is a quirky mosaic adorning the lush grassed lawns. The Farmer was created by Deborah Halpern and is made from steel, concrete and glazed ceramic tiles. Don’t miss it if you are visiting Swan Hill.
We arrive at Lascelles and head to the pub to check into a site. With a population of 48 (when everyone is in town; so the locals tell us) the pub is also the local shop & post office. It’s $10 for the night & the sites have lush green grass, power & water. The amenities block has been painted with a lovely outback mural scene. There are 6 sites and parked in the first bay is a very large caravan & some work trucks. The guys are currently line marking 30km of the road to the north. There is a drive through site, however, we decide to try our luck at reversing. Andrew does very well and we are on the site and set up in no time.
Across the road is the silo art. The artwork was painted by Rone, a Melbourne based artist depicting local farming couple Geoff and Merrilyn Horman, 4th generation farmers of the area. The artwork is painted in the existing raw concrete tones so that it would integrate sensitively into the environment. We feel he has really captured the essence of Lascelles.
A short walk from the silo is the Drovers Hut Gallery. There are corrugated iron artworks throughout the whole property. We meet the owners Phil and Marlene Rigg, who explain that dogs are not allowed as they have baits throughout their garden. This is because the district has experienced mice plagues that come on suddenly. The artworks are truely expressive of the artist, very quirky sculptures and rural inspired paintings. Paul also has a sense of humour with sayings painted on artworks all through the garden. Entry fee is $5 enabling you to wander the gardens and view the gallery, it’s definitely worth the visit. Marlene is a craftswoman and has knitted toys, quilts and handmade golliwogs on display for sale. There was also a hand made clown, it reminded me of the clowns that my grandmother made for us when we were young children.
We head back to the silo at sunset to sit and take in the beautiful artwork and of course the sunset.
Wildlife: Hawks, crows, horses, flies, cockatoos, galahs.
Day 44: Lascelles to Hopetoun
This week there’s a heatwave coming through so we are going to be experiencing high 30’s for the week. With little relief overnight.
Andrew has passed a comment that I have only driven 1% of the trip so far and we have now travelled over 5,000km. Feeling a little guilty I offer to do the driving today as we are only travelling less than 100km. The road is narrow and the shoulders are gravel and next thing a semi is overtaking me. Crikey, what am I in for today of all days!
Arriving at Patchewollock there are 2 caravans ahead of us entering the silo area and 2 coming out. Caravans are definitely on the move and the silo art trail is bringing visitors to the small townships. While we are viewing the artwork another 3 caravans turn up! That’s the most traffic we have seen at a silo since starting our trip.
Painted by Brisbane based street artist Fintan Magee, the silo depicts local sheep & grain farmer Nick Hulland, known to his mates as Noodle. There must be a good story behind that nickname. He was chosen because he was slim enough to fit on the silos and he had that classic farmer look embodying the locals spirit. The mural also depicts a tree dying and new growth to represent the bush life cycle. Mr Magee said “the silos project was about making art more accessible; bringing art out of the galleries and making it part of people’s everyday lives”.
There are also two large corrugated iron Mallee Fowls on the same side as the silos on the approach into Patchewollock. Don’t forget to look out for them if you are passing through. They were created by Phil Rigg from Lascelles.
We arrive at Hopetoun and find Lake Lascelles, it is so picturesque, we are looking forward to spending 3 nights here.
Wildlife: Ducks, turtle, crows, magpies, crimson rosella, cows, sheep, rabbits, cranes, pigeons, pee wees, minor birds.
Day 45 – 46: Hopetoun
The wind picked up overnight. You would think that we would have learnt by now that if it is getting really windy before we are ready to call it a night that we would take the awning in. It’s late and neither of us had been sleeping well with the wind howling outside, so we get up and take the awning in, in the dark of night.
Waking up and the temperature is rising. We are expecting 36 degrees today. Hopetoun is a small community of just over 700 people in the Yarriambiack Shire and serves as the major service centre for the Southern Mallee. Lake Lascelles is maintained by the local Lions Club. Free camping is allowed for up to 30 days, shower and toilet amenities, bbq’s and picnic tables are provided in two locations around the lake and donations are welcomed. There is also a couple of powered sites near the bush retreat.
The area is utilised by the locals, we see them walking both morning and night. Andrew chats to one young guy who’s walking a “jug”; not something you’ll find in a pub! It’s a jack russell crossed with a pug – very cute!
We are heading out on our walk and looking across the lake we see some action taking place. A car, esky, plenty of blokes and a drone. It made my drone look like a baby. We are curious as to what is going on. We stop and chat with the locals. They are about to turn the wheel and open the valve to start filling the new man made Lake. Once filled and settled, they will release fingerlings and this lake will be a new fishing destination for local anglers.
I decide to get my drone out for a flight overlooking the lake. I’m about 4 feet in the air and a warning comes up that I am in a restricted flight zone. The Hopetoun airport is nearby. Immediately I bring it back down to the ground. The guys filling the lake obviously had a commercial licence to fly in the area.
It’s shopping day and a visit to the local IGA store is planned followed by coffee. It’s a small store and everyone is really friendly. The aisles are narrow and I find myself running into a local in every lane. Mind you there is only 4 lanes and the shop consists of two small rooms. I have a small trolley and while I’m fidgeting in my handbag for my shopping list the trolley takes off. The floors are timber and not very level! I chuckle to myself and carry on. To my surprise I manage to get everything on the list and a lot of product is actually on special. Next up is coffee at the butcher shop. Yes the coffee shop is located inside the butcher shop. Apparently the coffee shop was closing down so the butcher extended through to the coffee shop. It’s a great cappucino and a melting moment. Have I mentioned before that we love doing morning tea? I’m sure I did several times…
The flies are driving us crazy today, it’s 39 degrees and they are out in full force. Out comes the fly nets. We might look stupid, but they certainly do the trick. The flies down here actually bite, they are very annoying.
There hasn’t been any cloud cover over the lake since we arrived and sunsets have been a brilliant burnt orange. Cloud cover is building up this afternoon and I’m getting very excited as that means there could be some spectacular photographic opportunities coming up. It didn’t disappoint, so the alarm is set for sunrise in the morning for our last day at the Lake. I’m in photographic heaven.
Wildlife: Hawk, crimson rosellas, pigeons, ducks, crane, rabbits, minor birds, pee wees, magpies.
Day 47 – 48: Brim
With an expected high of 39 degrees, Andrew has found a low cost camp at Brim. It’s a big drive today…. 42km. Roseberry is the next silo today, if you blink you will miss it. The silo was painted by Melbourne based artist Kaff-eine and she has an amazing story. Kaff-eine was a former lawyer and had a government policy career, she quit her job, sold her house and turned to street art full time in 2012. The artwork depicts the regions past, present and future. The female sheep farmer captures the grit and tenacity of young female farmers. The contemporary horseman is relaxed, showing genuine mutual trust, love and connection.
Arriving at Brim, there stands 4 painted silos. Guido Van Helten is the artist. His work celebrates everyday characters in forgotten places. The works were completed in 2016 with limited financial resources. The murals depict a quartet of anonymous multi-generational female and male farmers expressing resilience and strength of the local farming community. If you are visiting Brim, make sure that you stay overnight and view the silos at dusk when they come alive under solar powered lighting. These works are my favourite monochromatic works so far.
We are staying at Redda Park which is run by the local Lions Club for the next two nights. There are a few powered sites, we are lucky enough to have one. It’s $10 per night and there is a lush grassed area with bbq’s and picnic tables, a playground for the kids, boat ramp, shower and toilet amenities. We can’t park right beside the weir, however, it is only a 50 metre walk to the water. Cinta is really enjoying being able to cool off in the weir.
There is a bushwalk around the weir so we head off early on our walk before the heat sets in again for the day. Cinta bawks at the grid across the weir. Andrew ends up carrying her across – what a sook.
Brim has a population of 261 and is home to the million dollar bale of fine wool. The local school and pub are both closed. The general store acts as the cafe and post office. There is little to do here, so we enjoy some quiet time by the weir and the hottest part of the day is spent in the van in the air-conditioning. Mobile phone reception and internet is very patchy here, so it’s a device-free day.
Wildlife: Ducks, eagle, galahs, cockatoos.
Day 49: Brim to Warracknabeal
Today’s journey is 21km. I’m chasing mobile phone and internet reception as there is work to be done so we decide that we’ll stop at Warracknabeal at a caravan park. It’s a cooler day at 33 degrees, however, it is still quite warm doing the set up. The park is by the Yarriambiack Creek and several sites back onto the creek. We decide to take a drive through site as there are a lot of trees along the creek banks and we are wary of fallen limbs.
Later in the afternoon we take a drive into town and as it is Sunday, everything is closed. I’ve checked Wikicamps and there is a Flora and Fauna park which is not far from the park so we head down there for a wander. The park was created and is maintained by the local Lions Club. Situated on a picturesque bend of the creek, surrounded by magnificent gums, providing free electric BBQ facilities, picnic tables, a children’s adventure playground and a collection of native birds and animals including kangaroos and emus in a large natural compound adjacent to the creek. It’s a credit to the club to keep it going.
We haven’t had a take-away dinner in a couple of weeks and one of the caravanners told us about the best fish n chips they have had in a long time. We decide that we should try them too. The place is called Jim’s, he’s Chinese and they sell pretty much everything take-away that you can think of. The barramundi was not fresh, it came pre-packaged and frozen, but it was pretty good and the chips were the best chips I think I have ever had.
We decide on an early night tonight as we’ve got another big travel day tomorrow, 52kms…
Wildlife: Possum, emus, peacocks, parrots, crimson rosellas, kangaroos, cockatoos, galahs, budgerigars, guinea pigs, peach faces, cockatiels.
Week 7 total expenses: $394.75 – extremely happy with this week, that’s our cheapest week since we left home. We’ve stayed a few days at a couple of places and there has been more free camping and low cost camping this week, which means less fuel too.
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That’s a wrap for Week 7 of the Lap of the Map.
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