December 10, 2016

Exploring the Mallee

We decided to take a quick trip before the Christmas season got on its way.
After leaving home under grey sky and drizzle, we drove 220Km north to blue skies and sunshine back to a favourite spot at Melville Caves. Didn't take long to break out the nibbles and drinks! This is what camping is all about. 

Had a pleasant day exploring Melville caves and ended our day with a roast chicken dinner. The area offering magnificent views and huge granite boulders,  was once used as a hideout for the bush ranger 'Captain Melville'. It is in the Kooyoora State Park and there is a rich variety of plants and animals as well as some lovely walks to numerous lookouts. There is a great picnic area as well as a free camping.

The next morning we stopped at Hard Hill Historical Reserve in Wedderburn. The landscape may be a bit scrubby but to those who have gold fever it forever beautiful. The mines of yesteryear may have been refilled but that doesn't deter today's prospectors.  We parked in the free RV area and chatted to some campers who have been trying their luck to strike it rich. We met Bob with his cockatoo,  Laurie and he explained to us how they extract eucalyptus oil. You just got to love these country towns ... so  much character. 

 We made our way further North to Boort which has a lovely lake and the 'spanner man', who makes sculptures out of (you guessed it) spanners!  There was some of his works proudly displayed in the main street.

It was getting close to lunchtime so we didn't linger too long and continued on towards Kerang. On our approach we spotted a camper next to Lake Meran so we decided to take a look. Liking what we saw we quickly got a nice posy in the shade with water front views.  We went for a bit of a walk around the lake but was cut short due to a flooded track. So we had a quiet afternoon with the temperature hitting 34°c

We had another day of exploring, starting with a stop in Kerang to do some shopping, fill up with fuel and have a pie at the bakery.

We drove through Lake Charm and then parked on the shore of Lake Boga.  After a cuppa we read about the local history, in particular about the Catalina sea planes.

 Then it was off to Swan Hill. The Murray Cod season is just about to start. Having been here before, we just got some information from the tourist office and continued on to find our spot for tonight along the Murray River at the Nyah Harness track. 

 Along the way we passed the first Rice plantation in Australia back in the early 1900 ' s. As well as a few vinyards as it is the second largest wine area in Victoria. On our walk around town we found out that the first brick veneer house in Australia was also built near here. After the WWI the ex service men were given plots to grow grapes and stone fruit, many of which were dried. This industry still continues to this day. It's a harsh country, after working hard to clear the land they had to suffer through droughts and floods. (Even recently there was 10 years of drought 2000-2010 then massive floods in 2011).

River bollards found from Swan Hill to Robinvale.

A very wide street in rural Australia. The smaller the town the wider the roads.

After a very peaceful night and no red gum limbs falling, we awoke to another lovely day. After a coffee we walked to Nyah bridge which operates a couple of times of day, allowing the river boats to pass up or down the river.

 We decided to continue up north towards Robinvale.  50km before we got there we veered off the the highway to Passage Camp where Major Mitchell set up camp. A bit further along this track is where Australia's 2 largest rivers: the Murray and the Murrumbidgee meet. Unfortunately, due to the flooded water levels, the track was closed. The bonus of the rainfall in their area has resulted in bumper crop yields after a drought period.   Along the way we passed many fields of almonds. This has become a major export crop. We managed to buy some local produce at the information office but we're told that it is very difficult as they prefer to export the produce.

. Robinvale has a french connection with Villers-Bretonneux due to Robin Cuttle (who Robinvale was named after) who was shot down and killed in WWI. The very prominent families homestead can still be visited. After stopping for a cuppa and a chat with some locals about their current experiences of the raised water levels ( the owners of the caravan park that is still under water and an Asian man, orginally from Melbourne, who cannot go fishing as the waters are too churned up).

 we went to look at the Euston Weir and lock. Its purpose it to maintain the weir pool about the 47.6m above sea level for irrigation and recreation. It also monitors fishermen's levels of perch, Murray Cod and carp. We were told that the Murray River had just peaked in Mildura and that campsites on the river were closed. So we decided to head back south.

Recently Sea Lake and Lake Tyrrell have become very popular due to Its unique landscape and It is Victoria's largest salt lake. It is located in the states wheat belt and the lake produces 100,000 tonnes of salt annually.

The salt mine on the otherside.

 From here we continued to a quiet little township of Woomelang, offering travellers a couple of free stops, one of which included a hot shower.

The following day we drove 1/2 hour down the road to Hopetoun and found a great spot on the shore of Lake Lascelles named after the Father of the Mallee.

We walked into town and had a look at Corrong Homestead believed to be the oldest original house in the region.

We had a relaxing day and did a couple of laps around the lake, watching the bird life.

Unique sleeping cabins.

The area with electricity hook up for a reasonable price.

The next day we made our way South passing through small country towns of Beulah,  Rupanyup and Warracknabeal. In Brim and Sheep Hills we had a look at the famous painted silos.

. Then in Murtoa we went to see the stick shed built in 1941 as a grain storage facility constructed from 560 unmilled poles. The length being the equivalent of 5 Olympic pools.  Unfortunately it is not currently open to the public. 

Then it was time to do some serious driving home through lots of wheat fields being harvested.  One block  was like the stone henge of the outback.