My Visual Diary 2021: Victorian Mallee Roadtrip - January

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Hello friends,

Like many (most?) of you, we had been 'stuck' at home without holidays since February 2020; we're not flyers, but usually we make many short road trips every year, so it was very odd to have been unable to go anywhere outside our local area in that time. However, my workplace closes down every Christmas-New Year period, and once the farm harvest is taken care of, we usually try to get away for a few days' holiday time.

This year we had planned to head towards the Otways region and parts of the Great Ocean Road, but miserable weather forecasts put us off, so we headed north into the Mallee country instead, to try out our new-to-us old camper. (With hindsight, this was a much better idea, as the GOR and Otways would have been crammed with holidaymakers, and we're still not accustomed to being around many people.)

One of our inspirations for this trip was the recently published coffee table book, The Mallee (https://www.smh.com.au/culture/books/the-mallee-as-you-ve-never-seen-it-20201029-p569rx.html), which journeys through north-west Victoria via the train lines (many of which no longer operate), and alongside the colour photos has chatty text describing the various rural communities, their histories and current status. It is also filled with a lot of brilliant place names, often based on local aboriginal language, including the marvellous-sounding (but in actual fact disappointing, as we discovered) Tittybong.

You can view the full set of images here, with each day given a separate tab, but I'll share the highlights below in separate posts.

https://preciousruthlesscaptures.pixieset.com/jan2021victorianmallee/

This trip I shot only with my little Fujifilm X30 compact, which was a pleasant little travelling companion. I had it set up with a custom film simulation recipe, to give the feeling of Kodak Gold film, which I used throughout (all editing was done in Snapseed app, and some images also converted to black and white).
 
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Initially, we headed up to Lake Albacutya, at the south-east edge of Wyperfeld National Park, which is a vast dry lakebed, but we were longing for a watery place, so headed east towards Hopetoun. I snapped this cute painting of emus on a private residence in the tiny vilage of Yaapeet, just east of the dry lake.
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Lake Lascelles at Hopetoun wasn't dry, but it was clogged with speed boats and families on school holiday, so we pressed on.
 
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The next town east from Hopetoun was Woomelang, and the first thing we saw in this small township on the Sunraysia Highway was this wonderful street art featuring a Major Mitchell cockatoo, and I immediately knew we had found a great place to camp:
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Having just posted recently about field bins at harvest, it seemed a good omen that this town had a collection of painted field bins dotted about - apparently, eight were donated by local farmers, and Melbourne street artists painted them. This was a refreshing change from the huge silo art we all love to see, as this seemed so accessible, and also portable. The other side of the silo depicted a big-eared bat:

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The Cronomby Tanks free camp area is set around a wetland created from the 'tanks' used to supply steam trains, which I mistook for an old quarry, and was our favourite campsite of the three we used during this trip. There were two painted field bins there, and a number of paintings of the local shops set around the wetland.

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The field bin to the right in the panorama had gorgeous emu wrens:

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We absolutely loved using our early-model Trayon camper, which we mounted to a trailer (instead of onto a traytop ute) so we could leave camp if we wanted to. That evening, little gumnuts from the tree we set up beneath gently 'rained' down over the canvas ever so gently.

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Great write up Melanie and beautiful photos.
Those portable silos are brilliant. There's some clever artistic people out there.

I love that rusty old sheep shed in your blog.

You've captured the essence of the rural lifestyles we enjoy.

Keep them coming
 

John King

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John ...
Nice ones, Melanie. Looked through them all on your web site.

As for the trailer, I completely agree. I designed mine to go anywhere my Forester could take it. Unfortunately, since I finished it, my lumbar facet joints packed it in (see 'lumbar facet syndrome'), so it's never even gone on a maiden run. I can't rely on being able to put it up, or pack it up!
 
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Great write up Melanie and beautiful photos.
Those portable silos are brilliant. There's some clever artistic people out there.

I love that rusty old sheep shed in your blog.

You've captured the essence of the rural lifestyles we enjoy.

Keep them coming
Thanks Richard, I've got plenty more to add, although you've probably already seem then all by now 😉

Nice ones, Melanie. Looked through them all on your web site.

As for the trailer, I completely agree. I designed mine to go anywhere my Forester could take it. Unfortunately, since I finished it, my lumbar facet joints packed it in (see 'lumbar facet syndrome'), so it's never even gone on a maiden run. I can't rely on being able to put it up, or pack it up!
Thanks John! How frustrating for you to have not had the chance to use your camper, and even worse to live with that pain. I would not be able to handle our camper solo, though maybe I could once we replace the tired gas struts; it makes me a little uncomfortable to think it might ever fall to me to pack up if my partner became incapacitated.
 

John King

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There's usually some kindly passing stranger, mate. However, I certainly could not rely on that sort of assistance for a 4-6 week expedition!

Mine doesn't have gas struts, except on the main trailer lid, and the lid of the front aluminium tool box that must weigh all of about a kilo!

Still, as my SWMBO says, I did have a lot of fun re-designing and re-building it. I really should sell it, and just resign myself to staying in flea pit motels.
 
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This shearing shed was built using flattened kerosene tins during shortages in WWII. The field bin stands beside it, at the southern entrance to town on the highway (which is just a country road, and we didn't hear any traffic noise from it from our nearby camp).

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We found a fourth painted field bin at the disused Woomelang Railway Station:

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We can't go past a retro garage or industrial buildings without having more of a look:

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Same thing with residential architecture:

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Melanie those old flattened-tin sheds etc are priceless
We have some here and all of same era, reason for use.
There's also one near here of flattened bitumen drums from the war.
Anyway, enough of my prattle. It's your thread and its an awesome one IMO ☺

I hope that old railway station isn't trashed - demolished
 
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Down at the recreation park (sports ground) we found a couple more:

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(Note my patient bloke sitting on his ute: always happy to let me take my time with the photos, never rushes me.)
 
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Melanie those old flattened-tin sheds etc are priceless
We have some here and all of same era, reason for use.
There's also one near here of flattened bitumen drums from the war.
Anyway, enough of my prattle. It's your thread and its an awesome one IMO ☺

I hope that old railway station isn't trashed - demolished
I read that part of the railway station is heritage listed, so there's hope that it will remain standing. Maybe we need a thread for shearing sheds - or is there one already?
 
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DAY 2: WOOMELANG - SEA LAKE - CHARLTON

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Sea Lake is to the north-east of Woomelang, and is famous now for Lake Tyrrell, which draws tourists from faraway lands. This ephemeral salt-water lake is vast (Victoria's largest salt lake, over 20,000 hectares), hence the name of its nearest township. There wasn't any water at the site we visited, but it was interesting to see the infrastructure for the new tourist attraction.
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Covid restrictions seemed to have got the better of some local's patience, as evidenced by this display in a Sea Lake main street (endearingly named 'Best Street') shop front:

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In Donald, far to the south of Sea Lake, we visited the old-fashioned butcher shop, where I had a crack at some candid photos of the man serving, and the butcher out beyond:

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...and bought some exceptional porterhouse steaks for our tea:

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...followed up with some street photos of interesting-looking young folks:

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...and a good-looking civic building:

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We made it to Charlton for the night, and wandered around the streets before tea time. A decade ago, the town was inundated by floodwaters from the Avoca River, alongside which we camped at the caravan park, the whole of which would have been under water at that time:

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I prefer a well-stocked public library over a street-side mini-library, like this one, but I do like the spirit of generosity of this kind of thing:

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Some pretty nice street art at the RSL:

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Charlton's handsome Art Deco era Rex Theatre was rescued, renovated, and run by volunteers following the 2011 flooding, which went right through it. It was closed during this visit, but on our last visit several years ago we did get to experience the big screen from its vintage seats.

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Thanks for your interest... To be continued tomorrow.
 

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