Tonight, I’m in Mildura in the far north-west of Victoria. I’m with three other friends travelling to the Flinders Ranges in outback South Australia. Mildura is a city of about 60,000 people and situated on the Murray River,. It has a long history of irrigation and is famous for its oranges, dried fruits, grapes and wine.
We left home this morning and travelled up the Calder Highway through Bendigo and some quaint little settlements such as Patchewoilock, Birchip, Waipeup and Curyo. At one stage, we passed through the little town of Speed. I remember being there once before as a boy as it had a sign at the edge of town saying ‘SPEED – PLEASE SLOW DOWN.
We stopped in the old gold mining town of Wedderburn for lunch and then continued further north. During the afternoon, we were passing vast fields planted with young crops of wheat and canola. Both these crops were emerald green after some good rains and they looked vibrant against the blue sky. Every town has one or two tall silos along the railway line for storing grain.
At a town named Lascelles, we came across one of the painted silos that form a new art-trail that extends across the district. Some of the entrepreneurial towns in the Wimmera region of the state have painted their grain silos with murals. They actually don’t have much else to draw tourists into their locality so adding art to these structures has created interest and a good deal of excitement. The one at Lascelles is newly painted and is at the far eastern end of the silo art-trail.
It was a bit out of our way, but we decided to visit the Pink Lakes in the Murray Sunshine National Park to the west of the town of Ouyen. These lakes are turned pink due to the presence of an Algae, especially in winter. When the sun shines on them, you can see how the salty water is a bright pink colour.
Lake Crosby was once mined for salt and some old equipment at the side of the lake shows how this was done. As we drove to the lakes we could see a band of thunder clouds moving in from the west, and sure enough, it began to rain just as we reached the lake shore. Fortunately, the storm cells passed quckly and we could explore the lakes’ edge and view the colours against the bright sunlight.
It was 4.30 pm as we left the lakes on our final stretch into Mildura. This was the time that wildlife started to appear and sure enough, we passed a mob of kangaroos grazing by the side of the road. Later, we had one hop across the highway right in front of us and luckily, we missed it by about 30 metres, otherwise we might have had some severe damage to our car. That caused us to drip our speed and drive a little more cautiously. It meant that we didn’t reach our hotel until just after dark.