Wheat fields

Wheat fields
Warracknabeal, Australia

Warracknabeal, Australia


Taking Dave’s advice we took the car out to take in a circular drive to the edge of
Wyperfeld National Park through Beulah, Hopetoun, Rainbow and Jeparit.
I’d never heard of any of the towns, but I enjoy a good stop and drive.

We had lunch in the deserted Hopetoun caravan park. Just us and a thousand blowflies. Jo and Rosa ate in the car. The town was rather desolate in the heat of the day. The shop fronts were old, weathered verandah style that I love best. They look so run down and full of character. They were also, it being Easter, closed. The local lake was also empty, a sign warning water skiiers of the dangers of hidden branches looked about thirty years old.

It took a good hour to drive from Hopetoun to Rainbow, yet all we saw was wheat fields. I can’t even remember passing any cars. It is a very dry, flat land that’d be dispiriting during a drought when all the fields were a monotonous cordouray brown. Rainbow was a little busier, with a secondary school and groups of kids hanging around the milk bar, but its glory days were long gone too.

I was beginning to feel that the Mallee country could indeed invoke Nick Cave’s gothic tales of impending doom, death and melancholy beauty. It reminded me of a quote from an Irish writer who said, in as many words, that in the city a frustrated man will get drunk and rough his wife around, but in the country he’ll come home and strangle his mother.

We left early enough the next day, taking our time on the way home and discovering the best fish & chip shop ever in Ararat, where we also took in the old asylum and jail tour I’ve wanted to do for a while. Rosa was a little spooked, but did well. Suited the theme of the holiday.

The Mallee is a tough country, but I’m glad we went. It is a place few go unless they divert off the Sunraysia Highway to Mildura. I’d have loved to camp in the National Parks there and I have new found respect for the farmers who live and work there.


Easter Parade – no sign of Nick Cave

Easter Parade – no sign of Nick Cave
Warracknabeal, Australia

Warracknabeal, Australia


Singer Nick Cave was born in Warracknabeal. Not that I knew that until we came back, but it puts an interesting spin on things. I didn’t see it as a gothic town. Could it have inspired apocalyptic songs such as “Red Right Hand” or “Tupelo”? Is the town the equivalent to a mist-covered swamp in the American Deep South – a big part of Cave mythologoy. Began the morning by enjoying a good chat with some long-term locals at the caravan park. One older lady explained both her daughters had something like ten children between them. They expected her to provide free babysitting. She endured a few months of it and, obviously discontent with spending Saturday nights around screaming kids, hoinked on a caravan and made a run for it with her hubbie. “I haven’t seen my kids since,” she said. When I asked her how long ago that was (thinking she’d been gone a couple of weeks) she replied, “Almost two years ago!” She’d been in the caravan park a month and was going to stay a couple more. It’s a pretty hot place. It was easily mid-30 and there wasn’t much shade for the caravans. I wouldn’t want to be here in summer. We were disappointed that the hot spell had killed off the Warracknabel Easter Racing carnival. It had been moved down the road to Nhill. Still an hour away. So yet again my efforts to make it to my first racing meet had been dashed. Instead we watched the Easter parade on the Main Street. There was a lot of tractors and, thanks to a local classic car meet, some nice looking jallopies from yesteryear. Rosa was midly disappointed, even with the appearance of a giant sultana and some kids twirling batons. She was expecting a Disney parade, I think. The shops were functional affairs with a couple of art galleries thrown in. Three bedroom houses with air-con sold for $70,000. Not sure if it’d a good investment or not. The hardware store was the busiest place. We decided to have lunch in the bird park beside a sparse river. With the races cancelled and Warracknabeal largely explored by now, the afternoon drifted by rather aimlessly. “It was 40 all last week,” a lady in the tourist office told me when I complained about the heat. “Hottest March for a long time, but is still bitter in the morning.” That night I left the girls alone and went to the local pub for a drink. I got talking to a water construction worker named Dave. He had a shaved head, a few missing teeth and a very, very drunk friend who was celebrating a birthday. Dave was born in the town but moved to NSW for ten years. He was glad to be back. There was the footy, his mates, cheap living (except the petrol), a good house and good beer. I commented on the lack of water, and he told me his drunk mate was from the nearby town of Rainbow. “It’s got a lake that twenty years ago was full of speedboats and bumper to bumper with tourists. Go take a look at it”. I told him I would and left to spend a night with local kids shouting, dogs yaping and galahs dive bombing the campsite as dawn broke. Rosa slept through it all.


Nick Cave and one dog, nearly drowned

Nick Cave and one dog, nearly drowned
Warracknabeal, Australia

Warracknabeal, Australia


Who knew our journey to Victoria’s Mallee district for a couple of nights of camping would have been so eventful? After jamming the station wagon full, Monty the dog had to travel in with Rosa. We stopped off in the small country town of Ballan to have lunch and let Monty run around. He ran – straight into the (closed) town swimming pool! We couldn’t find him for a good half hour, although I thought I could hear his barking. I stood on a mound of debris and noticed two ducks in the pool. He’s a hunting dog and he’d love to get in there, I thought. Then I saw him, paddling to the side of the pool and unable to get out. And I couldn’t get in. The wire fence was high and the padlocked gate was open just enough to let Monty in. Jo, Rosa and two kids we met in the school playground ran over to help. Monty ominously disappeared from view as the kids squeezed through the gate and started yelling. Jo thought Monty was gone and the kid’s frenzied yelling didn’t help. I did the Bionic Man after a boost from Jo and went over the fence, tearing my favourite Element T-shirt in the process. Monty wasn’t at the bottom of the pool, but he wasn’t very happy. We pulled him out and he ran to teary Jo and Rosa as I nearly broke my ankles jumping from the top of the fence. That stupid dog! We gave the kids some snake lollies for helping us out. It took us another hour to recover. We stopped at the Giant Koala to discover it for sale. A good investment property? Not sure. The location was lacking. After a six hour stop-start drive we eventually made it to Warracknabeal, one of the larger townships in the Mallee district – a district, we soon found driving from Horsham to Warracknabeal, that specialised in very flat, dry grain fields. And not much else. I think it’s good to go to parts of your state you’ve never seen. The Mallee is ours. It’s famous for drought, sheep, sun and wheat. I don’t know anyone else who’s been there – apart from those lucky souls who travel to and from Mildura up the Sunraysia Highway. Warracknabeal’s very wide streets were deserted. It was Easter Friday and the place was closed down, even the three large pubs. The caravan park was big enough for a dozen or so caravans and us. It was full of elderly semi-permanent residents who we got to know over the next couple of days. We pitched our tent in the wind and had great difficulty in hammering the pegs into the parched dirt ground. After an exhausting day we didn’t do anymore exploring. Instead we slept through a windy night with dogs yapping and the wind creeping up between the tent and the fly. Rosa fell asleep straight away and didn’t awake once – she loves the camping – even when two possums were fighting at close quarters just outside the tent door.