TUESDAY 21 APRIL HOME TO BENDIGO 225kms
I had been so looking forward to this day – ever since 30 September 2007, which was the day we arrived home from our last extended trip.
We were better organized this time, more so than any of the previous times I could remember. Probably because we were not going hard on the heels of the end of the bowls season – John had time to get his head into trip mode! Our house sitters arrived yesterday, and slotted back into the place like they had never been away.
There were only the normal few last minute bits of packing to do – things like our pills, all the electronic gear which I did not like to leave out front in van or Truck overnight.
John went out to the van to take some of his oddments there, and came back saying some things which I would not put into print here! Suffice to say that he was distinctly unhappy. Murphy’s Law – a neighbour had parked his caravan out in the street, in order to avoid some tree lopping work he was having done – but he parked it right where we needed to swing out and around when we had the van on the back. It was a narrow, dead-end street, and said neighbour had long left for work.
After much swearing, head scratching, advice from other neighbours, it seemed the only option was to turn the wrong way upon exiting our drive – away from the offending obstacle – and perform a multi-point turn in someone else’s driveway. Not easy, either, as the only one with enough space was on the downhill side of the road. But, after that fraught start, we were away, at last.
Today’s target was only Bendigo – the customary first night when we were travelling north or west. Extra special on this occasion because it was daughter’s birthday. We would park in daughter’s driveway and spend the customary first trip night saying adieu to 6 year old grandson. He would then know that he won’t see us again for months, but that the postcards and letters would begin arriving regularly, from places he would need to find on his map. He had started school this year and was, reportedly, enjoying it.
We took the usual route north and west: via Lilydale, Yea, Seymour, Tooborac, Heathcote. This avoids the city traffic, and is normally a varied, pleasant drive, over the Great Divide – at a reasonable gradient – and then along the Goulburn River valley. After Seymour the country changes to low, rolling hills and a mix of drier bushland and grazing country. In these drought times, very much drier!
However, this was the first time we had been this way since the February bushfires, and the devastation was truly sobering. Beyond Dixons Creek, where the fire front came through from Kinglake, its intensity was shown by the total lack of any ground timber or litter. There were just black, skeleton-like standing trunks and what looked like fine grey ash on the ground. It used to be green, lush, forest, lots of ferns, undergrowth, hollow fallen logs. One could not see very far into it from the road then. Now, the shape of the land was totally visible.
It was a little encouraging to see some revegetation starting, with some trees shooting green and golden brown leaves, and green shoots from the occasional tree fern trunk. However, it would take a long time to again build up the fallen logs and forest floor debris that would shelter small wildlife.
Over the crest of the Range, the fire seemed to have been less intense. Still, we wondered how some of the houses tucked into pockets of forest, survived.
In a burnt section, there is a wombat dead on the road, killed by a vehicle. The poor creature survived the fires, but…….
Despite being well away from forest, the Glenburn Hotel had gone; ember attack, apparently.
Work on the controversial pipeline, intended to bring water from the Goulburn River, north of the Divide, to Melbourne, in drought times, had resumed after the fires, and we were slowed by works a few times.
Lunch stop at the rest area in Yea, by the old railway station. I’d packed sandwiches for us before leaving home. We walked around to stretch legs, ate, had a quick coffee from the travelling thermos.
After that, it was an uneventful run to Bendigo. More by luck than intent, managed to time the Bendigo section for just before school traffic time. I usually direct us to avoid the town centre and deviate from the main road, taking a fairly direct route across to Golden Square, via suburban streets. But there are quite a few school crossings, so it was good to be early.
At daughter’s, we backed down the slope that is their driveway, intending to stay hitched-up for our one night stay. But up trotted Murphy again….. John was definitely not happy with the Truck brakes. They would not properly hold the rig on the driveway and I had to hurry and get bricks to put behind the van wheels.
We’d had the brake vacuum pump replaced twice in the past month, the most recent five days ago. When we set off this morning, John was thinking (hoping?) the brakes would “wear in”. They hadn’t.
A phone call was made to the mechanic and arrangements made for Truck and John to return to Melbourne tomorrow. I suspected that the gloss was well and truly wearing off the new mechanic, as far as John was concerned!
We put chocks and brick stacks behind the van wheels, and unhitched the van. I refused, at this point, to dwell on past dramas with the Treg hitch on sloping ground. Would worry about that whenever Truck was fit to go again.
I could be having quite an extended stay here – which prospect pleased daughter and grandson. The latter currently “luffs” us very much – Grandad John won a big Easter raffle, so we had arrived bearing many sinful goodies.
We celebrated daughter’s birthday with takeaway Chinese and an early night.
After this start, surely things would improve – wouldn’t they? And Murphy would stay away – wouldn’t he?