Friday, October 25th, 2019 – Port Germein, SA to Nhill, Victoria
Distance Travelled 611 km ( total now over 10,000 km)
The morning dawned a lot cooler. It was around 16 ° C, which was about twenty degrees less than it had been the previous day. The chilly wind was from the sea and rose steadily, which at least kept the flies away. As we packed and left Port Germein, it almost felt cold.
The next part of what “plan” we had, was to go and visit the mother of our Australian friend who lives in Prague. She lived in a small town in the hills north of Melbourne and we had planned a cross country route that would avoid both the city of Adelaide and much of the big road around the coast. This would, eventually, also take us through a town called Ballarat. I had once read “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”, by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle in which Sherlock Holmes encounters a former highwayman from there. It was another place that I had never expected to have an opportunity to see.
Our interim destination was the small town of Nhill which was in the neighbouring state of Victoria. Away from the main highway, we wound on small roads through kilometre after kilometre of farmland that was not so different from a lot of places in Europe. In fairness, much of it was a beautiful hilly landscape with lots of forests and meadows and, despite the wind, it was quite sunny. It was, of course, on the same vast scale as everything else in Australia and we were regularly treated to vistas in which the fields stretched to the horizon.
There were also some huge vineyards. the neatly cultivated rows of vines were often running beside the road for enormous distances.
The further we got from the coast, the windier it seemed to become and according to weather application was gusting between 45-50 kph. This was not overly pleasant. The picturesque and twisting roads meant a sudden gust could come from almost any direction, which was not nice. There was also a lot of swirling dust which did nothing to enhance our experience.
We encountered a number of railway crossings and, after only seeing one train in three weeks, we saw a large number on the same day. At one crossing, we had to wait ages for a really long train, of almost gold-fields’ length, to trundle slowly past. The trucks though, were of the more normal, commercial transit, shape. Ah, civilisation !
We stopped for coffee and the customary sizeable Australian breakfast in a cutesy little café in some anonymous little town. As we sat there, I think it dawned on us both simultaneously that the real “adventure” part of our great trip was over. We had arrived with a few expectations and these had all been met and exceeded by the stunning landscapes, great people we met along the way and all the unique experiences we had enjoyed during our travels. Getting to Uluru and crossing the Nullarbor had not been just about driving thousands of kilometres. It had been about experiencing something very special with other travellers, sharing impressions and feelings and becoming part of their stories. It had been about all those lonely roadhouses and petrol stations, those small towns and their inhabitants whose lives we had briefly joined and who had, just as briefly, joined ours.
If that sounded a bit philosophical, I guess it is. We can all travel “virtually” now, if the mood takes us, All we need is a computer screen or we can even do it on our telephones. But where would the sheer exhilaration of the view from Uluru come from without the thirst and strength-sapping heat of the climb to get up there ? How memorable would a trek down an endless virtual highway be without the scent of eucalyptus or the occasional stench of a dead kangaroo ? Would a passing, digitally generated, person say “Good on ya’ mate” just because ? And would a trip to a far horizon, made on your computer screen, leave you covered in a thin film of dust ? I think not.
Despite our good intentions, the shortage of genuinely viable alternatives, even to Mapy, eventually drew us back to the Route A8, at Murray Bridge and I was again able to cross the mighty watercourse that had so piqued my interest half a century before.
We had, at least, avoided the business of Adelaide. We spent the afternoon cruising along the A8. It was wide and, like all Australian roads seemed to be, well surfaced. There was not much of note to report. We kept up our alternate stretching and fuelling and stretching routine although the petrol station was no longer a rarity.
We passed through a number of oddly named towns into which category I will place Bordertown, because it was not on the border and then into Victoria. I thought then this was our sixth State, but I later found out we had crossed a corner of Victoria, without noticing, on our second day on the road. A new State, as is the Australian way, meant we immediately “lost” some time, but whether it was half or three-quarters of an hour, I cannot remember. It did not really matter anyway.
We did pass some very cleverly embellished grain silos. They tended, in those parts, to be giant, round, concrete tubes and, assisted by that, the murals had a really great 3D effect. I liked it that someone had taken the time to think it through before putting paint brush to concrete.
It began to look very dark ahead and, as we approached our destination, it began to spit with rain. We came to Nhill and easily located our pleasant little motel, The Zero Inn, which we had chosen because the name amused us. Hardly had we emptied the saddlebags before the heavens opened and it began to rain hard. Phew !
The rain meant that, heartbreakingly, we were unable to visit the Pinball Museum which was only a couple of drenching kilometres farther rain down the road. Instead, we freed ourselves from our mutual melancholy by using the internet to plan the rest of our journey.
In discussions the previous evening and during the day, we had surrendered to reality regarding taking the Harley to Tasmania. We had wasted hours on it by then, probably more than a crossing would have taken. In short, the whole thing seemed to be very complicated, fraught with possible “timing” difficulties and horrendously expensive. The first and last we could cope with, but one thing we could not afford to do was to be stuck in Tasmania at the moment our flight home took off. Eagle-Riders had been very obliging and we had a fairly open-ended deal so that, we could if we wanted to, ride to Tasmania. We now decided to return the Harley on schedule and to fly to and from Hobart. The flights only took about 5 minutes to locate and book and were less than half of the price of the ferry. I thought it unnecessary for Lucie to remind me that flying there had always been her preference, but it was job done !
We went out for dinner to the slightly eclectic Wimmera Bakery. It was one of those “only in Australia” places and looked the best of what we could find open. The choice of foods ranged from bread through buns to a wide range of rice and noodle dishes. All were probably of the “fast-food” categorisation, but a little dash of MSG will not, usually, kill you. The service was swift and efficient, the food was cheap and tasty and it was thronged with people.
Energy and spirits restored, we became blurs of movement.
First we called Sharron, our friend’s mother in Mount Egerton, then only a “mere” 300 kilometres away, to alert her we would be visiting the next day. Then we called Rick, the son of another Prague friend who lived in Sandringham, a suburb of south Melbourne, to remind him we were coming to stay the following evening. Then we searched for a strategically placed hotel in central Melbourne that was handy for everything else we both wanted and needed to do.
Unbelievably we found the perfect hotel in the suburb of Glenferrie. There was a third person in Melbourne that we wanted to visit, our Czech friend, Hana. It was right on the metro line, the Belgrave Line, that went to her house. The same metro line, with a single change, would take us to visit Rick and thus allow me to park the bike and go for a beer. It was also on the same line as the nearest station to Eagle-Riders for taking the Harley back and, lastly, went straight to Southern Cross station, which we would need for the airport for our flights to Tasmania and then back home. What ever did we do before the internet ? No wonder Henry Stanley and Dr Livingstone took so long to find each other !
The hotel even agreed to look after our helmets and motorcycling stuff while we went to Tasmania. Magic !
Completely “planned out” we went to bed, conscious of the rain falling softly outside. We were both still coughing slightly from the dust of South Australia. Clouds of dust looked unlikely to be a problem the following morning.