We head up to the lookout above the town. Mum and I are both playing with new cameras - compact super zoom with HD video and I'm keen to hop out and give mine a bit of a spin. It's still blowing a gale and it is bitterly cold even with my windproof jacket on. Ah, it is so good to hop back in the nice toasty warm car!! The lack of proficiency with the new camera makes for some inadvertent video content along with the spectacular views all around and we have a laugh before we move on.Our next stop is the Crisp Gallery outside Yass where they have some excellent scrap iron sculptures of Australian animals, spiders and scorpions. I have a rare fit of self control and resist, but I'm thinking they'd look great in the garden! I do succumb to the temptation of a couple of nifty puzzles. One is a puzzle that forms a very realistic christmas beetle and the other a lobster. $55 each I'm thinking they might make good gifts.. if I can bear to part with them!
Straight through to Wagga Wagga were we have a quick look at the National Art Glass collection. One of the long term supporters of the gallery has some of her glass on display. The glass weedy sea dragon is popular among us, and of course Rish Gordon's leopard bowl is gorgeous. We depart after leaving a donation in the box.
Each of us has identified forgotten items so we make a stop at the local woollies and note that it's only 9 degrees C even in the early afternoon.... no wonder we're so cold!
Barrelling merrily along the Sturt Highway heading west, it is all too soon before we start getting the signs featuring large and menacing fruit fly and warning travellers to get rid of any fruit on board before reaching the exclusion zone. We groan and laugh. I've just bought some bananas in Wagga for brekkie tomorrow. We've had lunch but the fruit binge begins.. daughter laughs.. "I told you not to bring those tomatoes!" We think of Charlie and Boots and force down more fruit, but in the end quite a lot goes in the composting pit!
Our destination for tonight is Hay and as we drive across the plain we stop several times for photos. I am very pleased that my ocean loving daughter is finding the plain very interesting and different to any scenery she has experienced before. We stop at some nice roadside areas to snap some photos of the plain and the saltbush. Here on the Hay Plain - the second flattest space on earth after the Sahara Desert - the sky dominates. Today in the late afternoon the descending sun sends sunbeams through the clouds across the plain making a spectacular light show. We are mesmerised and stop several more times for photos. What a great start to our trip!!
Arriving in Hay as the sun is setting we are in the midst of playing for grandma a song that daughter is planning to use in her wedding. While we wait for the song to finish we explore the streets and end up down at Madman's Bend where we take some sunset photos. The river is low but lovely and tree lined. It's great to be back in Hay!!
It's getting colder and we think we've pretty much exhausted our photo opportunities so we go and check in at the (4 Star) Saltbush Motor Inn. The newest of Hay's numerous accommodation options. In reception there's photos of all sorts of celebrities who've stayed - Paul Hogan stayed in room 5 in November 2008 while in town filming Charlie and Boots.. I look around.. Jimmy Barnes and lots of signed sporting memorabilia.. I'm almost bowled over by the powerful blast of eucayptus.. "oh dear, I hope the room isn't like this.. Mum won't be able to get in the door!" As I hop into the car I tell the others about the smell and they say "we know we can smell it on you!" We drive in to park the car and there's a fair number of beautiful Harleys and bikers congregated in the car park. A couple of nice blokes offer to help us with our luggage and we gladly accept their gentlemanly assistance.
We enter the room with trepidation.. sigh of relief to find no eucalyptus smell. This, a family room has a comfortable queen bed and two singles and is very nice. Just what you would expect for 4 star. Free Wifi - so daughter can do some uni work during the evening. They even have cables if your laptop isn't equipped for wireless and you've forgotten your own. If you don't have a laptop you can use the internet kiosk at reception. Excellent. Reading through the info folder they seem to have thought of everything. The room has a full sized kitchen sink, kettle, toaster, crockery, washing up liquid. Microwave available from reception. Great for picnic set maintenance. They also have a bbq and a guest laundry with washing powder supplied. My only complaint is that the freezer on the fridge is too small for my 2 litre milk bottle ice blocks. Only big enough for an ice tray or not much more. Frustrating... breakfast service is reasonably priced and daughter opts for some eggs for tomorrow.
We set off directly after brekkie. Fill up the car at the local servo and move once more out onto the Hay plain. More saltbush visible along this route and we stop for photos and play with the settings on the camera for some macro zoom photos of some pretty flowers on the patterson's curse at the rest stop. Barrelling along the highway my companions are soon treated to my cry "EMU!!!......... AND CHICKS!!!" daughter stops as quickly as can be managed safely and we turn the car around and carefully head back on the hunt for our target birdy family all the while to the accompaniment of mutual exclamations of "good spotting" and other excited remarks. Daughter is in the best position in the car for the task so she get's the job of videoing the Emus. Unreal!! this is a first for us all, we haven't seen wild emu chicks before. SO COOL!!
8 kms before Balranald, we see signs directing to Yanga National Park. It's timely as I have been wondering as we drive across the plain whether there is any saltbush plain preserved as it would be in it's natural (ungrazed or cleared) state. We were heading in for a rest stop anyway so we decide to have a look at the Yanga Homestead. Yanga Station operated on the shores of the nearby lake until 2005 at which time it was purchased by the NSW government for its "natural and cultural heritage values". From the park brochure: "Yanga forms part of the Lower Murrumbidgee Floodplain, it includes 160 kms of Murrumbidgee River frontage, wetlands, lakes and breeding grounds for waterbirds. This iconic property includes approximately 76,000 hectares of River Red Gum forest, Black Box - Nitre Goosefoot swamp, Belah-Rosewood woodlands, native grassland and saltbush plains. Yanga has a rich history as a working pastoral, cropping and irrigation property for over 160 years. It has important Aboriginal and historic heritage values such as scar trees, ovens, middens and other artifacts, and historic buildings."
As we enter park we soon come to some large saltbush shrubs with small birds zitting and flitting but we aren't able to identify them before our patience runs out. Some yellow rumped thornbills are feeding on the ground and flitting in and out of some small mallee trees. I wander up the embankment to an old grave. It has one of the loveliest inscriptions I've ever seen. "In Memory of Alfred Morris Parker who was drowned in Yangar Creek on 17 October 1860. He was a fine promising young man and died universally loved and regretted by all who knew him. May he rest in peace and awake to a joyful resurrection." Looking out across the dry plain it seems odd that this young man drowned in the local creek. Southern whiteface are perched on the wooden barrier around some shrub or other and some modest houses are visible across the hump of the hill.
We drive on to the homestead and park, mum jumps on the nebuliser, and we spend half an hour or so wandering about the exhibition and the exterior of the homestead and it's garden. The first item on exhibit as you enter the homestead compound is an old corrugated iron canoe. Later we walk across to the old storehouse and look out across the - currently dry- lake. Almost impossible to imagine that the dry lake bed with vehicle tracks across it used to be usually under water. I particularly enjoy the marks on the wall of the exhibition noting the height of various floods across the years. There's been no floods for many decades now, since they built Burinjuck Dam in the 1928 and Blowering Dam in 1968. The water has to rise over 6 1/2 metres to break the river bank, but in such flat country only a small amount more than that creates a major flood. What a day it would be to wake up and find that Yanga Lake was full again and the plains having a thorough soaking. It's only been dry once in living memory before 2001. One of the park brochures shows the wetland when water is available.. it looks idyllic...
Another highlight of the exhibition is a series of edited home movies taken on Yanga over the years, from early to mid last century, and also some more recent interviews of people from Yanga Station.
We've not allowed time for much sightseeing, so although we could happily spend more time in Yanga National Park (and State Conservation Area) we must press on to make Mildura in time for lunch.
As we drive through Mildura the weeping bottlebrush trees are making a brilliant red spectacle. Native frangipani also common and smothered in flowers. It makes up a little for the horribly tortured avenue of gums along Deakin Street. Why have a beautiful avenue of trees if you're going to butcher them like that?
A late lunch at Stefano's Cafe and Bakery. Delicious bread and oil.. pasta for me, chicken salad for daughter and a steak for mum... we realise that I've come without all sorts of things.. no map, no itinerary with all the relevant contact nos on it. Thank goodness for daughter's Iphone. An email or two and the itinerary can (theoretically) be sent through by those at home.. we stop at the local shopping centre once more to buy a SA road atlas and Adelaide street directory.. and pick up some more forgotten items... lord we're a pathetic bunch of holiday packers this trip!! We're loving the scenery and I can't resist trying to capture the beauty of the landscape behind the beautiful swaying grasses.
Off we go to the Vic /SA border. We pull up at the border inspection point. Sure enough, the inspect our boot, ask for our esky and any fruit etc - naturally we've already binned our contraband and have no other plant material on board. You can't take any plant material at all into SA. Someone has cannily positioned a fuel outlet right at the border stop, so we do the predictable and fill up before setting off.
Given that we will be exploring multiple routes between Waikerie and Adelaide over the next few days we decide to take the opportunity for a different route this time and cross the Murray again at Barmera to head along the northern side of the river to Morgan. On the road to Morgan we see our first ever Emu road kill and stop to check we aren't imagining things. Have a look at those feet. Emu can fight quite effectively with them when they have a mind to and can kill a person if they are pressed. Morgan is a sweet little town on the river with the typical South Australian stone buildings. Quaint. Lots of potential.
From Morgan to Eudunda and on to Kapunda - though we don't have time to check out the Sidney Kidman sights on the way through this time. It's getting late and we need to make it to family by a somewhat reasonable hour, but none-the-less we are drawn to a few stops to photograph the scenery in the golden evening light.
We're finding our pocket Adelaide street directory not much help in the dark and with daughter navigating (gets car sick if she looks at books)... so with google as our ifone friend, we take what seems like a rather bizarre route out the back of Elizabeth ending up at the local tip... hmmm.. we get a call from waiting family.. "where are you" "well actually we're in your steet... that's good timing actually, what number house are you?.... oh, OK perhaps you could wait outside in your pink dressing gown?.... see you soon". That pink dressing gown was actually very helpful!!
The usual greetings and tours of the new house (relocated from NSW 18 mths ago)... this is where I was going to put you... apparently the look on my face was priceless. "oh no, I've forgotten the air mattress" "I didn't know you have an air mattress" says daughter. "I was going to use yours!" says I. I knew I was tired (hence the holiday) but this is getting ridiculous! No map, no itinerary with contact nos and addresses, no bed... what's next... Oh well. Too late to do anything else about it now. We'll go get a motel for tonight and we'll pick SMIL (step mother in law) up in the morning to head back up to Waikerie.
Off we go. Again with our friendly ifone, we have identified a Rydges on south terrace that looks like an option. I'm hoping for Rydges dream beds.. we can't just plop our ourselves at any old place as mum is severely asthmatic and sensitive to smells and dust and moulds and things. 4 star is usually the best way of ensuring a suitable room.. we drive up and down south terrace. Lord where IS this place. heading west we near a large intersection we really don't want to get tangled up in, so daughter does a quick uey and back along sth terrace we go.... we get right to the end no sign of Rydges. Another possible, but by now we just want to know where this bloody hotel is. Google comes to the rescue once more. Oh. It's right back the other end where we chucked the uey. Back we go and sure enough, distracted by some people on the street when we were turning around we were actually right out the front of Rydges!! Fortunately they have a family room available. It's getting ridiculously late, but we tuck ourselves in bed, glad we had a late and substantial lunch, and dine on scrape from the picnic kit and hit the sack..