Lyndoch to Melbourne - 13-24/03/15

You mean that I'll want to drink that! I hope they strain out the wasps first!!

After leaving Adelaide we had a short drive north to Lyndoch, where Tim and Ann Martin live.  Somebody asked which of the people we were visiting we had not seen for the longest time.  I had to think about that, but it is Tim and Ann, whom we last saw in 1986, on our "going finish" from PNG trip, when they lived near Charters Towers.  Like us, they haven't changed a bit! Martin first met them when Tim was a Patrol Officer in the Chimbu area of PNG, in the early 1970s, but we both knew them in Goroka days and they had found some photos of us all partying.  Come to think of it, we have all changed a bit!

Lyndoch is in the Barossa valley and there is just one thing you have to do if you stay there, so on the Saturday we set out on a little tour of the wine country.  We visited three "Cellar Doors", as they call the tasting/sales areas of the vineyards. The first was very small and allegedly very good, but too crowded to get close (though we certainly got a close-up view of a wine vat seething with fermenting grapes and wasps).  The second was the famous Chateau Tanunda, a huge, industrial scale complex, far too busy preparing for a large visiting party (Chinese, we would guess from the flag flying that day) to bother with the likes of us, so we quickly moved on to Tim and Ann's real choice, Artisans of Barossa.  This is a small establishment which showcases seven local producers and we were made most welcome.  We (I) tried a number of wines at the suggestion of a helpful young man called Simon, who paid real attention to what I said I liked or didn't like.  There was no pressure to buy, but of course we did.  We also had a delightful lunch of meat and cheese platters, accompanied by a glass of our chosen wine, in a cool area overlooking a splendid view.  Yes, this is an advertisement!  If you are in the Barossa, go to Artisans!

We only spent two nights with Tim and Ann - so much to see - places so far apart!  The drive on to Broken Hill was another long one, with nothing much except flat scrub to look at, but when we got there, Broken Hill was so much more interesting than we had expected.  Like Mount Isa, it's basically a mining town, but unlike Mount Isa, it has a vibrant life of its own, with a real community spirit and a clear pride in its history.  It is also home to a large number of artists and yet another parcel of books and art works is now on its way home to Harberton.  We visited the Royal Flying Doctor Service base and the local home of the School of the Air, which included sitting in on a Year 1 writing lesson being conducted on Skype.  This showed that teaching phonics on a line where the sound and the picture are out of sync, and feedback is delayed by constant reminders to "turn your microphone on" is even more tedious than ever - and also that little boys have much the same attitude to writing the world over!  The Flying Doctors base was extremely interesting, but we didn't see anyone dashing to the plane with black bag in hand, enroute to an outback emergency.  What does happen every day is that doctors and nurses fly out to very remote areas to conduct a variety of clinics, thus maintaining the "mantle of safety" envisaged by the Reverend John Flynn, when he initiated the Flying Doctors service back in the 1920s.

While in Broken Hill, we visited the deserted mining settlement of Silverton, now a tourist destination. Imagining what it must have been like in its heyday (1880s), was more interesting than looking at the rather dusty collection of buildings there now.  The museum, housed in the old prison, was one of those where everything that ever existed in the town is stuffed together, fairly randomly - just because it's old.  Our tolerance for that kind of display, on a hot, windy Australian afternoon, is fairly low at this stage of our travels.  However, our tolerance for views of the Australian landscape knows no bounds and we drove a little further to gaze over the Mundi Mundi plains, then later we were rewarded with The Great Sunset we have been waiting for.  The day had been relatively cloudy, but cleared enough in the west late in the day to provide ideal conditions.  We drove a few km north of Broken Hill to the Living Desert Sculpture Park, where a number of sandstone sculptures (of varying quality!) catch the setting rays in a most striking way.  But the sky is the star turn and I won't even try to describe it. Just look at the pictures.

From Broken Hill, we headed back south to Melbourne, making two overnight stops along the way, at Mildura and Echuca.  As you drive south, the arid semi-desert stretches to the horizon, until suddenly, it doesn't.  There are trees, fruit orchards, grass and vineyards.  The difference is the River Murray.  And, of course, the Rivers Darling and Murrumbidgee, which rise as far away as Queensland in the north and the Snowy Mountains in the east, then flow right across New South Wales before joining forces along the NSW/Victoria border and continuing through South Australia to the coast just south of Adelaide at Lake Alexandrina.  In the early days of settlement, this huge river system provided vital transport for both people and cargo and the development of agriculture, especially sheep farming, utterly depended on it.  Echuca is a lovely town with an brilliant "Historic Port Experience", showing very clearly what a bustling, lively place this inland port was in the 1880s.  Unfortunately for Echuca, it all lasted such a short time, as, with the rapid development of the railways in NSW and Queensland, river transport fell out of favour by the turn of the century.  But it is still a beautiful place to visit and before leaving, we enjoyed a cruise along the river in a 100 year old paddlesteamer.

In the late afternoon we arrived back in Melbourne, at the home of Helen Spark, who was away in Queensland with her son, Seumas, but had kindly left the keys and a warm welcome for us via her daughter Justine.  Next day, we returned our hire car to the city with 2,500 km on the clock.  Then we met John and Noela Olsen and their daughter, Robyn, who had come up from their home near Anglesea, (on the Ocean Road, beyond Geelong), to spend the day with us.  John and Noela spent 1989 in Devon with their family, on an exchange with the local Special Educational Needs advisor and he paid several visits to South Brent School, which was how we came to know them.  We've not met many times since, but they, like us, have a great interest in travel and seeing the world, so we love to catch up with them when we can.  They took us round Victoria Market - what a market! - then we went to "Little Saigon" for a Vietnamese meal.  Vietnamese isn't big in Totnes, so we were not too familiar with the choices, but of course in Melbourne the Vietnamese community is huge.  We had a lovely meal, then Robyn guided us to her favourite ice-cream parlour for a change of culture.  To round off a day of varying ethnicity, after the Olsens left us we went to the movies to see "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel".  A feel-good end to a great day!

Helen and Ray Spark were great friends from Goroka.  Ray worked at the Institute for Medical Research and Helen at the International School with Liz.  They have three children, Justine, Ceridwen and Seumas, all of whom still live in Melbourne.  Seumas was the one we knew best as Liz had the pleasure of teaching him for Prep, Year One and Year Two, so meeting him again as a serious (but charming) academic and historian was a particular joy.  However, this visit was marred by great sadness, as Ray died last November, after a sudden, devastating illness.  We had learned this news when we arrived in Australia in December, so were not greeted by a shock in Melbourne, but the feeling of loss in the family and in the house was profound.  Ray was an extraordinary person, utterly committed to his work, loyal and compassionate in his friendships, passionate in his interests, cultured and constantly curious about the world. And funny! One of my favourite memories of him is when he played the part of the Demon King in the first panto I ever produced, in Goroka.  His resume of the plot, given in Pidgin to the Papua New Guinean audience at the Dress Rehearsal, was far and away the funniest part of the whole show!  We were so grateful to Helen, Justine, Ceridwen and her family and Seumas for making us so welcome at this difficult time.  Thank you for letting us share your home and your memories.  When we recall this part of our trip, we will be thinking of all of you, including Ray.

Bottoms Up! Right then Ann, let's move on to the next cheeky little red .....

With Tim and Ann Martin at Artisans of Barossa, Barossa Valley, SA.

Built with confidence to last. Broken Hill Town Hall and Post Office from late 19th century.

One of Broken Hill's earliest mines - Consolidated Zinc.

Still Broken Hill's source of wealth - mining for silver, lead and zinc. One big heap of spoil from the early mines along the Line of Lode discovered in 1883.

Royal Flying Doctor Service control room at Broken Hill.

RFDS maintenance hanger at Broken Hill, their largest base covering 640,000 sq km (250,000 sq miles) with 6 Super King Air aircraft.

School of the Air at Broken Hill. Year 1 writing lesson.

School of the Air students on remote stations - anything up to 300+km (200 miles) from Broken Hill.

Silverton - 25km NW of Broken Hill. Once a thriving mining town of 5,000 people. Now a desolate home to fewer than 50.

Quirky piece outside a gallery at Silverton.

CBD Silverton!

Living Desert Reserve Sculpture Park near Broken Hill.

Sunset near Broken Hill at the Living Desert Reserve.

Not quite the Biblical burning bush, but beautiful nonetheless.

Evening light on the sculptures.

Only a few minutes of daylight left over the Mundi Mundi plains .......

Like most Australian country town, Echuca's early citizens built with confidence. Many of the handsome buildings remain in the main street.

Murray River steamer landing. Note the marks on the tree showing flood levels! The highest was in 1870 - 96.2m (315ft). That's a lot of water - and devastation!

Typical riverboat cargo in the late 19th century, together with large amounts of wool from Queensland and NSW inland properties for transport to South Australia initially and then transhipment at Echuca once the railway arrived in 1864. This made Echuca the second busiest port in Australia after Sydney.

PS "Canberra" under way through typical Murray River scenery.

Steam power - PS "Canberra". Built in 1913 and lovingly restored.

21st century Melbourne across the Yarra - upwardly thrusting as most modern cities are.

With John, Noela and Robyn Olsen at lunch in Little Saigon, Melbourne.

The Spark clan at Kew.