Monthly Archives: October 2021

Day 36 – Friday, 29 October 2021

Today we print out the diary and get it posted. 

The night was scary. The rain pelted down, there was loud thunder and lightning, but it was the wind that woke us up around 4:00am, and it sounded like a fully laden freight train roaring at full speed through the railway station. The van was a-rockin’ and a-shakin’ for at least 90 minutes. 

We both woke up as the wind started, got out of bed and clipped down the windows and skylight vents, and got back into bed. Russ managed to go back to sleep but I lay waiting for the van to either take wings and fly, or just to tip over from the force of the blasts. It was that fierce. 

Got back to sleep when it finished around 5:30am and we both woke up a bit later than usual. 

Today we have done some housekeeping in preparation to lock down the van when we leave for Mildura tomorrow morning. The table and chairs are secured under the back of the van, and the tools and chainsaw are now locked in the caravan boot. 

I was going to wash the towels here, but Russ suggested it would be easier to take them with us and only have the need to do one load of washing while at home and bring them back clean. 

The temperature today is only expected to get to 15 degrees. There is a heavy wind, but nothing like last night’s display. It is, however, on the chilly side. 

Day 35 – Thursday, 28 October 2021

It was very hot today, especially for Avoca. We decided tomorrow would be a rest day before driving back to Mildura for the long weekend, so we are looking at the Percydale Historic Area today. This historic area sits just to the side of the Pyrenees State Forest. 

We passed some of the historic areas such as Daly’s Cottage, the Old School Site, the Slate Diary, Governor’s Rock, and the Governor’s Rock Lookout Tower. In the early part of the area, we found lots of wildflowers, but they were ones we had found elsewhere.  

Daly’s Cottage was built by James Daly, an Irishman who originated from Kilfinane on the Shannon River, in 1865. It comprises two simple, gabled timber slab structures, separated by an open walkway. The walls were constructed from fiddle back red gum found at the site. Handmade bricks were used on the pantry floor. 

The later two-roomed building has a front verandah, six paned double hung sash windows, brick fireplace, and horizontal timber slab diving walls. The original shingles on both buildings were replaced with corrugated iron roofing, and the building retains remnants of early wallpapering. 

The gardens retain early fruit and flower plantings, including a large hawthorn bush behind the structures. The briar roses were in full flower when we stopped to take out photos. 

The cottage comprises a combined cottage and stable building and a separate dwelling, constructed from vertical timber slabs. In 1865 Percydale was known as Fiddler’s Creek. Gold had been discovered in the district as early as the mid-1850s, although a rush to the alluvial goldfields of Fiddler’s Creek didn’t begin until 1865. 

The Daly family were unable to purchase the land because in 1866 the Board of Land and Works withdrew this section from the Land Selection Act because of the potential for further gold discoveries in the area. They continued to reside in the cottage and paid an annual rent of 4 pounds and cleared the land for cultivation. 

In 1870 the surveyor in the area noted that the Daly block of land was not of special gold value, so Daly then applied to buy the land, citing the family’s continuous occupation, the amount of rent paid, and the improvements made to the site – including the 30 acres cleared for cultivation.  

The final purchase of the land was completed in 1875, and the family continued to live on the property until the 1930s when it was sold by James’ grandson, Roy. 

Daly’s Cottage is of historical and architectural significance to the state of Victoria, due in part because of the construction techniques employed. It is a rare example of a relatively intact selector’s cottage and stable. 

Unfortunately, the signs at the front tell you not to Trespass so I could only get shots from the roadside. 

Later in the day we went onto the Fiddler’s Track and found sun orchids. More importantly, we found the Spotted Sun Orchid which we have never found anywhere before, so we were stoked with this find. 

Russ did a lot of 4WDriving and the scenery from Governor’s Rock Lookout was well worth the effort to get up there. There is a lot more to be seen in this area as we have hardly scratched the surface. 

On the way back to the van we made a booking to have dinner at the Avoca Hotel. It is the more up-market of the two hotels available in the town. 

The heavens opened as we were enjoying our afternoon tea in the van, and it became very humid. The rain had cleared up by the time we headed out to the hotel, but there is a lot more headed our way. This little heavy rainfall recorded 18mm in the water gauge in the caravan park. 

I told Russ I was only going to take a jacket, my mask, and my phone as he had his wallet to pay for the meal. However, when we got to the hotel we were not only asked to provide our evidence of double vaccination – Avoca is part of the Covid Vax trial being conducted by the Victoria Government -but I was also asked to prove my address was not in Melbourne. This necessitated going back to the van to grab my license. The hotel proprietor was a good sport and had a sense of humour. 

The meal was a bit pricey, but it was delicious, and the chips were fabulous – crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Russ had a chicken parmigiana (as usual) and I went for a lemon and thyme coated pork schnitzel. Unfortunately for us the crème brulee was not on the menu this week, so we stopped at the IGA on the way back to the van and I cot some salted caramel ice-cream to enjoy. 

Day 34 – Wednesday, 27 October 2021

It was already 20 degrees when we headed out this morning around 10:30am. I had done a load of washing and put it on the line before we left, and it was all dry by the time we returned home to the van. 

We also closed the blinds on the east side of the van and left all the others wide open as they were shaded by the awnings. As we had hoped, it was relatively cool when we got back, but the air conditioner was still required to remove the humidity from the air. 

We headed towards St Arnaud, stopped at the wayside rest where we have previously found orchids, but it is too late in the year for that spot as it is fairly dry. 

We continued on towards St Arnaud and turned off to the left before we got to the main street. We continued on to the St Arnaud Ranges National Park and stopped for a walk among the Wax Garden. The sun was hot, and the mozzies were very annoying, even with Aerogard on. Russ and I have agreed that mosquitoes are bigger pests than the flies, which says something. 

The Wax Garden is a fenced off area within the St Arnaud Regional Park and has easy walks among the plants and signage on many of them. The St Arnaud Field Naturalist Club has been working with Parks Victoria and other agencies since the 1990s to showcase the 90 plus flora species in the three short walks available. 

However, we were extremely fortunate to find the Waxlip Orchid during our wandering after we left the Wax Garden. Of course, once you find one you then find a whole heap of them. The Waxlip Orchid is quite big in comparison to some of the others. 

After our sojourn through the Wax Garden, and many photos later, we started down the Centre Road Nature Drive which traverses the park from north to south. It passes through the St Arnaud Regional Park, St Arnaud State Forest, Stoney Creek Nature Conservation Reserve, the Kara Kara National Park and the St Arnaud Range National Park. 

The drive is approximately 50 kilometres long and 4WD vehicles are recommended, especially from Stuart Mill Gap Road to Redbank, which we are still to do as the area is huge. There are several picnic spots along the way. We stopped at the West of England Fire Tower Lookout, but I have been unable to find any information about its unusual name. However, the views were awesome. 

Aboriginal people lived in the area before European settlement. Significant sites within then park which are evidence of this include scarred trees, mounds and some artefact scatters. 

In the 1840s squatters took land i9n the area. Strathfillan Creek is named after one squatter’s run. Stock grazing continued in some areas until 1995 – sheep yards built from bush timbers are among the few structures remaining from this activity. 

Alluvial and shallow reef mining for gold began in the 1860s and a number of sites can still be found around the park today. The Park was also an important source of timber, supplying logs to the local timber mills. Some of the main species harvested were Yellow Gum, Grey Box and Red Ironbark. 

Kara Kara National Park is one of the largest intact areas of Box-Ironbark vegetation and landscapes in Victoria, and holds many relics from the past, offering an insight into early European uses of the land. Many of the drains and weirs, constructed from 1898, are evidence of the area’s role in supplying water to the Stuart Mill and St Arnaud communities for 50 years. 

Kara Kara means ‘gold quartz’, but I am still trying to find some of it.  

Day 33 – Tuesday, 26 October 2021

We set the alarm for 9:00am, but I woke up at 6:30am and managed to nap until 8:00am. We turned the heater on as it was just a tad chilly. 

We pulled up the awning and the clothesline while we waited for Tony to finish mowing the area and prepared the van to for its journey of 50 metres. 

We had finished the move by 11:00am, and the awning and clothesline were up, and the ground mat has been placed just so. The step down from the van is slightly higher than previous and I am finding myself being a bit careful, so I don’t fall down the step. 

Had another lovely chat with Margaret and Tony as we were finishing up. Tony says they are considering bringing their fifth wheeler down to this spot once we have vacated the caravan park. It is a lovely spot out of everyone’s way, and across the fence from us is the golf course. 

We had an early lunch, and I did a load of washing and got it on the line before we headed out to the Glenmona State Park for a drive and look see. 

The drive was wonderful, the track not too bumpy, but we found no new wildflowers. There were plenty of strawflowers (or golden everlastings as some people refer to them), chocolate lilies, bluebells and dianellas (flax lilies) galore, but it wasn’t until we were on the home stretch (so to speak) that we encountered a patch of hooded caladenia orchids. We have seen them before, but it was great to know the orchids are around still. 

Along the way we stopped for a quick chat with a very official looking gentleman, but the vehicle he was driving had no decals on the door. It turns out he is a wildlife officer with, as he names it, the Department of Many Name Changes – the old Department of Primary Industries. I got a bit of a laugh from that saying as it was so true when I was working at Mallee CMA. 

We stopped at IGA Express in Avoca on the way back to the van as Russ insists on spaghetti noodles when having spaghetti. Heaven forbid you should use spaghetti spirals which I have in the cupboard. I took the opportunity of getting some Boysenberry Swirl Drumsticks for a late afternoon tea, and they were delicious. 

It was a very sunny day, and the temperature reached 17 degrees, but Russ and I both said it felt much hotter than that unless you were in the breeze, which was refreshing. 

Tomorrow it is expected to reach 27 degrees so we will head towards the St Arnaud area state parks where, hopefully, it will feel a bit cooler. 

Day 32 – Monday, 25 October 2021

Awoke to a knock on the door at 9:00am. Tony and Margaret said they would return in a half hour, so we dashed madly through our breakfast and got dressed. We will have our showers after we have found out what is happening. We cleaned our teeth and went to find them. 

We have been told that we can stay where we are but that a party of two have booked the sites and asked to be together over the Melbourne Cup weekend. Rather than have them wandering around our van and talking or partying we have decided it is not worth it staying where we are. We went across to the fence line, well away from any others, and it looks good. Tony will mow the lawn first thing tomorrow morning – mostly Cape Weed – and we will shift across. 

Had a great chat with Tony and Margaret who have spent the last two years at Lake Learmonth Caravan Park in their fifth wheeler. It is huge! It has three different sections that concertina out to give them more space. Russ and I remember seeing it at Lake Learmonth as they were just around the corner from our favourite site. We think, from some things said, that they may have lost one of their sons to suicide, but they have indicated it was a very tough time in their lives. 

After some discussion Russ has said the idea of all the people is actually making him very anxious so we have now decided to leave the van in the park and go home on Saturday and come back on Tuesday. This way Russ can also get his tablets that have arrived, and I can admire the garden that Brett has been doing such a good job with, pat the animals, and do anything else we might need to do while there.  

The magpies have been warbling all around the park. I’m sure I have said it before, but I can listen to them for hours. One of them decided to walk across the roof of the van and when I went out to see they sat on the cross bar of the awning, and we spent some time communing. 

Brett tells us that we have new neighbours. They have bought the house on the side over the fence from our wood heap. It is Samantha Rogers, her partner and their young child. Sam’s dad was a policeman in Ouyen, and her mum worked with Russ at the old SEC. Laurie, her dad, actually took me for my license forty years ago. Sam grew up with our mob. 

We went off to the Information Centre just before lunch. They had some maps and info on the state parks, but there are some for which we can get no information at all. 

After lunch we decided to go for a drive to Maryborough and check out the Information Centre there, and for the first time we were asked to provide proof of our vaccinations. The Info Centre in Maryborough is now at the Maryborough Railway Station. It is a magnificent old building and has been well kept. We also got a fair bit more info and some maps. The ladies in both places were very helpful and friendly. 

We took the opportunity of washing Hornet while we were there, so he looks good again until we go through more water or mud. 

Russ drove around Maryborough for me so I could take some photos of older buildings. However, most of them are in the city centre and you can’t drive slowly there at all, so I came home with very little. 

We took a back road on the way back to Avoca and stopped off at Lower Homebush where the old State School is now an historical site. Unfortunately, all I could get was a photo of it as the place is securely locked up at the moment and I cannot find any info about contacting someone to see it. 

I rang the people who are doing the tour for gold prospecting and asked if we could bring our date forward by a week and it is not problem, so now we will do the prospecting on Friday, 12 November, before having to head back to Mildura for my specialist appointment. Hopefully, then we can relax and enjoy the last couple of weeks touring before heading home for Christmas. 

All in all, it was a fairly quiet, and restful day, although the temperature only got to 15 degrees and the night got chilly very quickly. I had to get out my electric overthrow to stay warm until it was time to go to bed, and the electric blanket has been on for the past few nights. 

Day 31 – Sunday, 24 October 2021

I woke up at 2:30 am and ended up with a wicked headache. I took some painkillers but didn’t manage to get back to sleep until around 5:00am. The weather was very cold, and I had my electric blanket on. 

After breakfast and showers I put on a load of washing as the weather is expected to stay overcast, but there is only a slight chance of showers in the afternoon. 

 In the meantime, I rang Margaret and asked when the best time would be to pay for our site and she advised me she was in the office now, so I went over to pay. And then, the drama began. 

It turns out that Dimity and Rob were caretaker management of the private caravan park since August and are to leave next Friday. They are unvaccinated and can no longer stay as management apparently, 

Dimity’s system of booking people in is a big schmoozle. She uses as diary but does not block them in, rather just putting their names and dates and then adds them up as she goes. The site bookings are put onto a park map for each week, which doesn’t really help Margaret and Tony who are to take over the management role, as Rob has not put the numbers on the sites and much of the area is raggedy and unkempt. 

There are very few power outlets or taps, and the tap outlets have four pronged devices on each tap in order to accommodate the site holders. 

However, because of the booking system used by Dimity Margaret did not know that most of the sites are booked out for the Melbourne Cup weekend, which means that we may have to move from our site. 

Both Margaret and Tony have been wonderful. They came over to our site with the diary and park map, and we wandered around each of the supposed areas without bookings. 

Tony has big plans for tidying up the park once they are in control, and is not impressed with the unkempt nature of the whole park. 

Margaret and Tony apologised for our situation and have asked us to remain where we are until they can communicate with Dimity and Rob once they return from Shepparton at God Knows What Time (as they are supposed to be here in the park and available to facilitate the changeover). 

Margaret and Tony are hoping they can re-arrange some of the bookings so that we do not have to move, but in the meantime, we have all wandered around and decided where it would be best for us if it possible. It turns out that one of the sites is unable to be used because it blocks access to a Fire Hydrant and hose. This site is not marked on the park map so does not help Margaret and Tony. 

Whilst all this was happening the rest of the site holders have packed up and moved out. There are now only three vans in the park and the rest are permanents or annuals. 

We are headed down the street to the Information Centre to get some maps etc of things available around the Avoca area, unfortunately when we got there they were closed. On Sundays they are only open between 10:00am and 1:00pm. Will come back tomorrow and see what they have to offer. 

The day has been very overcast with sunny breaks, but the breeze is very cool. It made it to 16 degrees. 

Day 30 – Saturday, 23 October 2021

Well, the groceries were bought and packed away, and we were visited by the magpies again in the late afternoon, so I put out some seed for the last time. They then spent considerable time serenading us outside the van window. 

We had set the alarm for 8:00am which was a decided shock to the system when it went off this morning. It was strange to be the only ones out and about as everyone else was still quiet. 

Russ forgot to fill up the tanks yesterday afternoon, so he did so after we had finished our showers. It did not take us too long to finish packing away everything ready for transit, and we left the Wedderburn Caravan Park at 9:34am for Avoca. 

The sun was shining, and it got to 18 degrees whilst we were travelling. We took the Old St Arnaud Road to begin with which eventually became the Wedderburn St Arnaud Road. The we turned onto the Sunraysia Highway at St Arnaud.  

This road was a lot bumpier than the B roads we had travelled, and we encountered a lot more traffic. We arrived at Avoca about 11:00am after a leisurely journey – just in time for a cuppa. 

Margaret told us to pick a spot when I rang to check in as she did not expect to be back in the park until much later in the afternoon. The weather has turned overcast, and then rained for a good 45 minutes. 

Once it had stopped raining, we put out the matting, put up the awning, and pegged down the clothesline. There were a lot of people and vans in the park when we arrived. We found a flat spot with reasonable connections to power and water and thought we were set. 

Russ did his meditation and I cooked lamb shanks for tea. After tea the diesel heater went on for a half hour to warm the air, and we relaxed for the evening. 

Day 29 – Friday, 22 October 2021

s we will be moving on to Avoca tomorrow it is time to get things in order today. 

I have washed, dried, and put away the clothes. The clothesline has been unpacked and stowed away in the van boot. 

I have finished the photos, updated the diary, and Russ will upload all onto the web site later this afternoon. 

We also need to top up the water tanks as we had accidentally turned on the water pump for a time. At least it explained the hammering noise while it was on. 

We will print out the diary shortly and post it to Trish and Mum when we go down the street to do the shopping. There is very little choice of shopping in Avoca, so I am expecting we need to stock a few items before we move. 

Day 28 – Thursday, 21 October 2021

After breakfast we headed down to the Wehla Block area of the Kooyoora State Park which we have not yet explored. We hoped to find some more new wildflowers (which we did, and I cannot name two of them) and enjoy the fresh air.  

The Wehla Block has some amazing track names including Devil’s Range Track, Jordan’s Track, Burke’s Flat, McIntyre Road, Tannock’s Track, Charcoal Track and Mail Robbery Track. We didn’t travel over the Mail Robbery Track as it would have shortened our journey by a considerable amount, and the Charcoal Track was particularly challenging in lots of places. 

We did get to see the Plum Pudding flower – a flower I have never heard of before – which grows awfully close to the ground among clover or ground cover and is a native to South Africa. The fruit pods below the flower are edible and contain numerous black seeds in white sweet pulp. 

We stopped and had lunch under the shade of some red gums and were lucky enough to have a breeze blowing to combat the 27-degree heat somewhat. 

Once back in Wedderburn I stopped at the local park to get some photos of more murals and info on Jacka and Borella – both recipients of the Victoria Cross. A fascinating history. 

Captain Albert (Ben) Jacka, VC, MC and Bar was born near Winchelsea on 10 January 1893. He was raised and schooled in Wedderburn along with his seven siblings who were all baptized at Holy Trinity Church in Wedderburn. He was known to have a good tenor voice and a passion for sport. 

Ben Jacka enlisted in the 14th Battalion Australian Infantry Forces (AIF) at Heathcote in September 1914, aged 21 years old. The 14th Battalion came wholly from Victoria and was a part of the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade (Light Horse), whose Brigadier was Colonel John Monash. Monash would prove to be the greatest to ever command an Australian Brigade. Jacka went ashore at Anzac Cove on 26 April 1915. 

On 19 May 1915 at “Courtney’s Post” he recaptured a portion of trench line taken by the Turkish forces and single-handedly killed seven of the enemy. He became a national hero when he was awarded the Victoria Cross, the first VC awarded to an Australian in World War I. He received 500 pounds and a gold watch. 

His unit was transferred to the France and in August 1916 at Pozieres, Jacka’s position was overrun by the Germans. With only a handful of men he led a counterattack and was wounded numerous times. He was inspirational during fierce hand-to-hand fighting, and with the help of other Australian soldiers the ground was retaken. He recovered forty captured Australian soldiers and took fifty German prisoners. For this “individual audacity” Jacka was awarded the Military Cross (MC). 

In April 1917 Jacka received a Bar to his MC for his bravery during the action at Bullecourt, and for capturing am enemy patrol. His Battalion became known as “Jacka’s Mob”. 

In 1918 Jacka was badly gassed, which effectively ended his military career. 

In October 1919 he returned to Melbourne to a grand reception, and on 28 October he returned to his family in Wedderburn where he announced that he would be making Melbourne his new home. 

He established an electrical goods business and was elected Mayor of St Kilda in 1930. Interestingly, his soldier brother William Jacka became the Mayor of Footscray. 

Albert (Ben) Jacka died as a result of his injuries on 17 January 1932, aged 39. 

Lieutenant Albert Chalmers Borella, VC, MM and MID was born at Borung near Wedderburn on 7 August 1881. He was raised in the Borung district and schooled at the Borung and Wychitella South State Schools. 

He joined the Metropolitan Fire Brigade in Melbourne in 1910 and spent two years driving horse-driven and the new motorised equipment. He resigned in 1913 to take an agricultural selection on the Daly River in Northern Territory. 

He occupied the selection in late 1913 and with the aid of local Aborigines he built a house, ringbarked the trees and cut 2000 posts, erected 2 miles of fencing, and sunk a well. 

His debts were mounting, he had no income, and he realised he had no chance of success, so he relinquished his holding and returned to Darwin. He was offered a job as a cook in a camel mounted survey party in remote Central Australia which headed south to Tennant Creek in October 1914. 

After three months he decided the job was not to his liking, so he returned to Darwin to enlist. His epic journey to Darwin became legendary. 

He set out on foot, borrowed a horse later then caught a ride on the mail cart before boarding the train from Pine Creek to Darwin. This 1000-kilometre journey took six weeks, but upon arrival at Darwin he found the Northern Territory government was not taking volunteers for the war. 

Undeterred, Borella embarked on a coastal steamer for the 2000-kilometre journey to Townsville, the nearest recruitment centre. 

In early 2015 the Northern Territory government re-enacted Boralla’s journey overland to Darwin as its hallmark Anzac Centenary event. 

The Victoria Cross (VC) was awarded in recognition of exceptional gallantry and devotion to duty during operations at Villers-Brettoneaux, France, on 17 July 1918. 

“For most conspicuous bravery in attack, whilst leading his platoon with the first wave Lieutenant Borella marked an enemy machine gun firing through our barrage. He ran out ahead of his men into the barrage, shot two German machine-gunners with his revolver, and captured the gun. 

He then led his party, now reduced to ten men and two Lewis guns, against a very strongly held trench, using his revolver, and later a rifle, with great effect, causing many enemy casualties. 

His leading and splendid example resulted in the enemy garrison being quickly shot or captured. Two large dug outs were also bombed, and thirty prisoners taken. 

Subsequently the enemy twice counterattacked in formidable force, on the second occasion outnumbering Lt Borella’s platoon by ten to one, but his cool determination inspired his men to resist heroically, and the enemy was repulsed with very heavy losses.” 

Between World War I and World War II Borella farmed as a soldier settler at Hensley Park near Hamilton. In 1924 he stood for the seat of Dundas in the Victorian parliament. Albert (Ben) Jacka travelled from Melbourne to Hamilton to give a speech in his support. 

In January 1932 Borella was one of eight Victorian Cross recipients to act as pallbearers at Jacka’s untimely funeral. 

During World War II Borella re-enlisted and rose to the rank of Captain. He served for a further six years mainly in Prisoner of War camps in the Goulburn Valley and later at Myrtleford (Correction: Even though this information came from Wedderburn historical data, one who knows better, Shirley Cox, who has meet with Captain Borella, the actual POW camp near Myrtleford was actually located at Whorouly.). 

He settled in Albury and in 1956 he attended the Victoria Cross centenary in London. He continued to visit his family in the Borung district until three years before his death in Albury on 7 February 1968, aged 87. He was buried with full military honours. 

I washed the towels and put them out on the line overnight as the temperature is not expected to get lower than 14 degrees. 

Day 27 – Wednesday, 20 October 2021

It is expected to get very warm again today, so we have decided to stay close to the van.  

I needed to go to the chemist to get my script filled and Russ needs some eye gel cream as he has started sleeping with his left eye half open again, and it causes his eye to dry out and become very painful. 

I also took the opportunity of removing and shaking all the mats in the van, sweeping the floor, and then washing it. 

I have finished book 5 in the series I was reading and have been left hanging. There is no talk on the web of a 6th book as yet, but as there was no satisfactory conclusion, I think he will have to continue writing the story. Here’ hoping anyway. 

We have been blessed with a lovely cool breeze which has helped to make us feel cooler than the actual 27 degrees temperature. 

There is still no word on whether Mildura will come out of lockdown with the rest of Melbourne so we will have to wait for news tomorrow and hope the aphids do not take over on my roses as it has been very hot up there. 

In Wedderburn it is only expected to get down to 13 degrees overnight and time will tell if it is cool enough to sleep.