After a very comfortable night in the cabins at the Pinnaroo Motel & Cabins I feel refreshed and human again. I have a column due today and, while I have been pondering it intensely for the past 9 days that I’ve been on my bike, I still need to actually type and submit it. This is my usual methodology. I draft everything I write in my head and then just have to sit down to write it. So, after collecting some groceries for the coming days and chatting with a lovely lady outside the shop, I spend an hour or two enjoying the sunshine at a picnic table in a park. It’s early afternoon by the time I leave town and I have enjoyed my morning immensely.
Five kilometres later I am crossing the border out of South Australia and into Victoria. I am now officially in Australia’s eastern states and back on Australian Eastern Standard Time. Not that I will notice the half hour time difference because my day is now ruled by the sunlight hours, rather than my watch.
My map shows the Mallee Highway as being dotted with lots of small towns all the way east Ouyen. Fortunately, I have traveled enough in Australia to know that small dots don’t mean anything. As is proved when I come across the first of these “towns” and notice that it is little more than a railway siding with a huge grain silo. It reminds me of the grain belt in Queensland where Dad and I cycled past similar silos on our way from Birdsville to Brisbane a decade ago. Then the silos meant we were almost home. Now they mean I still have a long way to go.
The Mallee Highway is busy with trucks heading between the Murraylands and Sydney. They still have 1,100km (685 miles) to travel and some will need to be there overnight or tomorrow morning so they are fair hiking it along. These are not small trucks. These are big rigs with long trailers. They hoik along at 110kph. The lanes painted onto the road are barely wide enough to accommodate these monsters so I stop in the gravel when I hear them coming. The truckies wave at me as they drive by, perhaps respecting that I am sensible about sharing the road; after-all these blokes (for all the truckies I saw today were men) are just trying to put bread on the table and it’s a tough way to earn a dollar.
I feel happy as I ride today. The road surface is good. There’s not a cloud in the sky yet it’s not yet hot. And the trees are stunning. The mallee gums have grey-green leaves with red tips on the new growth. The wattles are starting to bloom, filling the air with a delicous sweet scent. Birds chirp in the trees, drinking their fill of the sweet nectar that comes from the blooms as larger birds of prey hunt mice in the broadacre. It’s a good day to be out on a bike here in the mallee.
I arrive in Murrayville to find the town awash with knitting bombs. The park bench and Mrs Pink Lady strike me as particularly creative and fun. Even the signpost outside the police station has been stitched up in blue and white checks. Someone has gone to a lot of effort and it’s a wonderful sight. After asking directions and buying an ice cream I walk my bike up the hill (I didn’t feel like riding because I was too busy enjoying my ice cream) to the caravan park. This is one of the best I have stayed at so far. It’s a large grassy area with some trees for summer shade. There are hot showers, BBQs and power points all for $9.90 a night. I leave a tenner in the honesty box, sign the guest book, do a little bit of work, have a yarn with my caravaning neighbours and a local, and then head down to the pub for the biggest but best cooked piece of steak I’ve had in a long time. The grub is great and I go to bed content and ready for tomorrow’s 80km push across the Victorian Outback to Walpeup.