A spur of the moment decision to go skiing at the Victorian ski fields before the season closes has caused me to push myself a little bit to ride farther than I was at earlier stages of my trip. It’s a good thing I’m feeling strong again and that I am enjoying the mallee country so much. So instead of breaking up the ride across the mallee into a few shorter days, I decided to cover 80km (50 miles) today in an attempt to be in Swan Hill by Saturday afternoon, allowing me to catch the Sunday morning train to Melbourne.
That doesn’t mean I still don’t have time to enjoy the place where I’m at. So I am still stopping to enjoy the scenery and random things I see: like this old military tank. Or at least, I think it’s a military tank; it doesn’t look like any farm equipment I’ve ever seen before.
Nor did I skip the lovingly restored Kow Plains Homestead, which dates back to 1859. The homestead is well worth a visit if you are in the area. The stories of the early settlers are amazing to read. Successive families lived here in what was then the middle of nowhere. They tried to graze sheep but lost most to wild dogs and drought. A 14 year old boy deivered mail once a week on a journey that took six days return across untracked wilderness. There are some wonderful paintings and photos of people who have lived here on this property over the years, including an amazing shot of the whole yard full of cauliflower plants.
The landscape here is similiar to that which I have been riding through since Loxton except that the further east I travel the drier it becomes. The soil is red. The mallee is plentiful. The crops become less dense. And the colours less radient.
The landscape, historic sites and my feeling of strength on the bike combine to give me a sense of calm and joy as I ride along. Instead of resting every 10km as was my practice, I am now resting every 20km. My average speed has increased from 15kph to 19kph. Or at least it has for a day. Now that I know I will be out of the mallee in a couple of days, I make the most of the rest stops to take in the calm, feel the red dirt beneath me and listen to the wind. Because I know from experience that it is these simple things I will remember long after I forget everything else about my trip.
At day’s end I set up camp in tiny Walpeup. There’s hot showers, picnic tables and grass for $10 a night. Sure, the trucks and trains rumble past all night long but those are just the sounds of the outback. Besides, the sky is clear and filled with stars and I feel the contented fatigue of one who has enjoyed a day exercising in the sun and the transport sounds don’t disturb my slumber.