Manangatang to Swan Hill

Just as I start to get strong on the bike, this second cycle tour of my adventure has come to a close. This afternoon I rode into Swan Hill 13 days after I left Adelaide en route to Melbourne. It feels good to have another tour under my belt and to know that I am getting stronger on the bike. I am learning a lot about myself as I ride and camp my way through the countryside. For example, I am not a hardcore tourer because I like a shower at the end of the day, prefer to camp legally in a designated area (whether free or paid), cannot eat on $5 a day because I like my food too much and am willing to cheat by catching trains or other transport if I need to. What I am is a cycle traveler who enjoys the slow pace of cycle touring while relishing in some little luxuries along the way.

Fields of canola greeted me as I rolled out of Manangatang this morning. It has escaped the fields and now grows in gay abandon along the roadside under the mallee. I wonder whether it will ever take over the landscape as a weed or whether it is a crop that can be controlled. I guess time will tell. What I do know is that the bright yellow flowers are pretty.

I reach Bailey Flat. It’s stunning. The small ankle-high shrubs look like they’re about to burst into bloom with red flowers. I stop to take some photos and also to watch the caravans and cars zoom across the flat. What took me about twenty minutes plus photo time takes them less than five. I can’t help but wonder whether they even notice the flats with its beautiful red shrubs.

I am rather surprised when I see the sign notifying me that I am entering another wine region. I didn’t know there was wine out here on the Murray River in Victoria. It seems rather a waste in a way because I don’t drink wine. The vines here grow in red soil, rather than between green ground cover. Stone fruuit orchards sit alongside the vines. It will be beautiful here in a few weeks once the flowers are all in bloom. Some fields are already awash with pink but none close enough to the road for a photo. But in a few weeks, I am sure this will be one of the most beautiful places in Victoria.

The Murray River greets me as I come to the end of the Mallee Highway. She’s lost some of her condition since I last saw her in Berri and her name has changed. In South Australia she was called the River Murray. Back there she was wide and cliff-lined, and her waters were green. Here on the border of Victoria and New South Wales she is called the Murray River. She is narrrower, her banks slope muddily from the surrounding landscape and her waters are brown. She’s not as pretty as she will become but I like this ugly duckling still. I follow her all the way to Swan Hill where I check into the cheapest hotel in town and discover it’s a comfortable gem with a movie channel on the television. This tour is now over and I am going to have a couple of days off to write a university paper and travel by train to Melbourne. And then, on Tuesday, a new adventure will begin – four days trying my hand at cross country skiing at Mount Baw Baw.


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