From blue to gold

It is time to leave South Australia and begin our journey home. On the way out of Mount Gambier, home of the Blue Lake, we stop at the Engelbrecht Cave, another sink-hole, but it is not yet open for the day.

Our destination is Bendigo, but we are not taking the direct route. Instead we are detouring via Halls Gap and the Grampians/Gariwerd. This frequently takes us off the major highways and on to country backroads.

We go past pine plantations, eucalypts forests and grassy plains. Through villages and tiny towns, some just a few houses, others have a pub or a general store.

I have only been to the Grampians once, almost thirty years ago, and that was by train and bus. Now, from the south, the first sight of the mountain range is amazing. A sequence of granite waves breaking over the landscape.

After stopping by the roadside to admire Mount Sturgeon, we continue into Dunkeld, then turn off into the road to Halls Gap.

To our left the ridges and mountains of the Grampians. I only wish that I had a chance to admire them, but the road requires all my focus. I would highly recommend the views for a passenger.

Halls Gap has grown since my first visit. The Chinese restaurant has gone and there are now two ice creameries, neither playing UB40 constantly.

The town is crowded. The cafes aren’t inviting, so we buy pies for lunch from the bakery and sit on the grass with the other families.

During my previous stay I did a couple of hikes around the area, but there is no time or desire to repeat them in this heat. 

We drive up the steep winding road to Mackenzie Falls. Again the views are spectacular, what I can glance in between focusing on the drive.

After parking the car, we take the 850m walk to the Mackenzie Falls lookout. The bush still shows the effects of the bushfires, the tall eucalypt tree cover replaced by yellow flowering wattles and shrubs.

The views of the waterfall are fantastic and worth the hike in the heat. Still, we are glad to return to the air conditioning of the car.

Rather than follow the GPS’s recommendation of returning the way we came, I continue on the the western side of the range.

The rest of the drive to Bendigo is sometimes on highways but mainly on the quiet back roads, many narrow and unlined. The countryside changes, the colour of the soil between gold and red, the tree canopy over the road, different greys and greens.

I am fascinated by the skies, the flotilla of flat bottomed clouds that are typical of a late inland afternoon, though promising something more later.

It is with relief that we arrive in Bendigo, our clean and renovated motel right behind the Central Deborah Gold Mine, one of this city’s many sights.

The only thing we are looking for is dinner. The Chinese restaurant is expensive and not the best. Surprisingly it offers a Malaysian menu as well, though it’s quality is doubtful.

We take a short drive around this historic city. A few years ago we stayed longer and did most of the sights and activities. This is just a stopover.

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