I took the opportunity to make a side-trip into the Victorian Mallee when I was transporting the prints from the Weltraum and Abstraction x 5 exhibitions to my fellow photographers—Stuart Murdoch, Judith Crispin and Jeff Moorfoot-— to the pick-up points of the Ballarat/Lyonville meet up near Melbourne.
It was a quick side-trip. I drove north-east from Horsham into the Wimmera-Mallee passing through Jung, Murtoa, Rupanyup and Marnoo to St Arnaud, before then driving down to Ballarat and Lyonville on the Sunraysia Highway. St Arnaud is the eastern edge of the Wimmera-Mallee and lies outside it. It is in the north Grampians and just north of the Pyrenees wine district. I didn’t know this area of the Wimmera-Mallee at all.
The reason is that I would normally drive straight to Melbourne from Adelaide via Nhill, Horsham and Stawell along the Western Highway. I would sometimes stop for lunch at Horsham, or stay overnight if I’d left Adelaide late in the day. I never made any side-trips north into the Wimmera-Mallee. Why would you? There’s not much there. It’s the cities that are of interest. I guess this is what a lot of people do when they are travelling between Melbourne and Adelaide:–they stick to the modern highway between the two capital cities and they try to get to their destination quickly with as few stops as possible.
My basic plan was to retrace my steps along the Wimmera Highway on my return journey from Melbourne to Adelaide, if I found interesting subject matter from the exploring these byways, and if there was more cloud cover during the day. I had packed both the 5×4 Linhof Technika and the Rolleiflex SL66 for this purpose. So my fingers were crossed.
Unfortunately for me on the trip over to Melbourne the early afternoon light in this area along the Wimmera Highway was too bright and contrasty to do anything more than briefly explore and scope the architecture with a digital camera. I realised that none of the pictures that I was scoping would make it into my digital gallery in the Mallee Routes project. The highlights were all muddy:
That bright, intense afternoon light was a pity, for though Murtoa, Rupanyup and Marnoo are small towns overshadowed by the larger rural service centres of Horsham and Stawell on the Western Highway, they do have their own life, community and history. There was material to explore photographically, apart from the ongoing decay of these towns, which is what immediately struck me as I drove around checking things out.
On the day of the return trip there was more cloud cover and the light was softer. However, I had come down with a virus for a couple of days whilst at Safety Beach on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula, and that meant that I only had enough energy to be able to handle the 10 hour drive back to Adelaide. I reluctantly avoided making a side-trip back into the by-ways of the Wimmera-Mallee. I will have to wait for late autumn before I return to the Wimmera-Mallee. Making a camp at Nhill is one possibility.