a side-trip

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.

Holden Sales,Nhill

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:

Rupanyup, Wimmera-Mallee

That bright, intense  afternoon light was a pity, for  though MurtoaRupanyup 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.


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