The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion has reached new heights. It’s located not far from Bendigo and I’ve watched it slowly take shape over recent years. It has looked odd with a flat roof.
I was there at 5am this morning as the cranes rumbled in through the gates. Not long after 7 the lift began. Structures that had been assembled on the ground were slowly hoist into the air and delicately deposited on the roof …
Worth a visit if only to say you’ve been there. But practice first …
The lakes are 263 km north-west of Melbourne.
There are three lakes, the middle and east lakes are in the care of Parks Victoria and are frequently and presently dry. The other lake is managed for recreation, water is purchased when needed to keep the enterprise afloat. No prize for guessing where the wildlife can be found.
Camping is inexpensive, powered sites are available for the softies. There is a playground for the kids, a boat ramp and clean toilets and showers. It’s a popular spot with the fishing fraternity, families and the grey nomads. It’s close enough to my home to use as a picnic spot. I have just camped there for the first time.
I took my cue from this guy and spent a lot of my time sitting quietly on the bank.
It’s amazing what you see …
Then for a moment they stand side by side
Then a quick shower and back to work as if nothing happened …
All very familiar, really.
Entertainment was also provided by the Musk Ducks. The males have quite a peculiar appearance with something resembling a scrotum hanging from their chins. At this time of year they are extremely intolerant of other males. When one wanders into their territory there is a rapid rush from the owner. This guy is the victor …
and this the vanquished. His “scrotum” has ended up plastered on the side of his face in his rush to get to safety …
Australasian Grebes are in their breeding finery.
The freshly returned summer migrants were calling loudly. Rufous Songlarks and the Australian Reedwarblers (formerly known as Clamorous) were making themselves known by calling almost continuously. This guy just makes an occasional “kek kek kek” but then he has the benefit of good looks …
The White-browed Woodswallow is another stunner. Or at least the male is.
And the influx of inland species into Victoria continues. Crimson Chats at Wooroonook, who’d have guessed?
I noticed that some Tree Martins were collecting nesting material from one particular spot at the water’s edge so I took my chair and sat with the sun behind me in the hope that they would continue despite my presence. After a while they did.
I was keeping very still with the camera always raised, they were landing practically at my feet. While this was going on a Baillon’s Crake emerged just a few degrees to the left. These birds are so cryptic and so nervous that even a glimpse is unusual. A photograph like this is an absolute bonus.
To cap off the day the late afternoon sun side lit the River Red Gums right in front of my camp site. All I had to do was put down my glass of red and raise the camera one more time.
While McGee was swanning around Western Australia another silo in Victoria was given a makeover. The little town of Nullawil (population 93 in 2016, proud possessor of a Post Office since 1897) is the latest addition to the state’s Silo Art Trail.
The artist on this occasion is Sam Bates with a masterly depiction of a farmer and his working dog. There is a rumour that he began at the bottom and ran out of space at the top …
This is very unlikely to be true. In my opinion he chose to omit the upper half of the farmer’s face to emphasize the importance of the dog. In the same way I’ve omitted the ears to emphasize the eyes in this detail …
Nullawil is about 300 km north west of Melbourne on the Calder Highway. There is a little take-away food store opposite the silo.
Central Goldfields, Victoria to Wakerie, South Australia – 615km.
A long day to get a good step over the familiar. Travelling north west through the sheep-wheat-painted silo country of Victoria, pausing at Patchewollock to admire the art work and allow Fifi McGee to stretch her legs.
Next step the border, quarantine and new time zone. The quarantine station was unmanned which made for a speedy transition.
Onto Waikerie and the newly minted silo art, a double sided affair …
Three silos together make for a wavy canvas that is hard for the artist to get a great result from.
The campsite we chose is at Holder Bend on the banks of the mighty Murray. Quite picturesque but very close to the Sturt Highway. The dawn chorus was a competition between a Darter and a choir of Mac trucks.
I visit Barmah National Park from time to time largely because it’s the one spot in Victoria where the Superb Parrot turns up. I’d love to add it to my state list and one day I might.
The Sandridge track runs from the park entrance to River Road and the mighty Murray. It’s about 15km of dirt road and a good test of the camper trailer which passed with flying colours coping well with the corrugations and some muddy patches. And the muddy patches on the way in were nothing compared to the muddy patches on the way out after a night of steady downpour. It really was the first sharp bite of winter, there were blizzards and snow down to 700 metres in the high country.
I had a more realistic target as well as the elusive parrot which was to photograph the beautiful Azure Kingfisher. I was able to camp right on the river bank at a spot where I have seen adults feeding a brood of youngsters on a previous trip. The light was actually quite good during the afternoon so it was just a game of patience.
Good things soon happened. This Jacky Winter presented itself for a nice natural portrait. While the next one came even closer, posing on the UHF radio aerial.
The lovely Gayle and I are soon to embark on a road trip and I used the weekend to iron out any problems with the camper trailer which has recently undergone some modifications. Terrick Terrick National Park is a couple of hours drive from home. It’s 65km north of Bendigo, 225km north-west of Melbourne.
The park protects four quite heavily wooded blocks, the two eastern blocks include some impressive granite outcrops while the western blocks are home to a rapidly recovering forest of Callitris pines. The surrounding grasslands were lightly grazed sheep country in the past, the land management favoured the rare and endangered Plains Wanderer. Indeed it was their Victorian stronghold. A patchwork of old farms has been added to the park for its protection. Despite this the odd one still turns up occasionally.
The campsite is at the foot of Mt Terrick Terrick which is probably the most visited feature of the park. In its great wisdom Parks Vic put it on a slope that enjoys a flash flood every time it rains, this in a park where 75% of the terrain is flat. They do provide a composting toilet which is very pleasant after cleaning which I think happens sometime in June. Do remember to take your own toilet paper.
The weather forecast was dire but it was fine when I arrived and I explored the granite boulders with camera in hand.
But before sunset the cloud rolled in rapidly and a rainy night followed. The following morning was misty and somewhat atmospheric …
Some good birds turn up in the Terricks but on this occasion I encountered nothing out of the ordinary. Still, Galahs and Hooded Robins are always good to see.
Then it was a case of packing a wet tent and heading for another spot – the Barmah National Park.
The Buddhist Festival of Light was celebrated at the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion over the last couple of days. I was there last night with my camera in hand. It was a very pleasant evening enjoyed by a good crowd. There was an excellent choice of vegetarian food available!
Kids were particularly thrilled with the illuminated creatures. The light show and the fireworks also hit the spot.
Festivities concluded with the Burning of the Bad. People had written their negative thoughts and problems on pieces of paper during the course of the two days. These were added to a great fire in the hope that all negativity would be dispelled by the flames. The Buddha was kind to those who’d written the names Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten.
The Grampians National Park is one of Victoria’s jewels.
If you think of the Great Dividing Range as starting in north Queensland, sweeping south inland of Australia’s east coast and around the bend into Victoria the Grampians is where it makes its last desperate attempt to be mountainous. And a very scenic effort it is.
It and Wilson’s Promontory are the two Victorian parks under the greatest visitor pressure. At peak season the crowds are really bad, but don’t expect to feel lonely the rest of the year.
It has given Parks Victoria every opportunity to indulge itself in regulations, warning signs, railings and outrageous penalties. The rock climbing fraternity are the latest victims.
For a photographer who likes to use a drone as one of his cameras the frustration is immense. Drones cannot be flown without written permission on any Parks Vic property no matter how remote or lonely. Which locks away most of the great landscapes in the state.
Nonetheless it’s still worth a visit. My intention was to do some waterfall photography but I also felt the need for some exercise so I got there early with a view to climbing Mount William, the highest point. Although there was nothing on the Park’s website I found the Mount William Road closed. My 4 km hard hike had turned into a 24km hike, I wasn’t that early.
I settled instead for a ramble up to the Pinnacle via the Grand Canyon and Silent Street a 4.2km return hike from the Wonderland car park. There are plenty of excuses available to the photographer to rest along the way.
The view from the top is heavily polluted with man made constructions but with careful placement of the camera, towns, dam walls, railings, signs and tourists can all be avoided.
From there it was off to Mackenzie Falls for the late afternoon light.
Captain John Hart saw Cape Nelson off to starboard and set his course for Adelaide. It was March 30th 1837 he was sailing from Launceston, Van Dieman’s land (known since 1856 as Tasmania) to Adelaide in the three masted barque Isabella with a cargo of livestock and the Pearce family as passengers.
Not long after that the Isabella was wrecked. She ran into the real Cape Nelson. Captain Hart had misidentified Lady Julia Percy Island.
Twenty five passengers and crew took to the boats and made it safely to Portland which had been settled about three years earlier, the first town in what would become Victoria. I doubt the livestock fared as well.
It’s a wild and woolly spot now guarded by a lighthouse.