In this blog we are in Victoria, Australia and still enjoying life pre accident, 27th April. We travel from the Grampians to Horsham and back to the Grampians and encounter all types of weather and geology.
Blog 223 Horsham: - Home from Home 5th – 6th April 2012
We were on a mission we had to get to Horsham, more importantly Horsham library before close of play tonight, as they would not reopen until after the Easter break.
We should stop to explain before you think we are totally bonkers. Our home town, in England that we left way back in May 2010 was Horsham and my job before we left on the trip was in Horsham library in the UK where I worked for over 10 years.
My boss was looking for ideas to promote the library and it was my idea was to see if there were any other Horshams overseas and link the libraries. It turned out there were two other Horsham libraries one in Australia and the other in Pennsylvania USA. My Horsham library contacted both of them and formed links and an online 3 reads book club was formed. Our local radio station in the UK heard about it and a live radio link to all three libraries was also attempted. Sadly we lost the link to Australia at the last moment but the UK and the USA link went well.
I guess the original idea to search for Horsham libraries worldwide was born because of our planned motorcycle trip, I was looking further afield than most. Since then it had always been in the back of my mind that if it was possible, I would love to meet the people involved and introduce myself, after all there are not many people that can genuinely say that they have ridden half way round the world to meet them.
We stopped the bike under the welcome to Horsham sign as it was too good a photo opportunity to miss. Horsham is at the centre of the Wimmera plains, a wheat and wool growing district and is utterly unlike our home town.
The Wimmera district was previously known as Bogambilor, the aboriginal word meaning place of flowers. Horsham was named by James Monkton Darlot, who took up land in 1842 as the first squatter. The now city of Horsham lies on the flood plains of the Wimmera river which runs lazily through it and being quite a long way inland it is hot arid country. Horsham was severely hit by bushfires on 7th April 2009 dubbed “Black Saturday” 13 homes were lost, 2500 hectares of land burnt and 173 people killed across the state of Victoria.
We had forewarned the library staff of our intended arrival and we managed to time it just right for tea and cakes, Yummy. All the staff made us most welcome and we were introduced to Mary, Leannda and Pauline, the staff instrumental in the 3 reads project at the Australian end. They had been busy and organised a newspaper reporter. We had parked outside the library entrance and after our official interview we took photos of the staff and the bike. Boofle had to get in on the act too, he was after all a leaving present from the staff at Horsham Library in the UK and had travelled all the way with us. After a look round the library we headed back home with Mary who invited us to stay the night.
Next morning on a recommendation from Kingsley, Mary’s husband we headed to the mitre and Mt Arapiles, a rock formation that rises about 140metres above the Wimmera plains about 30km from Horsham. On route we unexpectedly bumped into Elvis and other friend’s. These colourful mosaic characters were expertly crafted and as you can see from me sitting next to them, life sized. They were opposite the court house in the historical town of Natimuk.
Mitre rock and Mt Arapiles have been a mecca for rock climbers since the early 60′s when they discovered just how versatile they were for climbing. Mitre Rock is adjacent to Mount Arapiles and flanked by Mitre Lake, a natural salt lake surrounded by Samphire, Melaleuca and other salt tolerant vegetation. Mitre lake is part of the Chain of Lakes, a natural chain of wetlands that stretch from Douglas in the south to Mount Arapiles in the north. We chatted to some of the rock climbers as we walked around the base.
Then we turned our attention to Mt Arapiles, rising out of the rich farming land and dominating the skyline it was an impressive sight in an otherwise flat landscape. To get to the summit we rode the bike though the lovely Tooan State Park (7475 hectares) following the explorer Major Mitchell’s trail. The Mount is home to over 2000 climbing routes and is known as one of the best rock climbing destinations in Australia.. The view from the summit was breathtaking, partly because the wind had whipped up and taken it way, along with my hair….
Up here we could see some bad weather was blowing in and we looked down on a brown dust storm that was swirling across the plains. On the way back down we dodged it a few times but eventually we had no choice but to ride into it. It was incredibly windy and dark and visibility was down to a few metres but then we punched through emerging into daylight again. We travelled like this for a while punching through the patchy wind and dust clouds until we reached a lake. With the stormy weather and submerged trees it looked really eerie and made a good picture. The guys wading about in it were laying traps for something I think.
From here we had the wind behind us until we turned onto the main road where we ran into a wall so dark we couldn’t see the white lines in front of us, the wind nearly knocked us off so strong was it. We punched through and turned off the main road again, travelling for a while alongside the strange weather belt, the rains followed shortly after. We struck lucky, I spotted a village recreation centre with an overhang and we rode straight in. Just in time, the sky blackened even more and the heavens opened followed by a spectacular display of thunder and lightening directly above us. We waited it out before riding back to the Grampians for the night.
The ranger had warned us all the campsites would be full because of the Easter break and he was right, we headed up a little dirt track and found a beautiful free camp unoccupied because of the gully across the entrance. The bikes back racks not only support and protect the panniers they also come off and turn into seats and ramps. It doesn’t look much in the photo and you could have got a light dirt bike across by popping up the front wheel with the throttle but we didn’t think that would work with us somehow, it certainly would have tipped us over the bars if Kev had just charged at it..
Next up – we explore the rest of the Grampians.