The great Australian ritual of roadtripping is alive and well in our house! An old habit that never dies, especially when you have a surfer who needs to take at least two surfboards in case there is amazing surf at our destination (actually further south than Adelaide at Middleton Beach – but Adelaide is the primary purpose of our visit – Christmas with family). As an artist I also like to travel with plenty of artistic options, so there is a small pack for en plein air painting and a whole lot of tubes of acrylics, charcoal, paper canvas etc AND I’ll stock up in an art store I know in Adelaide as well…. We’re only going for a week, but it is an adventure. In the old days we did the whole exercise from Sydney with small and then bigger children in non air-conditioned vans, carrying a spare petrol can incase we didn’t make the distance between Wilcannia and Cobar (or was it Broken Hill and Wilcannia?), listening to Richie Benaud and the cricket tests, with a long stop at the Hay Memorial Pool to cool down and rest for a couple of hours.
Here we go again, just two of us now in air-conditioned comfort, but there is the same adventurous roadtripping vibe!
First we have to cross the Great Dividing Range to Tenterfield, through to Armidale and Tamworth down the New England Highway. On through Coonabarabran (Coona) where the observatory can be seen in the Warrumbungle Mountains. Out to Gunnedah for the night.
Second day is Balranald via Dubbo – one of my old stamping grounds. I set up, ran and worked clinically on a ‘fly in, fly out’ basis at the Dubbo Family Planning Clinic for almost ten years. It was really my favourite achievement as a doctor. I was lucky enough to work with some wonderful people and had the opportunity to work with Aboriginal women in both Coonamble and Dubbo. I used to wander down to the Macquarie River after work and sketch and paint the river – one is still a painting that hangs in my house.
We then travel on to Parkes, Forbes, West Wyalong, Hay and finally Balranald. I really love walking down by the Murrumbidgee River at Balranald and have been meaning to make a painting of it for years – maybe soon!
After morning coffee its on the road again – we need to cover 2,300kms to get to our destination, Victor Harbor, a small beachside town and former Whaling Station south of Adelaide.
Once into the northern corner of Victoria we arrive in Mildura and it is about 39 degrees celsius but I am always fascinated by the massed blooms of roses that thrive here (and in the hot, dry climate of South Australia too. Just give ’em water and they love it!).
The mighty Murray River has seen better days – too much water has been taken from the Murray-Darling basin over the years and it is a difficult problem to solve now. There have been rising salt levels causing dieback of the stately gum trees which now stand stark, black and leafless in the pale green water.
We are now seeing vineyards and orchards in the Riverina of NSW and Riverland of South Australia. The real vine growing country starts around Wentworth and becomes vast acreages of brilliant green vineyards from Renmark onwards through the Barossa Valley. We’ll stop at Banrock Station on the way back – I love the wetlands they have established and will buy some wine too. Taking the scenic route via Hahndorf (home of Hans Heysen) we wend our way to the little stone house we are lucky enough to have lent to us for a week in Victor. Now I have so many ideas for artwork, I can’t wait to start!