We were in need of a long ride so set off to do the Silo Art Trail in western Victoria. Initially we followed the Murray River north-west, surprised at the urban sprawls of Yarrawonga and Cobram. We crossed the river at Barmah into NSW. I wanted to avoid the shemozzle of Echuca so we came down into Moama and stayed the night at the River Park Motel – highly recommended and close to the flash Moama Bowling Club for tea.
Next morning we crawled through the Echuca crappola and onto the Murray Valley Highway for the run to Kerang. Two oncoming adventure bikers gave us big arm waves. V-Stroms. Twenty minutes later it happened again. Beemers. We were getting a lot of respect! Yessirree! From Kerang we struck inland, away from the river, to Quambatook for lunch. We diverted to Sea Lake for fuel – it was raining all around except on us. So, for some time we avoided the showers. But it couldn’t last and, as we approached Dumosa, it bucketed down. But I spied a toilet block near the silos into which we zoomed.
The handy toilet block at the Dumosa silos.
Of course, a truckie pulled up and needed to use the facilities, so we wandered over to talk to his dogs. Then the storm really hit us. It’s times like this that I wished I’d paid more attention to what Jane Bunn had said instead of just paying attention to Jane Bunn.
Jane Bunn explaining the weather to me.
Our destination for the night was the Woomelang Hotel
which I’d read some positive reviews from motorcyclists on Facebook. It is slowly being restored by Graham and Lisa. The room was comfortable and seafood basket tasty. The hotel is closed on Monday and Tuesdays but open for travellers, mainly tourists visiting Lake Tyrell and the silos. Ours were the only vehicles on the street.
It is, as was Quambatook, just one of the many dying towns in north-western Victoria — empty shops, derelict and abandoned businesses, houses and sheds. The mechanization of the large grain farms and the use of contractors for sowing and harvesting has expelled the jobs and youth from the towns. Occasionally, a few people move in, attracted by the very cheap houses. But they, of course, don’t have any money to spend or invest. A whole way of life has gone and is evidenced in the forlorn deterioration of the towns.
Just up the road is Lascelles, the site of the first silo on our route. The silos on the art trail have all been decommissioned.
Lascelles: local farming couple Geoff and Merrilyn Horman, part of a family that has lived and farmed in the area for four generations.
Then on to Patchewollock where we had a very good coffee at the local store. The chick who made our coffee lives on a nearby farm and rattled off the crops that she and her husband grew – some I’d never heard of. Patchie was preparing for its music festival the following weekend and caravans were already rolling into town. Thousands attend.
Patchewollock: The rugged, lanky local, Nick “Noodle” Hulland, exemplifies the no-nonsense, hardworking spirit of the region. Perhaps more importantly though, Noodle had just the right height and leanness to neatly fit onto the narrow, 35-metre-high canvas of the twin 1939-built GrainCorp silos.
An issue now arising was fuel. My Moto Guzzi EV 1100 and Jane’s Ducati GT1000 required 98 RON petrol. We’d take 95 RON if we had to. But these towns had only 91 RON and diesel. Some town tourist signs had a fuel icon but the servos had closed down. Some towns were names on the map. Some had automated service stations — but only 91 and diesel. We were covering quite big distances so we took on-board a couple of litres each of 91 to tide us over until Warracknabeal. Out here, fuel up early and fuel up often.
Down the trail to Roseberry. The rain had been replaced by wind. A high pressure system was sitting in the Bight, directing strong easterlies over us as we motored south, and pushing us all over the road.
Roseberry: The silo on the left captures the grit, tenacity and character of the region’s young female farmers, who regularly face drought, fires and other hardships living and working in the Mallee. In her work shirt, jeans and turned-down cowboy boots, the strong young female sheep farmer symbolises the future. The silo on the right portrays a quiet moment between dear friends. The contemporary horseman appears in Akubra hat, Bogs boots and oilskin vest – common attire for Mallee farmers. Both man and horse are relaxed and facing downward, indicating their mutual trust, love and genuine connection.
Through fields of grain, we sped on to Brim.
The first silo artwork to appear in Victoria, it depicts an anonymous, multi-generational quartet of female and male farmers.
Finally at Warracknabeal we filled up with 98 and had lunch. Then down the trail, battling the wind, to Sheep Hills where we ran into two other Guzzi club members, Tony and Karen. Small world. They were doing the trail in the reverse order to us and had been in continual rain since leaving Gippsland. These were the most striking murals, to my mind, due to the colour.
Jane, me and Tony at Sheep Hills.
This celebrates the richness of the area’s Indigenous culture. The night sky represents elements of local dreaming and the overall image signifies the important exchange of wisdom, knowledge and customs from Elders to the next generation.
The final silo of the run was Rupanyup.
Rupanyup residents and local sporting team members, Ebony Baker and Jordan Weidemann. Fresh-faced and dressed in their sports attire (netball and Australian Rules football, respectively), Baker and Weidemann embody a youthful spirit of strength, hope and camaraderie.
Time was moving on and we were a bit worn out from the wind battering. We headed off to Horsham for the night. As usual, Horsham seemed booked out but the tourist bureau found us a room at the Horsham Mid-City Court, which was a stone’s throw from the city centre, and we had a very pleasant meal at the White Hart Hotel.
We left the silo trail for a run across Australia Felix to Edenhope, then into South Australia to Penola and Beachport. We were now traversing richly pastured country where sheep, cattle, lakes and stands of eucalypts gave the area an iconic Australian feel. Unlike the towns we’d seen in the Wimmera and Mallee, Edenhope felt prosperous. It is where the first international cricket team was formed — all Aborigines — and they toured England in 1868.
We wound our way through very pleasant scenery, crossed the border into South Australia, and entered the Coonawarra wine region. Miles of the most meticulously pruned vineyards and interesting wineries welcomed us into Penola. A drink and a wuz, then another hour put us on the coast at Beachport where the Beachport Caravan Park upgraded us to a unit on the beachfront.
Beachport on the Southern Ocean.
We had an excellent chowder and roast potato and bolognese for tea at the Water Front Cafe at THE Jetty, sitting in the evening sunshine with a beer and prosecco, overlooking the jetty and the bay.
After a rest day, we headed back to Victoria. Battered by strong winds, we took the main highway from Mt Gambier through Mumbanner — “the town that they forgot to build” — which has 60km/hr speed signs but no buildings! Heywood for a coffee, an historic timber town, then back roads to Woolsthorpe and Mortlake, the one-time home of Clarke’s pies. Stayed at Macs Hotel which has been refurbished and is very comfortable. Very nice curry for dinner.
I was impressed with the graffiti in the dyke at Woolsthorpe. Normally offering sexual advice, this not only had an apostrophe but it was in the right place! A credit to the local teachers in this small community.
The forecast had the high pressure cell moving away — it had hung around for a while — and dragging in wet weather behind it. Time to head for home. Took one of our favourite roads, the Streatham to Beaufort (officially the Eurambeen-Streatham Road). After a false start, this opens up into a curvy romp across central Victoria, with wide-open views across to the Grampians, no roadside vegetation and smooth surface. Fields of yellow canola stretched for miles.
Beaufort for a coffee and a leak and then through the goldfields and hills of the Great Dividing Range. We knew this area well from a previous lifetime. But the smegging wind was still with us! Roast lamb and gravy bun in Dunolly. Where to for the night? Moama of course! The roads from Serpentine to Mitiamo then Echuca have to be the straightest roads I’ve ever ridden in Victoria. Into the rabbit warren of Echuca, where the sprawling housing estates are engulfing the hay paddocks, to cross the bridge into Moama in NSW. Stayed at the Meninya Palms Motel — the wind keeping me awake half the night.
Choofed off via Barmah, back-tracking our route of a week before, continually being blown about. Had a Caesar salad and coffee at Watts in Bundalong Cafe — very pleasant — the owner, a trumpy rider, recognised our bikes.
After seven days and 2000km, we rolled into Bright to an enthusiastic welcome from Paddy and Mick. It doesn’t matter if it’s been a week or an hour, they’re always glad to see us back home.