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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 22 Oct 2011

Location: Somewhere in Bass Strait, Australia

MapFrom Swan Hill we continued to follow the Murray towards its source to the east in the Snowy Mountains. Our next stop is Echuca, which is another important town in the history of the river. Echuca was also exciting for us, for we were to catch up with a couple of dear friends from home. A few days earlier, we’d received a phone call from Graeme, who I had worked with for many years, as he and wife Christine happened to be heading to Melbourne about the same time as us. They have been travelling eastern Australia in a caravan for six months, and as things turned out, we were able to meet up with them at Echuca and to stay with them in the same caravan park.
Also at the same park was a large group of campers who had come together for a week of socialising. What made them united in their common interest was that they were all deaf and dumb. Even though this group had almost booked out the entire park, they were delightful and friendly to be around. There were numerous times when we were sitting outside our vans as there was also be over thirty people milling around a barbeque shelter behind us, deep in conversation. There was, however, total silence from them as every conversation was in sign-language.
Our few days with Graeme and Christine were simply old friends catching up after too long, as the river continued to flow past. The time came, however, to leave the Murray and head south for Melbourne and our ferry home to Tasmania. On the outskirts of Melbourne, we drove through the Kinglake area, devastated in the Black Saturday bushfires in February 2009. The thick, dense eucalypt forest was regenerating beautifully, with blackened charcoal trunks covered with luscious green growth. The small township of Kinglake was being rebuilt, with many new houses and some in the process of being rebuilt. We had lunch in the re-built Kinglake pub. Are these people brave, or foolish? It certainly is an attractive place to live, with hills and valleys creating pockets of spectacular green rainforests teeming with birdlife. Being high in the hills, we caught glimpses of the city of Melbourne 65 kilometers to the south, and if it wasn’t for the knowledge of the 42 deaths and destruction of 500 homes here, this area was a lovely and serene place to visit.
Driving through the busy streets of Melbourne, grateful for Sharon’s directions, we could see the large red ship moored at Station Pier waiting to take us home. Standing on the deck and watching skyscrapers disappear in the distance, I thought about what I’d seen over the past month – a landscape so different to Tasmania, the many people we had met, every day an adventure. The common thread was water to our left, either sea or a magnificent river.