Thursday, November 26, 2009

Echuca to Rutherglen

November 19

We woke at 7:00 to a sky the colour of dirty dishwater. The temperature was already climbing through the 30's. By 8:30 the caravan park was already emptying. People were anxious to get their travelling done early, before the predicted 40ÂșC.
All the radio stations were broadcasting the same news: record high temperatures across the southeast of the continent, extreme fire ban, stay indoors if possible, otherwise seek out malls and other air-conditioned public places to escape the heat.
We set off eastwards along the Murray River, driving slowly and drinking copious amounts of water. The air became denser and the sky a peculiar pewter - very bright, but sucking all the colour out of the landscape. All my photos from this day have a bleached-out look to them.
We passed through parched fields,

with a few deserted old buildings by the roadside from time to time.

At Lake Mulwala with its flooded trees, we felt like characters in a science fiction movie, awaiting the apocalypse.

It was too hot for our usual picnic lunch so we ate in a diner in the dead-end town of Katamatite, served by a plump, impassive girl who might well have been an alien in disguise.

It was a relief to reach Rutherglen, a charming little historic town

in the heart of a wine-growing area that is particularly famous for its fortified wines:

We found a shady spot in their caravan park and felt slightly better after a cold shower, even though the heat stayed intense for the rest of the day. When I re-filled our water bottle at the tap, I was approached by a couple of magpies gasping in the heat. I put a little water in a plastic cup for them.

Later in the afternoon, we braved the heat to stroll through the town. It had a great Echium growing through a fence,

and a great secondhand bookstore.

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