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400km drive from Hay to Rainbow

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Waking up at Sandy Point in Hay we were able to have a look around at our surroundings in the light after arriving in the dark.

It was a beautiful spot right beside the Murrimbidgee River and we could have easily have stayed here a few days had we not been so keen to get to Rainbow.

Camped by the Murrimbidgee River at Sandy Point

Camped by the Murrimbidgee River at Sandy Point

 

Sandy Point Hay

Sandy Point Hay

 

Beautiful Gums line the Murrimbidgee River

Beautiful Gums line the Murrimbidgee River

 

Leaving Hay on the Sturt Highway we travelled past another 100km or so of the vast, flat plains, every kilometre of which captivated us with the sheer magnificence of the wide uninterrupted expanse of land from horizon to horizon.

The vast expanse of the One Tree Plains outside Hay

The vast expanse of the One Tree Plains outside Hay

As we passed mile after mile of open a space deep respect arose for the land owners, who are completely unknown to me, who had taken this empty land and created irrigation channels and turned the seemingly infertile plain into thousands of acres of maize, cotton maize and other grains.

Turning off the Sturt and onto the Mallee Highway we drove on through the towns of Balranald, Manangatang, Sea Lake and Hopetoun.

We crossed the Murray River at Tooleybuc which is home to an historic bridge over the Murray River.

Constructed in 1907, the bridge is designed with a middle section that could be lifted to let paddle steamers through.

The Tooleybuc Bridge over the Murray River

The Tooleybuc Bridge over the Murray River

A cottage still remains that housed the Bridge Keeper and his family until 1994.

The Tooleybuc Bridge Keeper's Cottage

The Tooleybuc Bridge Keeper’s Cottage

In 1974, the paddle steamer “Pevensey” collided with the bridge after passing through the open bridge heading upstream. The steamer attempted to move to the south bank after clearing the bridge, but was caught in the strong current and swept sideways into the east side of the bridge.

The bridge sustained no noticeable damage, but the “Pevensey” suffered some damage to her upper works.

After being pulled off by a team of locals who were gathered to see her come through the bridge, the “Pevensey” refueled and made minor repairs, before heading upstream to Echuca.

The Paddle Steamer Pevensy on the Murray

The Paddle Steamer Pevensy on the Murray

Our destination was Rainbow and in the last 100 kilometres or so before making the town we drove past endless acres of wheat farms. Almost no other farming was visible just hundreds of thousands of acres of wheat.

Thousands upon thousands of acres of wheat farms - most recently harvested

Thousands upon thousands of acres of wheat farms – most recently harvested

Almost no signs of life appeared in that whole distance except for one farmer working a tractor. No houses and only the occasional barn or hayshed. We could only surmise that the farm houses were well back from the road.

One of the few signs of life in 100 km

One of the few signs of life in 100 km

The road was narrow and was made up of just enough sealing to accommodate the Aussie Wide with each wheel only inches from the dirt sides.

We didn’t need to worry about passing traffic, there was no one else on that 100km of back road.

The first sign pointing to Rainbow that we encountered was at Hopetoun

The first sign pointing to Rainbow that we encountered was at Hopetoun

Arriving in Rainbow was a rather emotional roller coaster for Kerrie. This was her Dad’s home both before he left for the war and when he returned with his new bride, Kerrie’s mum.

It was one year to the day since her dad passed away.

After a quick drive around the town we headed on out to stay at Lake Albacutya, 15 km north of Rainbow.


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The lake was a huge expanse of dry land. It last filled in 1974 and held water for nine years.

The huge expanse of dry land that is Lake Albacutya

The huge expanse of dry land that is Lake Albacutya

Kerrie remembered swimming in the lake when it was last full, the water lapping the now dry shoreline.

There was some hope of the lake filling again after the Brisbane floods but it was not to be.

The source is the Wimmera River which fills the huge Lake Hindmarsh to the north and the water is then conveyed via Outlet Creek to Lake Albacutya.

When full, it is a popular boating, fishing, yabbying and swimming spot and an absolute boom for the town from the extra tourists.

Last time it was full it supported 18 commercial fishermen who from all reports did very well out of it.

When dry, camping, 4WD exploration, walking and nature studies are the main attraction.

Albacutya is said to mean ‘where the quandongs grow’. This is a reference to a tree found here which bears a sweet fruit eaten by Aborigines and early European settlers alike. The wood was used for cabinet-making.

We were the only humans at the beautiful spot and there was a feeling of isolation that was in no way uncomfortable. As we watched the sun go down over this beautiful place Kerrie got out her copy of the 1988 Bicentenary of Rainbow inside of which was a hand drawn map made her mother highlighting the sites of the town where they used to live, work and play.

The boat ramp around which Kerrie swam 37 years ago when the lake was last full

The boat ramp around which Kerrie swam 37 years ago when the lake was last full

I left her to her thoughts as she journeyed through a range of emotions on reading that little piece of paper and the book that had now vastly increased in significance us being here at the place.

I felt I could almost see her thoughts as she walked alone down the long boat ramp out onto the dry lake bed.

She could have been remembering the many holidays to Rainbow and seeing the family bathing in the lake.

Just being here now in this place that was such a big part of the parents she utterly adored was enough to provoke many emotions as she cast her mind over those trips to the area.

I made us a meal of a tomato and bacon hot pot spooned over a damper I cooked in the camp oven and as we finished eating Kerrie phoned Nola to tell her where we were.

She felt that only Nola could understand the significance of where we were.

With the setting of the sun the night sky exploded into a display of stars that only these isolated places can produce. Away from any lights and in a sky that was crystal clear the spectacular display was awe inspiring.

We climbed into bed as the temperature dropped rising later to see the night sky ablaze again with stars centred by a ¾ moon that picked out the features of the surrounding bush and turned them silver.

Later I had the pleasure of sitting outside in the crisp pre dawn air amid absolute silence that was so deep even a slight movement of the leaves on the trees sounded loud.

I sat mesmarised in the silence as the sky to the east reddened, beckoning the coming sunrise.

Sunrise over Lake Albacutya

Sunrise over Lake Albacutya

As the sun rose over the dry lake in a spectacular display of colour I thanked God for Kerrie and for the privilege of accompanying her here to this place.

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