Australia 99 p1

Walhalla excitement

Wednesday, September 8

Australia is a long way from Beirut. The journey, including stops at Larnaca, Dubai and Singapore, took almost exactly 24 hours that I thoroughly enjoyed (I've always wanted to have all my meals aboard a plane). I had never been this far East before...

Friday, September 10

Cheeky flew in one day and never left.
I arrived in Melbourne after midnight on September 10 (don't ask me where the 9th went), to find my friends Anne, Katt and Trace waiting for me. The first thing Anne did was give me a stuffed koala!
We set out for Katt's sister Dawn's house in Traralgon, 160 km away from Melbourne. It seems that for Aussies, that's just a drive next door. After all, Anne had driven all the way from Adelaide about 1000 km to pick me up from the airport...

We would stay in Traralgon for a couple of days before driving back to Adelaide. One of the first things I noticed, not surprisingly, was the Australian language, in particular some typically Oz expressions (some of them are actually English, but at that point I'd never been to the UK to know that):

Tea: Dinner
Chips: Fries
Chook: Chicken
Cuppa: Cup of coffee or tea
Barbie (BAH-bee): BBQ
Pom: Englishman
Yank: American
Fair dinkum: It's really true
Snag: Sausage
Mongrel: Bastard
Supper: Lunch
No worries: No problem
Gaol: Jail
I reckon: I guess
Joey: Baby kangaroo
Roo: Kangaroo
Spewing: Steaming, furious
Wazza: Roadkill ("That was a ...")
Sanger: Sandwich
Conveeny: Convenience store
Icker (AH-ka): Hardcore Australian

Saturday September 11
Word had gone out ahead of time that it was my birthday, and I was spoiled. The day itself had been planned as a big birthday celebration, so we packed a picnic and drove out of Latrobe valley towards Walhalla. On the way we stopped at Katt's present to me: a visit to an alpaca farm! Anne called me Alpaca online and her friends knew me by that name, hence Katt's idea.
The alpaca farm and a particularly shaggy specimen I called... Shaggy

Walhalla is an interesting little village hidden in the lap of a jungle-covered mountain. It is so remote that it never had electricity before April that year. It sprung out of the ground during the Gold Rush, and gold and copper were extracted in the mines surrounding it. However, the gold mine soon became too deep and flooded with water, and there wasn't enough copper to justify its exploitation. So Walhalla became largely a ghost town, and only the part of the village that was in the valley survived.

In 1911 the Walhalla firemen received the latest equipment in firefighting. That didn't prevent the town from burning down, for they had the equipment, but not the corps!

The town's wooden architecture hasn't changed since the Gold Rush.
The highlight of the day was a 4WD trip on the old coach road. The tour took us across a river, through ghost satellite towns such as Maidentown and Mormonville, and the Happy-Go-Lucky camping ground. We stopped at a copper smelting post that is rotting away in the forest and picked up copper and azurite minerals from the ground to bring home as a souvenir. The road was cut into the mountain flank, so that we had a wall of earth to our right and a steep slope to our left. Sometimes there were fallen trees across it, and the jeep could barely drive underneath them. The guide told us that one of the jeeps was too high to go through, so whenever they reached this part of the road they had to ask the passengers to get off and to hang onto one of the sides! The end of the drive was memorable: the ground suddenly vanished and our expert driver switched off the engine so that the jeep could freely slide down a slope that no wheels could have adhered to.

A pause on the trail
Fording the river!
Remains of ghost towns
The ride left us all very excited. My kind of birthday event!
We unpacked everything in the picnic area and treated ourselves to a "barbie". In the meantime I was discovering Australian birds and flora, with the help of Steve who was picking flowers for me and telling me their names. I have pressed them in my sketchbook, which has retained their scent ever since. As for the birds, I had already noticed three very chattery ones: the jay, with white bands on its wings, the South Australian piping shrike, and the candy-pink rosella.

Dawn had had a cake made for me, with "Happy Birthday Alpaca" written on it. She said the guy who took the order couldn't help but commenting: "A birthday cake for an animal??"