Wild Fires in the Grampians
Trip Start Aug 11, 2005
150Trip End May 22, 2006
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Uuuuuugggghhhhh. All I could think about this morning was how an intelligent person would have packed up yesterday before dipping into the wine. Leaning over to pick up stuff and pack it into a suitcase was not really an action that was pleasant at all.
Slowly but surely, we did get everything into the car. After some contemplation and discussion, we decided to return to Wolf Blass to purchase a picnic bag and picnic blanket with the Wolf Blass logo nicely featured on both. We envision ourselves using these on picnics at Hawrelak Park with friends and family.
Regretfully, we left the wine region. Upon recommendation from the tourist info, we followed a scenic route. This took us through some itsy bitsy towns, more vineyards, beautiful pastures and farmlands, gentle rolling hills, and quite high hills
This crossing was close to Bordertown that is near the .... come on, guess....yup, the border between the states of South Australia and Victoria. The remaining five hours of our trip took us through prairies which looked exactly like driving through Saskatchewan and Alberta. For us, driving through the Alberta prairies isn't that boring because we know the towns, know the farms, know the times and distances between areas, but this was looooonnnnng. Granted, I wasn't feeling the best for most of it, but it was really long.
The last hour was quite pretty however. This is when we passed just north of the Grampians. This national park was meant to be our next destination. Its forests are centuries old, the hills are short mountains that are ice-capped in the winter, and the scenery is quite breathtaking. Well, this is what we've been told anyway. We didn't get the chance to explore it for ourselves as it has been ablaze with forest fires (or bush fires as they call them in this part of the world) for over a week. Five days ago when we called to book a room, we were told to call later as they had to keep the lines open in case they received the call to evacuate
From listening to the news, they did eventually evacuate a few days later. High winds that changed directions a few times and numerous other fires in this area made it difficult for the forestry department to contain it. It's so sad. In all, we've heard estimates that 80% of the forest will be lost. While driving by, we were listening to the radio and between every song, there was an update informing residents of the fires and issuing evacuation and alert notices. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have to flee a home full of memories.
As you would guess, with all of these fires, there was a complete fire ban for the entire area for the day. We're still not sure why it was only for the day, in fact they kept saying until midnight. What? Like, will it be okay to light a bonfire at 00:01? Strange. Regardless of the ban, Ballarat, our home for the night, was continuing on with its Australia Day fireworks display. Maybe because they planned to launch them over the lake, they thought this would be okay. We finished dinner just in time to drive to the congested lakefront and catch the first firework. What a display. They lasted over fifteen minutes. Pretty impressive. There were even a few that neither of us had ever seen. There is just something about fireworks that I just love. I'm like a little kid every time I see them. Maybe this is because when my brother and I were still little and still living in Calgary, we used to go watch The Stampede fireworks on the hill in front of my Aunt Edith and Uncle Jim's house
Ballarat was a buzzing gold mining town years ago. They've preserved some of the buildings and built an attraction similar to Fort Steele or Barkersville. Our hostel was on the hill above it. Only a small fence separated us from it. The cool thing was that our hostel looked like it was part of the village. It looked to be from the beginning of the 20th century. Our building was formerly a barracks. Deep wood, slanted roof, really neat.
Our twin room was quaint and cozy. We were quite impressed with it all until Gerald screeched and flung his sheets off of his bed.
"What?" I awoke with a start.
"A bug and I don't think it was a bed bug. It's somewhere on the carpet now."
Knowing that it would have to be me that would pick it up and dispose of it, up I got. There it was, on the floor. That was no bed bug alright; it was some kind of cockroach looking thing with spiky legs.
"Did it bite you?" I asked.
"No, but it sure felt picky. It was under my shirt and I swatted it before it could bite me."
"I thought we wouldn't have needed our bug spray after Asia." I groaned.
We flipped on the lights and did the "Bug Inspection". We've become quite lazy and haven't done "the check" in a while. The bed frame was okay, but on the floor under the bed, there appeared to be a bunch of these bugs. On closer inspection, some were dead and others looked more like egg sacks like cockroaches make. Great, just great. At least there didn't appear to be any live ones, but just in case Gerald left the bathroom light turned on all night.