The Road to Rutherglen

Friday 9 to Monday 12 November.

We were so excited to welcome Evan home in November 2018 for James Gibson’s wedding in Rutherglen. Sadly, Steph couldn’t join us, as she was visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of her role with Chemonics in providing better access to education there.

We hosted a couple of events for Evan to spend time with family and friends. He also met many of his friends for a drink and chat.

We decided to drive Evan to Rutherglen for James and Siobhan’s wedding celebration and managed to do some sightseeing both with him and without him.

Having visited the Art Silos of north western Victoria, we though it would be fun to show Evan some more local ones, so we detoured to Benalla where we found a load of street murals. We still had a long way to travel, so our visit to Benalla was short.

Benalla has created a Wall-to-Wall Festival where the town invites artists to create murals. Professional artists and local people have so far created up to 50 murals around the town.

The Winton Wetlands are a reclaimed area, initially flooded for irrigation, but proved unviable because of shallow water evaporation and blue-green algae.

A project has been established to decommission the dam and restore the land. A skeleton of 150,000 river red gums create a unique landscape. Added to this are some pieces of art.

A Country Fire Authority water tank that has been decorated with the faces of three local volunteer firefighters and was painted by Guido Van Helten in March 2016.

We also found a wonderful fish painting on Boggy Bridge Road by local artist Tin Bowtell. By juxtapositioning yourself along the road, the coloured art on the individual trees comes together as fish – very clever.

There is a lot more to see at the Winton Wetlands – it is worth a longer visit.

Close by we found Goorambat where silos were painted by Jimmy D’Vate in March 2018. A beautiful rural farm scene complete with the iconic Southern Cross windmill sits on one silo, whilst a huge portrait of an endangered barking owl is on the other silo.

We also found the mural of Sophia of Goorambat in the Uniting Church, by Adnate. Sophia is the personification of divine wisdom in the Old Testament. Adnate has a strong interest and knowledge of early Renaissance paintings, which is why he was keen to paint a church mural, but he is also well known for his portraits of Indigenous Australians.

A little further north we stopped at Devenish, a small town where one sixth of its citizens signed up to serve in World War I. This is remembered by an amazing Silo Art Work by Cam Scale, depicting a nurse of the day and a modern-day army medic. Just two days before the Remembrance Day, the site was decorated with knitted and crocheted poppies – a welcome reminder of the service paid by so many Australians in both wars. They were completed in April 2018 as part of the 100th anniversary of the end of the war.

Our next stop was at Tungamah, where a wire fence kept us away from the silos completed by Sobrane in February 2018. A kookaburra sits on the left silo and dancing brolgas flit about the right-hand pair of silos.

These art silos are rather more recent additions to Australia’s amazing art silo trail. It’s a fantastic way to promote small country towns and bring a new form of art.

After we dropped Evan at Mt Ophir for the wedding celebration, we hit the road. This time to Pfeiffer’s Winery where we started the 10km hike around Lake Moodemere. The lake was once a billabong on the Murray River but is now a waterway in its own right. What struck us most about the beautiful walk was the number of birds we saw and heard. We were entertained by kookaburras, probably complaining to us for entering their territory, but I think they were also using the opportunity to teach their young how to laugh. I never ever tire of their laugh.

At Pfeiffer’s there were lots of turtles in the creek. We were told that the staff hand out dog food pellets to the young tourists to feed them. Having just read how these turtles are endangered, it was nice to see a safe haven for them.

We enjoyed a well-deserved glass of wine and a slice of Christmas cake at the end of the walk.

After a short walk along the rail trail on Sunday, we went to pick up Evan from the wedding party. Understandable he was feeling a little the worse for wear after a heavy night, but we dragged him to the Yeddonba Aboriginal Cultural Site at the foot of Mount Pilot in the Chiltern Mt Pilot National Park.

The walk is short but is mostly steps up and down the rocks. The highlight is some very faded aboriginal art of a Goanna-Snake and of a Thylacine. It is believed the art, in ochre, is about 2,000 years old and seems to indicate that the extinct thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) may have inhabited mainland Australia.

We spent our last night in Yackandandah, a favourite place for our family. My father grew up in this small town with his maternal grandparents. Our ancestors go back to the gold rush days of the 1850s as fossickers (Backhaus) and bootmakers and blacksmiths (Clune).

Sadly, the town was on holiday, with both the top pub and the bottom pub shut for the night and Saint Monday café closed on Monday. We enjoyed a very decent Thai meal instead.

Quick stops in Beechworth to visit the honey store and Milawa to visit the mustard store completed our short adventure.

We returned to Melbourne to give Evan time to catch up with more family and friends before he heads of the Mexico for another wedding next weekend. Steph will be able to join him for that event.

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An Outback Adventure

We celebrated the winter solstice by taking delivery of our brand new Subaru Outback. The purchase had been planned for some time and much research went in before making our selection.

Our first full drive was to the Mornington Peninsula – old stomping ground. We chose the motorways and country roads we knew to test out the unfamiliar features.

Then it was off to the outback – well Victoria’s outback of the Wimmera region in the state’s north west, to see the Yarriambiack Silo Art Trail.

The first bulk handling silo in Australia was built in 1919 at Peak Hill in NSW. It was not until the late 1930s that silos were built in Victoria. They were typically built alongside railway lines, for fast transportation to docks and factories.

Farmers would bring in their bagged grain, which would be emptied into a receiving grate and elevated to the top of the silo. It was an effective way to hygienically store and distribute grain.

With the advent of current mechanisation and larger transport trucks, the silos became inefficient and many were closed down. About half of the 148 silos in Victoria are now not in use.

Since 2015, GrainCorp, who owns the silos, has supported silo art projects with the aim of reinvigorating some of Australia’s smallest regional towns.

There are many painted silos in Australia, but the Yarriambiack Shire has made an art trail of those in their region.

I saved the locations in MapsME on our travel Android phone and I have been looking for the best way to import them into WordPress. Many plugins import KML files as a premium addition, however I have found Flexible Maps does it simply. If you click on a red pin, a description will be displayed. So here is our journey:

We stayed in Warracknabeal, which is quite central to the art work. We arrived on Sunday and the options for dinner were limited. We chose the ‘Creek Hotel’ which became our preferred place for the following nights. It was lively and the food was good. Bruce even found decent beer there!

Our motel was close to the Yarriambiack Creek, which provided a nice walk to the Creek Hotel.

We were shocked at the number of empty shops in Warracknabeal and the other towns we visited. Those shops that were occupied were bakeries, butchers (one in each town), hairdressers and second hand shops. Many pubs were shut up. I guess that is indicative of the tough life in the country.

On Monday we drove north to see silos at Brim, Rosebery, Lascelles and Patchewollock. We were lucky with the weather and brilliant blue skies.

We made other stops to see some interesting installations at round-abouts in Warracknabeal and Minyip, and to see a mural by Kaff-eine in Beulah. I have borrowed from the excellent Yarriambiack Silo Art Trail brochure to describe the art work we saw.

Guido van Helten’s iconic Brim mural was the first silo artwork to appear in Victoria in 2015, and initiated further art in the area. He depicts an anonymous, multi-generational quartet of female and male farmers.

Kaff-eine created a art work in Rosebery, capturing the grit, tenacity and character of a young female farmer and a contemporary horseman in common attire of Akubra hat and oilskin vest.

Rone’s work in Lascelles depicts a farming couple Geoff and Merrilyn Horman representing families who have farmed the district for generations. The art is muted in colour and it was particularly challenging to photograph Merrilyn.

Fintan Magee was challenged to paint on a narrow 35 metre high silo in Patchewollock. He used it to portray Nick “Noodle” Hulland, a local, lanky, fair-haired, squinting, archetypal Aussie farmer.

On Tuesday we drove south to see silos at Sheep Hills and Rupanyup, then continued west on to Dimboola to see the Pink Lake. The day was overcast, so photographs were a little more challenging.

Adnate created an aboriginal mural on the silos of Sheeps Hill. The magnificent mural which depicts Wergaia Elder, Uncle Ron Marks, and Wotjobaluk Elder, Aunty Regina Hood, alongside two young children, Savannah Marks and Curtly McDonald celebrates the richness of the area’s Indigenous culture.

Julia Volchkova painted on squat silos in Rupanyup. The art work represents the youth of Rupanyup and their great love of team sport. The art is monochromatic and delicate.

We stopped at Dimboola for lunch. Our hosts at the motel had recommended we go to the Victoria Hotel for lunch, but it was closed. The beautiful building was opened for business in September 1924 and has been a popular watering hole ever since, except on Tuesdays at lunch time.

After finding a suitable sandwich we drove out to the Pink Lake just to the west of Dimboola. The pink colour of the water comes from a pigment secreted by microscopic algae. Alas there was little pink as the clouds created a very dull light.

In researching the silos I found it very difficult to find history of when the silos were built and how they were used. On the other hand I was fascinated by the stories of the artists. Many started their life in art as graffiti artists but now travel the world following passions such as indigenous people and refugees. They paint murals in places such as Jordan, Ukraine, Finland and Mexico. Truely amazing stories!

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Old Stories of European Adventures

Now that my web site is up and running, I thought I would share some old stories. Our first trips to Europe in the 21st century.

Europe 2005, at last

In 2005, shortly after Hayden moved to London to be with Elisse, we visited. That was my first return to Europe in twenty-five years and it was exciting. We visited friends in England, Germany, France and Italy. We also toured Spain – not knowing how it would enter our lives at a later stage.

4-Bruce and Thea at Vernazza

Adventurous in 2007

After our first journey, it was time to venture to other places. In 2007 we returned to Europe to visit Hayden and Elisse who by now had moved to Barcelona. Then to Russia – St Petersburg, Moscow and the historical Golden Circle. This was an escorted tour. Whilst we loved what we saw, we hated the constraints of the tour. We finished our travels in Prague, Warsaw and Vienna.

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Celebrating in 2008

It was Bruce’s idea to visit Denis for his 60th birthday celebrations in 2008, so we invited ourselves to his party. Fortuitously, Hayden and Elisse were still in Barcelona and Evan was touring, so we all got together in Barcelona and then Andora. From there we went to Switzerland, then on to Hungary, Slovenia and a little bit of Italy. We stayed within the 40th parallel.

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stainsbyte.com is back in action

It has taken a while, but finally stainsbyte.com is back in action.

All my photos are back, all my pages are back and all my posts are back.

And I have just finished publishing my stories on Finland where we visited Helsinki twice, Rovanimie and Santa, lakes and castles around Savonlinna, the rapids at Imatra and the lovely wooden village of Porvoo.

I still have a lot of stories to tell, returning to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, visiting Hayden and Andrea again in Berlin before making our way to England.

Sadly, our English journey was interrupted to return home and farewell my gorgeous brother Phil.

We made a brave return to England then onto USA, before beginning a magical tour of South America.

Yes, so many more stories to tell.

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Welcome back to stainsbyte.com

It’s been nearly two months since we arrived home from a wonderful long journey that took in parts of USA, north-eastern Europe, South America and Antarctica.

Following a disagreement with the people who hosted stainsbyte.com (HostSailor), after they ‘lost’ my website, I have been trying to rebuild it.

HostSailor offered me a free month of hosting to make up for loosing my web site – that simply wasn’t enough. I am now back hosting with Dreamhost, and just hope it works for me.

With 146 blogs, nearly 400 pages, 470 galleries of photos, it has turned out to be a long slow process.

But I am slowly getting things together. The blogs and pages are there, but not all the photos. So excuse the ‘no images were found‘ at the end of my stories – it isn’t permanent.

 

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stainsbyte.com is taking a break!

I recently visited Antarctica. It is a pristine, unspoiled place without the trappings of shopping malls and internet access.

In the nine days of my journey HostSailor sent me an invoice to renew the hosting of my web site, two reminders, three overdue notices, and then suspended my account.

Finally they deleted my virtual server and don’t have a backup. 

I paid my account, 4 days late, and in the meantime they have ‘lost’ my server. 

I guess I have two choices:

  • don’t visit remote parts of the world
  • don’t use HostSailor

I will be working to rebuild my web site with another host, when I return home in March.

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End of the Baltics, End of Summer

Friday 28 July to Tuesday 5 September

As we depart the Baltics we also watch summer disappearing. Trees are showing golden leaves, wildflowers are turning to seed, stork nests are empty, fields are being mown. 

Apart from poorer than expected weather, it has been a wonderful experience. So we knew it’d be cool, but it’s been a little too grey, much to the frustration of many summer attired holiday makers who were also expecting better weather and our photography. 

From our first day visiting the beautiful island castle of Trakai, to exploring forests and lakes, sand dunes and beaches, we have seen a lot and learned a lot. 

Not really part of the Baltics states, but our visit to Finland was amazing.  From the liveable city of Helsinki, an overnight train to the Arctic Circle with a visit to Santa, to the historical Lakeland. 

We saw the Soviet influence on the eastern borders of the Baltics, stayed in a Soviet hotel in Ludza, explored the university city of Tartu, where Estonia’s famous IT expertise is born. We chilled out in the lovely forest of the Lahemaa National Park, before receiving a drenching in Tallinn. 

We explored beaches in less than favourable conditions, slopped around in bogs munching on wild berries and explored ancient castles by candlelight. We loved the old cities, especially those that the cruise boats can’t reach. Our legs were weary after a day on cobblestone streets.

And the berries – such variety, sweet and sour, red, black, yellow and white. The markets were full of them. They are served with salads, meat dishes and of course ice cream. 

Berries are free, as our mushrooms, you simply go into the forest, to your favourite place and pick them. We’d often see people waiting for buses on a forest road, with a basket or bucket full of their pickings. 

Playgrounds were truly impressive. Children are agile and confident. Parents sit and watch, but as long as the child can walk with confidence they are free to use the playground on their own. As well as the normal swings, slides and merry go rounds there are lots of climbing frames and Tarzan style rope courses to challenge them. 

Another outstanding sight was the quaint wooden houses, of all colours, often intermingled with Soviet style apartments. 

The legacy of wars was interesting, being pulled back and forth by Germans, Russians, Swedes, Danes, especially for the timber, an important building material. 

Forests have been devastated both in ancient times and more recently during Nazi and Soviet occupation. 

One surprise for us is how extensively English is spoken. We have only had one or two occasions where communication was tricky. From decent hotels to tiny coffee shops on the road we were able to order coffee, wine, and a city guide. Perhaps because all the languages are so different, English is common. 

Finland and the Baltics – what a treat to visit you.

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For those who like statistics, here are some…

11 May to 9 August 2017

It is 90 days since we left home and we have reached the farthest north on our travels in Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland.

We have spent quality time with both our sons and their wives -Evan & Steph in New York and Hayden & Andrea in Berlin.

In USA we travelled 3753 miles (6044 kilometres) for 43 days, slept in 17 beds and journeyed through 8 states – New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland.

In Europe we have travelled 4754 kilometres for 47 days, slept in 26 beds, including overnight plane and train and journeyed through 8 countries – Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland.

And photos? Well Bruce has taken 3,629 and I have taken 5,555 to date.

We have more time and many miles yet to travel.

I am slowly updating stories and pictures of our travels under the menu Wanderers 2017-1018.

You will see Bruce’s photos on his blog – look out for the link in each story, or just browse the Photography menu, starting at the bottom.

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Spain – it’s all about a wedding

Andrea & Hayden. Granada, 3 September 2016

Andrea & Hayden. Granada, 3 September 2016

We spent five weeks in Spain, arriving in Barcelona in mid-August.

Of course the most important event was Hayden & Andrea’s wedding in Granada. They had met whilst studying at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and developed a beautiful relationship during their study years.

With PhDs completed and jobs found in Berlin, all was set to tie the knot. So we gathered in Granada for a wonderfully happy and beautiful ceremony.

We used the opportunity to explore more of Spain, heading south to Malaga then to the Pueblos Blancos, Gibraltar (not really Spain), Cadiz, Mérida and Toledo, before flying out to Southern Africa.

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Evan’s Dailies

First a curious image appeared on Facebook, posted by Evan. And the next day another one appeared. And the day following there was another image.

Evan explained that this was a project he had long planned and suddenly, living in New York, there was the time to execute it. The challenge was to create a new image each day, exploring features and tapping into his skills in digital design. He told me that some images took an hour to create, others longer. Mostly he uses a program called Cinema 4D, but he also explores features in other digital design programs such as After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator.

In fact, he told me that some days he can’t get to his computer, so he does them on his phone.

So as the weeks went by I started to check Facebook daily and sure enough, he has not missed a day, and has created 58 Dailies to date, starting on 21 September.

I also found his Dailies on his web site www.the-silent-partner.com/dailies and on Instagram https://instagram.com/evanstainsby/

The anticipation of tomorrow’s daily is now great.

And I have a bet with Bruce that he won’t keep it up until Christmas…

Dailies on The Silent PartnerDailies on Instagram

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