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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