We're pretty bad at going straight home. This time, we were no different. We made an unscheduled stop in Ovens to admire the sunflowers and take a break from the traffic jam that we found ourselves in.
You'd think that only capital cities (I'm looking at you, Melbourne) would be steaming arse-nuggets of congestion in the dunny bowl of life, but nah....seems it happens in the country too. The Great Alpine Road is a two lane country road that starts at Wangaratta and heads over the alpine region of Victoria to Bairnsdale in East Gippsland. It's just over 300km long and naturally, we were on the bit that was chock full of punters (like us) returning to their suburban lairs after a weekend away.
Just as we were about to run out of swear words to describe traffic jams (and mindful of the fact that we were part of said jam), a big field of sunflowers came into view and whispered "Join us, join us".
The sunflower field was a Pepo Farms initiative: they were aiming to create a community farm in the area to launch and fund young farmers (https://pepofarms.com.au). They're all about local foods and growers, and the sunflowers were available to purchase with the funds going towards the project.
Our next stop was scheduled: Winton Wetlands in north east Victoria. This had been on my bucket list for a good while because I’m a sucker for dead trees in water and art in the landscape. Winton had dead trees by the plenty, but water was non-existent.
The place was so dry, there were masses of tumbleweed collected against trees and bushes. It looked cool but creepy - like a sinister straw-coloured fairy floss that had engulfed the landscape.
Winton Swamp was flooded in 1971 to create Lake Mokoan but in 2010, the lake was decommissioned and drained after repeated drought years left it essentially unable to ‘pay its way’. Soon after, a new Committee of People Who Know About Such Things was charged with restoring the old dam site. So far, not much water but it's an ambitious project: Winton is the largest wetland restoration project in the southern hemisphere. And we did go at the beginning of Autumn, so maybe it's not surprising it was dry, eh?
So that was that really. We had a drive around Winton, saw a few bits of art, loads of dead trees and some live 'roos and then we drove home.
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