Page 131: Bairnsdale and environs
  still in gippsland - Bairnsdale  
 

Bairnsdale may have derived its name from a Scottish village and a joke made by a Scottish pioneering land owner of this district. He had named his land Bernisdale after his home village on the Isle of Skye. Returning from a long trip away he found that several babies had been born in his absence. He jested, "This place should be called Bairnsdale, not Bernisdale." Bairn, of course, is a Scottish word for baby.

It's a nice little town of about 12,000 people. It is situated on the Mitchell River which flows into nearby Lake King (not to be confused with King Lake where the devastating fires of 2009 took so many lives). Our 'van is parked close to the river bank.

 
     
   
  Our caravan (arrowed) is parked under some beautiful trees and close to the Mitchell River.  
     
 

From the caravan park there's a very pleasant walk that takes you up one side of the river and back along the other, 5¼ kilometres in all. A sign told us we would take an hour and a half at a leisurely stroll. We took two and a half hours.

 
     
   
  The Mitchell River, peaceful here, flows from the Victorian Alps to Lake King and is prone to flooding.  
     
   
  As we walked a threatening, black cloud hovered some distance away.  
     
 

As we walked a threatening, black cloud hovered some distance away. We kept an eye on it but it just sat up there, watching us. We decided the worst that could happen was that we'd get wet and carried on walking.

We saw these beautiful flowers growing along the river bank.

The storm cloud still hadn't moved when we arrived back at the caravan and we forgot all about it. As soon as it was dark, however, it crept up on us, turned its rain on full and its thunder volume to maximum. It gave us a good battering.

The next day we took the car and followed the river to its rather strange estuary at Lake King. Why strange? The river has formed what are called "silt jetties" out into the lake.

 
     
  the silt jetties  
 

To properly illustrate the silt jetties, an aerial photograph is required. I can't afford to hire an aeroplane so I surfed the net and was amazed how hard it was to find a good aerial photograph. This fabulous picture was taken by Colin Ewington, a professional photographer who uses only Canon cameras and lenses.

The Silt Jetties. Copyright Colin Ewington.

Referring to the photo, the Mitchell River flows into Lake King from the bottom of the picture. Over millions of years silt has been deposited along the sides of the river, slowly building up and extending out into the lake until the 'jetties' confine the river water until it almost reaches the opposite shore - many kilometres. There is a dirt road along the length of the right hand jetty along which we drove.

 
     
   
 

We came across a pair of black swans with three cygnets. Notice the white mark on the adult swan's beak?
The same mark appears on the beaks of the four swans I photographed on the Murray (page 125).

 
     
  Lakes Entrance  
 

Not far from Lake King is a man-made channel connecting a very large coastal lake system to the sea. In the days before road and rail transport took over, steamers used the channel to enter the interconnecting lakes and from the lakes to several rivers. Thus farm produce could be transported from inland ports such as Sale to Melbourne and Sydney. The channel is still used by ocean fishing vessels and pleasure craft.

As so often happens when man interferes with nature, there was a down side. Salt entered the lake system killing fresh water flora and fauna, and vegetation close to the edge of the lakes.

Prior to the opening of the sea channel in 1889 a natural channel had existed a little way along the coast but due to shifting sand it tended to move, making navigation uncertain and necessitating the use of a pilot vessel.

Close to the sea channel is the popular resort town of Lakes Entrance. All our attempts to book a caravan site for Christmas were in vain. These parks are fully booked in advance even though they charge quite exorbitant fees. The law of supply and demand at work.

 
     
   
  The channel from the sea is on the right and the town of Lakes Entrance on the left.  
     
 

Do you remember when we visited a town called Dartmoor (page 117) to see some wonderful sculptures of WW1 soldiers cut from Atlantic Cedar with a chainsaw? They were carved by a sculptor called Kevin Gilders. We found a similar memorial in Lakes Entrance made in exactly the same way but carved from Monterey Cypress by sculptor John Brady.

 
     
   
  Two of many memorial sculptures in Lakes Entrance.  
     
 

In Bairnsdale we are only half an hour's drive from Lakes Entrance but, having visited the resort, I think we prefer it here. Resorts are wonderful for those who work all year in the city and need an escape to sun, sand and sea with plenty of boating, swimming and fishing. Grey Nomads most certainly don't fit into that category being as free as the wind to go anywhere on this wonderful continent any time we feel so inclined. And on that subject . . .

 
     
  six years on the road and still loving the life  
 

Yes, friends, 4th December 2010 marks the sixth anniversary of the day we hitched up our Jayco and left Perth. We were full of excitement and trepidation; we had so much to learn but we survived and wouldn't change a thing even if we could. The greatest aspect of our six years travelling all over mainland Australia is you, the people we've met along the way. We have really wonderful friends in every state and look forward to renewing those friendships regularly.

What of the future? Of course we can't predict what might be around the next corner but, God willing, we intend to continue travelling. And to continue this web site which has become, as much as anything, a reference document for us as we forget where we were and when.

 
     
  Did I tell you I have a new camera?  
  Having the opportunity to purchase Canon's latest offering, the EOS 60D, I snatched it and bought a beaut lens to go with it. (My Christmas present from now until I'm a hundred.) The Canon lens allows me to go from 18mm to 200mm with a quick twist of the lens. If you're not into cameras the two pictures below will demonstrate the capability of the lens.  
     
   
 

The lens set to 18 millimetres. From this gazebo I took a landscape image of the park.
Can you see the log on the cart in the centre of the picture - just below the blue sign?

 
     
   
 

The lens set to 200 millimetres. Pictured from the same spot, the log on the cart.
The camera was hand-held for both images.

 
     
 

With my previous Canon 350D and two separate lenses the effects would be very similar but I would have had to remove the 18mm-55mm lens and replace it with the 55mm-200mm lens. The log on the cart wasn't going anywhere, there was plenty of time. Then why buy the new lens?

A short while later, as I stood on the bank of the river, a pelican flew towards me. There would have been no time to start fumbling with lenses and I'd have missed the shot below. With the new lens it took two seconds to raise the camera, zoom in and click the shutter. Also, the new lens incorporates an image stabiliser, ideal for people who suffer from old age and red wine shake.

 
     
   
  Not the world's best photo, but not too bad for a spur-of-the-moment shot.  
     
  A drive to orbost to see the snowy river  
 

As you'll already know from page 43, when the Snowy River Hydroelectric Scheme was built, that mighty water course, that Australian icon, the Snowy River, was both dammed and damned. Only 1% of its original flow was released and the river began to die a terrible death. There was a bitter fight between the people on the downstream banks of the Snowy and the arrogant Snowy River Hydroelectric Authority. Eventually a little more water was released but the vast majority of the captured water was diverted through huge tunnels in the mountains, through hydroelectric turbines, and finally released, not back into the Snowy River which runs south, but to the Murray River which runs west. From the Murray, megalitres were pumped out to irrigate crops.

The Snowy Scheme was a great solution for the Murray irrigators but what about those relying on water from the Snowy? They were, without warning, left high and dry. Literally. As the recent drought worsened the insatiable Murray irrigators clamoured for more water while the Snowy residents were still fighting - in vain - to get their water back. At a time of drought when the main storage reservoirs were almost dry, politicians promised more water to both! Don't you love 'em?

Two towns on the Snowy were affected, Dalgety and Orbost. We visited Buckleys Crossing, Dalgety, in March 2007 and found the place looking very run down. The picture of the poor, pathetic Snowy River (below) was taken at that time.

 
     
   
  The Snowy River, Dalgety, March 2007.  
     
 

Now it was Orbost's turn for the pleasure of our company and I was very keen to see the Snowy River nearly four years on. We had heard that, due to a very wet winter plus the snow melt, there was more water flowing into the hydroelectric dams than they could accommodate. We knew for a fact that the Murray was close to flooding. So what did the hydroelectric authority do to prevent the storage lakes overflowing? They opened up the Jindabyne Dam and released the excess into the Snowy River. What irony! However, it was the greatest thing that could happen for the river which is being thoroughly flushed through.

Correction: We later visited Jindabyne and found that, while that lake was at 85% capacity, Lake Eucumbene was very low. The water release was more to do with the impending 2010 Victorian State Election and was attended by Premier John Brumby and his Water Minister, Tim Holding. The dam was closed a few days later and Brumby lost the election anyway.

 
     
   
  The Snowy River, Orbost, December 2010.  
     
 

Unfortunately, the sight of this river completely filling its banks with a healthy flow is unlikely to last long. I talked to a local man who told me that after the Jindabyne Dam closed it became a sluggish trickle winding its way down the centre of a bed of dry mud and weeds. He was elated to see it flowing again, albeit only for a short time.

One last comment on Orbost. Just as Bairnsdale was initially named after a location on the Scottish Isle of Skye, so too was Orbost. An early Scottish pioneer named the town after a farm on the Isle of Skye. Was there really such a farm? You bet your life there was - and still is. Good old Google found the following, written by Sharma Kraupfkopf under the title, "Goodbye To Orbost".

There is an old adage "For every beginning there is an ending." I often have agreed with that statement but in relationship to Orbost Farm I cannot agree. Orbost Farm located near Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye is where I first became aware that Scotland was going to become my chosen home. I have told the story many times of being caught in a sheep jam at the foot of MacLeods Tables and falling in love with Scotland. That definitely was the beginning. Some would say the ending is coming as Orbost Farm is being sold by our dear friends, the Macdonalds. It is a fact that we will no longer spend every January at Orbost but it is not an ending.

And with that we'll end page 131, though this is not an ending either. Many more pages remain, virgin fresh. Not even I have any idea what will follow.