Sunday, 14 April 2013

SAA - Day 3 - Benalla, Yea, Croydon, Somers

There were a few spots of rain - fourteen - before I emerged from our mobile cubby house at the Big 4
on the northern outskirts of Mulwala. It was a grey day but none of the rain we had run from in deciding not to bush camp. The hot showers were ample compensation.

Avoiding freeways as much as possible, we tracked south to Benalla and quickly found the art gallery, sitting on one side of the the Broken River and on the opposite back, nestled in beside the road bridge, the Benalla Ceramic Mural. Walking through the beautiful rose garden - still with such a flourish of blooms that it may as well have been spring - you are confronted by Louis Laumen's moving tribute to Weary Dunlop. Here he is, in his army issue shorts, ragged from over wearing, helping men exhausted from maltreatment at the hands of the Japanese during the forced labour building of the Thai-Burma railway. On the plinth are words describing the qualities of such men as Dunlop. Benalla was his birthplace.

Art in Benalla
Inside the art gallery, the mochas were burnt and the art impressive for a regional gallery. A large tapestry depicts one canvas from Sydney Nolan's Ned Kelly series but other Australian landscape painters of note freshen up the walls.

Across the river/lake, Judy Lorraine's vision in ceramic, bends and turns into and out off the grass bank. Featuring a variety of spaces connected by stairways or vertical shafts or holes, the original installation has been added to by local potters and various groups. It has been growing on the bank for more than twenty years.

Heading almost due south, our track took us increasingly through the valleys of hills and ranges, including past Mt Samaria National Park. We turned west on the Maroondah Highway and into the Goulburn Valley, stopping at Yea for lunch. Our spot was in the Yea Wetlands, almost right in the middle of town. It was lacking some water but it didn't quieten the Bellbirds, or stop the inquisitive Fairy Wrens from hopping about looking for scraps.

After lunch, the track was all south, through Yarra Glen and into the outer north eastern suburbs of Melbourne, where we stopped for comfort breaks at a shopping centre somewhere close to Croydon. From there, we gave into concession and picked up the Ringwood bypass and the freeway south to the Mornington Peninsular, arriving at Somers at about 4pm.

After setting camp, we met up with Sue's sister Mandy and went for a meal.

We are all in Somers for a funeral.

Sue and Mandy's sister-in-law and my friend Jenny, the divorced wife of Sue's brother Lance. She died ten days ago, leaving us all stunned and her children devastated.

It was to them we went next. They are travelled and well mannered young adults, so beautifully trained in the art of conversation and the next several hours was spent, the night before we farewell their mother, in chatting about ancestry and each other's jobs and uni life and all sorts of topics ... except their mother. Too hard, too painful and to close to the difficult tasks that the morning will bring.

Jenny was and will remain, so proud of them. We used to swap emails and they would always be full of her kids and loving questions about mine. I'm already missing those emails but mine is only small collateral damage by comparison.

Now I face the question of what I can do to support them and make sure they stay plugged into Sue and I they way Jenny did.

Tomorrow will be a hard day.

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