Below the plain

We have a date with the Australian Open and we’re off to Melbourne. We spent more time than expected at the aboriginal cave art sites and arrived in Ballarat too late to participate in the Women’s March event there, or anything else, for that matter. We were disappointed about the march but with the Aus Open on we’ve been just as happy to get takeout food and watch a match on TV.

Our hire car was due back by noon and we anticipated an uneventful couple of hours on the road. The landscape east of the Grampians is as flat and featureless as Nebraska, so we were puzzled to see signs warning of a steep grade and directing trucks and RVs to an alternate route. There was seriously nothing sticking up in front of us to warrant the caution. Suddenly the earth opened up in front of us and we plunged down the aforementioned steep grade into a lush valley of rolling hills of forest and vineyards. We were so taken by surprise that we forgot to take a photo of the abrupt change in elevation, but you can definitely see in this photo how utterly flat the ground is above the valley.

We took a turn directing us to Bunjil’s Lookout, another reference to the aboriginal creator we’d seen depicted in the cave painting the day before. The valley is called Moorabool and I tried to find the meaning of the word — we’ve seen “bool” in other place names — but the sources don’t seem to agree.

At the lookout we watched a young German traveler fold up his rooftop tent and I stopped to chat with him. He was an exchange student in Perth in high school and came back to travel Australia after university. I shared that I was an exchange student too, in Sweden in 1968 and he very politely suppressed the inevitable jaw drop. He’s nearly circled the country in his rig and I envy him for that. He was sad to be coming to the end of his journey, making his way back to Sydney, then home to Germany.

Later we returned our car at the airport and hopped a Skybus to the city. Jack was staring out the window and as we turned onto the highway he said, “Look! There’s the German guy just behind us!” We always feel an affinity for fellow travelers, however they travel, for however long, and wherever.

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