Day 9…Bush Roads…slush roads….

Sunday, 10th August 2008.
Steady rain all night meant everything was wet this morning. The roads across the Terrick plains are a a combination of bitumen roads and dirt roads; the dirt roads are generally classed ‘Dry weather only’. This is indeed a wise classification as the roads are made of the clay loam soils which turn to glue as soon as the fist drops of rain hit them. Annie in the ute left me for the day and drove around the long way on the sealed roads to meet me at the end of the day. I looked at the sealed roads (which would have meant easier walking but additional distance) and decided (rather bravely) to keep on my original track and walk the dirt roads. I slipped and slid around in the mud like a badly choreographed version of ‘Disney On Ice’ and as the showers continued to roll in from the west I began to question my earlier bravado in deciding to take the shortest route.

For those of you who have walked through mud but have not experienced Australian bulldust, the rain soaks in only a few inches deep, so the top layers are wet and down below it is dry. The top layers stick to your boots and after a couple of paces you have platform soles that Kiss or Garry Glitter would have been proud of. However my 1972 fashion footwear meant I was not getting very far very fast. The showers were bitterly cold and I put my Gore-Tex on, just to take it off a minute later as the sun came out and my exertions made me sweat.

When Major Thomas Mitchell travelled through here in 1836 he was impressed by the countryside; it was lush and green and he named it ‘Australia Felix’. There had obviously been recent rain as Mitchell’s wagons sank deep into the ground and many, many years afterwards the settlers could follow ‘Mitchell’s Line’ by the imprints of the wagon wheels in the ground. (The reason Mitchell could drag wagons across ground like this while Burke had problems was due to the animals they used – Burke used horses which could be likened to a decent Holden V6 petrol engine – reasonable acceleration and decent speed on good roads, Mitchell used bullocks, which would be a Toyota 1HZ diesel – plenty of torque for hauling through the mud but not the fastest thing off the line when the lights turn green). I looked back down the track to see how far I had come and saw my bootprints etched deeply in the road. I fancied that in years to come the settlers would be able to follow me in the same way as they followed Mitchell by following by tracks while wondering which fool would wander down these roads in the rain.

When I met up with Annie at the end of the day her best attempt at a title for today’s blog was “Burke & Wills – From Melbourne to Mud” – as you can see, I thought mine was better. To finish off the day I had visions of a nice beer by the roaring open fire at the Mitiamo pub. However this is the point where my normally impeccable research let me down – the Miti pub closed ten years ago !

Burke never went via Miti and once I found the pub wasn’t open, neither did I.

Distance travelled today; 34.4 km.
Today Dave is at Mount Terrick on the Terrick Plains north of Bendigo.
After nine days of travel, Burke was at Picaninny Creek on the Terrick Plains.

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