Day 11…next left, then right, then left, then right…

Tuesday, 12th August 2008.
I have always assumed that the expedition progressed slowly thorough Victoria, the wagons slowed them down and Burke was frustrated by the slow rate of travel. This is pretty much the impression one would get from reading Moorehead or Murgatroyd and I had no real reason to question it. However once the two slower wagons had left the expedition to take a different route to Swan Hill, the rate of travel picked up somewhat. This was one of the sections where no one walked – all the men were mounted on camels or horses or riding on the expedition’s wagons. The weather was better here north of Bendigo, the roads drier, and they made some long stages across the Terrick Plains; 24 miles (38 km) from Kennedy’s to Patterson’s and 20 miles (31 km) from Mt Hope to Tragowell. I plan to cross Australia in the same number of days that Burke took, 122 days, so I need to average 27.8 km a day during the trip. However if I was going to keep up with Burke through this section of Victoria I would need to increase the pace somewhat and push 32 to 35 km a day for the next week. In addition to the longer stages, I was unable to cut directly across the plains as Burke had done. Many of the properties here are under crops, so it is not possible to walk directly across the paddocks and many of the paddocks have irrigation channels around them with limited access. Consequently today was along the roads, north for a couple of kilometers and then turn left and west a couple of k’s before turning right and heading north again. I was never far from the expedition’s track and Mt Hope stood out starckly behind me, reminding me that I hadn’t travelled too far down the muddy roads and tracks.

It was another cold, windy day. It was -1°C at sunrise and although the top temperature was forecast to be 8°C, it struggled to get above 5°C. The howling westerly wind was unpleasant to walk into, so I enjoyed the northerly sections far more than the westerly ones. Beckler described today as ‘the worst day of our journey’. They started out with good weather in the morning, but as the day progressed the weather deteriorated and by mid-afternoon the wind and rain were so strong they had to turn the camels off the track and into some bushes for shelter. He felt sorry for the camles who were struggling with the cold, wet conditions and he described them in the rain as looking like ‘huge, plucked fowls’. The expedition didn’t arrive in camp until after dark and the rain continued all night. I had done 37 km by the time I approached the train line near Tragowel, and had just five kilometers to go when the rain began to pour down from the dark, black clouds. This walk was becoming more historically accurate by the second – and not in a pleasant way either. After plodding along for a little way further I decided to let discretion take the better part of valour and called Annie on the UHF before we both got bogged on the dirt roads. After placing my flagging tape marker by the track and marking a waypoint on the GPS so I would know where to start again in the morning, we retreated down the slippery, wet roads to Cohuna and watched the rain pour down from the comfort of the Bower Hotel. Once the rain eased up we rolled the swags out by the Murray River. Fifty metres away on the opposite bank was New South Wales, but it would be another three long days walking before I would get to leave Victoria.

Distance travelled today; 37.0 km.
Today Dave is at Tragowel, south of Kerang.
After eleven days of travel, Burke was at Mount Hope.
Dave has had one day off so far. Burke and the expedition have had two days off by this stage.

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