Day 13…a clump of heritage issues…

Thursday, 14th August 2008.
Today was so windy, a gale howled in from the south-west and there was little to discourage it as it blew across the plains. My nose has been dribbling pretty constantly with the cold weather and I haven’t thought much about it other than when Annie tells me off for wiping my nose on my sleeve when eating, or when sniffing during radio interviews. Today however I think my nose excelled itself, particulalrly the left nostril which was taking the brunt of the winds which I am sure were blowing directly off the polar ice-cap. I started out with my Akubra on, but it kept blowing off every time a B-Double roared by and interrupted the south-westerly hurricane, so at the first opportunity I left it in the ute and donned the beanie, which I pulled down firmly over my ears.

I was walking along the Murray Valley Highway and although the lake scenery was interesting, from a historical perspective it was not too inspiring. I put my head down and strode out, ticking off the k’s while listenning to Triple J. At noon I tuned to ABC Victoria for a weather forecast and was amazed to hear that I was the second story on the news…’Queensland student, Dave Phoenix, has passed through Kerang and is expected in Swan Hill tommorow…” I was now a news item – it must have been a quiet day in the Victorian news room !

I stopped at the ‘Burke and Wills Clump’, a stand of eight box trees which purport to be Burke’s Camp 14. Becker described camping in a belt of timber between Lake Tutchewop and Lake Boga. Much of the timber has since been cleared for agriculture and few trees remain. The area of the clump was identified by locals in 1998 and while the location of the camp cannot be positively identified, the area has received Heritage Listing. There is only one other Burke & Wills campsite that has the protection afforded by Heritage Listing and that is the Dig Tree. Camp 119, the second most northerly camp, is under review for Heritage Listing at the moment and the Cooper Creek around Innamincka in South Australia is also part of a Heritage Listed corridor. Heritage Listing is a State matter rather than a Federal affair, so as the Burke and Wills track passes through four states (and 22 different Shire councils) there are many different regulations affecting Heritage Listing and many significant sites have no protection whatsoever. I think this is an area that needs addressing as part of the 150th Celebrations in 2010-2011.

While I was contemplating these issues, the phone rang. It was the Royal Society of Victoria who were planning the 150th Anniversary Celebrations for the Burke & Wills Expedition in 2010 and who were enquiring as to my progress. At first communication was a little difficult, but once I found a place out of the wind and after I managed to pull my beanie up over my ear so I could hear the phone the conversation went well.

Towards sunset I walked past the empty motels and caravan parks at Lake Boga and wandered down to the now dry lake bed where Catalina flying boats had once skimmed over the surface like huge metal pelicans. Places like this are really suffering due to the drought, not just the farmers but the tourist industry as well, the fishing tackle shops advertising bait to catch fish which died when the lake finally dried up in January this year. When no one is making any money in town, the whole town suffers.

I made my way to the Commercial Hotel for a beer by the wood furnace. As I sipped my Carlton Draught I was accosted by an old bloke – a little fellow with a big mouth and an even bigger sense of humour, obviously a regular and a character in these parts. I asked if he was a local, ‘Spent my whole life here’ he replied. Obviously I thought he was proud of the place, so I asked him what he thought of the place, ‘Bloody sick of it’ was the reply.

Distance travelled today; 32.6 km.
Today Dave is at Lake Boga.
After thirteen days of travel, Burke was at Reedy Lake.
Dave has had one day off so far. Burke and the expedition have had three days off by this stage.

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