Travelling Australia - Journal 2008
16 February 2008 - Dandenong to Finley
Location map We left Dandenong Tourist Park just after 9 o'clock enroute to the South East Freeway via the Stud Road access. Traffic in Dandenong was light this early on Saturday but freeway traffic was moderate to heavy all the way into Melbourne. From the South East Freeway we continued on the M80 ring road west of Melbourne staying on that road to the north until we came to the Hume Freeway. This exit was 80 kilometres from Dandenong via the freeway route we had used; we had been driving for 70 minutes maintaining a steady 80 kph on cruise control whenever practicable. Then we were on the Hume Freeway heading north and were effectively clear of Melbourne. Fixed speed cameras on the Hume Freeway north of Melbourne are not marked; since we cruise at 80 kph in 100 kph zones they don't worry us on the highway, but the lesson that Victoria does not warn of fixed speed cameras, as is usual in New South Wales, was not lost.

We turned off the Hume Freeway at the Kyneton exit onto a secondary road which took us through Wallan towards Echuca. Just north of Wallan we crossed the top of the Great Dividing Range, which is only 483 metres high here, then stopped at a rest area. The surrounding area is fairly hilly, devoted mainly to grazing.

Terrain in Great Divide Hilly terrain in the Great Dividing Range south of Heathcote.
We stopped at Heathcote for petrol and lunch and to call CityLink to pay for our earlier use of the South East Tollway; the voice recognition software used had some difficulty understanding our registration number so the process was not quick. The Information Centre at Heathcote was interesting and offered a lot of material relating to gold mining in the past, and the box-ironbark vegetation region on the inland slopes of the Great Divide, which has been largely cleared for agriculture. By the time we reached Heathcote the sky was clear and the sun shining brightly; the day was fairly warm.

After leaving Heathcote heading north towards Echuca we were on a secondary road with very little other traffic. We were now on a gentle downward slope on the inland side of the Great Divide in the Murray River catchment and passing through open, rolling land devoted to crops, sheep and cattle. Very few village or houses were visible from the road. By the time we reached Elmore the road had descended to 129 metres elevation and the bridge over the Murray River at Echuca recorded elevation of 102 metres.

Leaving Echuca on the road to Deniliquin we were on the Long Paddock tourist route designed to commemorate the droving of sheep along this route when the Riverina was the heart of the sheep industry and when leading Merino studs developed sheep to thrive in the harsh environment while bearing profitable wool. 30 kilometres before Deniliquin we passed a sign saying 'Welcome to the Riverina'. Deniliquin has an excellent museum devoted to the wool industry, particularly to the Peppin-Shaw version of the Merino, but it was too late in the day to visit this museum.

From Deniliquin we drove east to Finley on the Newell Highway. This road was through the northern part of the Murray Valley Irrigation Area. Supply and drainage channel infrastructure was obvious; supply channels contained water but (apart from a paddock of sorghum) there were no crops in evidence. The area looked bleak. Turning north on the Newell Highway at Finley we stopped at the Tongaboo rest area for the night.

The rest area was beside a house which had been abandoned fairly recently judging by the nearly intact appearance. An irrigation supply channel ran along the highway fence to the house but is was bone dry and sandy; the paddocks beside the house were the same, except they carried a few thorny bushes. Presumably the farm had insufficient irrigation water allocation and had failed for lack of water in the drought.

Barren paddock Dry and dusty paddock on the Newell Highway north of Finley.
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