|Travelling Australia - Journal 2011
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|3 September 2011 - Frankston to Heathcote|
A damp, overcast and cold morning; not raining but with a strong and gusty wind promising to make travelling uncomfortable. We drove out of the caravan park shortly after 8:15 hoping to be ahead of Saturday morning traffic; that plan worked as far as Frankston was concerned, traffic was very light as we made our way through several sets of traffic lights onto the Freeway then turned onto the EastLink tollway. I had bought the necessary passes last night on the Internet ($5.40 for EastLink and $13.50 for a CityLink weekend pass)
Traffic remained light on the Monash Motorway heading towards Melbourne. For several years we had been caught up in roadworks on this road but they were now finished and the carriageway was four lanes for most of the way with an excellent surface. There were few heavy transports and traffic on UHF radio channel 40 was reasonable. The strong and gusty wind kept both caravan and Pathfinder moving around a bit but there was never any sign of the caravan being pushed sideways by one of the stronger gusts. At this stage the wind was strong enough to move major branches on trees beside the road.
Relatively light traffic continued over West Gate Bridge where the speed limit had been reduced to 60 kph because of the wind. Wind deflectors along the sides of the bridge worked well judging by the contrast between the reasonable wind we could feel at the high point of the roadway over the bridge and the fully extended Australian flag flying from the flagpole far above the roadway.
Following signs we left the West Gate Freeway onto the Ring Road which was being extensively worked on, probably with additional lanes, although one stretch looked as if it was being rerouted. One section with a speed limit of 40 kph had a sign asking drivers to slow down because concrete was setting; there was even a police car with lights flashing to encourage motorists to observe the speed limit.
Roadworks provided a source for clouds of fine dust stirred up by the wind and dispersed over the Ring Road and the surroundings. Traffic levels for the Ring Road remained light but the wind made driving less than delightful as we left the Ring Road onto the Hume Freeway. Parts of the freeway north of the Ring Road ran through more open grassland where the unobstructed wind was readily felt; fortunately there were not too many open sections.
We turned off the Hume Freeway along the Northern Highway which runs via Kilmore and Heathcote to Echuca. We would be going as far as Heathcote. The road runs through hilly, open agricultural land, usually with gum trees lining the road. The gusty wind, which had been such a nuisance, abruptly ended just after Kilmore; at first it became random with only a few trees blown around, then the wind stopped leaving a few branches gently waving in the breeze.
Traffic was light on this Saturday morning, even in the middle of Kilmore. But Heathcote, just over 100 kilometres from Melbourne, was bubbling with people and cars; we had arrived during the Saturday markets (held on the first Saturday of the month). Parking the Pathfinder and caravan near the bakery to buy lunch-time pies was out of the question with all the cars parked near the market so we went to the caravan park and set up before disconnecting and returning to the market, information centre and bakery without the caravan. We returned to the caravan park with excellent pies for lunch after visiting the bakery and wandering around the comprehensive market.
In the afternoon I went to the national park adjacent to the town; this park preserves some of the box-ironbark forest which formerly covered the inland slopes of the Great Dividing Range but which has now been mostly cleared. The acacia understory, most only a metre tall and prickly, was a blaze of golden yellow flowers. Each different species had its unique shade of yellow for flowers and green for leaves giving variety to the scene. It was easy to see why Heathcote is renowned for wildflowers. After the strong wind had faded the weather was cool but pleasant and sunny until the colder evening.