Dimboola (Vic) to Keith (SA) – Day 6 of Road Trip March 2020

Wednesday 11th March 2020

Driving distance approximately 210 klm / 130 miles


After the day before’s slow start we had a stern word with ourselves, so that by 8.30 in the morning we were already 10klm (6 mi) out of town for our first stop of the day, the Pink Salt Lake.

Self Portrait at Pink Salt Lake rs

Self-Portrait: Bill and Gwen at Pink Salt Lake outside of Dimboola, Victoria March 2020

This is a small, circular, shallow, salty lake which gives off a salmon-pink hue determined by the amount of recent rainfall. It was distinctly pinky-white on the morning of our visit. The autumn sun was rising slowly, as you can see by the long shadows, and this has affected the vibrancy of our photos. You can walk across the lake, and someone had been here having fun scooping up layers of salt.

Salt Lake water table

The salt sits like a crust on top of a thin layer of water, much like shallow ice on a frozen lake – someone has scooped a couple of handfuls of salt into a pile

Pink Lake Salt We’d come across the salt a few days before, as a nearby family-owned business, Mount Zero Olives, has formed a partnership with the Wimmera’s traditional land owners, through the Barenji Gadjin Land Council, to hand-harvest and market the salt commercially. One of the selling points is that it retains “lots of marvellous minerals – phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, potassium”, rather than the simple sodium chloride of most salts. And it has a lovely label, Bush Tukka, painted by Wotjobaluk Elder Aunty Nancy Harrison.

pink lake Dimboola from carpark rs

It’s an easy walk from the carpark down to the Pink Lake, Dimboola, Victoria.

pink lake Dimboola rs

The edge looks like sand on a beach, but as you go further into the lake, it becomes pure and pink

Bill was then keen to see Nhill, another half an hour drive west, because of the low-budget Australian 1997 film Road to Nhill. As you can read from the synopsis: “Four women bowlers on their way home to Pyramid Hill (population 550) from a tournament roll their car on a deserted road in rural Victoria. They are coping fairly well until the local men and emergency services start trying to help,” the film was actually shot some long distance away, but Nhill was directly in our path, so it was no hardship to call in there.

Nhill is home to the Aviation Heritage Centre which “commemorates the existence of the RAAF Base and WWII air school” established in 1941 as No2ANS (air navigation school). It went through several other name changes before closing in 1946. Approximately 12,000 young men and women trained here before being sent on to assist in the war effort.

The Battle of Britain in 1940 left Britain with a serious shortage of trained and experienced pilots. As a result, the British Commonwealth Air Training Programme, or Empire Air Training Scheme as it was often called in Australia, was established. Its aim was to provide 55,000 pilots, aircrew and staff each year, drawn from many countries of the Commonwealth Empire.

In Nhill, the main training aircraft were Avro Anson, Wirraway (I think it is called a Texan in the US), Tiger Moths, and Links. All of these are now on display at the Heritage Centre, open on weekends, and other days by appointment. Even though the facility was closed on our visit, we were able to peer through the hangar entrance and get some reasonable photos. The Wirraway is easily identified by its round coping on the fuselage and its single propeller, whereas the Avro was twin-engined. The Tiger Moth, being a biplane, is also instantly recognised. Look closely and you can just see it peeking through in the background of the shot of all three together.

Wirraway rs

Tiger Moth in background

One of my favourite Australian authors, Justin Sheedy, who sadly died suddenly and young a couple of years ago, wrote a trilogy of novels based on a character who had gone through the training scheme. Nor the Years Condemn, No Greater Love, and Ghosts of the Empire. Thoroughly researched and well written, I recommend those books to anyone who has an interest in this time in history.

Also on Bill’s must-see list was the Nhill Golf Course, because it is bore-watered, and therefore stayed green all through the drought. He was even hoping to buy a golf shirt in honour of our visit, but no one was about when we called in.

Golf course Nhill rs2

What caught my eye was the magnificent colour on the trunks of the eucalyptus lining the entrance driveway. They were a mixture of vibrant golden and red ochre where the outer bark had peeled away. There are nearly 1000 varieties of eucalyptus in Australia, so I have no idea which this is. Perhaps some botanist will read my post and fill in the missing detail; although I’ve had to reduce a couple of the photos to thumbnails as the file size was huge, so that may present an image quality challenge.

The main street of Nhill has a wide, grassed median strip running down the centre. The traditional war memorial dominates the top end of the street. Like many, it depicts a digger (soldier) holding his rifle in the attention/at arms position.

Nhill War Memorial rs2

For this post, I’ve chosen to zoom in on the defence badge. This is the Rising Sun Badge which carries a scroll inscribed with the words ‘Australian Commonwealth Military Forces‘. This was actually the third pattern, introduced in May 1904, and worn throughout both World Wars by the First and Second AIF (Australian Infantry Forces).

Nhill War Memorial rs

A short distance away, another unique statue memorialises the draught horse. The first two arrived in Nhill in 1844 and subsequent horses went on to play a major role in the development of the region. Adjacent to the statue is a pillar with a button; push it and you’ll be rewarded with a fifteen minute dialogue of how draught horses shaped Australia, including a poem capturing the working day of a horse.

Draught Horse Nhill (2)rs

Pre-dating Coronavirus, floods, and bush fire, the Eastern part of Australia has been battling severe drought for two or three years. The Wimmera is a very fertile area, and for some time as we drove along we had been seeing hay piled near entrance gates to rural properties. We speculated it was either for sale or donation, as it was baled in rectangles and stacked in quantities suitable for semi-trailer loads. I guess this sign we saw displayed on many of the shops in Nhill answered that question.

Hay Drive Nhill rs

Our early start was paying off, as it wasn’t even lunchtime when we pulled up at Kaniva, another half hour west from Nhill.

Came to a screaming halt‘, might be a better way to describe how we pulled up, as I startled Bill by yelling out – ‘Stop! The Puppet Shop!‘ We were a couple of blocks away by the time he realised I truly meant Stop! He turned around and parked a distance from the shop, and as we walked down the street, we became aware that here was another country town celebrating their history with street art.

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Apparently there are around 40 50 fibreglass sheep dotted along the main street, celebrating this district’s long association with wool growing. Each sheep has a name, tells a story and links to a place or community group, as denoted by the ear tag (although my photos and tags are not a match – they simply illustrate the idea). If you are driving along the A8 Western / Dukes Highway on the eight-hour trip directly from Melbourne to Adelaide, or vice-versa, Kaniva is about the half-way mark, so this is a great opportunity to distract the kids, and maybe they’ll be so exhausted after finding all of them, they’ll drop off to sleep for the rest of the journey 🙂

With many thanks to Kaniva local, Helen Hobbs, I can add this information to my original post. The Sheep Art Trail comprises 50 sheep linking Kaniva’s section of the Silo Art Trail  to the Kaniva Wetlands and Fauna Park via the main street. More information can be found at:







The Kaniva Puppet Shop lives up to its slogan – the shop that makes you smile!

The Puppet Shop Kaniva (1)rs

It is jammed packed with hand and finger puppets, marionettes, toys, jigsaws and Christmas decorations. There is an onsite puppet theatre, and children are welcome to devise their own shows.


We had such a good time in the shop, and we didn’t come away empty handed. As a child, did you have a paper doll you could dress up? As soon as I saw the box, I was transported to a lost memory of my young self. I’m hoping the young person I have in mind will enjoy the gift as much as I did at her age.

The owner, Julie, is a delightful woman who exudes enthusiasm and passion. If you are as tempted as I was, she has an online store which you can find at https://www.australianpuppetshop.com.au

Kaniva (population 800) is the last town of any size before the South Australian border. Before entering the state, you must dispose of any fruit, vegetables or plant matter – which is a doubly good reason we didn’t buy any begonia cuttings at the Ballarat festival.

Some distance after crossing the border from Victoria to South Australia, we came to the ironically named Bordertown, famous as the birthplace of Bob Hawke, the country’s longest serving Labor Prime Minister (1983-1991).  Among his many claims to fame, while exuberantly celebrating Australia winning the America’s Cup Yacht Race in 1983, he said:

I tell you what – Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a BUM

Hawke bust rs

This bust is outside the Tatiara District Council Office in Bordertown SA.   A small museum to Hawke is inside the building.

News Limited Bob Hawke and Hazel Masterson 1951rs

This 1951 photo shows Bob Hawke with fiance Hazel Masterson on his 1939 British Panther Model 100 motorcycle – both photo and cycle are on display in Bordertown SA.

South Australia is half an hour behind Victoria, so as we crossed the border, we gained that time. Which was just as well, as we hadn’t eaten lunch yet. We were recommended to travel out of town about 10klm (6 mi) to the Old Mundulla Hotel, a country pub dating back to 1884, where we were welcomed enthusiastically and given a decent feed.

Close by the pub is the Moot Yang Gunya Swamp, an eco area of Red River Gum forest and other native flora and fauna. We toyed with having a small walk, but were easily talked out of it when the publican commented on what a lovely weather day it was for snakes.

Instead, we got back in the car for a long loop drive to rejoin the highway and head into Keith. 

Previously this area was known as the ninety mile desert. At Keith, we learned that during the 1940s, the CSIRO found a way to make the land productive by adding trace elements, and the AMP Society (Australian Mutual Provident) funded the clearing of bushland to set up farms. That pioneering farming heritage is remembered with a Land Rover on a pole, and a Wiles hut that was the typical home for families who joined the scheme. It is one of about 50 that existed. Built by the Wiles Industrial Company of Mile End, it was two prefabricated steel motor garages joined by a covered walk way. Through locked wire screens, visitors can glimpse the set of up of kitchen, bedroom and living room. Why the Land Rover is on a pole went over my head (little pun there).

Keith AMP pioneers (7)rs

Another memorial is to one of Keith’s favourite sons, Andy Caldecott, who was a rally-winning off-road motorcyclist and regular competitor in the Dakkar Rally. Sadly, he died of a neck injury he sustained in the 2006 Dakkar rally.

Local volunteers have also been hard at work restoring a Centurion Tank used by the Royal Australian Armoured Corps‘ (RAAC) in the Vietnam War. Again displayed behind wire mesh, and with its signage faded, it was looking a bit neglected on the day of our visit, but you can still appreciate the tank crews who operated it.

Centurion Tank at Keith rs

Our last street art was by accident – a mural spotted as we were driving past the Country Fire Service depot.

CFS Keith SA (full)rs

Keith is only a two and half hour drive to our next destination – Adelaide – but we did ourselves a favour and left that for the next day.

32 thoughts on “Dimboola (Vic) to Keith (SA) – Day 6 of Road Trip March 2020

    • Maybe we should play with it, Marion, as with the lockdown it will be a while before we see the person I had in mind!

      Plenty more posts to be written, even though we are home now. Let me know if you have any more trouble opening them.


  1. Great to see your firefighters being celebrated with that fabulous mural. Hope you are on way home now as I can see lots of cafe, bars and pubs (perhaps restaurants and hotels too???) are being closed across your continent.
    They are stopping non-essential travel here in UK although not clear yet how they are going to enforce it. Small isolated, rural communities are already overrun with visitors escaping the big cities. In all honesty I think visitors are probably actually bringing the virus with them. It seems it is hard for ordinary folk to realise just how incredibly infectious this nasty little blighter is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, we curtailed the trip by several days. It’s amazing how this bug spreads. We are getting our own taste of the pre-immunisation and pre-antibiotic era. Clubs and pubs have closed. Our casually-paid son and his partner are now unemployed. Britain is being lauded here for the way they have supported incomes, so our Government has announced a package. The government website crashed yesterday morning, and there are queues around the welfare (Centrelink) offices. Scenes reminiscent of the 1930s dole queues.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree with you, it is as if we have suddenly moved into totally different, frightening times. Although I think crashing government websites is reassuringly normal!
        It is interesting to hear that UK Government is being lauded. In fact the 80% support of wages up to a ceiling of £2,500 per month is amazing, and as such is 10% higher than the Dutch system of support for their unemployed. Now, what you might not know is over a decade ago when my ex-husband was made redundant in the Netherlands he received 70% of his salary back then in a similar scheme as part of their normal system of social support. Still we could all be in a worse situation. We could be like the Americans with Trump and the likes of Texas’ Lieutenant Governor, Dan Patrick, advocating a return to normal working and the over 70s will look after themselves. Have a look at his recent interview https://www.marketwatch.com/story/texas-lt-gov-dan-patrick-says-grandparents-are-willing-to-die-to-save-economy-for-their-grandkids-2020-03-23

        Liked by 1 person

        • Wish WordPress had a WOW button. My girlfriend lives in Texas. No wonder her last phone call bordered on the hysterical Armageddon side of normal. And Lieutenant Governor? Is that like, Deputy Governor – or a carryover military title?
          Our benefits will be nowhere near as generous. Think something like £250 per week regardless of your former income, and not kicking in until any accrued leave has expired, and even then, not for several weeks. My sister will also join the ranks tomorrow. So many Australian workers have been casualised since the 1990s, they can be stood down at a moment’s notice – or simply not allocated shifts.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Oh dear I do feel very sorry for many of the folks that live in Texas. Their Republican politicians seem to be particularly harsh and unforgiving.
            I suppose Australia is like UK in that since the financial crisis our politics has moved to the right which has included a sustained attack on workers’ rights. In the last decade the ‘gig’ economy has been showcased as the sunny uplands of employment disguising the loss of so many hard-won rights. We, in UK, were protected in part by the EU, but that will change with Brexit. And, despite the forthcoming economic turmoil and possible world depression, that’s all still going ahead as planned would you believe.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Maybe the whole Brexit thing will finalise while everyone is looking the other way -and when we come out of this virus crisis, the life changes for UK residents will be put down to that, and not leaving the EU.
            I’ve been thinking about a much earlier comment of yours about people working from home. Since the loss of permanent jobs. so much of our workforce is now underemployed in casual hospitality workplaces, and another portion are in regional centres with dodgy internet, I can’t see it as viable for Australia. But I’m sure there will be a transition for some after this is finished. Or people will have gone so stir-crazy in isolation, they will rush to re-join a work group and won’t mind the commute.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I am surprised you write about Australia having areas with dodgy Internet. Is that because the costs of either fixed wireless or satellite are prohibitive, or is that not enough investment has been made to make these high speed, reliable connections. There was a big fuss here in UK, during the recent General Election campaign (only last December!) that Labour’s proposal for ‘free broadband for all’ was ridiculous. Now, seems our present government is realising that decent broadband is an essential requirement now they want ‘all who can to work from home’. Perhaps this awful, horrible crisis will make ordinary folk stop and think about what is good for society in general as opposed to what our politicians are telling us is good for us. One positive on that front I can tell you is the ‘herd immunity’ response to Covid 19 went down like a lead balloon and the major advocate for that approach was Dominic Cummings and he’s now self isolating!

            Liked by 1 person

          • Fixed wireless is not an Australia-wide solution as it requires a line-of-sight access to the ground station. In fact, I tried it here at one stage, and because of the high escarpment behind us, every time the wind blew in the wrong direction, I lost my connection.
            The National Broadband Network (NBN) was a key platform of our Labor government. This was to be “optic fibre to the premises”, and I think was to be supported by satellite in the more remote areas. The Coalition (Liberal and Nationals) watered that down. Instead, they went ahead with the fibre optic, but clipped it on to the existing copper wire. In our building, for example, we have Fibre to the Basement (FTTB). Our signal dilutes from the “box” in the basement. Optic Fibre into the box, copper wire out the other end.
            Once you get to smaller areas, the situation is even worse. Some people would be better off hot-spotting the data through their telephone, which is mostly 4G, and will be 5G before too long. But only the formerly government-owned Telstra, has enough infrastructure to be relied upon in remote areas. Now they are privatised, they are forced to sub-sell access to their competitors, who are happy to sell the signal, but don’t wish to build transmitters.
            OH . . . I could go on.
            Having said all that, I do have a friend in Burton-in-Lonsdale, who is on the parish council, and organised the purchase and digging in of some type of cable so that the villagers could also have decent internet access.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Oh wow that reads like a very similar story to that of the remoter parts of the UK. It is all a fine textbook example of privatising profit and socialising risk. Now it seems that virtually all non essential commercial endeavours are expecting government bailouts, even, to my exasperation, the airlines. I realise that many people are employed in these companies and consider them essential, but, if nothing, this almost global lockdown may show that we can live a different way and maybe we can begin to wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

            Liked by 1 person

          • We don’t have as many airlines as the UK and I agree, some of those will go. You have alternatives for getting to the continent quickly – in any case, will you want to get there after Brexit? (that’s a joke).
            I think here, the govt will have to ensure the survival of Qantas, at least. But if they are the only survivor, then they will be in a monopoly position, and since they are no longer government owned, that will not be good. Unless the government behaves like a communist one, and fixes a ceiling on airfares.
            I’m wondering about the cruise ship industry. I don’t think it will die off completely, but it will be interesting to see what rationalisation appears.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Oh yes, I have read that the cruise industry is in big trouble. I think this pandemic has certainly placed the spotlight on the hotbed environment a cruise ship can be for contagious illnesses. Although that’s not really news though is it, but for now it is very much out there. It will be interesting to see how short people’s memories are.

            Liked by 1 person

          • After a delightful cruise in Alaska a couple of years back, we were were tempted into booking a circumnavigation of Australia this September. We don’t think we’ll go, but there are many here who are eager to continue.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I thought your Alaska cruise looked brilliant particularly as it is a state with so little land infrastructure and so much of interest along its coast. Years ago my mum and dad went on a Baltic cruise that included sailing up the river to St Petersburg. My mother particularly appreciated slowly passing through the countryside.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. And PS.. Last year Claudia and I started to walk across the pink lake. Three quarters across and we started sinking into sticky black mud. We very gently backed out and came home. I ended up chucking my sneakers.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Reading that was like reading a book. I had to stop and make a cup of coffee. However it was worth the effort. 1. I loved the Wirraway. It looks so shiny and clean. and the puppets and of course the ratbag PM. But mostly I loved the Fireys’ street art.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It took me days to write. I should have gone back and put a length warning at the beginning.
      Since these blogs are also a personal diary I didn’t want to skip much, and I never know what will appeal to readers. There was a glossy brochure at Bordertown about Ten “things” of Bob Hawke. Many of them had to do with his personality and larrikinism. Ratbag indeed, hah!


  4. Marvellous story Gwen! We went to Nhill many moons ago not long after we’d settled in Wollongong. A cruising friend from our circumnavigation days was living there. She gave us a dog and told us to round up the 700 sheep! Wow!! We did it but I’m not a farmer’s girl! Nhill was just a quiet place then but its a good story we have to add to all the others.

    Love to you both from a vereee quiet Links Seaside.


    • I’d have loved to have a session with a working dog. Not sure I’d have been any good at it either. We’ve abandoned the trip and are home now. Will keep to ourselves for a couple of weeks just to be cautious. I’ve got heaps of things to keep me busy!!


    • I think it is to adjust the capital city to its latitude correct time, so the entire state falls in line. The next capital is Perth, which is two and half hours behind Adelaide. The weird one is Brisbane, which is in the same latitude as Sydney and Melbourne but is an hour different because they don’t use daylight saving. Which is probably on account of how far north their state stretches – almost to Papua New Guinea. Who’d be a city planner – hey?
      We are nearing the end of our trip. I’m about ten days behind in blogging, but soon we’ll go to a place with little internet and not much more electricity.
      So catching up will keep me busy while I’m home and keeping away from the neighbours. Stay tuned 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It is wonderful that you encounter large and small historical monuments all along your excursion. The ewes of Kaniva remind me of the dolphin statuary painted in our coastal town by local artists, but those sheep are tagged with names and stories (for writers to appreciate their character). South Australia prohibits the entry of plant matter – not something one expects to encounter moving within a country. Oh! The Land Rover on a pole must share your view of snakes. I enjoyed being a voyeur to this day’s journey by virtue of your blog post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I hadn’t made the connection between snakes and the landrover when I wrote the post!
      The SA plant matter ban is to prevent fruit fly. As you travel around Australia you will find specific local bans to protect disease-free agricultural status e.g rice in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. A couple of days ago, it was potatoes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Connecting the dots in different continents: My brother recently drove from Arizona into California and had to discard fruit from AZ trees at the border with CA (but not that which was bought in stores). I had never heard of such a state-to-state restriction on plant matter until you mentioned it here. Then a day later I find it also exists at home in the U.S.A. Safe travels and thanks for sharing your experiences.

        Liked by 1 person

        • There you go Doug. That’s always happening to me. I find out something new, and then it starts popping up all over the place. In SA the ban applies regardless of where you get your fruit, even though one would expect store bought to have come from trees that had been sprayed against bugs.


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