Thursday, April 15, 2010

Damn Dam

As we walked the dirt track I came across a rubber moccasin, clam shell and the tip of an anchor--each half buried under dry leaves, twigs and dirt. They seemed so out of place on the valley floor among the fields of dry cattails and the hundreds of lifeless trees that lined the horizon. However, the previous night's events allowed these mementos to envision a time when the area had a much different aspect.  
We had returned to our campsite to find it as empty as we had left it that morning.  We  were relieved that our new-found paradise remained undiscovered.  However, as we sat playing cards and enjoying a Sol, it looked like there was change on the horizon.  Out of the blue, a red Holden Ute came speeding down the dirt road toward our campsite.  It didn't bother to stop or slow down as it entered the campground, and it made a B-line for us.  We were a bit surprised since we weren't visible from the road.  It was obvious that whoever was driving knew that we were there.  Mark and I were sitting at our card table as we watched the truck barrel toward us, visions of Deliverance flashed in our imaginations.  When it was less than 10 meters away, we both prepared to dive into the bush, but we were saved as the vehicle pulled to the left, just meters from where we sat.  As I looked through the open window at the man dressed in the dark blue and orange floro shirt all I could think was "Shit, he is gonna tell us that we are trespassing."  Instead, we got a smile and a tip of an open stubbie.  It turns out the driver, a local, had been out cutting wood earlier when he saw our tent.  It had been ages since anyone had camped in the area and he just had to come and check us out.  After getting the scoop, I'm not sure if he was more baffled by the fact that there were two Yanks in his backyard, or that we weren't bushies.  I guess city folk bring everything including the kitchen sink with them when they camp, yet we just had our $25 dollar tent.
As the sun set slowly on the horizon, our conversation turned from questions about us and our camping gear to the history of the area.  
We learned that in the late 1800's a network of weirs, storages and channels, were built throughout the North-Western Victoria.  The Rocklands, which was completed in 1953, was the largest reservoir in this network, and it distributed water to 51 towns and 22,000 farms.   Unfortunately, evaporation and seepage losses proved to be too great for the man-made creation, and the reservoir eventually went dry.
The history lesson was soon replaced by our new mate's memories who, a bit pissed on the grog, began to tell us yarns about waterskiing, swimming and fishing.  It was his memories that I turned to the next afternoon as we walked the reservoir bottom, and I could almost hear the splash of water.

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