Monday, 5 September 2016

Hume Highway Addiction

Hume Freeway sign, Melbourne
On the road again - in a few minutes. In another life I must have been a long-distance truckie. Answering the call of family, I regularly drive up and down the Hume Highway between Melbourne and Sydney. Ten times last year. Today's journey will be the fifth time so far this year.

Here's that daunting sign as I leave Melbourne's Metropolitan Ring Road and join the Hume, having already driven about 30km from South Melbourne.

I've flown to Sydney a few times in recent months, due to time pressures (e.g. getting to a funeral in time), but flying is such a hassle! Taxi to Skybus, bus to the airport, hanging around the airport, flying, wait-wait-waiting for bags, walking miles to catch the train at Sydney airport, mucking around in ticket queues topping up my Opal, train to Circular Quay, getting to Manly on the ferry, trailing my bag up the hill to my daughter's. From start to finish it generally takes me about 6 hours. By contrast, driving door-to-door can be achieved in 9 1/4 hours (at best) but .... I can listen to music all the way, petrol costs for my small car plus toll charges are vastly cheaper than the air fare and I have my car to use in Sydney.

Yes, all this fits in my small car
And this here's another reason why I often drive rather than fly - I need to transport lots of miscellaneous 'stuff' up and down. This is what came back with me last time! Some of it mine, some for other people.

Most people think the Hume is really boring but it's a great road and I never fail to find something of interest. The beautiful cloud formations and colours in our big skies at various times of day are amazing, especially at twilight and dusk. I don't have any sunset pics of my own (solo drivers can't take shots out the window at 110kph) but here's someone else who lives close to the Hume and loves these skies.

I'd forgotten how dry is the landscape between the two cities until I drove from Melbourne to Port Macquarie and return recently, a distance of 2,500 km. On the Hume you cross three 'major' rivers, the Murray at Albury/Wodonga, the Murrumbidgee at Gundagai and the serpentine course of the Nepean several times near Sydney. All  have big, culturally-significant names ... but small flows, except in rare flood-times. Apart from the signs on the bridges, you scarcely register the presence of these rivers as you hurtle across them at 110kph.

(P.S. After a subsequent trip to Sydney, during a very wet winter, a few extra rivers in Victoria reminded me of their existence - the Goulburn, Broken & Ovens, all of which were overflowing.)

Hastings River at Port Macquarie
North of Sydney it's a different story. The Hawkesbury River and sandstone country give way to the Hunter River and all the majestic rivers and lush valleys north of Newcastle. You barely emerge from one river catchment before the next vista astonishes you. Even the minor rivers and creeks, with names unfamiliar to me, were bountiful. At Port Macquarie, the Hastings River becomes a broad estuary as it reaches the sea. All that water. At the time, it was a beautiful sight for parched eyes.

Water beside Hume Highway, June 2016
Last time I drove to Sydney it was late in June. For a change we've had a wet winter, gumboot weather. The water lying in paddocks alongside the Hume was a view so rare that I even stopped to take a photo. Ten weeks later the farmers are cursing this year's non-stop wet winter.

'Broad Leaf Wattle & Honey Flower', Margaret Flockton
I wonder what I'll see on my journey today. Lots of wattles in bloom, I expect. It's a specutacular sight all along the Hume at this time of year., worthy of tourist promotion. The ocasional gaps in the display need attention by local councils or the Main Roads Dept.

One of the reasons for my trip this time is to give a talk on Thursday at the Stanton Library in Sydney about my forthcoming book on the botanical artist Margaret Flockton. For details of that book, click here. Let me know if you'd like to join the waiting list for the book, due out in November 2016.