Our next stop was Bonegilla. We were going to spend two nights there with Debbie and her lovely family.
When we had left Melbourne the weather had been cloudy with a bit of a promise of rain in the air but by the time we reached Bonegilla it was hot. And it was to get hotter. Nothing like the recent weeks have been in Oz but close to 36 degrees. But it was nice and cool indoors. And there was no fire danger.
Fire danger rating sign
This is where we saw our first live kangaroos. As we took a drive to Lake Hume we passed Latchford Barracks, an Army base, and there they were in a fenced-in area doing nothing. One supposes that they´d at least would bother to hop along but no. They were grazing in the grass and were determined not to come any closer.
But that was only the beginning of our animal encounters. Later in the evening Debbie had arranged for us to meet Bruce and Bouncer, 2 young wombats being cared for by registered wildlife carers. It was amazing. We got to hold them and were told how their mother had been killed in some sort of an accident. They weighed about 14 kg and loved being patted after they were sure that we meant no harm and they had their carers close by. As far as we could tell, they were the happiest wombats on this earth.
In Nature wombats dig extensive burrow systems with rodent-like front teeth and powerful claws. You can see their claws and teeth in the picture. One distinctive adaptation of wombats is their backwards pouch, which is very handy when they are digging; that way they do not gather dirt in their pouch over the young. Although they are mainly active during twilight and at night, wombats also venture out to feed on cool or overcast days. They are not commonly seen, but leave ample evidence of their passage, treating fences as minor inconveniences to be gone through or under. They leave behind distinctive cubic droppings so you´ll know they´ve been around. So to get to hold them and observe them at such a close range was something not even all Aussies have done.
Wombats are herbivores; their diet consists mostly of grasses, sedges (which superficially resemble grasses or rushes), herbs, bark, and roots.
Wombats' fur colour can vary from a sandy colour to brown, or from grey to black. All three known species of wombats average around a metre in length and weigh between 20 and 35 kg.
Female wombats give birth to a single young in the spring, after a gestation period, which like all marsupials can vary, in the case of the wombat: 20–21 days. They have a well-developed pouch, which the young leave after about 6–7 months. Wombats are weaned after 15 months, and are sexually mature at 18 months.
Wombats have an extraordinarily slow metabolism, taking around 8 to 14 days (!!!) to complete digestion, which helps them survive in arid conditions. They generally move slowly. When threatened, however, they can reach up to 40 km/h and maintain that speed for up to 90 seconds. Wombats defend home territories centred on their burrows, and they react aggressively to intruders. The common wombat occupies a range of up to 23 ha.
Next day we went for drive in the mountains rounding Lake Hume. It is mainly a water reservoir and man-made artificial lake formed by the Hume Weir on the Murray River just downstream of its junction with the Mitta River. It is beautiful and it is easy to believe that its shores are used a lot by people going on a picnic or swimming, diving, fishing, boating or camping. I was told that it gets really packed with holidaymakers during the holiday season.
Scenery near Lake Hume
I am not quite sure if these ponds qualify as billabongs. Anyway, billabongs are ponds that are formed when river or creek changes direction and the billabong is cut off from the main source of water. Or maybe they are just watering holes for the cattle. An Aussie would know….
The lake looks funny because you can see dead trees in the middle of the lake or live trees a few metres from the shore marking maybe the previous waterline. Now there was plenty of water but it was obvious that that had not always been the case. When the lake was completed Tallangatta township had to be removed to a new location eight kilometres west from the original site, the old town is still there in the bottom of the lake.
Pelicans in Lake Hume
Hume Dam is the major operating storage of the River Murray system. The storage regulates the River Murray, and re-regulates water discharged from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme.
Releases from Hume Dam and downstream tributary streams supply irrigation, domestic and stock and urban demands to Victoria and New South Wales, and provide about one-third of South Australia's entitlement.
We stopped for lunch at a general store. Does it not look like something you would expect to see in an old movie? Only the horse wagons and ladies in long skirts are missing.
Plenty of delicious food to be had
But also other stuff was for sale or on display…
Beautiful old things
Then for a pint in a pub run by an English lady. The only Australian beer brand that we knew of was Foster´s
lager and it turned out not to be sold in Australia. But there were others….
One customer had had enough…
So many things beer can do for you. Here is just one example.
Some customers had obviously left without their bras. Some had been sent in later. Jasmin and I walked out wearing ours…