The poem is simply the story of what happened on the New Year's Eve weekend of 2010/2011 when Anna Linden and I went north to try and do some quality star gazing. It was almost the new moon and the weather was hot, so it ought to have been ideal conditions. All we needed was a dry northern site with clear horizons...
The poem came about with Anna and I tossing lines around, as we drove out of Ozenkadnook on New Year's Day. I saw there was a poem there and I wrote down enough at Lake Charlegrark to ensure I could write it properly on our return. This is typical Australian Bush Poetry, carrying on the tradition established by legends like Lawson and Patterson and literally THOUSANDS of minor poets, right up to the present day. It has to rhyme properly, observe a strict and consistent meter and it should exhibit a wry bush humour and bush language.
Yes, this is a LONG poem! And that's the way I like it! Fortunately I don't have to put up with some fool editing my carefully considered words and I can tell the full story without compromise.
I used to live in Laharum, on the Toscana Olive Plantation, when I first left Melbourne. That is the reason for the nostalgic references.
Click on the pictures for the full resolution.
It was New Year's Eve in Portland afar,
When Anna and I put the 'scope in the car,
With all of the rest of our stuff in a crunch,
And headed off north in the heat after lunch.
It was wild and windy and past Heywood town,
We had to stop twice for some trees that were down.
We were keen to push on but our progress was slowed,
By the need to dodge branches and sticks on the road.
We cruised though Merino and into Coleraine,
Where the lure of chocolate we couldn't contain.
But we felt that one dollar per choc was a scam,
So we settled for seconds at 3 cents a gram.
We resumed heading north, with the aircon on max,
When we ran into locusts, in swarms and in packs.
They were flying and idling, in meadows and trees,
And feeding and drifting down south on the breeze.
They're easy to kill, coz they're slow and they're dumb,
And they're squashed on the tarmac like old chewing gum.
But it don't make no difference, they don't seem to care,
Coz there's millions more floating around in the air.
They sit on the road in the heat of the day,
But it takes them some time to fly out of your way.
So you can't put your foot down and say: "See ya later",
Or they'll clog up the core of your nice radiator.
At length we made Harrow, and stopped at the pub,
For a beer, but we found we were given the snub.
And the filth in the toilets: you don't want to know,
So we both took the hint and decided to go.
It was getting well into the late afternoon,
And we knew we would have to make camp fairly soon.
I wanted a really good view of the sky,
And we found it when lonely White Lake caught my eye.
There was nary a car on that road by the shore,
And we set up our stuff on the soft sandy floor.
Aye, the beers were superb til I made my mistake,
And almost set fire to the grass on the lake.
As the wind dropped away and the sun went to rest,
With salad and chicken Kiev we were blessed.
Then when most of the stars had emerged into view,
It was time to get on with what we came to do.
So Jupiter first, (of its moons we saw six),
Then a raft of star clusters we viewed just for kicks,
"The Great Nebula in Orion", I said,
And Alpha Centauri we split before bed.
There was only one blight on this fine New Year's Eve:
Such swarms of mosquitos as you can't conceive.
So many by torch that they're thick in the light,
And their chorus around you is loud in the night!
We were gone the next morn before nine at a lope,
Passing through Wombelano to clean Edenhope,
Where we called in at Bennett's for coffee and cake,
And we noted the rains had not yet filled the lake.
We kept heading north with our spirits so free,
And Ozenkadnook: Well, we just had to see!
But we sought the town sign there with mounting frustration,
Til we saw it writ small on the wee fire station.
We went past a lake and a farm and a road,
An old tennis court, and a ute with a load.
No shop nor hotel, though we had a good look,
But there's not much to speak of in Ozenkadnook.
So we headed back down to the road to Kaniva,
I: navigator and Anna: the driver.
It was 'round time for lunch and we needed to park,
So we stopped at the shoreline of Lake Charlegrark.
We couldn't believe that the campground was packed.
With caravans, tenters and utes it was stacked,
And boats towing skiers behind in a bracket:
"Stuffed if I'm gonna stay here with that racket!"
I looked at the map and I just had to say:
"We can't head back home til we've seen Minimay."
We found the town sign, as we braked to a stop,
And unlike some others, it boasted a shop!
Then off on our journey we set forth again,
On the Natimuk road, past wide fields of grain.
The number of photos I took was no joke,
And the saga continued when we hit Goroke.
Arapiles soon appeared on the right,
And we drove in the campground to take in the sight,
Of bushwalkers' tents, empty bottles and spliffs,
And climbers suspended halfway up the cliffs.
Then we went up ourselves, ah yes, but we drove,
All the way to the top past the potholes we wove.
A wonderful view, but I started to think:
"It's just about time that I slaughtered a drink!"
So we drove to the Natimuk pub in the car,
Where a lady was ironing sheets in the bar.
The staff were all friendly with plenty to say,
And we knocked back the first of the beers of the day.
There had to be somewhere to stay near about,
So: "Natimuk Lake? We'll just check it out."
Down by the old redgums it looked heaven sent,
So we pulled out the chairs and we set up the tent.
We were eating and thinking: "This place is serene."
When some unwelcome creatures arrived on the scene.
Red and black bullants who darkened the mood,
Invading our camp, I guess, looking for food.
It's unwise to offend them, there's nothing to say,
So shifted our camp a few meters away.
It grew dark and the stars soon came out clear and bright,
But as so did the mozzies, we called it a night.
The morrow did glorious photos deliver,
The first as we crossed the great Wimmera River.
Then into the city of Horsham we ranged:
My old stamping ground, to see what had changed.
A large new estate on your left as you enter,
A few big new shops and an Aquatic Centre.
For me, such are additions are not worth a fart,
After coffee and cake I was glad to depart.
Our heading back south was no call for alarum,
But I couldn't return til we'd been to Laharum.
It was strange to unlock the old memory lodes,
As we travelled down Pohlner's and Winfield's roads.
And strange it was also, to see the mutation,
When I stood at the gates of the Olive Plantation.
No more kangaroos, the new fence is too high,
And nothing but dirt where the house used to lie.
Enough of nostalgia, it's nothing to me,
"Let's go climb a peak, there's plenty to see."
So Mt Zero we chose, and the view sure was swell,
Then Laharum, unchanged since I took my farewell.
At Wartook cafe we enjoyed a cold beer,
At Zumsteins we lunched in a fine atmosphere,
But we found that large numbers of tourists appalls,
When we took in the splendour of MacKenzie Falls.
On the way to Glen Isla a turnoff soon came,
I said: "You can take the dirt road if you're game."
"I like an adventure.", the Anna replied,
So we took twenty miles of track we'd not tried.
The Asses Ears view there was really a treat,
Though sliding around on the scree, not so sweet.
The crossing of creeks gave us only slight pause,
And we reached Henty Highway with ringing applause.
Our sojourn was over from there, it is true.
For we simply drove home with no further ado.
We were tired but happy with all we had done,
In two point five days, out west in the sun.
Now I think as I ponder and dream and appraise,
And my processing photos drags on into days:
At night, don't stay outside near anything wet.
And my perfect dark site I still haven't found yet.
Warren Mars (with some help from Anna Deacon) - January 2011