“I’ve done all of the Riesling Trail except the new bit they’ve added from Clare, heading north,” said Dave. “Let’s give it a go.”
The Riesling Trail follows a disused railway line in the beautiful Clare Valley, South Australia. As usual, we tackled it in the mid-afternoon after a day’s drive. We managed 6km through vineyards, climbing steadily. Dave posed for a photo beside a ghostly sculpture of a drover with his dog and flock of sheep. We raced against light for the the return journey, but just before sunset, I was able to capture a the ruby trunk of a majestic gum at that witching hour for photographers.
“We have 26 minutes to last light,” advised Dave, after checking Willie Weather on his iPad. We’d decided spontaneously to camp for the night in the Coorong National Park, a environmentally sensitive area of dunes with a lake behind. The sign read “Ocean Beach 1.2km”. He grabbed a headlamp just in case and I grabbed a raincoat for the same reason. We charged up corduroy boards laid over the dunes, only to be greeted by ever more dunes as we reached each summit. The sound of the ocean lured us deceptively. Kangaroos gazed wisely – didn’t we know the park was theirs at this hour?
Finally we clambered up a dune and the ocean stretched below us. I took a moment to record our achievement before we repeated the exercise in reverse, straining to see the narrow track through the fading light before reaching the campsite as darkness descended. We congratulated ourselves and celebrated with pork stir fry white wine and lemon cake with ricotta.
“Awesome – that’s it,” encouraged the coach as the young woman squatted and hauled herself upwards, her weight taken by her arms and fingers clutching at tiny bumps in the apparently sheer rock face. Below another climber anchored her with a rope and pulley: “Keep your right arm down” reminded the trainer.
Mt Arapiles is a climber’s Mecca, with its steep piles of rock. We watched in silence, sipping our coffee but not wanting to distract the apprentice climber from her task. She looked confused when we clapped her abseiled descent – she had clearly forgotten that she had an audience.
The mountain rises abruptly from the Wimmera plain. Banksias, wattles and grass trees cluster at the base, while behind us cattle grazed, oblivious to the climber’s adrenaline rush.
Yesterday was the 200th Anniversary of Napoleon’s defeat by the allies at the battle of Waterloo. To mark this date the 21ieme regiment of French reenactment soldiers are giving a demonstration and gave a talk at The Briars, Mt Martha.
The uniforms were of wool and dyed with natural pigments such as indigo. Gaiters were high with leather buttons and took 20 minutes to put on. They had a natty backpack of hide to put their worldly possessions in, including the book to keep tab of what pay they were owed. In some campaigns, there was a shortage of boots and many were barefoot, possibly with tallow to seal out moisture.
Sometimes soldiers would sleep in their uniforms without a change or washing for six weeks, day and night. Although it was a good idea to put on a clean shirt for battle to reduce the chances of gangrene and subsequent amputation after an injury.
The guns were muzzle-loaded and could only fire three rounds a minute. The army depended on large numbers of soldiers to provide a steady stream of fire.