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Thread: Western Victoria, (Part one, Wimmera Region)

  1. #1
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    Jan 2015
    Northern Suburbs Melbourne

    Western Victoria, (Part one, Wimmera Region)

    On the Queens Birthday Long Weekend a couple of years ago Jen and I decided to spend some time in the Wimmera Region of Victoria, which is west of Melbourne. As usual our drive there was by a circuitous route as for most the drive there would not include our first few destinations.
    We had morning tea at Heathcote where we checked out an interesting landform.

    This region was extensively mined from the early 1850s when gold was first discovered here. Shortly after thousands of prospectors swarmed throughout the area, quickly exhausting the gold that was located close to the surface. One method that was used to remove top soil and expose the relatively easily obtained gold was by sluicing using high pressure water hoses, this method was used until the early 1880ís and it was that activity that created what we see here today.

    Within minutes of leaving Heathcote we were on a dirt road/track and in this drought effected area (which central and western Victoria still was), I even found a creek with water in it to drive through.

    Our campsite for the first night was at Aysons Reserve which is located on the eastern side of the Campaspe River, roughly halfway between Elmore and Rochester.

    It was not our usual full on, heaps of ks driven type day but this was a site that I had never stayed at before and so here was our opportunity. Due to a weir not far from the site, water levels are higher here than at most other riverside camps in Victoria at the moment.

    A forecast shower was heading our way so before that hit I got a few shots in whilst there was still a bit of sun about.

    Later in the day the sun poked through again.

    Next morning another typically Victorian winters day greeted us, and what a lovely scene it was.

    This free camping area is very popular and being so large there was plenty of room for everyone. It was a Friday night and there were at least 30 other campers there but we still found a spot that was away from the others, to give us the space we are used to. One thing I did wrong though, was to set up our van about 10 metres from a muddy puddle. Some young kids early on Saturday thought riding their bikes and splashing in the mud would be good fun, it didnít worry me as I was up around our fire but Jens sleep in was ruined Ha! (So was most of the kids clothes come to think of it!)

    From there we drove basically due west along many back roads to our next campsite at Wooroonook Lake, 15ks west of Charlton. This lake along with a few others in the area has the water level artificially maintained for tourism and recreational reasons. All other natural lakes and waterways were basically dry due to the drought.
    We arrived at lunch time and as Jen got the grits ready I took a quick stroll to take these next few pics. What a stunning spot it was.

    Just so beautiful, but no time to relax yet. We were booked in for a tour 15ks north of Boort which was roughly 80 ks away and that started at 2.00pm sharp.

    Around Boort John Piccoli is famous although Iím sure not many of you would have heard of him, he is better known as the Spanner Man.

    As I start to write this I know Iím going to find it difficult to express what we experienced that day. There were so many parts to the 1.5 hour tour we had on his property, many more than just the brilliant sculptures that he is becoming famous for creating. I will give it ago (obviously) but Iíll start by saying that this was possibly the most absorbing, amazing, moving and uplifting tour that I have ever been on.
    Any tourist to Vic or even to Australia who happened to experience it, would be left with memories that would be a highlight of their trip. If you get the chance DO IT, for you will not be disappointed.

    As his nickname suggests, John creates art/sculptures out of spanners, in quality and detail the likes that has to be seen to be believed.

    The solid sections of his sculptures are all made up of bits of spanners welded together, the time taken in cutting them up into small pieces would be enormous.

    In that last pic John is still working on that flower arrangement, every part of it including the stems are made from spanners. He could use steel rods but he insists all of his works are 100% from spanners so he cut the stems from them, and then welded them together.

    Many of the his sculptures are scattered about the grounds of his extensive and historic property. (His forebears walked from Melbourne to here in the 1870s, took up and by hand cleared the land and created the Piccoli property.)

    A seven metre high Marlin made out of more than 3500 spanners and a four metre high Frill-necked Lizard.

    There are not just animals represented but many other shapes and designs as well. All of them were created from thoughts in his head, no plans, no pictures he just starts and builds them as he goes. A genius in a way, some people can here a piano concerto for the first time and then play it back perfect, what he creates out of nothing made me think that this is one very gifted man.

    The number of spanners used, weight of and time spent on each piece was told as we strolled around the property. He explained that the spanners were obtained by buying them at numerous swap meets and car boot sales around the district. People are starting to donate them to him, about a thousand so far but the vast majority are bought. More than 120,000 have been obtained at between $1 and $2. ďTwo bucks is the max I payĒ he said, nearly $200,000 has been spent so far!

    This is one of Johnís favourite pieces as it is a copy of his grandfathers cart that was used on the property over 100 years ago,pulled by an eight horse team, he apologised that there was only one horse!!!

    There was over 3000 spanners used on the wagon and more than 2500 on the horse. Jen and I were taken by the variety and life like detail on all that we saw, there were many others that I could have shown you but I canít fit them all in this report.
    I will finish this sculpture part of my report with my favourite piece, a shearer, his sheep and the fleece that he has just shorn. Quite stunning, it took John more than 6 months to complete.

    John also has an extensive collection of historic farm equipment and paraphernalia that lines his driveway and is also placed around the grounds of his property, some very historic items that could easily have made up a part of this report.

    Now if all of that wasnít amazing enough, there was still so much more to what we experienced that day. He is an avid bird breeder and has a variety of birds the likes I have never seen before. From the rare Princess Parrots of the remote Aussie outback (a species I have yet to see in the wild) to even rarer on a world scale, a number of stunning Macaws.

    The stories of the birds rarity, breeding successes and failures and losses to Brown Snakes etc was worth the tour fee on itís own. He has birds that many Zoos would be jealous of, over 17 varieties of Pheasants and Peacocks, the time that their upkeep would take and also looking after the grounds would be immense for just him and his wife.
    In addition to that he breeds certain types of Deer that he farms for their velvet, which he sells over seas.

    So you can see that what we saw and experienced was an absolutely stunning amazing tour which at the end of, they supplied free tea, coffee and bickies. For all of that they charged the poultry $10.00 per head.

    And one more thing I will bring to your attention, and that is that John is confined to a wheel chair. In 1949 when he was eight he contracted Polio so he is greatly restricted in his movement with no use of his legs at all. At one point he held up his arm and hand to show us how debilitating it was. It shook and he could not hold it steady enough to do basically anything with it, so all the welding he does he has to have his arm fully supported to keep it steady. He manoeuvres the sculptures around as he creates them with a unique block and tackle set up in his shed.

    I shook Johns hand at the end, I told him he was an inspiration and that I was moved and thrilled by what we had experienced, what a man.

    After that we drove back to our van, in away stunned by it all and we relived to each other the highlights of which there were many.

    Late that day the sun cast some lovely colours over the shores of the lake near our campsite.

    An hour or so later the cloud had cleared and the slight breeze there had been, stopped completely. A chill started to set in and on both nights we were there the temperature dropped to just below freezing. We didnít notice it too much as I had brought heaps of firewood which kept us nice and toasty. I did saunter away from itís warmth for this next pic before it became totally dark, it was so peaceful and serene, I just loved this campsite.

    At 12.55 am I was up to take these next couple of pics. there was some nearby light pollution emanating from a yellow (non insect attracting) light under a barbecue shelter. Although this effected the clarity of the stars a bit, it did highlight the pontoon/jetty that added to the scene I was taking.

    After witnessing that I got back into a warm bed and couldnít sleep for ages as I relived that beautiful scene but eventually dozed off. Believe it or not but I awoke again at 4.30 and got up to take a few more pics. The sky changes through the night and this time around I loved the reflection of the stars on the still waters of the lake.

    It was so cold taking those pics as the temp was around zero and all I had on was a pair of thongs on my feet and a sheep skin jacket up top. So glad there was no frost bite that night for all my fingers, toes, ďETCĒ were all exposed. What I endure for my passion. Ha!!!!

    At first light I was up again, fully and appropriately clothed this time.

    So still, not a breath of wind.

    Around the lake there were shelters, tables and electric barbecues, and best of all for Jen was the flushing toilets and hot showers in the nearby toilet block.

    Although in a fairly remote spot, the local shire had provided tremendous amenities that they should be very proud of. Because of this Iím sure at times it would be quite popular and so to lessen their responsibilities this sign was prominent. A sign of the times in our litigious society, I think it covered most possibilities but not mentioning proper attire during cold winters nights may have given me an opening if the tackle did get frost bite Ha!!!

    I will end this report here, the final report will follow shortly with heaps more to show you guyís

    Regards, Col and Jen.
    Life is not a destination but a journey, make the most of it and remember, the worst day above ground is a whole lot better than the best one under it.

  2. #2
    The Boss Smokey2.8's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Sth Sydney
    Col simply breathtaking. This country of ours never ceases to amaze me how beautiful it really is.
    Get out and enjoy it for sure.

    Thanks Col
    Adam aka Smokey

    2.8's Sound great, but a worked 3.0L goes better

  3. #3
    Leading Hand Touring Rich's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Fantastic photos Col, I might have to check that campground out sometime.
    My Touring GU Patrol

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  4. #4
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Adelaide, North East
    Wow col
    Great trip report and photography.
    Cheers Troy

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