On Boxing Day, Pei Pei and I set off north from Melbourne, ultimately heading for Broken Hill. Little did we know that we would turn out to have chosen the hottest week of the summer to visit one of the hottest parts of Australia, but more of that later. Our first day consisted of a relaxing drive to Ouyen. Rather than taking the direct route via Bendigo, we opted for the more scenic path along the Sunraysia Highway – how could you say no to such a charmingly named road? We stopped for a short break at Learmonth, a tiny town on the edge of Lake Learmonth, which is yet another of Victoria’s dry lakes. It’s strange and quite depressing to see a vast area of land that clearly held water recently but is now empty. The return of about six inches of water in one part of the lake a few months ago warranted a newspaper article but the lake won’t be filled again any time soon.
The real object of the day’s driving was another dry lake – actually a group of lakes – located about 70 kms west of Ouyen, in Victoria’s north-west. The Pink Lakes are dry salt pans in summer and turn pink toward the end of summer due to the resident algae. We didn’t see their eponymous colour, but I certainly do feel better after finally getting to use the word “eponymous” in a real sentence. You can read about the lakes in tourism guides, but they don’t mention the smell, which is surprisingly powerful and not terribly pleasant. Also, the salt might look solid, but that doesn’t mean that you can sit down without getting covered in salty, muddy filth that will leave you fighting to be allowed back into the car for the drive back to town – just trust me on this. Despite not being the most comfortable place I’ve visited – I haven’t mentioned the size of the ants or the multitude of flies yet – the combination of the 40 degree heat, the intense dry of the salt and a harsh sunset made the Pink Lakes a fearsome yet compelling environment that provided some beautiful scenes.