I would hope one thing that should be evident by now to anyone that reads my blog is that I’m pretty much a lover of nature and the Australian landscape, especially our forests. The preservation and utilisation of our forests is something that has always been of interest to me though, in saying that, I’ve never been an activist or such in pursuit of unrealistic ideals or ends. And, to be honest, I think it’s the activists that have done far greater damage to our forests than any single group or industry. That activism all too often prevents proper forest management, allowing things such as fuel loads to build to levels that when a forest fire occurs, it becomes something of a monster. It’s something that we’ve experienced a number of times in recent history and which became a serious issue in Mirboo North in 2009. The US is realising that the same activism is the root cause of the devastating California fires and is something that the government is now addressing, but we still have a long way to go.
After what I thought was a fairly mild Summer, with only a few hot spells (20+/-C to 40C and back to 20+/-C in successive days), the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) once again declared it the hottest on record, as they always do. Despite the BOM’s usual prestidigitation, the bushfires only started in Gippsland with a vengeance come Autumn. For many days we lived in the smoke palls from numerous fires burning in our north and east, but fared much better than many who lost their homes in the Bunyip fires that raged north-west of our township. Any thoughts of going camping before the weather started to change were rapidly quashed as more areas to our north and east began to burn and eventually the High Country was ostensibly closed off to all visitors. Even locations in the south at Wilson’s Promontory were evacuated due to fires.
Once again with Summer in full swing it’s time for the Mirboo North Italian Festa. And swing is about the right word as the temperatures have been going up and down from mild to searing hot on a daily basis (20C differences from one day to the next). Now in its fourth official year, the Mirboo North Italian Festa has grown from an uncertain but promising start, into an anticipated feature at the beginning of each New Year; the biggest event in Mirboo North today. People travel from far and wide to attend and, as the event has matured, the rough edges are beginning to be smoothed out and it’s become quite an event to behold. The theme is the same, but as interest has grown, additional activities have been brought in to expand on the Italian culture that the Festa represents.
Last year VicRoads decided to start using South Gippsland as a proving ground for some ridiculous ideas that could potentially be expanded to the rest of rural Victoria if they proved successful, which no doubt they would, given that no one would be able to dispute the findings. What happened is that the speed limits on several of our roads were reduced from 100kmh to 80kmh and what’s bizarre about the change is that the decision was supposedly based on statistics dating back to the 1990s suggesting that these roads had an unacceptably serious accident rate (I lost the link to this reference and I think it’s now been carefully removed, but I saved a PDF copy). The thing is, the statistics that I found revealed nothing of the sort. Additionally, long-term residents who have lived 20 and more years along these very roads have no recollection of such accidents. In a relatively small community, that’s generally a far better indicator of reality (which I’ll cover later). But from much anecdotal evidence, this change has nothing to do with accident rates.
No, not circadian rhythms, but the rhythm of Cicadas. While enjoying a pre-Christmas camping break, Cicadas were emerging from their long-time underground domains to transform into short-lived flying insects. Some areas where we went to collect wood had already experienced a burst of new arrivals and the sound was very loud in places as male Cicadas tried to attract females before their short lives ended and the cycle began once more. Our campsite was, thankfully, not yet inundated with noisy Cicadas, but they were slowly emerging and looking for any place to climb and begin their moulting process. So it was that we spotted one such Cicada and I’d always wanted to record the full process as it happened and this day I had the opportunity to do so. And having a new video camera to do this with made it even more satisfying.
Having missed last year’s event, as I was away at the time, I was glad to be able to cover it once again and this year the weather was also much better than what I remember it being last year. I can’t quite remember where I was last year, but I suspect that it was on another High Country Cruise. I was also under the impression, earlier in the year, that the event had been cancelled for some reason, but that rumour turned out to be untrue. I’m not sure where that rumour came from, but when I did some checking it was clearly just a rumour. And just so that I didn’t forget, I made sure that it was entered in my calendar as a reminder. It’s not the first time that I’ve forgotten something, only to remember at the last moment, or not.
Throughout the year we get all manner of wildlife in our backyard and while it’s mainly birdlife, we also get the odd possum and of course our regular Echidnas. But one creature we haven’t seen previously is a Koala. So it was the last thing I expected to see when I came out to chastise our two hounds that were barking at something. It wasn’t the usual manic barking that indicates an Echidna is about, so I thought it must have been someone passing by and walking a dog. As always, I go outside and chastise them if they keep up too much of a ruckus, as I don’t want them barking at things without purpose. So as the two hounds were running back and forth along our fence, I assumed that it must have been an Echidna afterall and that it had disappeared into the neighbour’s bushes as they often do and so the barking stopped.
I can’t believe how quickly the Blessing of the Bikes has come around once again. With Winter now a distant memory and Spring almost two thirds of the way over, the 2018 Blessing of the Bikes was a welcome lead-in to Summer that’s waiting just around the corner. I didn’t get to catch up with Marcel and Sabine after our visit to their new Inline 4 Cafe, but I’m certain they once again pulled out all stops to make this the sort of event that is catching everyone’s attention. And clearly the Bass Shire had done similarly. This year I decided to do things a little differently, as I’ve really been into learning about video production, and so wanted to record the entire event with my new video gear. This was the first such event that I wanted to tackle from a movie making point of view but, unfortunately, it turned out to be a bust for various reasons.
I don’t usually dedicate a story specifically on an individual cafe, other than in my Life Behind Bars series, but in this case I’m making an exception, given the nature of this particular cafe and how it has cemented a major event into our local history. Most motorcycle riders and many other travellers that have passed through Mirboo North over the years will know of the Inline 4 Cafe, which was almost a mandatory stopover for riders. They may also be aware that in 2014 the owners Marcel and Sabine started the Blessing of the Bikes, which has now grown to become a major Victorian motorcycle event that precedes the Victorian Moto GP at Philip Island. That said, things weren’t always smooth riding as I’ve previously written, especially as the Blessing of the Bikes continued to grow, so there came a time when the event had to find a new home. That new home became San Remo, where the first Blessing of the Bikes in 2017 was a resounding success; however, that wasn’t the end of things, as Marcel and Sabine wanted to continue with the Inline 4 Cafe and that too has now found a new home.