Ave Atque Vale – Latin for Hail (Welcome) and Farewell; originally a military tradition that reflects camaraderie and esprit de corps for new arrivals and those who are departing. Firstly, the farewell (Vale) is for the Blessing of the Bikes in Mirboo North. After three great years, the Blessing of the Bikes will now depart for new vistas and, sadly, Mirboo North loses a significant and fantastic event. For many of the supporters (silent or otherwise), this will be an extremely disappointing outcome and it will be difficult to explain to future visitors why the Blessing of the Bikes is no longer our event. Secondly, the welcome (Ave) is for San Remo, the Bass Coast Shire and the San Remo & District Business and Tourism Association who actively sought to secure this event when it became evident that it needed a new home. And a new home the Blessing of the Bikes has most certainly found.
After three great years of the Blessing of the Bikes, I have to sadly note that it will no longer be held in Mirboo North. With everything having gone very quiet for this year’s event, I recently asked Marcel from Inline 4 Cafe, what was happening, as there were rumours suggesting that there wasn’t to be a 2017 event. Regrettably, it’s become just too difficult and stressful to try and run a fourth Blessing of the Bikes in Mirboo North, given the limited resources and lack of wider support. I know from what I’ve personally heard around the traps that there are elements in Mirboo North that have vehemently opposed this event from the very beginning and there also seems to be a general lack of interest from local businesses, as well as the South Gippsland Shire. Though this doesn’t apply to all, as there have been individuals and others that have provided solid support throughout the last three years.
…and everywhere else for that matter. Just as the 2017 Easter school holidays began, DELWP decided it was a good time to start preventative burns in Gippsland, amongst other areas. Proper preventative burns have been long overdue, so I hope that this isn’t just a bit of tokenism, but the beginning of a serious attempt to address years of neglected bushfire prevention measures. What’s ironic is that these fires have now created a massive smoke haze across southern Victoria, stretching from Melbourne to at least Wilsons Promontory. Smoke health alerts were issued amongst other warnings and my wife mentioned this to me the other day, but I hadn’t noticed anything locally. It wasn’t until I took our hounds for a run at Mossvale Park early the next morning that it struck me as to how extensive the smoke was across the entire area, as far as you could see.
It’s amazing how quickly a year goes by; it feels like just yesterday when I covered the Mirboo North Italian Festa for the first time. I missed the ‘festive’ part of the festa, which followed the mass later on in the day, so this year my aim was to cover those latter activities, as they are more the fun part of what this festa is all about; food, wine, music, grape stomping and all that (I’m sure that there was some Grappa exchanging hands somewhere on that day last year). Given the short notice of last year’s festa, it turned out to be quite an event and I suspect much larger than anyone expected or hoped to achieve. This year the advertising has been far more extensive and there was a good chance that it was going to be a much bigger event than last year.
The world is gifted with many birds that have a melodious and wonderful sounding song, but there are also a few that somewhere along the genetic line missed out miserably and ended up with something that no one could seriously consider melodious. Amongst the latter are the likes of Crows, Gang Gang Cockatoos, Yellow Crested Cockatoos, Black Cockatoos and Corellas, to name five regulars that inhabit our region. Thankfully these five tend not to be constant visitors to our backyard, but you do hear them in the distance from time to time. We’re more blessed with the pleasant tunes of the Magpies, Rosellas, King Parrots, Blackbirds and Kookaburras; yes, Rosellas and King Parrots do have a pleasant sounding song (when they are whistling for food). Out of all the unpleasant bird noises, the Little Corellas must have the loudest and most discordant sound possible, given their size.
Apologies to one of Australia’s iconic bands and their most well known song, but it was the first thing that came to mind with this story (even before I started writing). As the song goes, I was sitting on my patio (veranda) with the heat and humidity high, hoping for a predicted thunderstorm to bring some relief to this unpleasant weather, while the subjects of this story were having a field day in the trees. And, as in the song, I was in a complete sweat while taking photographs for this story. So with all of these things coming together, I think it was kind of apropos to associate this story with the band GANGgajang and Sounds Of Then (This is Australia). But this story is about another type of gang that, at times, makes sounds kind of like that of a raspy guitar, the Gang-Gang Cockatoo.
One of the delights of living in a rural area is the fact that you get to experience so much wildlife right on your doorstep, literally on your doorstep. It’s not just wild birds, which I’ve written about many times, but numerous other creatures not usually found in the suburbs. But there’s one creature, out of all the others, that sometimes elicits the most ‘frustration, for want of better word. That creature is the Echidna. I think the Echidna is a marvellous animal, as much of an enigma as the Platypus, but it’s frustrating because of the reaction it gets from our two Labradors. Put simply, they go bananas whenever they spot one.
In Jan 2012 we did a Cruise that ended at the Mitchell River National Park. Our campsite was under a grove of Elm trees and there were lots of small shoots popping up everywhere from the seeds that the trees had dropped. I love collecting such shoots and have done so over the years, with the result that we’ve had some lovely trees growing in our yard in Melbourne. So once again I collected one of these shoots, wrapped it in damp paper towel and put it in a plastic bag for our trip home. It was placed in a small pot and later into a large one, and left there until this year, even though I had intentions to plant it some years ago. This year I decided to plant it properly and give it a real chance to prosper.
Finding new ways to photograph existing subjects is always a challenge and when you revisit regular events several years in a row, it becomes increasingly difficult to find a new ‘angle‘ for a story. So with the Berryden Sheep Dog Trials on once again this year, I was really pondering what I could do that was different from last year and the year before. Ironically, several weekends prior prior to the trials, we were asked to baby sit a neighbour’s 13 week old Border Collie pup, which we of course were quite happy to do. After a weekend of experiencing a small, four-legged, hurricane around the house and two completely worn out Labradors, there was a surreal stillness that followed when she went home. Though she did pop up at our front gate later that day (not unexpected) and had to be escorted back home.
Rather than embed this video in the Blessing of the Bikes story like I did last year, I thought I’d give it it’s own page. Also, this time I decided to give it a different angle and shot it when the riders were leaving Mirboo North and starting their run to Leongatha. The ride only took about 2 min 30 sec, but it’s a large file even when compressed significantly. YouTube also compresses things quite a bit.