Listening to the new Death In Vegas track, “Hands around my Throat” on the radio, something in it keeps reminding me of “Fade to Gray” by Visage. Its bugging me, I’m going to have to try and dig up a copy and compare them.

Breakfast has been dealt with, its time to start packing, we’re off to the Grampians for the weekend. Maybe I’ll even manage to finish off the roll of APS film that’s been sitting in my camera since last year!

Yay, a holiday. Time to mentally unwind and get away from things for a while — regrettably during the school holidays, because neither Jo nor I thought to check this before booking the time away!

Breakfast was easy, packing less so — I muddled around at home for a while unable to work out what I wanted — and ended up forgetting my rain coat and losing my sunglasses. Off into the glare with an old pair of cheapies that I’d bought a couple of years ago digging into my ears.

Snuck around Ballarat on the freeway and continued on to Beaufort for lunch, I remembered the café from the last Deadly Treadly Ride.

Back in the car and on to — and then through — Ararat, marvelling at all the old pubs and 19th century buildings. Our first “holiday stop” being at Pinky Point, to find out why there was a monument at the side of the road. It was one of the first gold finds in the area, and a tiny park has been created on the corner of the main road and “Better Route Road.” We never did find out why it was a better route, although ten minutes later we drove through the intersection where the other end rejoined.

The rest of the way to Moyston and then Pomonal it grew gradually darker, the clouds thicker and more ominous, and by the time we reached Pomonal it was raining heavily. Of course it hadn’t occurred to me to bring my rain jacket, I guess I’m getting too used to lazy weekends around the house.

Halls Gap seems a strange place, the town is all strung out along the one road, there’s no real “town centre,” just one long line of tourist-oriented souvenir and fast-food shops and a board-walk of more gift shops and cafés. As with everywhere else in the country, the gift shops stock 50% local souvenirs and 50% uniformly crappy non-specific Australiana. School holidays hit us with a vengeance in the town, every car-park was packed, and everywhere we looked there were families with kids; camping, walking, shopping and shouting.

Late lunch at the Black Panther café, or maybe it was lunch part-two, and then check-in time at the Kookaburra Motel. Our luck was in, despite being a typically nondescript motel with no charm, at least it was off the main road and reasonably clean — and the view from the rooms was spectacular. Kangaroos and cattle grazing together with a few deer, the paddock started at our back door and extended straight across the valley floor to the mountains.

To try and get some circulation back in our legs we walked off down the road into the drizzle, then south along the walking track that parallelled the road. With the drizzle and gloom of late afternoon there were kangaroos everywhere, coming out of the forest to graze on the open lawns and fields. We looped across the creek and back onto the steeper, eastern side, heading back through thicker woods and gradually increasing rain. The path was heavy going in places, recent storms have brought down a lot of trees, and there’s fallen timber everywhere. Along the way a Black Swamp Wallaby leapt out from almost underfoot, but shot off into the bracken and scrub before I could get my camera out.

Trying to dodge the rain we called in at the Halls Gap Tavern for a beer, and to scout the place out for dinner, no atmosphere, not much of a pub, it resembled more an upmarket family restaurant — and at 6.30 pm it was already packed with families. The prices seemed steep too, so we decided on the “short walk through town” to the other pub…

A considerable time later we found the pub, much further out of town than either Jo or I had remembered from the drive in, it seemed to be several kilometres away and had all the ambience of a large brick footy-club shed. Dinner involved lining up at the bistro with several hundred other people, dodging the squealing kids as they ran riot through the room to the “Brat Shack” to play, then ran screaming back after being hit, chased or picked on by other kids. Good warm pub-food, it was just a little too bright and a little too noisy at the end of the day.

The funny part was leaving the pub and stepping out into the pitch darkness to stumble the 2km back to town! There was no moon, no stars and no lights — just the low overcast and a very faint gleam of the white lane along the edge of the road to guide us.

Eventually we made it back to Halls Gap, and called in at the Black Panther for a glass of port — and then another — and sat chatting with the staff as they packed up for the evening.