How things have changed

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Melbourne CBD from the Pentland Hills

On Tuesday morning we went back to the Beechworth Bakery for a leisurely breakfast. We were on the last leg, a 200km drive to Melton where we would stay for a few days before heading home.

With the long weekend over, the roads were comparatively empty. We weren’t in a hurry and when we saw the amazing silo art at Rochester we had to go back to take photos.

Rochester silo art

There’s a whole slew of these art works all around the state, well worth visiting for a look. Here’s the Victorian website.

There’s stunning art like this all around Australia. Here’s the Australian website.

We stopped for a break in Bendigo, a lovely Victorian city built as a result of the 1850s gold rush.

Bendigo – a great place to visit

For us, going back to Victoria was full of memories. We lived in Greendale, west of Melton in the Pentland Hills and every day we’d drive to work in the city. So, with plenty of time before check-in, just to see how much it had all changed, we drove down to the edge of the CBD and then out again, using the routes we used to travel.

My, my. Melbourne has grown in sixteen years. We made our way into town onto Mt Alexander Road and negotiated that horrible roundabout, played tag with the trams, and gasped in wonder at all the new towers in the CBD. We skirted Victoria Markets and negotiated our way to Footscray Road which is being transformed, with major works to build an elevated road or maybe railway. We managed to find our favourite rat-run through Deer Park – only it’s not a rat-run anymore. There are traffic lights.

Next stop would be the motel in Melton.

Peter lived in Melton for many years and we spent the first six months of our life together there before we moved to Greendale. Back then Melton was a satellite suburb of Melbourne, separated from the western suburbs by kilometres of vacant land. By the time we left, estates with huge houses on tiny blocks had appeared in that vacant land. Now Melton is beginning to merge with the city.

Melton itself is expanding rapidly, with housing estates springing up like toadstools after rain. It has also become much more cosmopolitan. Back in the day it was a haven for immigrants from the UK, like Peter and his wife. We went to the Hungry Jack’s next to a senior high school to grab an early breakfast and it was full of teenagers in school uniform. I think two of them might have been white. The others were African or Indian or Asian. Three doors down from the motel, past the Indian restaurant and the Thai restaurant, there is an enormous supermarket that deals only in Indian food, run by Indians. We went for a drive around the housing estates and saw a number of Muslim women wearing hijabs and all-covering clothes, and even one wearing the full burqa. We noticed a Muslim school but didn’t see a mosque, although they’re sure to be there.

With the increase in population came the increase in retail outlets of the standard model. Where there once was a Coles supermarket with a couple of adjacent shops there’s now a mall which dwarfs our big mall in Hervey Bay.

But some things haven’t changed. In 1975, when Peter first lived in Melton, the politicians of the day vied with each other to promise to electrify the train line to the city. It still hasn’t happened.

Bacchus Marsh, further west than Melton, used to be a sleepy little agricultural town nestled in the remains of an extinct volcano. The old parts of town are still there but the housing estates are spreading out, transforming the hills where Phar Lap went for a spell in the 1930s. But they finally built a replacement for the notorious Anthony’s Cutting which snakes its way from the plain west of Melton over the rim of the volcano. Trucks heading to Adelaide had to work hard on the zigzag route and if there were an accident, anyone trapped in the cutting might as well pitch a tent.

Further west again, up in the Pentlands, Greendale is still a fairly remote community with its cluster of semi-rural properties around the Greendale Pub. Of course, we went to look at our old house where we had a magnificent garden. The house is invisible now, disappeared behind an unkempt hedge and tall trees. It looked as if nobody had touched the garden since the day we left. It was sad, but that’s life. We have moved on but we still have the memories. The price of real estate up there has risen sharply, driven by people wanting out of the urban sprawl of Melbourne.

Is anyone asking if either of us missed all this? Felt nostalgic? That would be a big NO.

We spent a couple of days with family, then it was time to leave, heading for the border and closer to home.

And for a little bit of nostalgia, here are a few pictures of that garden.

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