I think it was Helen Garner who relayed this performance-anecdote by philosopher and author Raimond Gaita. Gaita grew up around the country Victorian town of Baringhup — his childhood story became the memoir which became the film Romulus, My Father. (Eric Bana played the troubled Romulus, young Raimond was played with heartbreaking delicacy by Kodi Smit-McPhee, who was then adopted by Viggo Mortensen as his son in The Road.)

Garner was, I think, writing a profile piece of Gaita for The Monthly around the time of the movie. Gaita takes her down into the bottom of a deep, dry valley in his old hometown, and spreads his arms out. He asks, Do you know where we are? No, says Garner. Pointing to a structure high up the slope Gaita says, That’s the jetty. We’re at the bottom of Cairn Curran Reservoir.


This is Cairn Curran last weekend — it was part of our water sightseeing tour.

If you look up Natural Newstead you can see Geoff Park’s photos of the reservoir in 2006 — a yellow desert with a stream; and at last new year’s eve — a green flat, with a full stream. Cairn Curran takes in a big area, a huge volume — see the map below — and it’s completely filled now. Folk who grew up fishing and swimming there told me that it had been dry for a very long time: the sight was stunning. Someone was kite-surfing in the cold wind. Bunches of people were milling around; the locals’ cups flowing over. At Ladybug Quilting you can see what it looked like just back in August, a long way from the current water mark. Trekearth has a picture of an old homestead in the dry, golden grass of the reservoir; it will have returned to its liquid air. (Update: I’ve been told this caption has to be bull; note the full-grown trees.)


Also part of the Loddon River basin, Tullaroop Reservoir Catchment irrigates northern Victoria and supplies water around and to Maryborough. On the weekend it looked like a water wonderland.

This interesting special effect, pictured below, was achieved by growing a line of trees over some years, and then arranging for an extended season of heavy rain until it is part submerged. But the vision is not facetious, it is dreamlike:



Gilded by late afternoon sunshine:


In the gloaming shadow:


The countryside lush in the weak September sun, spring lambs en pointe in their virginal whites.

It may as well be South Island, New Zealand: wake to rain, green boots the morning.



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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey