Earlier in January we went to Glenelg for a week on holidays. The beaches, the restaurants, the proximity to the city on the tram and the adventurous Adelaide Hills were all amazing. As is always the way when you take the daily stressors away while on holidays (no matter where you visit), you find yourself secretly wishing you lived there. Or at least to have access to such things on your own doorstep. It is human nature.
I have been busy training for an Ultramarathon this summer, so this family holiday coincided with some peak run training for me. It was the perfect opportunity to get in some training on the hills (something non-existent in the Mallee) and I entered a smaller trail running event at Mt Lofty, which was part of a local trail running series. These events are smaller in attendance and the South Australian trail running community all tend to know each other.
As an obvious outcast, I stood there at the start line on my lonesome. However, it didn’t take long until my fellow runners gravitated towards me; intrigued by my foreign presence, and wanting to know where I was from.
I got talking to one woman and she routinely asked me where I was from. Unlike the usual responses I received that morning – or any other day for that matter – such as ‘where is that?’ she was genuinely excited. She said, ‘Oh wow! You are so lucky to live in Swan Hill. How lovely.’ She gushed with joy and her heart warmed instantly at all the childhood memories she had of Swan Hill. She spoke of the Pioneer Settlement, the Murray River, the golf course, the favourable weather, and the relaxed family time and friendly hospitality she had there all those years ago on her regular family holidays.
Here she was living in a picturesque suburb of Adelaide with mountains and beaches at her yearning fingertips, but she was envious of my home, a small community – hours from any major city – that was dry, flat and inland. We always want what we don’t have.
This simple conversation at the summit of Mt Lofty – many hours and vertical metres away from the Mallee – instilled a new enthusiasm in me for Swan Hill and reminded me why Carly-Marie and I took on this blogging venture last year. We love our Swan Hill community; every dry, uninteresting crevice of it. And even though the 1800’s explorer Thomas Mitchell gave our town the pretty, yet deceiving name of ‘Swan Hilll’ after a delirious evening of noisy swans while camping on a supposed ‘rise’ which he called a hill (he obviously had no sleep whatsoever), I believe he was an optimist. Everything is what you make of it.
Lake Tyrrell, the nearby tourist attraction in Sea Lake, is the perfect example. A salt pan in the middle of nowhere that, apart from providing dirt for an annual car rally, was really nothing special to local residents for many decades. However, it is now a number one International tourist destination for Chinese visitors. They touch down at the International Airport and drive directly to the pink Lake Tyrrell, which in their eyes, is the most beautiful place in the world with its stunning reflections.
There is beauty in everything. And all those things that make the Mallee unique (that we sometimes take for granted) – such as the wheat farms, the friendly faces, the endless open spaces to play hide and seek, make cubbies, climb trees and explore, and the magic sunsets and clear skies full of stars like nowhere else in the world – are the things that we must cherish as Mallee residents. Once you look beyond the desert-like exterior of the Mallee and get through to the real core of the community, it will be forever in your heart.
I never thought I would end up back in the Mallee after departing many years ago with a huge chip on my teenage shoulder and a solemn vow NEVER to return. But with a new dose of optimism and maturity, I returned. And I bet my co-contributor Carly-Marie, a city girl who thought she’d try her hand at Mallee living, ever thought she’d still be happily living here several years later. There is some magic pull that radiates from these lands, and no matter how hard you try to resist, the sense of community is too strong.
So, after a month of rest, relaxation and reposts in January, we are filled with new inspiration and enthusiasm going into 2017 and look forward to bringing you new and exciting content from our own little slice of heaven in the Mallee. And if you haven’t done so already, make sure you sign up via email on our website to ensure you don’t miss out on any new content as it is posted.
And I just want to leave you with a quote heading into 2017. “It doesn’t matter where you live. It only matters how well you live when you’re there.” So get out and make the most of this wonderful area we live in…