Grime and punishment
KINGS PARK, VICTORIA HAZELWOOD power station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley lays claim to being the world’s dirtiest brown-coal factory, and I can attest the walls could certainly do with a scrub. There we were, practising the art of ‘‘spontaneous travel’’ or, to be honest, turning up late one afternoon, somewhere unexpected, due to bad planning.
Wecamped on the shores of the cooling pond, an artificial lake that keeps the power plant at a low temperature while the plant keeps the pond warm: nature in harmony. ‘‘The water’s good at the moment,’’ said a woman wearing gumboots. ‘‘They check it for algae every Wednesday morning. Good reading this week.’’
Two young boys sat on the rim of the pond, dangling their feet in the water and watching a pair of goldfish trapped in a small, concrete holding area. Across the far side of the pond, power lines were strung upon muscular pylons, loaded up with mean, brazen, unapologetic coalfired electricity.
Hazelwood itself was stern, foreboding, an impen- etrable fortress, surrounded by barbed wire: the name even sounds like a prison, or at the very least a lunatic asylum. An industrial eminence in dull countryside, in its lighter moods it could be taken for an eastern European chocolate factory.
The faded stencilled sign gave it some charm, the red brick was warm and the chimneys were in orderly rows, like obedient soldiers.
In the evening, we pitched a tent, stalked shags in the reeds and took photos of the flocks as they mooched around, honking up the last of the December light.
And all the while the cooling pond steamed and spat belligerently, smoking up a storm. The water’s temperature was roughly that of a tepid spa pool as we plunged in that still December evening, and the shags took flight, dragging their pointed toes across the ripples.
An overweight couple sat and cast their fishing lines through the steam into the pond, took a swig from a VB longneck and put their arms around each other. This flurry of activity was watched over by the immovable power station: dirty, bleak, of another time, spewing soot and coughing its lungs out.
Need I add there were no other campers? Send your 400-word contribution to our Follow the Reader column: travel@ theaustralian.com.au. Published columnists receive an Everyday Cashmere Universal Rib Scarf ($85). The unisex scarves are 140cm long and 25cm wide and available in a wide range of colours. More: everydaycashmere.com.