I’m not a camper at heart. I don’t sleep well on a bedroll or camp stretcher and if there is any other sleeping arrangement, I’ll take it. However, with ancestors and unknown living relatives almost within reach I’ll go to any lengths.
We woke in heavy dew- the outer bedding was wet, any clothes we hadn’t covered over were wet, the tent was very wet to touch. We were up at 5AM, as were just about everyone else in the campsite. I have never seen early morning Kaniva without fog, and I’ve used it as a stopover point for some years now. It’s a very pretty place. However, the heaviness of this morning’s dew was unexpected. We packed up and headed off, taking the M1 to Dimboola then turning north.
I’ve done the journey from Adelaide to Melbourne several times, but we were headed for new territory this time. Roads I had never driven on! Always a pleasure. We stopped briefly in Warracknabeal where no signpost pointed to the town I was seeking, then after phoning another relative who gave directions, we were underway again.
My grandfather Kenneth Dunstall was born in 1900 and died in 1991. He was born in Boulder, Western Australia and had one half brother, some ten years younger. He went to boarding school in Perth. At the age of 36 he married my grandmother in the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales and was about 46 when my mother was born, at which time they lived in Melbourne, Victoria.
My grandmother died of cancer when my mother was 18 months old and the children were scattered among different relatives. My mother was raised by a maternal uncle and aunt who even gave her their surname. She did not know they were not her birth family until she was an adult, at which time she reunited with her father. He was then aged about 65 and had remarried and was living in Wangaratta in Victoria. He had seven children in his second marriage, all of whom were half siblings to my mother whom she had never met.
At the age of about 80, Kenneth Dunstall and his second wife settled in Watchem, Victoria, where they were living at the time of his death in 1991. His second wife eventually moved back to Wangaratta.
This was it – all I knew about my grandfather. There were the odd snippit – he believed strongly in education. He had wanted to be a journalist. He had a variety of odd jobs and always struggled to make ends meet. He had been a Rawleigh’s salesman at the time that he met my grandmother. My grandmother’s family did not like him and blamed him – irrationally – for her death. Those tiny overheard facts which I had filed away but which my mother would not discuss with a child, and now that I am an adult my mother does not remember the details at all. It has bugged me for a while that I could learn all about the life of someone born in 1800 or 1750, but my own grandfather was such a mystery. In fact, my whole near maternal family were a mystery!
After a proper breakfast at Donald we went through St Arnaud and headed for Bendigo, having no more than five minute stops every so often to stretch our legs.
There is not much genealogical merit to the first few of my road trip posts, but I very much wished to present – as much as possible in this concise format – just what distances we are dealing with here in Australia. Our colonist ancestors must have spent a week travelling the distance I can travel in one day, but even with modern roads and a good car, this is a long journey. It makes me wonder about our concept of our English ancestors. If the colonists travelled so much, how is it that their English families stayed in the one village for so many centuries? Where did this wanderlust come from? Was it always in the ancestors and buried deep? I would assume so, since it takes a desire to travel, a willingness to uproot and a sense of self-reliance and adventure to decide to emigrate in the first place.
One thing I learned from this journey is that our modern wanderlust is nothing to that of a hundred years ago. There must have been so many bicycles on the roads and tramping folks back in the days of the depression. People walked or biked from one end of the country to the other, sleeping rough, going for days without food, through all kinds of weather. It was a very different world to the one we live in today.
This blog post takes me to lunchtime in Bendigo in the state of Victoria, on the second day of our road trip.