• Hannah Phillips

Patchewollock's Pursuit of Gold

It was a big weekend for the residents of Patchewollock, with prospectors coming from far and wide to spend the June long weekend in search of Mad Dog Morgan’s lost gold.

Many braved the elements in the search for Mad Dog’s riches, with a 26km trek through the scenic and mostly untouched Wyperfeld National Park.

The group began the day at 7:30am with a cold and foggy bus ride to Wonga Campground (near Yaapeet), to walk the first 16-kilometre leg through sand and over hills, to reach Remote Campground for a well-deserved “hiking lunch” of BBQ snags and hamburgers.

While hikers removed their shoes and socks to relieve their sore feet, Historian Bill Molesworth told the tale of Mad Dog Morgan and how he had once ventured where they were standing, some 240 years ago, with around today’s equivalent of $22 million dollars of gold in his possession.

With socks back on and blisters iced, the group set out on the second 10-kilometre stint of the walk.

Utilizing the support vehicles that were providing directional guidance and refreshments to those in need, many discarded their possessions to the support crew to “lighten the load”.

Astonishingly, the group all made it to the final destination, O’Sullivans Pine Plains Lodge, before dark.

From the lodge, walkers headed to The Patchewollock Hotel for a variety of events; Mad Dog look-a-like competitions, dog-tag dart raffles, a chilling pantomime and Dean Martin’s nephew to provide entertainment, distracting those still standing who had started to question the likelihood of $22 million dollars worth of gold being scattered throughout Wyperfeld National Park.

The action didn’t stop there for the tiny town, as it hosted the annual Outback Camp Oven Cook-off the very next day.

Keen connoisseurs from around the globe gathered bright and early at the O’Sullivans Pine Plains Lodge to battle it out for the ultimate title of Cook-off Champions

With several stations looking like real professional kitchens and others appearing to be slightly less prepared, everything from cookies, dumplings, paella, lamb, seafood and ox tail were all on the cards for the final tasting.

As judging came around many contestants were tight-lipped about how well their dishes were received, with the ultimate winning dish announced as the Asian-Style Baked Barramundi and Coconut Rice, cooked by Graham Rowe and Lucy Margaret, the official 2018 Outback Camp Oven Champions!

The day ended in usual Patchewollock style, with a sing-a-long around the bonfire as the magnificent Mallee sun set over the iconic Snowdrift Sand Hill at Wyperfeld National Park.

According to the locals, no gold has yet been found, but the legend lives on.