Published: November 17th 2008November 17th 2008
"Going UP"!!!! in the lock at Mildura
The gates close behind you and water is pumped and we 'rise' 3 metres and drive out the other side !!!
HELLO AGAIN !! After leaving Gundagai, we headed west to Wagga Wagga where we got our car serviced. We had not expected to need our 110,000 service till Melbourne but we've done a few extra miles to what we had planned when we left I'fail on 1st August !! Geoff also had a car problem that got fixed there too. Anyway, unless you're into old buildings (how many can you look at??) and art deco facades there's not a lot to do in some of these country places, so continued on after a couple of days to Griffith, via Narrandera and Leeton. ALL this area is the 'hub' of fruit-growing in Australia but we're too early. Most doesn't reach picking stage till about late Nov/early Dec and we were looking forward to gorging ourselves on cherries etc. Oh well, at least we've given the wineries a bash !!! The Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, which uses allocated water from the Murrumbidgee to the farmers, was quite an idea in it's day and took a lot of persistence to get it all working properly etc. And just as well - or we'd be importing a LOT of fresh produce and paying through the nose
for it. Do you know in Japan (for instance) they pay up to $60 for ONE mango !!!!! At Griffith we visited McWilliams 'Hanwood Estate' winery. This winery alone holds something like up to 50million litres of stock at any one time !!! So the vines are the main crop of this entire MIA region. You can understand why they're VERY pedantic about fruit fly - NOTHING is alowed into this zone. BIG fines if you're caught bringing in fruit & vegies from outside the zone.
From Griffith - further west, through Hay, to Mildura - Sunraysia country. The heart of the dried fruit industry in this country as well as more wines !!! And the brainchild of WB Chiffey, who master-minded the Murray Irrigation Scheme. Did you know that the mighty Murray River actually starts in the Kusciuszko National Park in The Snowy Mountains, runs all the way along the Vic/NSW border, into SA and eventually out to sea near Adelaide!!! It is Australia's 2nd longest river (the Darling is longer) but, by volume of water, it's classed as the biggest. We went for a leisurely and very enjoyable 2-hr ride down The Murray on an old paddelboat.
Out paddleboat for a cruise down The Murray - built in 1881 !!!
It was once run on steam but is now deisel - though the paddles still do the work. It was built in 1881. A similar one is 'up for sale' - if you have $500,000 !!!!!! We also went through a lock - a very complicated an interesting process. I image the river once had a natural drop in height over rapids and they have since put in a weir (to conserve water upstream) and a lock so boats can still get up and down. If you're coming from a lower section, you drive into the lock and the gates are closed behind you. Water is then pumped into the lock and the boat of course, rises. When it's level with the next section of the river, the gates in front of you open, and you can continue on your way. We went 'up' about 3 metres !!! which you can see by the difference in heights in the photos. Lots of houseboats for hire - and the prices aren't that bad - unless it's Xmas hols....then they double the price !!!! Also went to Wentworth - the town where The Murray & The Darling meet. Stayed several days in
McWilliams "Hanwood Estate" winery
At any one time, they can hold up to 50million litres at this facility
Mildura. Although VERY different from Merimbula, it's also a very pretty place.
Left Mildura on Sunday and went south to Ouyen and south-east to Swan Hill - another pretty town on The Murray and further south to Kerang where we stopped for the night. Left on Monday for Echuca and are now camped on the banks of The Murray for a couple of days - free!! You beauty - the more free places we stay, the more money we have in the 'kitty' for the next winery !!!! See you all later....on here!
There are more photos below