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Published: October 1st 2014
It’s almost time to head for home. In the last week we have traveled from the little town of Murrayville in the Victorian Mallee region right back into the Central Murray region of Echuca and Moma the two towns separated by the Murray River which places them in separate States. En route we slipped north to catch a glimpse of Hattah-Kulkayne National Park, and what a joy that was. Real Mallee bush and wildlife still exists there. Thank goodness for National Parks is my resounding cry because it’s only in National Parks and Regional state parks that the authentic and real Australia still exists. The Mallee in Victoria has been replaced by endless acres of wheat. The Mallee Highway is studded with “ghost” towns each sporting its own concrete silos along a railway line that hardly ever sees any trains any more. The silos fell into disuse back in the 1920s apparently but they still stand as colossal monuments to the early settler’s obsession to clear the land and “grow” something.
As we drove back into the Central Murray districts of Echuca and Moma, the vineyards appeared again. All I can say is … in the Riverland of South Australia,
and in Victoria all the way from Mildura to the SA border and then back into Central Murray region of Victoria, there is a miracle occurring that has a distinct biblical aura to it … they are turning water (from the mighty but now very sad Murray River) into wine. Who on earth can drink this much wine???? Is anyone making any money out of it all … you can go into a liquor store and buy it for $5.00 or $6.00 a bottle?? Was it really worth killing this beautiful water way for all this wine?
That said, I must give credit where credit is due however to the many places and areas in which some people/government/whoever, are trying to do the right thing, and ensure that areas are protected and do receive sufficient and regular water to thrive and survive. We stopped in at the internationally recognized Ibis Rookery between Swan Hill and Echuca – amazing, wonderful, and so good for the soul. Literally hundreds and thousands of birds of all descriptions use it as a breeding area and it was full of life. And where we are now, on the edge of the Murray River National
Park, and the Gunbower National Park - there are many protected areas where birds breed and are protected. I say again, thank goodness for National and State Parks.!!!
Lou and I are turning our thoughts to home and checking our maps to see which way we will go from here. Today we have spent an absolutely wonderful restful day on the banks of the Edward River in the Murray Regional Park, which borders the Murray River National Park (about 35 kms south of Deniliquin). This is apparently the largest red gum forest in the South East. It’s a bit scary in here when the wind blows as it has since midday today … it’s starting to die down now (8.00 pm) but I can still hear it roaring through the trees. Signs in all these parks warn you not to park under the red gums as limbs may fall without warning … how dare they fall without giving us warning I say!!!! We have managed to find a nice grassy area which is fairly open but still ringed by mighty trees which if they fell would easily straddle this area from one side to the other. Birdlife in this
park is wonderful and plentiful. Yesterday I saw my first ever Sacred Kingfisher in the wild. Actually caught it with my camera (cannot say on film anymore since I use a digital camera). It’s not the best photo ever as it was quite a way away from me, but you can tell what it is. Made my day.
Photographing birds has I think been a highlight of this trip for me. And it is becoming something of an “obsession”. I was so disappointed at the lack of birdlife in the early days of this journey that I am a little overwhelmed and overjoyed now when I find a forest or park where birdlife is plentiful. We’ve picked up small pamphlets and brochures at various places en route that pass for local “bird books” and which have helped us to identify many of the little (and big) chaps that we caught on camera.
And so I’ve been thinking as my time on the road is getting short, what are the things I like best about this lifestyle? Not surprisingly, at the top of the list is something to do with birds. I just love waking up each morning immersed
in birdsong. All the different calls and songs … so gentle, so enticing, so relaxing. I love “sleeping under the stars”. With the curtains in the Sally Wagon drawn back it’s like sleeping out in the open with the wide open sky dotted with stars right there before me. Yes, I can see them through my bedroom window at home, but they are not so nearly right above me there. I love watching the moon travel across the sky – how quickly it moves, drops towards the horizon and then disappears. I love watching the sun rise … from first light each day, through the glow of light that fills the horizon with amazing colours right before the sun appears, and then how quickly the sun climbs into the sky and sets us all on our way for the day. I love how this lifestyle reduces “living” back down to basics – where ones only worries are do I have sufficient food and fuel for the day ahead and where shall I find a safe haven to rest for the night. And in between, how many amazing sights, sounds, vistas, and people am I going to meet. And how many
different birds am I going to spot and be able to photograph? Oh, and I love just sitting quietly in amongst the trees, waiting to see who/what will appear.
Time seems to stand still when you live on the road … or perhaps it’s just that when I am on the road, I live right in the moment. There is no yesterday, no tomorrow to worry about … just this moment in time to live, and fully enjoy. Lou will leave and head off for home after just two more sleeps. I have another week and am going to spend it travelling the Cobb Highway as far as Hay and perhaps just a little further north – the Long Paddock – It started at Echuca, runs through Deniliquin to Hay and back up to Wilcannia where I was right at the start of this trip. I would like to bring this journey to an end on a similar note/theme to that which started it off … in the outback! Just north of Hay there is apparently another patch of earth where there are uninterrupted viewings of sunsets and sunrises to be had. Perhaps I will get a couple more
wonderful sunrise, sunset photos before this journey ends. After that I will head north east to West Wylong, and then across country to Cowra where I intend to try and catch up with a very old friend who may, or may not still live in that place and finally back to Canberra in time to celebrate my grandson Oliver’s 8th
So this may well be my last blog for this journey - who knows. If so, it’s only a temporary pause because my wandering and adventuring days are far from done.
Before I finish, Lou and I spent some time today recapping the highlights (and low spots) of our journey together. We’ve made the following awards (in no particular order of priority):
· Scariest Wildlife – Abercrombie River Camp ground when a feral fox paid us a visit just on dusk and scared us both to bits.
· Windiest Spot – Menindee Lakes (storm in the night caused us not only to drop our pop tops, but seek shelter behind the tin wall of the toilet block – uggh!)
· Worst Town Roads – Broken Hill – abominable!
· Worst Gravel Road travelled
– from Renmark to Chowilla Station (approximately 40 kms). Corrugations the WHOLE way.
· Cutest Letter box – Mt Gipps Station (see photo by way of explanation)
· Best Bird Sanctuary – Ibis Rookery (between Swan Hill and Echuca)
· Best Views – from Headings Tower at Murthro Forest, SA (out of Renmark) – amazing vistas of Murray River and red cliffs
· Worst Prickles – Broken Hill Race Course, northern end. Unbelievable.
· Worst Campground Neighbours – Echuca Regional Park – far too close to town with too many displays of drunken and insensitive behavior for comfort.
· Best Meat Pie – Bakery just outside Wailkaire, SA.
· Best Caravan Park (value for money) – Murrayville, Victoria – a modest little park in a town with a population of less than 50 people, for $10 a night for powered site with the best bathroom facilities for the whole trip.
· Best Campsite for Bird Watching – Merberin Common on the Murray River, between Wentworth and Mildura.
· Worst treatment of the Murray River – Overland Corner, SA.
· Greenest Lake – Lake Bonney, SA
· Best Region at
Turning Water into Wine – The Riverland, SA.
· Best Wagons on the Road – Sally and Pearl.
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