“Moulamein where is that?” did I head you say. We decided to return via the northern side of the Murray River but not as far north as the Murrumbidgee and Hay. This meant driving through the Riverina and Moulamein is on the western end about half way between the Murray and Balranald. We did not know this country at all as the major interstate routes all run around it.
We discovered that for much of the way we followed the Edward River and that the country is criss-crossed by many creeks that drain the land to the big rivers. Generally the land is flat, in fact it is the southern end of the notorious Hay plains, and the vast majority is irrigated. This is a huge area and the amount of water being used must be massive. To make things worse, most of the irrigation appears to be the old fashioned flood irrigation method and is used to grow rice or wheat. Not a very efficient way to use water at all.
Greg decided to use the GPS and we buzzed along happily, apparently on our way to Barham. Then we got to a “T”
junction and Greg was surprised to see Moulamein to the right but Barham to the left. That couldn’t be right. Barham was close so we decided to check it out.
On the outskirts of town was the biggest solar array we have ever seen, it must have covered two acres! The array was made up of tracking modules, each with about 20 individual solar panels. This must be big enough to power the whole town.
While we fuelled up the maps were checked. Somehow we had taken the wrong road out of Deniliquin. Instead of a nice straight run to Moulamein we were on the banks of the Murray. We could cross here and use the Murray Valley Highway (which we often use) or head north, back into the Riverina. We went north in order to see new country.
In spite of all the irrigation, towns were few and far between and the road had little traffic. We began to notice dirt patches on the road and eventually decided that they were repairing bad patches of road with a compacted layer of dirt! Sounds as if the local budget for road
works is pretty tight. Eventually our assumption was proven as we came across a road crew adding a 200mm layer of dirt on top of the road and then compacting it down. We doubted this would last very long, particularly in wet weather with heavy trucks, but that is what they were doing. Weird.
We eventually joined the Murray Valley highway at Tooleybuc. The wooden bridge had a 3.7m width limit and 21 tonnes per axil, yes we would be OK. Just over the bridge we stopped for lunch on the banks of the Murray. We sat in the sun gazing at the river flowing by as we supped on yummy Corn Chowder. (Yes Fee it is your recipe.)
A short distance later we turned onto the Mallee Highway and headed towards Ouyen, our stop for the night.
Ouyen is another town that we normally drive through or just stop for fuel. Now we had a chance to walk around the town to see what it has to offer. We discovered that Ouyen is bigger than we thought as you cannot see the main street when you drive through. Best of
all was the Bakery – for coffee and a bun of course!
Tonight Joan is busy cooking up all of our remaining vegetables. We cross back to South Australia tomorrow and all raw fruit and vegetables are confiscated at the border checking station (due to the risk of introducing fruit fly). Being experienced travellers we have learnt to cook up the remaining vegetables the night before as they are permitted to cross the border. So we now have numerous containers of lightly cooked vegies that will be used up in the next few meals.
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