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Published: September 19th 2014
It’s no longer the Murray River, but the River Murray! That’s according to the signs either end of the old suspension and opening bridge across the river as you drive into the town.
South Australia - its immediately different the moment you cross the border. The farms, orchards and vineyards here are clean, very tidy, well manicured and loved and healthy looking. The landscapes are beautiful again. Renmark is a very lovely town, especially along the river banks. There are houseboats galore and it gives the appearance of being a very active and busy hub for river traffic.
We stayed the first night at Plush’s Bend just a few kilometers out of the center of town. Nice, but the wind was still blowing and it was cold, and I have to say the shine was taken off the place for me because it was obviously the “permanent” home for too many young itinerant vineyard and orchard casual workers. And their living conditions made me ashamed to be an Australian. Just old tarps strung out between the trees, not even a decent tent. We met several of them that evening as we took our evening stroll with cameras at the
ready. Lovely young people from all over the world. Their English was very broken, but their smiles were huge. Several of them had been trawling the nearby woodland in search of fire wood so that they could have some semblance of warmth that evening. It took 6 of them to carry the spreadout tarp back to their camps laden with kindling type fuel that would probably only last at the most an hour.
The next morning we enjoyed the parade of paddle steamers that passed by our front door, and when I got into town later that day I was fortunate enough to have chosen as my lunch spot a park right by the bridge which was scheduled to open for 3 of these paddle steamers to pass through in a very short time. This was obviously quite an event and well anticipated or known and a crowd of onlookers turned out to witness this event with cameras at the ready… me too. It appears that these, and many more paddle steamers, are headed up river to a place called Chowilla station for a big celebration to mark the 150 year anniversary of Chowilla Station. In the heyday of
the river boats, Chowilla was apparently a major port for taking on board wool from all the stations in this area and dropping off supplies. So river boats of every description are gathering here this weekend along with many many land based campers to mark the event. Tomorrow night there is a big bash in the woolshed just up stream from where we are camped as I write this blog. But I digress, more of Chowilla later.
Lou and I had gone our separate ways yesterday morning, so she missed the bridge opening for the paddle steamers. But it opened again just one half hour later to let another 6 or 7 craft through and she arrived in time to see that.
Next on our agenda was Headings Lookout, about 15 kms north of Paringa, to view the spectacular limestone cliffs on the river there and to spend the night in the Murthro Forest Reserve at the base of these cliffs on the river’s edge. This time we were certainly not disappointed. We found paradise. The views from the lookout were stunning (see for yourself from my photos), and the campground teeming with birdlife and we were the
only ones there. Lou said as evening approached, “I wonder what’s wrong with this place? Why is there no-one else here?” Just a well kept secret I replied. We had after all taken great trouble to ask where we could see for ourselves the spectacular cliffs that we saw on the postcards and photographs in the information center.
This spot continued to delight us this morning. I did snap lots of the sunrise on the river – from the comfort of my bed and through my wagon’s window! Just my style!! And then we wandered among the trees and scrub for several hours snapping madly at the amazing variety of birds living there. And I saw my first snake for this trip – just slithering out of my way across a tree stump that I was heading to for a quiet sit down. Fortunately Polly was not with me. It was not enormous, probably 3 or 4 foot, but I was glad it headed off away from me.
We left there and drove a further 17 kms upriver on the eastern bank to a place called Customs House, in the Chowilla Game Reserve and then back through Renmark
and all the way out here, another 40 kms (30 of which were on a pretty crazy dirt road) to the site of the 150 year Chowilla Station celebration. We are early, it’s not till Sunday, and I doubt we will stay … we are interlopers, not having called ahead to book, but they told us just to pick a camp site anyway. It’s very different country out here. We traversed some magnificent mallee scrub plains to get here. This station is set on the flood plains opposite where we were viewing the river from the red cliffs yesterday evening. And as I now know, the significance of this bed of the river is that it was once a major river boat depot and port. Not quite as much bird life in evidence yet – white cockatoos, not pink unfortunately. But it’s still mid-afternoon and very hot out in the sun. There are already quite a few campers here, and paddle boats and hire boats. And we know there are a lot more coming up the river too. Who knows, could be a noisy night. We will see.
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