Are You Hot Enough Yet?

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August 28th 2019
Published: August 28th 2019
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Where do you go for a holiday to escape a 4-day 40-plus deg January heatwave in Sydney? Why, you go south-west about 800k’s and further inland to where it is 46deg, of course!

This year marks Ted’s and my 50 years of wedded bliss! 25th January 1969 is where it all began. Of course, we have been together for longer than that and, are what is commonly known as, “childhood sweethearts.” Do they still use that term these days?

We both grew up in a small country community of about 600 people where everybody knew everybody else and, if you weren’t related to Ted’s family, then you were probably related to mine somewhere along the line. ?

We have come a long way since those days – nearing 60-odd years ago, now - and have been very fortunate in our lives. We struggled as a young couple, as finances were tight. Raised a family of two beautiful and successful daughters and are now lucky enough to be able to delight in watching our four grandchildren grow up and continue to develop into well-adjusted children and young adults. We have also been fortunate enough to have travelled quite extensively since our own children have grown up, and have seen much of the world but, still lots more to see and do.

Every so often last year, our daughters kept asking us what we planned to do to celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary that was coming up in January as – “we should do something, Mum!” ?

As neither of us are party-type people, a party wasn’t on the agenda, as that’s not what we wanted and, renewing our vows wasn’t our thing either so, deliberated, since probably, the middle of last year, as to what our celebration should be. Finally, we both decided that we would like to do something with our family.

Many options were explored, with a family holiday becoming the final decision. Then, it was … but, what type of family holiday? Firstly, a couple of weeks in Hawaii was discussed (maybe we could use our timeshare there); or, perhaps Bali? – was another consideration. How about a family cruise?

We are extremely lucky that our elder daughter, Jenni, is a travel agent of many years’ experience which really has spoilt us over the last 20-odd years she has been in the industry, and certainly makes things a lot easier when we are exploring our holiday travel plans, in having an in-house travel agent..

Over ensuing weeks, Jenni investigated many cruise options on our behalf. Nothing at all wrong with the cruises themselves but, when you are a family of 6 (our younger daughter, son-in-law plus 4 children), this type of holiday can run into many thousands of dollars for the participants.

Years ago, Ted, Jen and I had taken a houseboat holiday on the Murray River in South Australia. It is a holiday we still remember and, when we put it to the vote, this seemed the ideal family holiday solution. We would hire a houseboat on the Murray River which marks the border between New South Wales and Victoria. We could all be together and the cost of hiring a houseboat for a week, wouldn’t break the bank.

Houseboat cruising is somewhat similar to the canal boats in the UK, for you travel at about the same speed – 4 or 5 kilometres an hour so, you aren’t out to break any water or land speed records – but, are much bigger and, the canal, or river, that you are travelling on, much wider and deeper.

In the UK it is all very civilised as you travel along from village to village, tying up each night to purpose-built bollards at a designated “landing” and, at worst, you are only about 100 metres from the nearest pub for either, a couple of “sundowners” (well-earned drinks) at the end of the day, whilst you keep an eye on your dinner cooking in the oven on your canal boat or, if your prefer, to have your evening meal at the pub.

In Oz, it is somewhat different. Yes, you live on your houseboat; yes, you cook for yourself, as you are completely self-contained; but, the nearest pub can be 50k’s away in the nearest town; and, when you tie up at night, you look for a nice spot and the nearest two gum trees on the riverbank to tie your mooring ropes to so that you don’t float away downstream during the night! You think I’m kidding, don’t you? ?

Having said that, we certainly weren’t slumming it. Our houseboat had an upper and lower deck. It accommodated 12; we all had separate bedrooms with en suite facilities and a large kitchen/lounge/dining area. There were also two big-screen TV’s – one upstairs and one down – a well-equipped full-sized kitchen, with all mod-cons. But, perhaps the most popular convenience on board was, the dumb waiter that connected the kitchen downstairs with the upper deck and barbecue area upstairs! This feature certainly got a work-out during our week on board, particularly with the younger members of our family, whilst we adults delighted in the fact that it saved our aching legs, creaky knees and many balancing acts, negotiating the stairs with trays of food, crockery and cooking utensils, etc. ?

The houseboat was also totally air-conditioned downstairs. On the spacious upper deck, we had a large gas barbecue with an equally large bench area; a spa (with bubbles, or not) and, the automatic front-loading washing machine was also there under the bench, as well as a strung clothes line, to hang your clothes on – and/or swimming gear/towels, etc. There were also two sun lounges, which in our current heatwave conditions, was the last place you wanted to sprawl. ?

Natalie, Justin and the kids left for Victoria on the Tuesday, as they were wanting to spend a couple of days in Ballarat before our houseboat holiday.

Back in 1851, gold was discovered in Ballarat in what was to become one of the richest alluvial goldfields that the world has ever seen. Being a very historical area, they wanted to take the kids to Sovereign Hill, which is an open-air museum that depicts Ballarat’s first 10 years after gold was discovered there. Sovereign Hill is a goldfields town with shops, hotels, a theatre, factories, gold diggings and underground mines for you to discover and explore.

Ballarat is also the site of the miner’s rebellion back in December, 1854 when a bloody battle ensued between the miners and the colonial government in what was to become known as the Eureka Stockade. The miners were fighting against unfair laws, taxes and bureaucracy and were fighting for reform. The result of the uprising was later to become the foundation for worker’s rights and democracy in Australia. The story of the Eureka Stockade is well-represented in Ballarat.

Ted, Jenni and I left the next day, driving the 800 k’s straight through to Echuca, as we wanted to have a couple of days there, before meeting up with the rest of our family on Friday. Ted and I have been to Echuca several times before but, it was a whole new experience for daughter, Jenni.

Echuca is also a very historical town. Situated on the Victorian side of the Murray River – the border between two states - it is also the twin-town with Moama across the river, on the New South Wales side.

Founded in 1850, Echuca became a very important inland river port on the Murray-Darling river system – Australia’s two longest rivers. Beginning in Queensland, it runs through New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, finally emptying into the sea at Goolwa in South Australia and, spanning 2,508kms (1,558 miles). The Murray and Darling Rivers and their tributaries, were, and still are, the lifeblood of inland Australia.

Today, the paddle steamers and many other vessels on the Murray/Darling river system in the states of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia fly the Murray River flag, which dates back to colonial times.

The earliest recorded reference to the flag dates back to 4 March, 1853 when the paddle steamer, the “Mary Ann”, arrived in Goolwa from Mannum, in South Australia, with the flag being raised in her honour to mark the occasion of her being the first paddle steamer to go into service on the Murray River.

The design of the flag bears a red cross with five white stars and four horizontal blue bars with the Union Jack in the top left-hand corner. The white stars represent the 5 colonies at the time – Victoria, Northern Australia (Queensland), New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia whilst the Union Jack represented our British origins. The four horizontal bars are believed to represent the Murray River and the three major rivers that flow into it – the Murrumbidgee, the Lachlan and the Darling rivers. What is truly unique about this flag is that it is the only flag in the world to be named in honour of a river.

The historic Port of Echuca, with its towering 3-storey high, red gum wharf, is recognised as one of Australia’s heritage icons and is still home the to the largest paddle steamer fleet in the world. The height of the wharf is to allow for the possible 10 metre variance in the river level between summer and winter thereby allowing the wharf to operate year-round. Construction of the original wharf began in 1864 but, as the river trade grew, so did the demand on the wharf with it constantly having to be extended to cater for the rapid growth of river transport until, at its eventual completion in 1884, it had finally reached the length of 332 metres. The town of Echuca became Australia’s largest inland port and Victoria’s second largest port overall up until the 1880’s.

A new feature in the Port of Echuca now, since Ted and I were last there anyway, is the Discovery Centre which mentally and visually, transports the visitor back to Echuca during its heyday by way of displays, storyboards, photographs of life on the river and all manner of other interesting artifacts and information.

Until the advent of rail in the late 1800’s, paddle steamers were the only form of transport for everything – bales of wool; wheat and other grains; mail; groceries and provisions for the early settlers; passengers, timber, machinery, etc. With the expansion of the railways, road improvements and the fickle river system – often stranding the paddle steamers for months in “the dry” or bad seasons with low river levels - all combined to lessen Echuca’s importance as a major river port and by the late 1890’s, the paddle steamer fleet was in decline.

However, today, we can still relive part of Echuca’s past history by visiting the faithfully-restored Port of Echuca to its former olde-worlde original character as well as reminisce, just a little, as we take a cruise on one of the restored, original paddle steamers that DID work those rivers back in colonial times.

An excellent TV mini-series called, “All the Rivers Run”, starring John Waters as a riverboat captain and Sigrid Thornton, his love interest, was released back in 1983 and gives a very good representation of what life on the river was really like way back then. The restored paddle steamer, the “Pevensey” which doubled as the “Philadelphia” in the mini-series, is one of the paddle steamers that you can take a leisurely cruise on today.

Family sightseeing completed in both Ballarat and Echuca; the houseboat provisioned for the next week and, having all met up once again, we set off for our week on the river, after a short instruction cruise by the houseboat hirers, we were ready to begin our adventure.

January is always a hot month in Oz – middle of summer and, temperatures can be extreme at times. In past years, this has mostly been the odd day or three however, this month was shaping up to be like no other January. A widespread heatwave was currently sweeping all of south-eastern Australia, with extreme weather conditions of 40+deg days – stretching from Adelaide in South Australia, across Victoria, through NSW and all the way up the east coast to Queensland.

Ted, Jen and I left home in Sydney, in 40+deg heat, all the while watching the temperature climb on the car’s dash panel, the closer we got, to arrive in Echuca 8 hours later, at 46deg! There is no escape from the heat. This heatwave is unprecedented. Never before, have we had a heatwave that has continued for so long or covered such a vast area. Unbeknownst to us at the time – it is set to continue for the next two weeks and, by the end of the month, we would end up sweltering through the hottest January on record.

Thankfully, the downstairs of our houseboat was air-conditioned and, we spend the next week cruising the mighty Murray River.

Our days consisted of (usually) a leisurely breakfast, or brunch – we were In no hurry to get anywhere - then, we would cast-off our mooring ropes and cruise downriver for the next few hours, usually tying up to the riverbank around 4 or 5-ish later that afternoon. Mid-summer, it didn’t get dark here until around 9pm so, plenty of time for a swim in the river before dinner time.

Even though we weren’t cruising very fast, we had to keep a constant watch on the conditions of the river as, over the years, in good seasons or, heavy rainfall, the Murray becomes a raging torrent when it’s in flood. During these times, heavy erosion can occur, with the riverbanks being washed away, resulting in some of the huge river gums and other trees, becoming victims to the floodwaters and toppling into the river as the bank becomes washed away underneath them. These conditions are ever present all along the river and the last thing you want to happen, is to run into a submerged log or tree. Sandbars are another obstacle to be on the lookout for, as the bed of the river is constantly changing.

The weather is so hot that, our afternoon swims are a welcome cooling-off and respite from the incessant heat outside. We adults and the older grandkids – Erin and Adam – are mostly the only ones to swim at the back of the houseboat or dive off the landing there, because the current in the river is running so fast that, it is not safe for the twins at 7 years of age, to venture in. Son-in-law, Justin, at one stage, decided, just for fun, to dive in off the landing at the back of the boat and to swim against the current, just to see how strong it was and to see how far he could go. He is quite a strong swimmer and, in the 5 minutes, or so, that he was in the water, hadn’t made any progress at all against the current whatsoever. He had stayed in the same place all of that time. ?

Of course, we weren’t the only ones on the river. Middle of summer, 6-week long Christmas school holidays so, plenty of time for families to get away and enjoy an extended break. Consequently, we were sharing the river with plenty of other craft – mainly speedboats and water skiers.

This made life really interesting for us on our houseboat when a speedboat would zoom by and the wake from the boat would send our slower-moving floating home, rocking in the wash from the boat but, what was more interesting was that we would lose vast amounts of water out of our spa on the upper deck during the rocking, as water sloshed over the side and all over the floor! We quickly worked out what the nearby tap, with hose attached, was for. ?

Unfortunately, we had gotten off to a bit of a frustrating start on our first day for, whilst we had been waiting to meet up with the rest of the family, we’d had a dust storm come through that was still blowing when they arrived.

Eager to get underway and on the river before nightfall, there was nothing we could do to prevent the result, at least to the upper deck of our houseboat, we’d just have to wait until the storm blew itself out and deal with the mess later.

As you would imagine, everything was then covered in a fine layer of gritty brown dust all over what had previously been lovely and clean when the upper deck had been hosed down prior to our arrival. So now – not only did we have every flat surface covered in brown dust, including the floor, but because of the water sloshing out of the spa, we also had a muddy floorspace up there, as well. What a mess!! First order of business the next morning was to make even better use of the hose upstairs! Thankfully, the spa had been covered during the storm. ?

We’d also had a bit of excitement one morning when, whilst the kids were swimming on a small beach on the river, a NSW Maritime Police boat came down the river, going a little way past us. At first, we thought that we may have been doing something wrong but, no, as he waved as he went past, and continued on for about another 500 metres up-river before stopping.

Within a couple of minutes, as one of these speed boats came downriver towards us, the police boat took off with his lights flashing, chasing the speedboat and skier.

He followed him for some distance before the driver of the boat slowed and finally stopped as the police boat pulled alongside. A discussion followed from boat to boat for a few minutes, before the policeman then turned his patrol boat around and went back the way he had come. Obviously, a warning had been given.

We watched him go, with him finally stopping back where he had been previously but, stopped his boat at a bend on the river where he could watch the river traffic in both directions. He sat there for probably about half to ¾ of an hour, just watching the speedboats and skiers as they sped backwards and forwards.

We figured that someone must have complained to the police about the boats, etc and so they sent someone to patrol the area. It was good to see that, even on an inland river, the police were vigilant for speeding watercraft and for those not obeying the rules. A pity he wasn’t around yesterday morning when we had a rude early morning wake-up call when a sup-ed-up speedboat with a turbo-charged inboard engine conked out right outside our bedroom window and took numerous attempts to re-start. It sounded like a Mack truck revving up a reluctant engine right outside our bedroom and, just about as noisy. Some people have no idea or consideration for others!

Despite dodging high-speed water skiers, speedboats, noisy neighbours and ever-changing river conditions, we have a magical week cruising the Mighty Murray. It was a leisurely and relaxing way to spend a holiday. Every day, we were treated to a wide variety of birdlife all along the river. Also, an added bonus one afternoon, was also watching several kangaroos as they came right down to the river’s edge, right where we were moored, for a well-earned drink. Like much of our wildlife during the current heatwave, the poor things were suffering in the 46deg sweltering conditions.

Another morning, we spent some time just watching a pair of delightful little birds of hummingbird proportions, darting backwards and forwards from their nest in the sandy riverbank, obviously feeding their young. We were later to identify these little dynamos as Rainbow Bee-Eaters. Watching these tiny little rainbow-coloured birds darting backwards and forwards, was such a delight. Rainbow bee-eaters are found all-across Australia and eat insects, mainly bees, wasps, dragonflies, beetles, butterflies and moths. They catch flying insects on the wing, carry them back to a perch, then beat them on the perch, before eating them. I guess you can’t get your food any fresher than that!

All too soon, our lovely relaxing week was coming to an end but, the grand-finale for Ted and me occurred on the last night of our holiday, before our actual 50th Wedding Anniversary date the following day, when all of our family, decorated the downstairs lounge and dining room of our houseboat in gold and silver-coloured decorations, balloons, etc.

It all began earlier that morning when, leaving our bedroom, we (all) discovered a “formal” invitation waiting for us, propped up against our bedroom door. We were being invited to a “black tie” dinner, “after our swim” later that afternoon. A black bow tie on an elasticised band was enclosed along with our invitation that we were to wear that night with “an outfit of our choice”. ?

All of our kids (grandchildren included) had excelled in their plans for our Golden Wedding celebrations. Decorations of all kinds; a roast chicken dinner with roasted vegetables and all the trimmings that son-in-law, Justin cooked on the hooded barbecue upstairs as he sweltered in the 46deg heat ? A roast dinner is one thing but, considering the hot weather, what do you think would be an appropriate dessert? Why - Ice cream cake, of course!! ?

Not only were we celebrating Ted’s and my Golden Wedding Anniversary, we were also celebrating Natalie & Justin’s (belated) 25th Silver Wedding Anniversary which occurred back In March last year and, also my “3-score-year-and-ten” birthday, that happened back in September last year. So, this week away was really a combined, triple family celebration occasion.

In case you are all still wondering why anyone in their right mind would have a black-tie dress code celebration in 46deg heat - a little bit of poetic licence was applied in this regard.

It’s amazing what inventive ideas and variations you can come up with in ways to wear your “black tie” whilst still adhering to the dress code but, still being able to accessorise with your more sensible and loose-fitting summer gear. Our black ties doubled as headbands, hair bows, wristbands, decorative bows on waistlines as well as actual neck ties. ?

We had had an amazing week-long family holiday whilst surviving 46deg temperatures (thanks to air conditioning and lots of swimming ?) but, little did we know then that, although our week of 46deg temperatures had been trying enough, the temperature would soar to 48deg in Deniliquin during our drive back home the following day! Mother Nature’s passing salvo … just to show us who was really in charge! ? ...

Additional photos below
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28th August 2019

Happy anniversary!!!
You picked the perfect way to celebrate. We still have three years until our 50th and have been pondering what to do. I turn 70 in three months and still don't know how to celebrate that!
28th August 2019

Happy Anniversary!
Hey Bob. How great to hear from you .. and thank you for your wishes. Still don't feel old enough to have been married that long! :) Yes, as I said in our blog, we deliberated for quite some time before coming up with this holiday idea. It did turn out to be the perfect choice. Good luck with your ideas for your celebration(s).:Jan xx
29th August 2019

Hot enough?
Congratulations! Sounds like a great 50/25th anniversary! Here's to many more precious times together! xx
29th August 2019

Hot enough!
Hi Michelle, Thank you for your good wishes and congratulations and lovely to hear from you. It was lovely family time together. Last time we caught up with you, you were soon to head off to China, which is some time ago now. Seems the travel bug has well and truly captivated you this last year. Great to read about your adventures and to see that you are out there enjoying life. Thank you for dropping in. Jan xx
31st August 2019
Heatwave sun

Golden wedding
Congrats Jan & Ted on your golden milestone. That you endured temperatures up to 48C in the process is mind boggling. But to explore Echuca which we love due to free camping areas along the river reminds one that there are still many jewels to enjoy on a fine Aussie day.
1st September 2019
Heatwave sun

Golden Wedding
Hi Dave, Thank you for your anniversary wishes and, also for dropping in - always great to hear from you. :) Yes, we also love Echuca and have spent various periods of time there over the years. Always love it.The heatwave was relentless but, the main thing was our family time together. It was a great week. Ted and I have seen a lot of our own country but, you are right, Aussie does have a lot to offer. A stay-cation can always be a delight. Jxx
1st September 2019
46deg ..and climbing!

Escape the heat.
Drive, drive, drive.
2nd September 2019
46deg ..and climbing!

Escape the heat ...
Hi Dave & Merry Jo, Heatwaves aren't uncommon during our summers but, this one was unprecedented in its length and the area it covered. There was just no getting away from it - even by driving, driving driving. :) Thank goodness for air conditioning - both in vehicles ... and houseboats. :) Thank you for dropping in. :) Jan

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