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February 13th 2012
Published: February 14th 2012
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Just about to board PS CanberraJust about to board PS CanberraJust about to board PS Canberra

photo taken by a fellow traveller
Sunday, 12th February started well - it had been cool but dry during the night so there was no heavy dew to worry about. Graham hadn’t put any of the outside things away last night like he usually does as we weren’t in a hurry to get going this morning and he guessed things, particularly the awning, would not get damp during the night. Nevertheless, we made good progress in our packing up and we were ready to hit the road for Shepparton by about 9:45am. We have been through Shepparton before but we’ve never stayed there and we felt it would be a good place to explore and from which to visit Echuca. It would also stand us in good stead for our on-going plans which we think will take us on to Benalla in two day’s time. The journey went well – not a lot of traffic and the roads were good. At about the half way mark we reached the small town of Stanhope which was an ideal stopping place for us to have our mid-morning cuppa and cake. Signs on the edge of town advertised a “Monster Garage Sale” which, we think, in Aussie terms is a car-boot sale. It was taking place up and down the main street and seemed to have attracted a lot of “stalls” and a lot of potential customers. All of the shops were also open and they seemed to be doing a good trade – well done Stanhope! We parked just a short way away by the well-maintained village green which had picnic tables and loos so it proved to be an excellent stop for us.

The total journey from Bendigo to Shepparton was only 120 kilometers so we were soon seeking out the Big 4 Caravan Park at Shepparton East. We became aware of huge fruit orchards as we neared Shepparton and hadn’t fully appreciated the consequences. Caravan parks in Shepparton at this time of the year are often stacked out with young back-packers of all nationalities that are looking for work as fruit pickers. Shepparton East was no exception although we were able to select a site on the opposite side of the park from the many, many tents erected in the camping area. It proved to be quite good for us and we were not to be affected at all by the behaviour of the back-packers which can often be a bit boisterous. Having settled in we went for a short drive to explore Shepparton and found our way to the Information Centre next to the central lake which was a hive of activity. Lake Victoria seemed to have plenty going on but we were particularly attracted to an area that had been set aside for model power boats. There must have been in excess of twenty boats although not all of them were racing at the same time. They were all magnificent machines, presumably exact replicas of full-sized power boats. They were very fast and very loud and judging by the numbers of enthusiasts involved it must be a huge passion in this area.

I did a bit of shopping on the way back to the caravan where, apart from a brief drive among the nearby fruit orchards while the sun was setting, we spent most of the time watching another one-day cricket international. Graham had had a swim in the pool earlier and said it was one of the best he had used for some time so I must try to have a swim tomorrow. We were delighted to be able to have a
Part of the 'Moooving Art' project Part of the 'Moooving Art' project Part of the 'Moooving Art' project

fibreglass cows have been painted by local artists and placed around the city
lengthy chat with Sarah via Skype who, with Darryl and a couple of mates, were in the snowy Lake District for the weekend. With the cricket going on until quite late we didn’t get to bed too early but the park remained quiet throughout the night.

Monday 13th February and the weather was beautiful this morning. We had intended making an early start and spending the day in Echuca but, in truth, we had a lazy start to the day and didn’t get away until well after 10:00am. To get on to the Echuca road we needed to drive through the centre of Shepparton but by then the traffic was reasonably quiet and we made good progress despite the number of traffic lights. Australians tend to prefer traffic lights rather than round-abouts in large towns and cities. Shepparton seems to have more than its fair share and, unlike Melbourne where you can often get a “good run”, in Shepparton, if you’re lucky enough to get over one set you will almost certainly get caught by the next one. Nevertheless, this morning we were soon heading out of the city towards Echuca some 80 kilometers away.

Echuca, an Aboriginal name meaning "Meeting of the Waters" is situated close to the junction of the Goulburn, Campaspe and Murray Rivers. Its location at the closest point of the Murray to Melbourne contributed to its development as a thriving river port city during the 19th century.

Now, Echuca is famous for its paddle steamer industry and is home to the largest paddle steamer fleet in the world. It is situated on the Murray River and has built up a huge reputation for river boats of all shapes and sizes but old fashioned paddle steamers abound and we were hoping to have a ride on one today. We have been there a couple of times before and I remembered taking my sister Daphne and our Mum but it was many, many years ago. We had forgotten just how big Echuca is and it seemed almost as big as Shepparton in size but it has a separate area known as The Port where all the boating activity is centered. After a brief stop at the Information Centre we drove to and parked in the port area and had a wander round. It has been a “port” for a long time and many of the older portside buildings have been cleverly converted to house “touristy” things for the many people that visit each day.

We identified a steamer – The Canberra - which would depart at 1:15pm and then went to find a café for some lunch. We were spoilt for choice but settled on The Courtyard Café where Graham had yet another “all day breakfast” and I had a chicken based pancake with salad. After chatting to the proprietor for a while, we had barely enough time to get our tickets in order to make the 1:15pm trip on The Canberra. We got there with just a few minutes to spare but as it wasn’t particularly busy it didn’t matter too much. For a while we were the only people on the top deck but later more people drifted up to take advantage of un-interrupted views of the scenery. We were impressed with the splendour of some of the houseboats on the water, many of which were available for hire. They ranged from small two-berth boats to huge vessels that could take a few families at a time and came with all mod cons including hot tubs. It would be a very special way to explore The Murray River but we were happy to just spend an hour on The Canberra. The Murray is navigable for a considerable distance which, of course, is part of the attraction. The hour long trip was very enjoyable – leisurely, a good commentary and fascinating scenery and we were so pleased to have done it.

For our journey back to Shepparton we chose a different route which would take us near to a place called MOIRA!! We were headed for Barmah where there is access to a National Park and from where we thought we might find Moira. Unfortunately, the only reference we found was a signpost called Moira Lakes Road and, later, another sign which read Moira Gums! We never did find Moira but we happened upon a delightful riverside camping and day visitor area and with only one other vehicle there, with an empty boat trailer attached, we decided to tarry a while and have some tea and cake. We sat by the river admiring the wildlife – mainly birds – and in the far distance we could see two camping units and a couple of people fishing. Otherwise we had the place to ourselves and it was idyllic. If we were more adventurous it would be just the sort of place we would enjoy escaping to for a few days. Later, another vehicle towing a boat on a trailer arrived. It appeared to be two officials who were embarking on a water quality testing survey as the boat was laden with technical equipment. They didn’t start off too well as the fellow who reversed the 4WD and trailer to the water’s edge forgot to apply the handbrake and the whole unit, trailer, boat, 4WD and all, drifted down into the water!! A little red-faced, he was able to retrieve the situation. A small part of me thought what a great story it would have been for the blog if the car had trundled down the slope and into the river – shame on me!! I didn’t feel as though I could take photos but it was quite entertaining. After a couple of hours of “chillaxing” (a term we picked up from a certain young lad in Tewkesbury) we meandered back to Shepparton, re-fuelled the car and settled back into the caravan. It was still very light and very warm so we both decided to have a swim while the pool was empty. We were delayed a bit by our delightful but very chatty neighbours and by the time we got to the pool there were others there too but it was still a very pleasant way to end the day.

Additional photos below
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The old and the newThe old and the new
The old and the new

historic PS Alexander Arbuthnot and a much newer riverboat

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