WHERE ARE WE NOW
Taylor’s Lake, Horsham
After leaving the Murray River we continued through a few small towns stopping briefly in Swan Hill to have our tyres rotated on the front rims then to the small (4000) town of Kerang. We stayed at the turf club, yes another free town camp, and met Chris a fellow camper then 2 other local couples all delightful people and so friendly. To top off our good town stay we had dinner out yup you guessed it another pizza.
After wishing our middle granddaughter happy 5th birthday on Skype and calling into the bakery to get our piece of substitute birthday cake we had a long discussion on where to go next. Life on the road gets a little tricky at times we don’t want to head backwards but we do want to see as much as we can and often we actually don’t know what there is to see. We both enjoy the countryside as we drive as much as we enjoy the towns and “must see” tourist destinations. Usually information centres only know their local area so a bit hard to know the best overall route to take. We ended up heading on minor roads through a lot of farmland with crops such as olives and grapes and also cereals and grains going through places such as Boort (lovely small lake), Lake Marmal (no water), Wychitella (only derelict houses and a tidy but closed pub) before finally stopping at Skinners Flat Reservoir with water and no boats.
Next day we drove into the town of Wedderburn and decided to stay there the next night our shortest days drive yet at 6.3km to the town reserve which is an old fossicking area so lots of holes around but also something we’ve never seen before an eucalyptus stew pot. This is interesting and can still be used basically they use the process of distilling to extract the oil from the leaves.
Meandered on through many small towns stopping for a town walk at St Arnaud and lunch at the reservoir at Stuart Mill before an Info Centre stop at Stawell (home of the oldest foot race in the world) to check that Lake Lonsdale was open for camping. The weather had been getting hotter and windier all day and in total fire ban stage.
Found a nice safe spot to stop at the lake and survived the dry heat getting up to 44 then down to 17 overnight wow what a huge variance. The lake always has water but clearly from the trees in the water it gets much lower than it is now. Stayed here 2 nights and then moved on towards the Grampians however were delayed as our lock system on our door ceased functioning and there is no way we’d leave it unlocked or could cope just using the escape hatch. Luckily we were near Horsham for a locksmith to remove the lock and order a replacement.
In the meantime we free camp at Taylor’s Lake a lovely spot with beautiful views across to the Grampians. Can take the kayak out and just laze around and enjoy the views.
WHERE ARE WE NOW
We’d noticed Lake Victoria on the map so decided to head south on Rufus Creek Road, turning right off the Wentworth-Renmark road, so glad we did as we learnt about the lake and its history. Site of a large Aboriginal massacre in 1847 and then taken over to act as a water storage area which is used to feed the Murray when water levels are low, very forward thinking. The lake is currently full and great wetlands for bird life.
It wasn’t too far after the lake we turned right to have a look at lock 8 discovered we couldn’t get to the lock but found an awesome campsite on Frenchman Creek perfect for kayaking. We did a few kayaking excursions up and down the river just a perfect place and we were told it is usually just a small creek but they’d opened up the gates and closed off the entry to Lake Victoria.
Continued back on to the Wentworth Road stopping at Perry Sandhills, reminiscent of the Simpson Desert, for a quick walk to check out the views and the Gum tree which is now covered in sand right up to its canopy branches. Not far from here into Wentworth (where the Darling & Murray Rivers meet) planned on staying on the river but due to high winds and many gum trees we took the safe option and free camped in town. Just near to the Old Gaol where we did a quick tour all amazingly well kept partly due to it being used by the local school after the prison closed. We have been amazed these last 2 weeks how quiet each camp area has been totally not what we expected for this time of the year.
While having a wander round Wentworth we found out that Mungo National Park is only just over 100km north and decided to take a diversion away from the river to spend New Years Eve where the oldest human remains in Australia have been found. An easy drive 115 km to the park very flat and peaceful scrub, on entering the park we stopped to look at remains of the homesteads including old sheering sheds and a lovely cool dugout. An interesting information centre with a good video on how Mungo Woman and Mungo Man’s remains were found, these bones have been aged at 42,000 years old. I wanted to wait for the sun to get lower before taking photos of the land formations so we had dinner at the Walls of China lookout and then went for a walk. It is still light at 9pm and ended up to be well after 7 when we stopped at Belah Campground. Enjoyed a couple of bottles of bubbly and snacks as we stayed up to see the new year in, a very quiet campground and quite a contrast to when we were in Vegas.
Back to the river and into Victoria at Mildura watched plenty of house boats go through this busy stretch of the river. Our river campsite this time is by the Psyche Bend Steam Irrigation System which was operating when we arrived. The installation of this in 1892 to bring water inland was the start of the production of fruit in the area initially most fruit was dried to preserve it. We learnt even more about the irrigation and the history of life on the Murray when we went for a ride on the PS Melbourne a great couple of hours on this still wood fired paddle steamer from Mildura wharf.
Not far from Mildura we again camped on the NSW shore of the Murray at Bottle Bend Forest the winds got up but good opportunity to dry my washing which seems to mount up without me realising just how many days have gone by. We crossed back to Victoria at Euston so we could access where the second major river (Murrumbidgee) meets the Murray the river was moving faster here than anywhere else we’ve stopped. This ended up to be the last time we were in close contact with the mighty Murray as decided not to continue to Echuca as was originally planned.
WHERE ARE WE NOW
We stayed our first night in Murray Bridge at the Showgrounds and enjoyed the company of other travellers for happy hour(s) really nice being that it was my birthday. We also spoilt ourselves by getting pizzas delivered. Next 5 nights were house sitting with 2 young blue heelers to keep us company. It was perfect timing giving us a break from the road with unlimited internet, water etc
We headed north to the lovely town of Mannum and camped right on the Murray River (2 nights) amongst the gums and weeping willows, enjoyed watching many birds, fish and water craft including houseboats. We used the ferry across to town it has a good mix of shops plenty of antique stores and cafes very much in the 70’s era and a nice friendly atmosphere. Great pizzas at The Bogan Cafe too. Even free internet, maybe could have stayed even longer but keep reminding ourselves we are travellers so need to keep moving forward.
Along the river explored the Kia Marina with many houseboats and then along a little further turned off to Purnong where again we could camp on the rivers edge this time opposite some very impressive orange cliffs. And entertained by jet & water skiers and houseboats going by. Ducks, Pelicans, Kites and even a water rat and a tiny mouse ha hah this place has it all.
Normally we don’t mind if we don’t have internet coverage where we camp but for Christmas Day this was a must to be able to share Christmas with family. After a couple of false starts we ended up at Swan Reach for 2 nights. A good flat campsite again with orange cliffs opposite, we were right on the waters edge and similar entertainment as previous. Both days here we crossed into the township on the ferry and had a good wander round admiring all the old stone buildings some beautifully restored and others sadly will never be brought back to life. Many holiday shacks scattered on this amazing river so many different designs and some have just evolved over the years these are the ones with the most character.
It is the second time we’ve been away from all our family at Christmas but it was nice to see them having a good day and we enjoyed our peaceful surroundings on the river with a no fuss lunch & dinner complete with a bottle of bubbly and Christmas pudding.
Moved on exploring firstly to Blanchetown which has the first bridge over the river since leaving Murray Bridge and also lock #1 sadly no boats going through. Then to Morgan which is known for its 12 meter wharf used when there were paddle steamers trading on the river. Unfortunately it looks like the wharf is beyond the state of repair and will collapse into the river before too long. We drove on the north side of the river for a while before crossing at Cadel and along to Hogwash Bend (don’t you love that name?) where we stayed amongst many other campers and some very fancy boats, fun to watch the water skiers many who appear to have been skiing since they were young. The music was pumping into the night although I slept well Rob didn’t.
We followed along the river passing by many large vineyards and citrus farms to Waikerie the largest town since Murray Bridge and crossed again by the ferry to travel on the Goyder Highway. Stopping at the Overland Corner Hotel which has been serving travellers since late1800’s we enjoyed tea and scones. A tiny pub complete with old post office, dining room and a couple of no longer used bedrooms. Well worth the stop to see this now Heritage Trust listed building. There is a huge area near here where we could have found a spot to camp on the river but I was keen to carry on to Lake Bonney. The lake was as lovely as we’d been told with a perfect camp spot for us on sandy shores with grass, nearest camper 275 meters away. We both swam and kayaked and even played with our new frisbee but that was short lived when it sunk and didn’t resurface. It was calm all afternoon but suddenly the skies turned grey and the winds whipped up, a big rush to get the awning down and all windows etc shut. No rain but white caps on the lake made an interesting change and cooled us down from the 41 degree day.
Plums, olives, grapes, oranges, apricots, pumpkins, grain, just a few of the crops we saw growing driving from Lake Bonney to Renmark. There are also lots of scrubby areas which isn’t how I remember it from 38 years ago but we did see the big orange now a non event tucked away in a field. Went through the towns of Barmera, Loxton and Berri each larger than the previous before stopping for the night over from the opening bridge at Renmark. We’ve been travelling mainly on bitumen but did divert off through part of the Murray River National Park sadly many large dead trees as a result of the declining water levels and fewer floods. Not many people camped here but then why would you pay $12 plus park entry when there are so many lovely places to free camp.
As we wanted to travel as near to the Murray as possible and aren’t put off by gravel roads we decided to head north from Renmark and then east on the Renmark road which goes through the Chowilla Game Reserve. Mixed types of roughness but nothing too arduous started to drizzle as we drove which was a bit sad as Rob had given Walkabout III such a good wash when we were house sitting. Crossing the border into NSW was hardly recognised no welcome sign but our devices did change by half an hour.