A slow start this morning after our late midnight celebration and we travel on into Echuca for what has by now become our ritual morning coffee. Later we turn right off the highway after Torrumbary and head bush towards the river looking for a camp site. We are trying to figure out what kind of bend on the map of the Murray is likely to be a gently sloping sandy beach into the water. We have seen a lot of these beaches on the NSW side but so far haven’t found one on the Victorian side. But today we hit the jackpot, finding what is our most outstanding camp location, possibly ever. It is idyllic and immediately we decide we are staying for two nights, just so long as it proves itself not to have hidden treachery like car-sized march flies or cockatoos with a taste for human flesh. But apart from the usual flies seasoning our dinner and swimming in our wine, it was a beautiful evening completed with a passing wildlife parade of kangaroos, goats, a kite or hawk hunting and killing a cockatoo for dinner and a snooping goanna.
A really lazy day today, reading, swimming, chasing the shade around the truck. We go for a walk for about a Klm down the river to a canoeing centre and of course we are inappropriately dressed in shorts and thongs; not even a challenge for any self respecting venomous snake for which this region is renowned. And guess what, we managed to flush out a quick-as-lightning Red belly black who slithered right past my ankles a few feet away. So, the return, very loud stomping walk back to the Bushman was spent discussing our SBEEP- Snake Bite Emergency Evacuation Plan, though I can’t help thinking that wearing decent footwear and long pants might have been the BEST plan of all!
Our second night here in paradise doesn’t happen as planned. A thunderstorm has been brewing in the West and despite Mr Frost’s forecast of “it won’t rain” big fat drops start proving him wrong at about 7pm. The way out of here involves plenty of black-soiled track which with just a sprinkle of rain, turns into a skating rink with gluey black mud that has the potential to stop your wheels from turning. We make the decision to do a quick pack up and make a run for it before the rain really comes down. But alas, it has already been pouring on the track ahead of us and we spend the next half hour fish-tailing all over the road; a little scary in a 6.5 tonne truck!
For the next ten days, this is mostly how our time is spent. We zigzag, hokey poke and meander around as much as the Murray does with our biggest daily decision being to do with where we will camp. Grocery shopping has become a local affair with farm gate stops every few days to pick up fresh beans, rockmelon, duck eggs, jam and dried apricots.
We find ourselves settling into a different way of travel; instead of whizzing past lookouts and side tracks to local attractions, we stop and take in the view. Instead of taking the township bypass option, we deliberately turn off to drive through the main drag to check out this reliable mark of economic prosperity or struggle. Sometimes buying thick steaks at the butcher or the obligatory lunchtime pie.
Alan is intent on observing how the huge Murray-Darling Basin water resource is used by irrigation farmers and recreationally by boaties and skiers, managed by authorities, pushed and pulled and shunted, locked and dammed, pumped legally through metres and stolen over the fence and monumentally wasted through vast amounts of annual evaporation from the surfaces of man made lakes and catchment areas.
He has wanted to witness first hand what is happening here for years and he is taking full advantage of the opportunity to shoot the breeze with all and sundry from taxi drivers, farmers in the paddock, fishermen on the banks and Malaysian fruit-pickers on working visas. If you would like to know Alan’s thoughts and conclusions, please make contact directly for what I promise will be a lively chat.
Some memorable moments include a beautiful Italian 5 course degustation at the Mildura Grand Hotel’s Stefano’s restaurant.
Being squashed too many times in a amongst hundreds of rowdy holiday campers at various caravan parks, which we are finding ourselves having to stay in for lack of legal bush camps along the way. We haven’t had a fire in over a week so I am now an accomplished cook on the Gas BBQ and single burner sand still dreaming up gourmet dinner menus through the day. With the brilliant freezer we have on board, I can pull anything out of the hat like Thai green coconut curry with prawns a few nights ago.
The Bushman is still attracting huge amounts of attention everywhere we go but the difference on this trip is that now we are prepared for it and we have both put in a concerted effort to happily engage with everybody who wants a chat. It can still be a little disconcerting though. Just this morning I stumbled bleary eyed out of the truck, dunny paper roll in hand and urgently needing to get to the loo 30m away; to find a puffing man in cycling lycra at the back window taking photos! He was as startled as me I think and covered his embarrassment by wanting to chat and compliment our fantastic artwork, but I was on a mission and after a few seconds dancing on the spot trying to string a sentence together, I excused myself and made a dash for it! We love that people are interested and brave enough to interact with us but sometimes it just ain’t convenient.
That’s it for now folks, thank you so much for being interested in our story and adventures. I admit I am struggling to find the time and motivation to keep this going but it is the regular requests for more, more, more from you that make me realise it is worthwhile. Keep it coming please!
Until next time..
Julie and Alan