Cobram was the next stop on our way to Mildura. We enjoyed some time at Thompson Beach which lays claim to being Australia’s biggest inland beach. It was certainly a lovely stretch of white sand along the bank of the Murray. We stayed at a free camp on the Barooga side of the river that night. It was interesting seeing all the houseboats on the river and this would become a common sight on our trip along the Murray. We spent another night in the area and were camped next to fruit pickers who came to the Cobram area, predominately from Taiwan. It was their first day of picking and it was a vey hot one. It would have been a gruelling day I’m sure.
The next day we drove out through Tocumwal which was a quaint little town on the river. We read signs which described Corella control measures currently in place due to the infestation of these birds in the area.
Driving on we spotted a farmer baling hay and stopped to see how it is done. He came over for a chat and had lots of information about the farming in this area. He was a lovely fellow and spoke several time about the death of his son a few years ago and how he has now lost interest in much of the work they used to do together. He invited Brendyn to ride in the tractor with him to see how the the baler worked. Brendyn really enjoyed this and appreciated the finer points of tractor mechanism and operation that were demonstrated for him.
Echuca was our next stop. In the 1800’s it was Australia’s largest river port. Livestock, wool, wheat and timber was transported to Echuca by paddle steam boat to connect with the railway which then took the cargo to Melbourne. We got a great deal at a new holiday park across the river at Moama that was attracting customers by offering really low prices. Their swimming pool was much appreciated in the relentless heat. We stayed here a couple of nights. The morning we left, the campground was suddenly hit with an episode of freak wind and even some rain. Everyone scrambled to secure tarps, tents and other camping equipment.
Moving on, we were surprised by a fruit fly check point that we hadn’t been expecting. All fruit and most vegetables had to be discarded into the bins to ensure that Fruit Fly isn’t introduced into the area. We stood by the road with many other travellers and ate as many of our fresh picked pears and apples we could before reluctantly throwing the rest away.
Lake Boga was our next stop. This was a great camp right on the lake. We also stayed here several nights as the camping was inexpensive and enjoyable and I was still recovering from a respiratory infection.
There is a Catalina flying boat museum at the lake which details the history of Lake Boga as the maintenance depot for the flying boats in the Second World War. On leaving Lake Boga, we explored Swan Hill and surrounds then continued on.
The next day we drove to Wemen and met up with Brendyn’s Aunts, Joan and June. Wemen is significant to us as it is where Brendyn’s Grandfather purchased land in the 1950’s on which his five sons got their start in life. They cultivated market gardens that grew a variety of crops such as carrots, watermelon and lettuce providing produce for their stand at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. Aunty June and Aunty Joan gave us a great tour of the old farm and recounted stories and history of the family. It turned out that some of my uncles worked with Brendyn’s family at one point or another in the past. We didn’t know this connection before. It was a great morning. We then had a delicious picnic, prepared by Joan, by the Murray River nearby.
We stayed in the National Park at Lake Hattah that night and spent the next morning exploring the landscape there. Emus and a lot of other birdlife could be seen. We also spotted a large feral cat which was as surprised to see us as we were him. We saw a big red kangaroo on the way to the lonely grave of an unfortunate soul who drowned in the (now dry) creek in 1923.
We were welcomed to Mildura by Brendyn’s cousin and family, staying with them on their property where they grow table grapes and more recently, some zucchini. It was great to spend time with them and relax, enjoying the Mildura area. We visited the Rio Vista historic house. This filled in a lot of background information about the development of the irrigation colony of Mildura in the 1800’s by the American Chaffey brothers. We also went to Woodsies gem shop which had an extensive gemstone collection and lovely jewellery for sale. A barbecue with Mildura family topped off a wonderful weekend.