Heading home now. Robinvale is our last spot on the Murray. It’s another one of those towns with a twin on the other side of the Murray – Euston is in NSW and Robinvale Victoria. We stayed at the Robinvale Riverside Caravan Park for two nights to refill water and empty the loo. Lots of people comment on the odd shape of our van, well I reckon this one is odder…
With only a day to look around we took a walk from Euston to Lock 15 on the Murray. Along the way we saw a stagnant pond. It’s surprising something ugly can turn into what I think is something quite attractive. At the lock Pelicans flocked to catch fish falling through the lock’s overflow.
The walk passed through a forest of Red Gums as is normal along the river.
Darlington Point is the home of the Burrumbuttock Hay Run. Volunteers drive a convoy of 120 trucks 1,800 kilometres to deliver almost 5,000 bales of hay to some of Queensland’s most drought-stricken graziers. The hay, fuel and time is all donated by supporters. A mighty effort.
We stayed in the caravan park for the night to break the journey home. There’s not much at Darlington Point. It’s on the Murrumbidgee River upon which paddle steamers also steamed but there’s not much more than old broken wharfs left now.
Our last overnight stop was at Carcoar Dam. A very popular free camping site on the banks of a dam on the Belubula River. It’s a small dam and quite low at the moment.
As the water level was so low backwaters in the dam collected algal blooms and looked quite terrible. But again it’s amazing how something can turn out to be interesting.
Sunsets and quite river locations are much nicer than a caravan park.
Falling dead branches are always a threat when you camp by the river but fortunately none fell on us. We had 3 nights at Benarca and we spent time just relaxing by the river.
We couldn’t spend all the time just lazing about. We went in search of the Azure Kingfisher with Kingfisher Cruises along the ‘Barmah Choke’. The Choke is an interesting formation. It’s a channel through which the Murray flows between the Barmah and Moira Lakes and limits the flow of the Murray to about 8,500 mega-litres per day reducing water availability downstream. The river flows about twice as fast through the Choke. The Murray-Darling Commission has a fact sheet that explains…”During summer and autumn, river operation aims to keep flows at or below channel capacity to minimise unseasonal flooding of the Barmah-Millewa Forest. This constraint provides challenges in meeting downstream peak water use demands and transferring water to Lake Victoria and South Australia, even in relatively dry years. The constraint has led to a restriction in water trade from areas upstream to downstream of the Barmah Choke.” Here the Murray River separates Victoria’s Barmah National Park from Moira, Millewa and Gulpa Forests in New South Wales – combined the area ranks as the world’s largest stand of River Red Gum. The Channel is completely natural and the seasonal flooding of the forest gives rise to a unique ecological area home to lots of bird life and in particular the Azure Kingfisher we sought, and we weren’t disappointed.
After three days at the Mulwala campground we headed for a caravan park in Moama to refill water, charge the van’s batteries, do some washing and, most important, empty the toilet!
The Maiden’s Inn Caravan park is named for Maiden, an ex-convict, but subsequently a cattle dealer (duffer? – someone who steals cattle) who, in 1845, established a punt and inn on the northern side of the Murray. The area was then known as Maiden’s Point. Following some unknown inspiration, in 1851 it was later re-named Moama which means ‘place of the dead’. Meanwhile, on the southern side of the Murray, Henry Hopwood, sentenced to 14 years transportation for stealing silk, and subsequently to become a policeman for two years in the colony, arrived and set up a rival punt and inn. His site became known as Echuca – meaning the ‘meeting of the waters’. The two partnered to form a river port and eventually Echuca became the largest inland port in Australia and the main ship building facility for river transport, supply of red gum for wharfs, railway sleepers, and building materials. There were a dozen sawmills cutting 1000 logs per week. Echuca was suggested as a possible national capital in 1891. But by then expansion of the railways (on Echuca sleepers!) and roads, fickle river conditions and the decline of the paddle steamer fleet, Echuca’s importance was in decline. The 1890’s depression and the collapse of several banks ended Echuca’s role as an economic centre.
Now Moama/Echuca is a tourist centre for Murray River activities and history. We took a ride on an authentic paddle steamer the P.S. Pevensey, built at the Moama slipway in 1911 by Permewan Wright & Co. Ltd. She is named after a sheep property on the Murrumbidgee River called Pevensey Station. The Pevensey collected bales of wool from station properties and brought them to the Echuca wharf. At the Port of Echuca the wool was loaded onto trains and taken to Melbourne for shipping overseas.
When the river trade ended the Pevensey was tied up at Mildura. It came to Echuca to be restored in 1973. Fixing the boat was no easy task. Each piece of new timber for the hull was matched against the original then cut to shape using an adze. Today the Pevensey is known to people all over the world for its role as “Philadelphia” in the Australian television mini-series ‘All the Rivers Run’, made in Echuca in 1982-1983.
Pevensey Facts: Tonnage: 130; Length: 111 feet 5 inches (33.42 metres); Beam: 23 feet (6.9 metres); Draft: 2 feet empty, 4 feet 6 inches when fully loaded, this is approximately 0.6 metres when empty and 1.35 metres when fully loaded. Horsepower: 20 h.p. Engine type: Built by Marshall & Sons of England. It is a 2 cylinder steam engine No 55721. Construction: Iron & timber; Fuel: Red gum logs. Speed: 8 miles per hour, this is around 12 km per hour.
Mathoura Reed beds
Mathoura is about 40kms north of Echuca and adjacent to large areas of wetlands and reed beds associated with the Murray River. A bird hide has been established for public use and is Mathoura’s claim to fame. We went out in the evening and spent about 1 1/2 hours there. We didn’t see much in the way of birdlife and weren’t really close enough anyway (that 100-400mm Fuji lens is calling).
Around Christmas in 1906 a man named Arthur Mattingley paid a return visit to Mathoura. Mattingley was a keen photographer and had with him a half plate camera, a cumbersome affair compared to modern digital cameras but one capable of taking high quality photos. He was at the time the Secretary of the Australasian Ornithologists’ Union and a very competent cameraman, described in The Australian Dictionary of Biography as “a pioneer of Australian bird photography.” Detailed information about Arthur Mattingley and his concern for the bird life at Mathoura is here courtesy of the Mathoura Buisness group.
Mulwala campground is about 10kms from Mulwala. It seems common practice on the Murray, as it’s the border between Victoria and New South Wales, to have a town on one side named for NSW (Mulwala) and a town on the other side named for Victoria (Yarrawonga). In normal circumstances Mulwala would be a suburb of Yarrawonga (or vice-versa, depending on state alliances!). Same goes for Echuca/Moama and Albury/Wadonga. No doubt there are other examples.
We set up camp on the banks of the Murray at Mulwala campground. The site is also called Hinches Beach. We were concerned that, as we’d planned our trip during NSW school holidays, there’d be lots of people about but we were the only ones here and that was to continue during the trip. Victorian schools were not on holiday, although as it was a weekend, there were some day tripping noisy Victorians on the their side of the river but they went home in the afternoon.
Our only other visitors were midges, fortunately non-biting, but in enormous quantities. The Kimberly Kruiser has midge screens but they still got in in the thousands as you went in and out the door.
Of course the river red gums are everywhere and provide some spectacular photos.
We were advised that a walk around Chinaman’s island in Yarrawonga was something we should do to see the birdlife. We didn’t see that much. A budgie, black swans, willy wagtails and small wrens of various sorts.
The dead trees in the lake gave it a desolate feeling, reflections in the water and leaves on the trees, and reeds made for some interesting shots.
The homestead, about 14kms from Yarrawonga, was built in 1842 by Hamilton Hume, the explorer, for his sister-in-law Elizabeth Hume. Elizabeth was the daughter of a convict and married into the Hume family to much concern. She was widowed when young and with nine children. To be out of the way and useful the family sent her off to north east Victoria to establish the Yarrawonga Run, an 85,000 acre property. The homestead is unique in that it is based on an octagonal design with each room octagonal and arranged around a central octagonal main room. Supposedly this arrangement allowed a clear view all around while in the house so as to ward of attacks from bushrangers or indigenous tribes who were after supplies.
The buildings are heritage listed and the property is now one of the largest vegetable farms in Australia.
First stop on our trip along the Murray River. Gundagai happens to be about halfway from Sydney to our starting point on the along the Murray. We stayed at the Riverside Caravan Park, which was actually quite busy but still peaceful.
The river gums are typical of the scenery in the area.
The old road bridge over the flood plain has seen much better days.
Established in the 1820s Gundagai’s claim to fame is the Dog on the Tuckerbox which is actually about 8kms north. Before the Hume Highway (connects Sydney and Melbourne) improvements the road went right past it but now you need to turn off to see the DOTT.
Gundagai was established on the flood plain of the Murrumbidgee River, despite repeated warnings by the Wiradjuri people of the risk of large floods to the low-lying alluvial flats. As a result on the night of June 24, 1852 the flooded Murrumbidgee raged through the small township, drowning more than one third of the 250 inhabitants and an unknown number of travellers, and destroying 71 buildings.
What would the locals know?
The heroic actions of a number of Wiradjuri men saved many lives. The medallions presented to these heroes were lost for many years but are now proudly on display in the Gundagai Museum. The town was rebuilt on the northern and southern slopes of the floodplain.
Bushrangers were prevalent in the area in the 1830-1860s. Captain Moonlight (Andrew George Scott) is buried in the town’s cemetery.
Back to the DOTT, an internationally recognised Australian icon. The legend of the Dog began in the 1850s with a poem Bullocky Bill by an otherwise unknown author ‘Bowyang Yorke’, about the partnership of the bullockies who opened up the land to settlers, and the dogs who accompanied them and guarded their possessions. A version amended by Jack Moses captured the imagination of Australians both in the bush and throughout the colonies in the early 1900s. The move to create a monument to the early pioneers, featuring the now famous Dog, grew through the 1920s, culminating in the unveiling of the Dog on the Tucker Box statue on 28 November 1932. The legend was then immortalised in popular song by Jack O’Hagan, author of Along the Road to Gundagai, with Where the Dog Sits on the Tucker Box. The Dog and its many songs and poems have put Gundagai firmly on the world map (so they say in Gundagai).
Today, the Dog on the Tucker Box Pioneer Monument welcomes visitors with lots of typical touristy things as well as a place for special events benefitting a range of charities throughout the year, culminating in the Dog’s Birthday each November.