Monday, 26 December 2011

Journey Home via The Murray River & Central NSW

A huge thank you Tess for your advice & assistance in suggesting an alternative way to upload the photos in this blog.

We chose to head home from Adelaide via the mighty Murray River.
The river meanders a massive 2530kms from the Snowy Mountains to the Southern Ocean in SA. In the 1800's the Murray quickly became a crucial communication & transport link for Australia.
River ports sprang up to service the trade & passenger traffic that travelled its length &, in the 1880's, at the height of the river trade, over 100 paddle steamers & many more barges were operating on the river.  

We joined the Murray River at the town of Murray Bridge - less than 50 kms from Adelaide. The bridge over the river was the 1st bridge to be built over the Murray River in 1879. 

We drove over 220 kms north east  following the Murray River as it meandered across some magnificent farming land towards the SA / Victoria border (approx 30 kms east of Renmark).

We stopped several times to marvel at the 90 mtr high cliffs above the river.

In many places the river had 3 channels that were  large billabongs beside the very wide river - all areas were bursting with water (probably from the January 2011 Qld floods)  & teaming with bird life.
Oh how I wished we had a kayak to explore the river.

                                     That's Santa checking out to see who's been naughty or nice :)

Along the long river there are 14 locks that controls the water volumes / heights along the river, so that in dry times there is sufficient water in the river to allow boat craft to continue to  use the river. (the river ceased to be a trade river after the building of rail systems in the early 1900's)

In SA, we only saw about 3 bridges over the Murray River. There are at least a dozen towns / communities along the SA Murray River. These communities & visitors have the free use of river ferries that operates 24/7.

We experienced a journey across the river on 1 of these ferries at Swan Reach township. We took the van across to a van park on the other side of the river. An interesting but smooth experience.

                          Views of the same vehicle ferry whilst having drinks at the local pub.                 

We passed 100's of house boats moored along the Murray River, waiting for tourists hire them  for a leisurely cruise / holiday along the river. 1 day we may just be 2 tourists to hire a house boat :)

Mildura is approx 130 kms past the SA / Vic border the 1st town along the Sturt Hwy & sits on the Murray River.

For several hundred kms we  passed thousands of hectares of irrigated crops, fruit trees, vineyards, rice fields soaking in water, vegetables etc. All being fed water from the Murray River.

These are the views from our van whilst camped in the very peaceful National Park 10 kms south of Berri township. Rod’s attempt at fishing here yielded only Carp fish.

We crossed the South Australian / Victorian border with a truck overtaking us … I almost didn’t get a photo of this sign. 

30 kms west of Mildura is the town of Wentworth. Wentworth is famous for the meeting place of 2 mighty river systems - the Murray & Darling Rivers. The Murray - Darling basin extends into Qld, NSW, Victoria, SA & ACT. It extends across 1/7th of the continent.

It is the Darling river & her tributaries that was in flood from the Qld floods of 2011.
                                     A eucalypt mallee flower in the park beside the mighty rivers junction

Mildura has a large billabong next to the Murray River, not far from the town centre. The Kings Billabong pump house was the 1st built in 1889 for the purpose of irrigation.  Approx 165,000 tonnes of timber was burnt to power the pump stations until electric pumps took over in 1955.

The Murrimbidgie River also feeds into the Murray River. We followed this river east wards from the town of Hay. We also camped beside the river 1 night & spent the day fishing in hope for a good catch of fish.
Alas, there were no fresh fish meals - Rod was successful in catching at least 12 good sized Carp fish in 2 locations that day. (it is illegal to return carp back to the river)

                              Fields of rice was 1 of the many crops grown along the Murrumbidgee R

                          After Griffith, we headed north through the towns of Forbes, Dubbo & Parkes.

 We had the pleasure of free camping beside a lake in the middle of Forbes. We had a beautiful grassed area over looking the lake.

We visited a beautiful car museum in Forbes. The private collection of  over 50 vintage cars with many dating back to 1905.

                                              A 4 cylinder 1909 Clement Bayard, built in France

                                                            2 cylinder 1910 Swift

                                                                         1964 Falcon

                                      20 horse power 1923 English Rolls Royce  - The Silver Lady

                      4 cylinder 1905 Belgium Minerva, the only fully restored vehicle in the world

 A Japanese Funeral Car, used for bureaucrats & politicians only. Only driven at mid day so as not to cast a shadow onto the people nearby as this would curse them to die

 Flame, a 1990 Honda CRX with scissor doors, that has a checkerd past with caches of hidden illicit drugs found in the car.

1962 Velorex form the Czech Republic has a canvas cover. There are only 3 wheels on the vehicle with a top speed of only 30 km/hr.

                                 A 1954 Carapark caravan, fitted the family for their beach holidays.

                                 There were dozens more fully restored vehicles of various vintages.

We visited the radio telescope in Parkes. "The Dish" movie features Parkes radio telescope. It has a diameter of 65 mtrs & weighs 1,000 tonnes.

North of Parkes is Dubbo. The Taronga Western Plaines Zoo is just out of town. This magnificent zoo features several African animals including the wild dog, black rhino, barbary sheep, common eland, giraffe, cheetahs, hippos, bongo, persian onager, camels & Australia's last surviving african elephant.

                                                                 African Wild Dog

                                            Baby Black Rhinoceros from southern Africa  

                        Barbary Sheep – NW African region, are the only wild sheep living in Africa.

 There are no known wild Arabian Camels left. Introduced to Australia in the 1940’s for carrying supplies.

                                   A young Hippo comes out of the water to feed on his morning rations

                  The hippo on the right has a deformed tooth that juts out at right angles from her mouth

 Common Eland, are the world’s largest antelope from southern Africa. The male can weigh 1,000kg & can jump a 1.5mtr fence from a standing position.

 An African Elephant, the only 1 left in Australia not endangered & come from central African countries.  This female is about 40yrs old.

 The Persian Onager is the fastest member of the horse family. Their numbers are declining & confined to just 3 deserts around the Iranian region.

                             The Bongo is from western & central Africa. Numbers are threatened.

  This Bengal Tiger had to work hard to get his lunch. From the SW Asian countries, these tigers are endangered. 

  While the Daddy's are blithely unaware, this Blackbutt female had just given birth to a new calf. They are known as the Indian Antelope from India, Pakistan & Nepal with their numbers being threatened.

              The Wapiti are the largest of the Red Deer Family, come from Western USA/ Canada region.

                   The Greater 1 Horned Rhinoceros from Asia, live solitary lives & meet up for mating only.

                                              The Slender Tailed Meerkat are from SW Africa.

                                                        The Australian Echidna or Spiny ant Eater.

 This Mallee Fowl was in a bird enclosure. It is endangered in Australia, with numbers improving in some West Australia & South Australian habitats with the introduction of 1080 poisoning to the feral cats & foxes. I didn’t see it in the wild during our Oz trip.

 The Brazillian Tapir is neither an anteater nor a pig, but related to the horse & rhino.  It lives near lowland rainforest regions of the Northern ½ of South America & is threatened due to forest clearing.

The Patagonian Cavy look & hop like rabbits, but are related to the guinea pig. They live in settlements or burrows. Their habitat is in the Southern ½ of South America.

 There were at least 4 Galapagos Is tortoises over 50 yrs old with a shell span 1 mtr across. 1 tortoise was over 80. They may live up to 150yrs of age

 The Addax is from the Saharan Desert region. They are endangered & rarely drink water, but take water from the grasses & herbage plants they eat.


There were also several monkey ‘enclosures’ surrounded by ‘Moats’ to keep them from straying from their area.

                                           Black and White Ruffed Lemur were in the distance

                                                The Ringed Tailed Lemur enjoyed their lunch

                                      The Black-Handed Spider Monkey were always on the move.

The list goes on.

We rode around the zoo on hired push bikes as we thought this was the most effective way of seeing the animals. This took us over 5 hrs ( incl lunch) & we only just saw all the animals before closing time.
Alternately, tourists can use their feet, car or hired golf buggy.

Rod says that we don't need to go on safari to Africa now that we have been to the Dubbo Zoo :)))

At Moree we had to drive eastwards towards Glenn Innes as flood waters had rendered the road north to Goondiwindi impassable :((((

Driving our last 2 days on this trip was scenic. We were driving along the Great Dividing Range, & there were many forests of Eucalypts & mountain ranges covered in cloud.

                                                  The Great Dividing Range south of Tenterfield

                                             Rail line damage from floods of 12 mths earlier

                                 We crossed the border mid morning, with 2 hrs driving still to go.

Driving through Cunningham’s Gap was a relatively easy, despite only 1 lane being open. We managed to get on the tail of a long line of cars that was already passing through :)

We arrived home early, much to the surprise of our family as they weren't expecting us for another 5 days.

We had driven 32,000 kms in the car, approx 21,000 in the van & spent over $9,000 on fuel. (the most expensive diesel fuel was $2.10 / litre at Gem Tree north of Alice Springs.)

We replaced 2 tyres due to wear, but suffered no punctures despite the several thousand kms of dirt, stoney, corrugated rough roads in remote areas.
We also didn't have any major issues with the car or van which was great.

Our best claim is that we are still married after living with each other 24/7 confined to a car & a 17' van :))
Rod's shoes are worn out with us  having walked several hundred kms of walk trails.

We had been on the road 221 days & Sue's (me) LSL covered all our expenses :))))))))))))))

The van needs a thorough clean to rid it of the red dirt stains of the Kimberley & Pilbara.
I haven't calculated how many kms we travelled off road, but it would be > 3,000 kms. (maybe 4,000)

We have made numerous new friends whilst travelling.  We met up with many more folk quite a few  times along the way - all of us heading in similar direction.

We've had a fantastic time exploring the numerous natural wonders of NT & WA & a small part of SA &
we are eager to get on the road again & travel some more of this beautiful country of ours.

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