Sunday, January 4, 2015

Week 26 - Purposeful Meandering around Oz

Swan Hill – Echuca – Wagga Wagga
Kilometres          29789 – 30815km

In writing our penultimate blog its hard to realise that we’ve been traveling for half the year, 26 weeks has gone so fast yet been filled with so much adventure.
Dust storm in Swan Hill
We left Mildura on Monday and to the shock of the kids we headed straight into NSW, they instantly thought we’d changed our plans and were heading home. I had to remind them there was no way on earth we were rushing home…… Our drive down to Swan Hill jumped back and forth across the Murray River, we passed numerous spots where we could have stopped and had a few lazy days by the river but it wasn’t to be. Nearing Swan Hill the wind was howling and sky got darker, our first thought was we were driving towards a bushfire. It turned out to be a dust storm created by the recent harvesting of crops in the region, what good topsoil the paddocks had was now being blown hundreds of kilometres north. The skies were so full of dust that it felt like early evening not early afternoon as it was….. We’d soon found a van park and quickly setup ensuring the van was all locked up as the dust continued overhead. Later in the day the skies returned to normal and we headed out to explore the nearby “Pioneer Settlement” attraction. We joined a mock school lesson from the 1900’s where the kids wrote with nib pens while in another section of the park they made butter using and old glass butter churn and we witnessed Pianola playing. Our short stay had the kids enthralled and we vowed to return.
Main St - Pioneer Settlement
On Tuesday we headed out to see a few other sights in Swan Hill before returning to the Pioneer Settlement. This time we watched a blacksmith and wood-turner sculpture their craft, we had a ride in a 1920’s Dodge and a horse drawn carriage and a tour of the GEM Paddle Steamer. At one point we dressed in period costume for some photos, we watched a “still picture movie” and the kids made some sisal rope from a few strands of string. By days end we’d thoroughly enjoyed our look back at the pioneering days with the kids amazed at how things were made and done in the past.
The kids with the butter churn
Wednesday saw us moving further up the Murray River and into Echuca, we hadn’t had any luck trying to pre-book accommodation so we weren’t sure how long we’d be staying in town, but with an ounce of luck we managed to score a spot in a brand new unadvertised caravan park right on the Murray River….. After setting up we headed back into Echuca for a few New Years Eve supplies and a bit of sightseeing. We wandered along the Old Port precinct where we saw the various paddle steamers and visited the chocolate and lolly shops. Returning to the van we quickly settled into the festive New Years Eve mode as we sat by the river enjoying a drink and nibbles, the kids played in the river as countless pleasure craft zoomed by. With only the sun to remind us of the time we headed back to the van at dusk only to realise it was well after 8pm and we hadn’t had dinner. After a good feed we amused ourselves watching the party revellers across the river bring in the New Years in wild style.
New Years Eve on the Murray River
With no hangovers to worry about we had a slow start to New Year’s Day. By late morning we headed back into Echuca where we hired a small tinnie for a days fun on the river. We putted up the river admiring all the houseboats that had docked along the banks for a night of partying, every so often we’d stop for a cool dip in the river before heading up to the open speed limits of the river, here we wound up the throatle of our 6hp motor to whopping 12km/hr only to be overtaken by a paddle steamer. With our ego’s deflated we beached the tinnie and enjoyed a picnic and swim on the river bank….. Returning the tinnie by late afternoon we’d had our share of sun as temps hovered in the high 30’s. Back at the van we quickly found our spots by the river where we once again enjoyed a refreshment or 2, this time with a much earlier evening.
Port Of Echuca
Friday had us leaving the Murray River region after a lovely 2 week stint criss-crossing the river from Renmark to Echuca. On a sad note there was the realisation that we were heading closer towards home as we entered NSW and up to Wagga. The southern parts of Australia were being scorched in 40+ temps and everywhere we looked the heat haze radiated off the plains. Stopping for lunch the shade offered no relief from the scorching heat so we ate in the car with the aircon running. Arriving in Wagga we opted for some accommodation with a pool and that’s where we spent much of the afternoon trying to stay cool. By 8pm it was still a stifling 35deg and a restless night ensued.
Crossing into NSW
Saturday dawned with an early morning caching run around the outskirts of Wagga with a caching buddy who lives in town while the rest of the family tried to have sleep-ins but the morning heat put pay to that idea.  With the morning temps nudging 35deg it was perfect for a few loads of washing which seemed to dry in record time. By mid-afternoon the temperature had climbed to 40deg, the pool offered the perfect relief and we spent much of the afternoon in and out of the water….. At dinner we headed out for nice pub meal with some local caching friends.
The Beach - Wagga style
We opted to have a lazy Sunday morning around the van, the kids played peacefully together allowing Leonie and I do a few domestic chores, one being the cleaning of the car inside and out. About lunchtime we headed out to see a few sights around Wagga, the kids had a good laugh when we arrived at the Wagga Beach only to find no waves. We saw the levy bank which had failed to hold back floodwaters in 2012 and my subsequent SES deployment to Wagga and Griffith. We then went  out to the Botanical Garden and the miniature railway before heading to Williams Hill for views of the city….. Our last night in rural NSW was spent sheltering from a severe thunderstorm which lashed the area.

Bye for now.

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