The Mighty Murray River!

The Mighty Murray River!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Coleambally to Griffith

Coleambally to Griffith = 65km
Cummulative total = 963km

Oops it has been a few days since my last posting! We are here at Griffith and Ray and Flo are up here with us.
But first a bit about our cycling day yesterday. We woke up early and to a fog which soon lifted once the sun came up. Coleambally is a small and quiet town so we had a great rest day the day before - we did nothing but read and Neil spoke to everyone on the phone/skype!
We continued along the Kidman way and there is definitely a marked increase in traffic throughout the day especially trucks.
We have begun to notice alot of melons on the side of the road. These grow proliferically in the outback, not too sure what the official name of them are but I like to call them paddy melons and I remember when I first cycled in the outback I was warned not to eat them - although they contain liquid the melons only make you more thirsty. So I have never put that to the test and trust that whoever told me that is correct!

They vary in size but don't get much bigger than grapefruit size.
Also something else that is in this area is the dreaded 3 thorn jack and we decided to take a photo of one so you know what we are talking about!

They are absolutely lethal and even thorn proof tubes don't protect you from them.
We had a cuppa break at Darlington Point which is about half way and just before town we found Kouta some friends.

I didn't threaten kouta with replacing him with the absolutely adorable even littler pony that is with this group! But I think the little pony would grow heavier than what Kouta actually is. Also are Darlington Point is the Murrumbidgee river.

Like the Murray this river is just as spectacular and if anything I think it is more beautiful than the Murray and also the name is nicer and just rolls of the tongue!
From Darlington point the Kidman way road became worse - the condition of the road deteriated and there was a marked increase in traffic especially trucks.
The whole area around Griffith is part of the MIA - Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and also part of the Riverina food bowl. Basically alot of Australias food is grown here!
There are numerous vineyards - De Bortelli is one I can think off and alot of them use the grapes to make dessert wines like madeiras, ports etc. Also there are heaps of Orange tree farms - both Valencia and Navel.
There are also heaps of Kiwis in Griffith I suppose to do the seasonal work and even here at the campground (although it is currently out of season I think) which is geared for seasonal workers in one part and tourists in the other.
We did drive down to Leeton today but unfortunately there was nothing really to photograph. Maybe tomorrow as we cycle north to Rankin Springs I might be able to get photos of farms.
But little did I know what Griffith is famous for ... listen to this! ... bribery and drugs!
Back in the 80's (I think) this town had a corrupt police force that was ignoring the growing of marijuana! Alot of illegal wheeling and dealing in drugs. Not that I saw the 2nd series of Underbelly but I think that was based on what was going on in Griffith. Nevertheless it is a nice town now and has a big Italian population in it.
Tomorrow we head north towards Lake Cargelligo which we should be there in 2 days. We stop at Rankin Springs overnight tomorrow and I don't think we will get internet reception there so I will post from Lake Cargelligo.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Jerilderie to Coleambally

Jerilderie to Coleambally = 71km
Cummulative total = 898km
I sure am glad today is over ... I thought the end of the 70km would never come! We woke nice and early this morning and the legs were a little stiff after yesterday but once we got cycling it wasn't all that bad. We had to travel the first 15km along the Newell highway which didn't really have that much traffic but the road surface itself was very bumpy and large pieces of gravel was used to reseal the road instead of small pieces of gravel which makes the road a little smoother for us to ride on. So we were both happy to turnoff onto the Kidman highway. Neil says this highway (Kidman) was named after the famous actress Nicole Kidman ... at least that is what he tried to tell me, but does he think after 13 years that I don't know when he is "bull crapping"!!!
He wanted to take a photo of the 2 types of surfaces on the roads that we have been encountering.

The top part of the photo has the large chunky gravel embedded in tar and the old part of the road has the smaller gravel embedded in tar which is alot nicer to ride on.
By 30km my legs began to feel heavy from yesterdays ride and I thought that I might not make it to Coleambally! But at 40km we had our cuppa break and a bite to eat and unfortunately there are not too many rest areas on this kidman highway so we have to make do with any driveway we can find and for lunch today we had to stop off at a sort of stock yard. And that meant lots of flies!

Doesn't Neil look scary with his fly net on!
After lunch the legs felt a little better after a rest. Basically the road is flat and has long straight stretches. In fact before lunch it was alot of "big sky" country which is best described as when you look straight ahead there is 3/4's of your vision is taken up by sky and the rest is the land and the trees in the distant. After lunch the trees are alot closer to you and you will find you only see 1/4 of the sky ... bizarre really as I never really thought about it that way and it was only when neil said "big sky" country that I began to think about it ... since there was nothing else to do during the 70km!
We did see quite a few hawks (we think they are) circling at one point in fact all 5 were sitting on the fence close together and when Neil stopped to take the photo they flew off and started to hunt and circle.

Neil managed to get 4 in the photo!
Not long after lunch at around 30km south of Coleambally we started to encounter rice fields! yes they grow rice up here. We did see a "sunrise" brand bill board and then we started to see the fields and I suppose they are dry grown and not wet grown like they would be in China!

Some of the fields are huge and are at various stages of growing. Since it was a public holiday today there was no one in the fields cutting although we did see the machines in the fields but they weren't working.
So it was a long ride to get to Coleambally and it was a relief when we saw the town sign.
Just before we got into town we started to see vineyards but we don't think they are grapes grown for wine as we saw no place for making or storing so we assume they are table grapes and the sheds are for packing. We got to Coleambally around 2pm and while setting up the tent we began to listen to the Geelong vs Carlton game and unfortunately we did not do too well and lost!
For dinner tonight we decided to get takeaways as everything was closed by the time we got here as Coleambally is a small town with a popn of 658 people. We are staying here tomorrow and will rest our weary legs. We have covered 160km in 2 days!
the campground is small and quiet. And kouta has plenty of room to move.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Deniliquin to Jerilderie

Deniliquin to Jerilderie = 90km
Cummulative total = 827km
Whew what a day! We covered alot of kms today and thanks to a tailwind for at least 3/4 of it!
But first let me tell you about yesterday. We initially were umming and ahhhing about whether or not to head off yesterday morning despite the forecasted rain. Well lucky we decided to stay put as it absolutely poured down yesterday afternoon! But it had cleared up by 3pm and so we went for a walk. And unknown to us Deniliquin is actually the Ute capital of Australia if not the world! I was watching the cars while waiting for Neil in the IGA and I reckon every second car is a ute! On our walks around the town we came across this!

It's a mans world in Deniliquin and on our way out of town this morning we came across where the hold the Ute Muster every year around October!

There were even a few "supped" (spelling?) Utes in and around town. Also on our walk around the town yesterday afternoon we came across the court house building. It is a very imposing but impressive building.

and below is a close up of the emblem and columns

Anyway onto todays cycling. We took the quiet road from Deniliquin to Jerilderie via Conargo. And I think being a Sunday and Anzac day there wasn't alot of traffic but towards the afternoon I reckon at least 5 double trailer trucks passed us so they must be moving due to less traffic! It was a flat ride and a tailwind to Conargo, from there the road swings east and we either had a side or tail wind depends on which way the road angled!
It is a very different landscape compared to south of Deniliquin - there was less dairy fields and more open field country. Not too sure what it is used for but we did see sheep and cattle. After Conargo it is very shrubbery and of course 3 thorn jack country! Once we left the rest area at Conargo we checked the tires and Neil picked on out of Koutas rear trailer and said he thought he heard a psssss when he pulled it out. But he thought it would be a slow leak so eventually we may have to change the tube ... well it did go down but the tyre is really strong and to look at the wheel it didn't look flat until you felt it.
So here I was riding along and I thought that it was hard going but I thought it was due to the cross winds. So we took a break on someones looooooooooooong driveway.

Here I am all smiles for the camera but something told me to feel the trailer tyre ... and what do you know it was flat! I even asked Neil as we were riding along if it looked flat but he said it was okay but since the trailer wheel doesn't take alot of weight it is very deceiving and doesn't appear flat!
So we change (actually more Neil ... I tend to get in the way!) changed the tube over and cleared the tyre of any 3 thorn jacks!

I think we always knew that the trailer wheels are more likely to pick up the thorny burrs rather than the bike wheels as the bike wheels are really strong tyres.
Anyway as you can see by the km's done we have probably just done our biggest day yet since September last year! By the 80km mark I think I was beginning to feel it in the legs and the muscles began to get a little tired but we are both feeling okay and think we will head off tomorrow to Colembally which is 70km away ... mind you they are forecasting northerlies which will mean a headwind but I don't think they will be strong.
The campground here is nice, flat and quite big. There are 4 men in the other corner and they are all in their utes and swags ... now I have to say this ... the most USELESS CAMPING ITEM EVER IS THE SWAG!!! ... how very unAustralian is that! They leak in the rain! so why don't they make them more waterproof? ... or is that not "manly" enough! well it is not very "manly" when you run to the nearest laundry and use the drier to dry out all your clothes!!! Yep swags are about as useful as "tits on a bull"!!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mathoura to Deniliquin

Mathoura to Deniliquin = 36km
Cummulative total = 737km

Just a small day today! Unfortunately there is forecasted rain for the Riverina area and if we continued on to Conargo our camping was only in the local sportsground and we didn't want to get stuck there tomorrow. So we decided to stay here in Deniliquin and if it is raining tomorrow we just stay put and wait out the rain, if it doesn't rain tomorrow then we will move on to Jerilderie hopefully with a good tail wind!
I had psyched myself up for todays ride as I new it was going to be a headwind the whole way but once we got to Deniliquin Neil was a little tired in the legs and with the threat of rain we decided to stay here.
It is a nice size town (popn 8000) and the campground is good and we are way out in the unpowered section so Kouta has room to move and doesn't have to be tied up all the time!
One thing we are struggling with is the forecasting of the weather. We listen to the radio (ABC) but we seem to be getting a dominance of news and forecasts for Mildura across to Horsham and Swanhill so we are not too sure if it is relevant to this area.
We have started to look up Elders and the Bureau of Meteorology more to get a more accurate forecast. I think they are right with the approaching rain as it is starting to cool a bit and cloud over and looking at the radar Melbourne has rain I think!
It is still warm at the moment, todays top is 30 degrees and in a few days I think it will be only 16 degrees so a few cold days coming up.
But you are not going to believe this ... but listen to this ... just before we got into Deniliquin we pulled up into an information bay that had a map of the town and Neil pipes up "oh $10" and I think he is joking but he quickly got of his bike (it is a very windy day and he would hate for it to blow away!!!) and viola!

Is that not the most 'cheesiest' smile that you have seen from Neil? Man he was grinning all the way to the campground! ... and he is still smiling! Man what a winner! I just rode right past it as per usual ... I only see snakes!
We are camped beside the Edward River and it is really quite full and alarmingly enough all the permanent tourist caravans are on stilts! ... are they trying to say something? ... like does the river flood all the time! There doesn't look like any flood damage!
Well hopefully we can push on tomorrow to Jerilderie if not we will stay here at Deniliquin.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Moama to Mathoura

Moama to Mathoura = 54km
Cummulative total = 701km

Well it has been quite an eventful few days lately. First listen to this ... dad left early yesterday morning and we did have good intentions of cycling with him to the railway station at 6am in the morning but it began to rain so dad said don't worry stay in bed! We took the dog for a good walk and as we were going back to our tent site one of the men from the caravan park stopped and came up to us and quite rudely said that dogs are not allowed in this area, I just said that but we are camped in this area, then (still rudely said) but dogs are not allowed in this area, too this Neil and I were dumbfounded (as they put us there!) then he asks who put us there and we just said the lady at the reception, and again really rudely he said we would have to move, by now I am ready to strangle the little terd! the only thing holding me back from loosing my temper with him is the fact that there is really no other campground in the area that will take dogs, so Neil asks what can we do. So the little neo nazi man goes off and gets the big boss and they both come back and say that we will have to move to the area that allows dogs.
So we pack up everything and move to the powered area with the other dogs and caravans. Really there was nothing we could do and apparently the receptionist didn't realise that we had a dog, which I thought was stange as I was parked outside with the dog in front of the office and no fewer than 5 mins before the information center had rang them up asking about dogs etc and basically said there are cyclists on the way with a dog so how many cyclists with dogs does this receptionist see each day?!
So it was a crap rest day, no one in the caravan section talks to us except for one couple from south australia, so we spent a nice relaxing day by the murray.

Great view isn't it!
So today we had all the intentions of heading of early but listen to this ... everyone in the caravan section now decides to chat to us!!!!! So we were rather late in getting away this morning.
After much discussion about this caravan park which is part of the Aspen group we decide that it is really 'sterile' and has no character not like the smaller friendlier ones you find in the smaller towns!
So we start out and follow the "long paddock" route which is the Cobb Highway. It is a relatively busy highway but on one of the sides it has about a 50m wide strip to the private land and it is in this strip that drovers can move their stock. Not sure if it is still used nowadays but I sure would love to see it in action. But it is an historic stock route from way back!
We got to Mathoura at lunchtime and just before the information center I come across a Jones Street so we are now 1 all!

We had lunch at the information center and fill up with water as we were going to bush camp along the Gulpa creek.
Camp 5 said the camping area was 3km along a dirt track. So we head along and find the area but as I was going up the track to the clearing I could hear a rustle to my right and I just thought that it was a lizard but it got louder and was going for a looooooooooooong time and I could see something moving incredibly fast out of the corner of my eye and I thought shit it is a snake and it is heading for a collision for us so I stop behind a huge tree and it stops there (at least I think it did!) and I said to Neil that I think there is a snake behind the tree so we tentatively go on. After assessing the area and ummmmming and ahhhing we decide that the snake has spooked us too much to stay there.
So we take the chance that the caravan park takes dogs and go back to Mathoura ... and yes the caravan park did take the dog, in fact I don't think it sees too many tenters as it is a small one with permanent holiday caravans! But it is quiet and small.
So we will pass through Deniliquin tomorrow and onto Conargo!
Below is a picture of me coming back along the Gulpa Creek Road. Rough in places but ridable!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gunbower to Echuca

Gunbower to Moama = 59km
Cummulative total = 647km

Today was only suppose to be a 43km day but we got lost trying to find the one and only caravan park in Echuca that would take dogs ... basically the Northern Way caravan park doesn't exist!
Listen to this ... 2 websites said this caravan exists and the address is 75 Northern Hwy Echuca. So I use the google maps to find its location so after going to the train station to get dads ticket I take the lead and take us there. We get to a roundabout and I am sure it is south of it and Neil thinks it is north of it. So we go south and it is not there the numbers are greater than 75. Then we go north and we end up at the turnoff that we first took to get into town. So we pull over and then Neil looks up the internet again to double check I have the right address and this time we click on the google map that is with the caravan park website and the Northern Hwy is now the main street of Echuca so we go back there .... and still no caravan park!
So we go to the information center and they inform us the only 2 in the area that will take dogs is 7km before Echuca and one at Moama which is the Maiden Inn so they ring up to find out if they take dogs ... well they said yes but I am sure that the Maiden Inn on the website said no dogs!
But here we are at the Maiden Inn holiday park and it is right on the Murray and is a huge lovely expensive park!
So it has been a long hot day and we all hate Echuca! But we did manage to take in some good photos!

We did have to cross this bridge over the Campaspe river and I swear it was leaning to one side and I was sure the planks of wood would not hold the heavy bikes!

Since we are in Moama (NSW) we crossed the border between the 2 states.

On the road to the caravan park at Moama we saw a paddle steamer going along the Murray.

And this is our view from our tents (actually you just have to go down a short steep embankment to get this photo!)
So it wasn't too badder a day but I don't think I will be using the Google maps again this is the 2nd time we have gone wrong with it ... the first was back in Bacchus Marsh where is clearly had one road goes into another without changing status where as it was a 'C' road and then became a one lane road (so I think it does change its status!)
Tomorrow dad heads back to Melbourne and we will stay here for a rest day. His train will leave at 7.20 tomorrow morning so he said he will get up at 3 o'clock and start packing ... I think he has your problem Sharon!!!

Koondrook to Gunbower

Koondrook to Gunbower = 49km
Cummulative total = 588km
There was no signal at Gunbower so I have done this blog from Moama.
It was a nice day to cycle, cloudy (but no rain) and warm (but not hot!). It was flat with relatively weak winds from the North east.
It was a quiet road to Cohuna, the road runs parallel with the Murray valley highway. It was flat all the way covering mainly farmlands with green fields! Which meant dairy country ... which meant ... FLIES! You really didn't notice them until Leitchville.
We made good time to Cohuna and before entering the town we saw this street name!

I will endeavour to photo all streets that have the O'Briens or Jones name ... I wonder how many we will come across? I think there will be more of the Jones compared to the O'Briens!
Cohuna was quite a big town where we decided to pick up food here as we know that Gunbower is a small town (popn of 293)
We stopped off at the park which despite the so called water restrictions (stage 1!) they still have a water feature.

Also in this park is this statue of this fish

We are not quite sure of the relevance of this fish in this region, it is not a native Murray Cod so it must be a Perch which is really a pest in the waterways unless it is some other fish that we are not aware of!
Speaking of water there is alot of green (and I mean green) fields around here and heaps of canals full of water. We often wondered just how they got the fields so green with no obvious sprinkler system ... well we stopped at Leitchville and neil came across this field being watered.

basically the canals are filled and the fields are electronically graded so there is an ever so slight slope that really we can't see but when it is watered it is obvious that it has to have a gentle slope. A small paddle in the canal pushes the water onto the field and floods it (just like what would happen if the Murray was let to flow naturally and not dammed up). So the part of the field that is closest to the paddle get absolutely saturated while the part of the field furtherest away gets the bare minimum. I have to admit is is rather archaic but I can see that it works but I can also see that there is alot of wastage as not only is the field flooded but sometimes the area between the field and road is sometimes flooded.

Here we are taking a quick break at Leitchville. From here it is a short ride to the Highway and onto Gunbower.
The campground was small but quiet and the town is really tiny, so I am surprised that there is a campground here!
We are off to Echuca tomorrow.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

rest day @ Koondrook

It has been a nice restful day so far in this quiet town of Koondrook. Went for a walk down to the bridge that crosses over to the Gunbower State Forest which is a very big island sandwiched between the Gunbower and the Murray (I think it is anyway!). Here is a photo of our camp spot.

After walking the dog we took a short ride over the murray to Barham which has the supermarket in fact it has 2 - an IGA and also a Foodworks. Having 2 supermarkets surprised us as we didn't think that the 2 towns would warrant 2 grocers.
As we were riding along we came across this nifty contraption made into a clock.

The bridge that crosses the Murray river is bit of an ancient relic (at least it looked and felt like it as we croassed over!) I think it was engineered by John Monash (not sure if that is the same guy that the big university is named after!) anyway it is regarded as bit of a engineering fete as I think it use to raise to allow the steam boats through. It doesn't raise now but the old wooden planks have been tarred over with bitumen and after wear and tear the gaps are beginning to appear between planks so you have to gingerly go along on the bike so that your wheels don't get caught in the ruts!

There is also a small walk in Koondrook that incorporates a series of redgum carvings and below are photos of a few that we saw.

a kookaburra

a murray cod (of course!)

a pelican (don't quite see the relavance of that here!)

a steam boat captain.
Also the path takes you through a redgum sawmill (thought you might like the following photos Ray!). It is still being used today. And as you walk through it the smell of the wood is absolutely devine! they have redgum sawdust which I would love to bag just to capture the smell of it so I can open it every now and then to get a whiff of it!!!

Tomorrow we head for Echuca as we have convinced dad to leave from there as it is easier for us to leave from Echuca rather than Swan Hill!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Kerang to Koondrook

Kerang to Koondrook = 26km
Cummulative total = 539km

Just a nice short day today. So here we are at the place where the Gunbower river meets the Mighty Murray river ... and produces ... mossies!!! hell I have been bitten a far bit before I managed to put the insect repellant on!
It is a lovely place but first let me show you photos of our campsite last night at Kerang.

It was a nice campsite with good facilities and the Loddon river ran alongside it.

This is our view from the back of the tents or from the dinner table/bike trailer upside down! Lovely isn't it, unfortunately the Loddon river here is full of weeds and that only seem to benefit the 3 swans that liked to test Kouta by coming up to us at the tents and this would drive Kouta nuts and he would always try to catch them!
Anyway we got up later this morning and by 9am the temperature started to get warm that we didn't need to wear the thermals at the start! Todays high is around 29 degrees and after spending the last 2-3 weeks with a high of only 23 degrees you definitely noticed the difference! But I think we all prefer the heat compared to the cold!
So after going to Safeway for the 3rd time since we got here at Kerang (loving all the cheap bargains we could get!) we finally left Kerang for a flat ride to Koondrook which is on the Victorian side and the town just the other side of the Murray river is Barham which is in NSW.
We got here around lunch time and just relaxed throughout the afternoon with a few of the local caravaners coming over to chat.
We did go for a walk before dinner and there is heaps of stuff to see here in Koondrook so I will put some photos on here tonight and the rest tomorrow.
We did see 2 young guys riding around on this bike below, I took the photo when it was parked outside the pub, but dad had seen it previously parked along the Murray as they must have been fishing.

It is a 'tri-sled' brand bike and has lots of gears, disc brakes and shocks at the front and I would imagine it would weigh a tonne!
But off course the main reason why we came in this direction is so dad could see the Murray so I have taken a few photos of it for him to take home and remember it!

On our way back to the caravan park we saw heaps of wood carvings which I will put the photos up tomorrow and a redgum sawmill which I thought Neils father would like and I will put those up tomorrow as well.
But below is a photo of the Koondrook town hall.

And the photo below is off the train that is at the center of town.

Dad is on the front of the engine but when he stood up on the engine and as I took the photo the first thing that popped into my head was the song sung by Sheena Easten "my baby works from 9 to 5, he works ...." as I remember the video of her hanging of the train engine just like dad is doing!!!! but dad doesn't look a bit like Sheena Easten!
Tomorrow we have a rest here and will go over to the other town of Barham to see what is going on over there!