The Mighty Murray River!

The Mighty Murray River!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Robinvale to Boundary Bend

Robinvale to Boundary Bend = 47km
Cummulative total = 1346km
We had 2 good solid rest days in Robinvale over the weekend. Although very hot especially at night and difficult to get a good nights sleep we left today and felt good cycling along. A short day mind you! but the legs felt rested.
We didn't take any photos today - in fact I should have taken a photo of the all the Almond trees we saw but I sort of forgot.
We left around 9am after popping into the IGA as the next 2 days we are in very small towns. The first 15km south of Robinvale is devoted to table grape vineyards and we saw a few people working and picking table grapes. I tell you that looks like hard work especially on your back stooped over under the vines snipping away! At the caravan park there were 2 groups - 1 group that was all young foreign back packers more than likely doing the grape work and the other group being older retired Australians who live on the road in their caravans, vans and buses who have just started to arrive for the Almond season which is due to start very soon and last for around 8 weeks - I say this because the Almond picking work is done by machines so it is suitable work for older Australians who just want to earn a little extra money along with their pension and this is obviously a good place as after the 15km of vine yards you get another 15km of almond farms!!!
Apparently the almond trees are shaken and a machine sweeps up the almonds - nothing is physically done and all done by machines hence the older Australian doing the work as they just operate machinery. They work 6 days a week and 12 hour days and get paid around $23.50 per hour - so it is not bad work - big tax but if they work it right they should get the bulk of that back at tax time ... maybe Neil and I will invest in a van and do that sort of thing!? Couldn't do it on the bikes - to hard to work 12 hours and then come back to a small tent!!! need some creature comforts!
Anyway as we cycled along we saw a group of people spraying and neil pulled over to ask what they are spraying for - the woman said fruit fly and had sprayed all the trees from Nyah west and up to Robinvale. When we saw them they were just outside an organic farm and couldn't spray the farm trees due to the chemicals. It is hard work for them especially the past 5 days as it has been over 30 degrees. They are very paranoid about fruit fly since they have found some around Albany and Gippsland recently - not sure how the fruit fly containment system works here in Australia - I know there are zones around areas that have orchards and over some of the borders they monitor it but in other places they don't seem to bother - ironically the one at Renmark where you have to give up your fruit - the majority of the people are caravaners who buy their fruit at supermarkets - yet the trucks supplying the fruit to those victorian supermarkets are the same trucks supplying the same fruit to the SA markets!!! weird!
We got to Boundary bend just on lunchtime and when it started to get really hot - this is the last 30 degree day for a while and tomorrow is meant to be only 24 degrees - yay nice and cool and hopefully it will be cool at night.
There is not much at Boundary Bend and the caravan park is also the petrol station, general store and local takeaways. The park is mainly for pickers and the murray river is just across the road and I wouldn't have been surprised if there wasn't water on the road a few weeks ago.
One thing we noticed was that the road that joins Calder highway and Murray valley highway was closed - originally I had thought about going down that road through Hattah and across to here but we chose to go to Robinvale - lucky!!! I think it was closed from the flooding - there must have been some damage done to the road.
Tomorrow is another short day to Wood Wood.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Gol Gol to Robinvale

Gol Gol to Robinvale = 79km
Cummulative total = 1299km
Crikey it is warm! We had a nice rest day yesterday and we had plenty of shade and it didn't really get hot until late afternoon. We decided to try and get up early and get an early start before it got too hot for kouta. In saying that we don't have the alarm clock and I was petrified that we would sleep in so I don't think I slept at all last night in the fear that I wouldn't wake up early! I must have dozed off as Neil woke me up at around 5.30am so we got up and it was still dark and had to have breaky in the tent with the light on!
We managed to get away by 7.40am which was good and it was nice and cool - around 17 degrees I think.
We cycled on the Sturt highway and there wasn't too many trucks - some but I think alot would have turned off and onto the Calder highway. There is a shoulder for most of it and when the traffic wasn't heavy we rode on the road as it was smoother.
Hardly any wind and when it did blow I would say it was coming from slightly behind us so that was good.
There are regular rest areas along this road about every 15km or so. After our first stop we passed a guy walking along side the road carrying a big back pack and bags hanging of it. He was going in the same direction as us but ambling along on the other side of the road. Neil went over and asked if he had enough water as we had plenty and had a spare bottle to give if he wanted it but he declined.
Neil came back to me and said that he is almost certain that the guy is from the 'Australian Story' episode about a guy just up and leaving his job and family and no one had heard from him and they all thought that he was murdered or dead, even the police couldn't trace him. Anyway Neil can't remember exactly the story but the guy was reunited with his family after 20 odd years or so after some TV reporter/producer passed him and just asked if he was such and such and the guy walking said yes and so the story of reuniting him with the family began. I didn't see the episode as I find it too sad and end up crying too much so I avoid those sorts of programs! He just wanders around doing fruit picking etc and walking from place to place - so I am sure he would have walked this leg before and knows the rest areas and which one has water which is the rest area 40km before Mildura going north and even then it is not potable but okay for drinking - I am sure the guy walking has a cast iron stomach with water and is able to tolerate non potable water!
We were making good timing and had done at least 60km before 12 o'clock. It is a cloudy morning but still warm and around lunchtime the clouds lifted a bit so you could feel the temperature rising. About 15km before Robinvale the road narrows a bit and you loose your shoulder and the road is a little bumpy.
We get to the bridge just before Robinvale that crosses the murray just on 1.30pm so that was good timing!

this is the view from the bridge and you can see the caravan park - nice isn't it and not too many people.

off course now we have crossed the murray again we are back in Victoria and around the corner is the caravan park.
It is a nice park, has river front sites with no shade so we are in the middle section under some trees - the best site with the most shade! we do have a view of the river if no caravan parks in front of us!

our view from the front door!
The caravan parks are a little empty as people are not coming along the murray because of the flooding - a guy told Neil back in Gol Gol the Top Tourist park in Swan Hill had to lay off 7 of its' workers as they weren't getting in the caravaners like they normally do - even though it is perfectly fine in the caravan parks.
All the parks we have stayed in that are along the murray (which is most of them!) are all okay - the river is closer to some of the sites as you can see tree trunks submerged in water when normally they aren't but the sites are perfectly okay.
The river is flowing very nicely here - very gentle compared to when you look at it in Renmark I suppose it has something to do with the locks and weirs.
We might stay here over the weekend as I am reluctant to travel on the weekend after last weekend between Morgan and Renmark as every man and his speed boat was out and about so i assume it would be similar around here. Besides we have to go on the Murray valley highway (I think that is what it is called) now and last time we were on this it was hard as there is no shoulder so I presume it is the same here so I would rather do this part down to Swan Hill without weekend traffic!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cullulleraine to Mildura/Gol Gol

Cullulleraine to Mildrua/Gol Gol = 64km
Cummulative total = 1220km

I was a bit slack yesterday and didn't post this blog as I was a bit tired and worn out. Yesterday was easier than what I thought it would be - fortunately the wind wasn't as strong as the day before but it was tough going.
We did manage to get up as the sun was rising and I took these photos of our camp spot.

we had a nice spot overlooking the lake.
We got away just on 8am and we continued along the sturt highway. We still had a reasonable shoulder although parts of the highway were a bit rough but compared to other highways we have been on this Sturt highway isn't bad.
Just outside Mildura around 20km before it you start getting into the vineyards again. As you come into the outskirts around 10km you start to see smaller vineyards and a little bit of water lying around from the recent floods - not too bad or as bad as what I thought it would be. Part of the highway is controlled by a light system and only allows traffic in one direction where the flooding was as there is still a little bit alongside the road.

a different way of growing the grapes - instead of the traditional top and bottom wiring going across.
Neil saw this set of racks set up to dry the grapes out - I assume for raisins/sultanas

looking at this way of drying I wonder if it goes straight from these racks into the sultana packets?!!!
There is still a little evidence of the flooding

these vines have probably been sitting in this water for weeks! I don't think they like that much water!
We got to the campground mid afternoon after stopping by woolies to get supplies. We did past Stefano's cafe along the way but didn't see him ... I love Stefano! After watching some of his cooking shows I had always wanted to come to Mildura to see what it is like - off course it is nothing like what he portrays on his shows but I have to admit the 'colours' from the show of red dirt, green vines and blue skies sure is common around here!
Mildura is a nice enough town - big but nice.
We did see the PS Melbourne paddle boat leave the Mildura Port

riding along the river here on a sort of bike path Neil is a little disappointed with Mildura - it has been 40 years since he was last here - so of course things change and usually they change for the worse - near the bridge there is a new housing development which is most definitely going to be awful to look at alongside the murray. Just up from the campground here at Gol Gol there are huge massive wealthy houses that all front the Murray so there is no public access even between the houses so that is a negative.
Although I am not a huge fan of Echuca (simply because the campgrounds don't take dogs) but I think it is a better set out town than here in Mildura. Echuca certainly makes the most of the murray river and public access alongside the port and wharf and all the way along it - Mildura unfortunately doesn't take advantage of it and it is very disjointed - alongside the river is parkland with now picnic area, private houseboat awnings where they haven't kept the grass mown and it is all ugly and over grown. Mildura has a park, play area and picnic across the road from the Murray but it would be served better if they put the road behind the playground rather than have to cross the road to get to it! silly town planning really. In the town itself it is crowded and they have a roundabout with pedestrian crossings all around it so you could be halfway through the roundabout and have to stop for a pedestrian - I don't know how many near accidents I saw while waiting there all because someone is not concentrating on what is behind, in front and on the sides of them! I think a set of traffic lights with pedestrian access would be better served here rather than a roundabout.
So I don't think we will move here. I don't think there has been a shortage of water in this town as there is an abundance of green lawns and despite the excessive rains this town may have had over the past few months - grass doesn't grow that quick! so I think there is alot of robbing water from the murray to make houses look nice. this by far is a very wealthy town judging by the houses we saw coming in to town and there is no shortage of money around.
Tomorrow we go to Robinvale via the Sturt highway.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Paringa to Culleraine

Paringa to Culleraine = 80km
Cummulative total = 1156km
Before I tell you about our exhausting day I have some pictures to share with you from Paringa.
Just up the road from the caravan park is a motor museum - not sure if it is open as it looks pretty run done and the grass is quite long around all the exhibits. But Neil tries to tell me that the following is used to make baked potatoes from the 'baked potatoe man' I'm thinking for a split second 'oh yeah so it is' and then I take a closer look and see that he is trying to pull the wool over my eyes and then I think ... hang on I am sure Neil has never had a baked potatoe from the baked potatoe man!

it has something to do with applying tar on the roads!
On our rest day we did go and see the lock #5 but I couldn't quite get my head around how it works as the river is really full so I couldn't be bothered trying to imagine a low water line and how the lock would work. I sort of got the idea.

while in the town center we went to the information center and parked outside of it on the river was this old paddle steamer boat and I remember seeing advertisements for it to go from Renmark towards Morgan - a 5 day journey in April and you could buy tickets - I don't think you sleep on the boat but in accomodation where it stops but it is quite reasonable value going from town to town on it.

for the life of me I can't remember the name of the steamer!

this is a photo of a black stump - again this was another thing I couldn't quite get my head around in what it is meant to represent or mean! I do know that it is one of only 11 black stumps in Australia and it is also the biggest.
Anyway onto todays cycling - I always knew that the leg from Paringa to Mildura would be one of the toughest that is why I prefered that we had gone the other way (anti clockwise) first but alas flooding caused us to go clockwise first and so this part would be tough with the prevailing winds and I was right today saw severe head and cross winds for the entire 80km - I thought I was going to flake out towards the end of the day!
We took our time and there was no need to try and fight this wind it is easier to just go with the flow and accept the fact that we wouldn't get into camp before 4pm and we would be cycling for at least 6 hours in total.
Our first stop was at Yamba where they inspect all cars and trucks coming into SA for fruit - this is to prevent some bug coming through.

our second stop is at the border (22km from Paringa) as we are back in Victoria now.

Our third stop is for lunch at some Australian government thing alongside the road - didn't say what it was but it had a fence for us to lean the bikes against! One thing it did have and that was flies!

there was literally thousands of flies hanging around and made eating and drinking very difficult.

our 4th stop was alongside the road and by now I am beginning to feel it in the legs - we must have been about 25km away from Culleraine. There are lots of wheat fields around - some are still being farmed and I think there were a few that hadn't been farmed last season as they were all growing paddy melons (which are useless for anything and are a weed!)

this is kouta on the 4th stop - as you can see he is just as exhausted as us!

by 2.30pm the wind began to really blow and I was getting slower and slower! some of the farms that didn't grow wheat last year their paddocks where red and the wind would pick up the red dust and blow it everywhere. You can't quite see it in the above photo as by the time I got to pull over and take the camera out the dust had blown by!
I hit the wall around 15km before Culleraine - A truck overtook us (we have a good shoulder the whole way today) and there is an incredible amount of drag behind that truck which usually I can control the bike but for some strange reason as it overtook us I wasn't expecting a massive gust of wind directly behind the drag and all of a sudden I loose balance and off the road I go - All in one motion I slammed on the brakes and unclick my feet - normally I slam on the brakes - stop - then realise that I am still clicked in - and over I go!!! So by then I had had enough and was over it - today was the type of day I wonder why I am doing this when I could be in my craft room!!!
Tomorrow there is more of this - I am hoping the wind isn't as strong as today - one good thing about it is that we only have around 60km to do.
We are camped tonight at Lake Culleraine and it is a nice campground - big and no one here except for a few. the lake is full and if I remember I will take photos of it in the morning - I am too tired to do it now and it is getting late.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kingston Om to Paringa

Kingston Om to Paringa = 48km
Cummulative total = 1076km
I think all 3 of us slept like logs last night - neither neil or I felt Kouta climb all over us to sleep next to me during the night that is how tired and how heavy we slept last night.
The campground was very quiet probably due to the fact that there were only a few groups there.
We thought we would get going early and get some kms in before the traffic picked up - but that sort of didn't work as the traffic was already on the road at 8.30am when we left! we thought being a Sunday that there wouldn't be much traffic especially truck traffic but we were wrong and it was like being on the Bruce highway again!
There is a shoulder and it was a bit rough compared to the road but again we had a tailwind so we didn't mind. Not sure who is out and about but I did recognise a few trucks hauling grapes and going to the places where they make the wine, there was still quite a few b-doubles and off course people just out driving.
Just outside Kingston OM where the road meets the Sturt highway there was a huge winery making place - Kingston Estate and the vats are enormous. The other one we saw was just before Renmark but I am sure there are others around. And again every piece of land is taken up by vineyards - no wonder there is a glut in the wine market - too many vineyards and grape growers!
With the traffic today the cycling was okay - we have to stay on this highway when we got to Mildura so i guess we should get use to it!
Renmark is a big town and has a population of just under 10,000. We stopped at the woolies and stocked up on essentials and continued on to Paringa caravan park. We passed the Big 4 caravan park and next door to that was the Top Tourist both have prime spots on the Murray and both cost over $35 to camp! So we continued on to Paringa. Just before we got there we had to cross the murray and they have bridge - the pedestrians and cyclists go down the middle of the bridge where the train use to go.

I took the photo below from the bridge.

and here I am riding along the bike path. Paringa is just down the road from this bridge and the caravan park is alot cheaper - $25 for a powered site. No camp kitchen but nice water. The reason why I mentioned the water is that the water in the towns along the murray is pretty bad - town water is often a light brown colour and is pumped up straight from the murray - I hope it goes through some treatment plant first. last night the water at Kingston OM has got to be the worst I have experienced - the shower water is a light brown and has a very pungent sulphur odour to it. All the taps were linked to the murray river so all drinking water came from some rain tanks - the park had 3 - 2 where brown and the only drinkable one was marginally better. the water here at Paringa is okay - it is relatively clear and the rain water is good and not contaminated with pollen as some have been as we have come along.
I think we are resting here tomorrow (Monday) we have thought that we might push on because of the winds but we will see in the morning - it is forecasted for a southerly which would mean cross winds compared to head winds the next day! but we are expecting headwinds all the way home now and we have prepared ourselves for it!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Morgan to Kingston On the Murray

Morgan to Kingston on the Murray = 73km
Cummulative total = 1028km
We did absolutely nothing on our rest day yesterday because we couldn't do anything! It rained a very light rain for most of the day so we all had 'tent fever' by the time it was time to go to sleep.
We knew the rain was coming so we went on a quick tour of the town the evening before. We mainly went to look at the Morgan Wharf - or the the remains of it and the old train station.

but first we had a look at some of the house boats tied up at the Marina - so much money there!

there was a public area just outside the park and I think before the flooding it was the swimming area - as you can see there are a few trees under the water that normally wouldn't be!

this is the flooding marker - so far this years probably won't make it - it is currently around the 6m mark but if you look at the very top mark which is around the 11.3m mark and that was back in 1956! imagine I would have been under water to take a photo of that back then!

this is the remains of the old wharf - i think back in its hey dey this place was quite busy - not like it is now.

bits and pieces of the old railway station

the station masters house - and we think someone still lives in it so it is now a private house.

something that fills the steam trains

the turntable to turn the engine around

an old building!

since it was drizzling for most of the day we had breakfast in the tent!

kouta making the most of his day off! ... what am I talking about he does this all the time he is not in the trailer!
So we may have had a good days rest but unfortunately by friday evening the park was beginning to fill up ... with dickheads mainly!
Quite a few of the permanent holiday caravaners turned up (mostly young groups), the odd tourist, and quite a few young groups of people just here for the weekend with booze, boats and babes!
So getting to sleep was almost impossible, staying asleep was impossible and wanting to go out and slash all their car tyres was a thought that I nearly acted on!!! I tell you some people do not consider anyone except themselves - really at 2am in the morning continuing on like a pack of drunken wallies is just ignorant - man I sound old! We must have woke up at least 3 times to groups walking pass talking loudly, throwing their bottles in the recycle bins etc. I was over this place by the morning and I tell you I had the radio on ABC blaring while we ate breakfast and for some strange reason I was heavy handed while eating my breakfast out of my tin plate - gee I wonder why!!!
Anyway we left around 8.30am feeling okay (it is now 5.30pm and I am ready to go to sleep!) and took the road via Cadell to Waikerei. This road is very winding and undulating and most of it is continuous farms of either grapes or oranges with the odd olive tree here and there. Unlike the roads to Morgan where the farms were really sporadic - the farms along this Cadell Valley road were one after the other.
We even managed to get a photo of a bunch of grapes as they were close to the road and they didn't have fences.

not sure what type of grapes these are but they were sweet - Neil took 2 individual grapes - apparently they are picking the vintage grapes at the moment. But most of the vines we passed still had fruit on them. As you get closer to Waikerie the vineyards get bigger and the rows get longer! they went for miles and miles and as far as you could see in the distance.
We did see a rather unusual tree bearing some really unusual fruit on it ...

here is a close up of the fruit!

we didn't have any extra shoes to donate to it!
At Waikerei we picked up some food as there is a Woolies there - our last one was at Millicent. We went to the lookout that is behind the woolies and could get a very good view of the surrounding area

the murray river is the water on the right and the water on the top left is the flooding.
From Waikerei we had to joint the Sturt highway - lucky it is a Saturday and there wasn't many trucks but the local traffic was thick and fast. it had a shoulder the whole way but it was rough and bumpy as it hasn't had the constant traffic like the road has to smooth it out. Fortunately we had a westerly wind today - normally our winds from now on should be in front of us and giving us a headwind but today we had a tail/cross wind so that made the going easy. Hopefully tomorrow being a Sunday there won't be much traffic for the first half of the morning. We are staying in Paringa (remember the ABC show 'Rain shadow' about the vet etc well I loved that show and have always wanted to go there - I didn't realise 2 things - that it is only 5km from Renmark and it has a population of around 1600 - I got the impression (I don't know why) that it was a tiny town in the middle of no where - how wrong was I!!! The only campground in Renmark to take dogs is a top tourist and they are very militant with the rules associated with having a dog that I actually wonder why they allow dogs - you cannot walk the dog in the park - this is to avoid the dog peeing over bins and taking a dump but most people will pick it up in the parks we have been in so that sort of environment of fearing your dog is going to pee or dump before you can get to the park gates is not nice so that is why we are going to Paringa!