Day 16: Monday 3/12
Karadoc - Mildura
River markers: 923 to 882 km from the sea.
Distance travelled today: 41 km.
Just before I was about to fall asleep, I heard an unusual noise. A sort of heavy thump, then lighter thumps. This repeated itself again and again. In my drowsy half conscious state it took a while for me to realise that this must have been a kangaroo moving near my tent, but why the pattern? I hazarded a look. As I stuck my head out the tent door, a young joey, too big for the pouch, but too gangly and uncoordinated to be considered grown, stared back. I caught it in the act of hopping forward, as if daring itself how close to the tent it could go, before losing its nerve and reversing its direction with one big double foot plant. It must have considered this a good game. Mum, at the place the joey kept returning to for courage looked non-plussed. Both decided it was time to move on when they saw my face. With this happy image in my mind and the sound of a fresh breeze in the branches of the young trees above me, I slept well.
|Kookaburra as guest for breakfast.|
I was treated to a guest over breakfast, a big kookaburra flew down, landed heavily and looked expectantly at me. He picked up a bit of discarded salami skin and dropped it in disgust. Kookaburras have a way of looking at you, like 'I have always been your friend'. In that they have something in common with dogs. So, my pet dog sat in front of me and looked expectantly. It wasn't along the line of 'can I have something good' but rather, 'when are you going to give it to me?' How could I refuse? I peeled a thin slice of fresh salami and offered it to my old friend (as he would have me think). Straight away, it got down to business, determined to break the back of the salami slice. The kookaburra thrashed the salami on the ground. Finally satisfied that it was dead and would not wriggle anymore, he swallowed it and flew off - only to return 5 minuted later and give me the look once more. He was lucky twice, but then that was enough. It was time to get going.
|The old pumping station at Psyche Bend, and a tree, both after the same water.|
|The new pumping station at Psyche Bend, and a tree, both after the same water. This tree is not doing as well. Efficiency at what cost?|
The breeze from the night continued into the day. It seemed to be part of the weather change. When the river swung North-East the wind was behind me, when it swung South West, it was a full on head wind. Being the Murray, it did both. Gusts of 35 km an hour whip up decent waves on long bends (or reaches as they are called on the charts) and straights. Running before them was no issue, but pushing into them meant holding the paddle tight and ensuring nothing was loose on deck. They broke all around my river rat mascot on the bow and occasionally, over the deck - a test for the water proof seals on the front and rear compartments, which they passed hands down: a good feeling when thinking ahead to the big straights in South Australia and Lake Alexandrina.
|This cute little paddle steamer reminded me of a duck trying to hide in the bushes.|
|PS Melbourne: sister ship to the PS Canberra at Echuca.|
|Entering Lock 11 at Mildura.|
In the Murray Marathon, we used to say that Swan Hill is a killer, you start seeing houses from ten kilometres out and think that the finish is just around the bend - and it isn't. The same thing happens again and again. The seasoned campaigners know it, but new paddlers, which included many members of our school team accelerated so many times (to put in that good finish and leave a good impression) that by the time they got to the real finish, the best they could do was to stay in time with each other. Chalk and cheese. Mildura is 4 times worse. The houses and signs of civilisation begin forty kilometres out. I had my charts, I knew how far I had to go, but it did drag on.
|Eerie heights. Eagles nest with a view - just how they like it!|
As did an humming noise. I looked around, but their was no boat. Perhaps trucks on the highway? Kilometre for kilometre it was there, and getting louder. After six kilometres of paddling I turned around to see a large house boat gaining on me. I had my pride. Never in my life had I been overtaken by a houseboat! I was sure it had made ground whilst I had been battling head winds in the last few kilometres. Putting in more effort I decided to test that theory. It did not take long however, to realise that the vessel was faster than I was. At least I could make it difficult. About a kilometre later I acknowledged defeat and waved to the passing juggernaut. They gave a happy toot of their horn, waved and then looked ahead. One obstacle past, they concentrated on their next, which was probably to get their houseboat back on time and avoid the late fee. Fair enough, but I wasn't gone yet. I accelerated into one of the trailing waves of the boat and wash rode it for a further two kilometres. My rating almost doubled and speed picked up about 5 kilometres per hour, but once riding the wave it was manageable. Apart from the fun of riding the wave, it was also worth it for the surprised look of one of the passengers when he realised I was still there. Fun, but not sustainable. I let the juggernaut go on, and settled into my usual pace, amazed that in the fun of the chase all my aches and pains had disappeared. With the realisation that I still had twenty kilometres to go they soon reappeared. Not that positive thinking ever affects how we feel, does it?
|Racing a houseboat. 250 horse power vs muesli and two fried eggs. It was quite a bit faster than me, but took about 6km to catch me and when it did, I rode its wash for another 2 km. This photo was taken whilst I was wash riding. Gotta have your fun!|
Gol Gol is the New South Wales equivalent of Mildura and the town immediately upstream of it. Unlike Victoria, where the first 3 chain (about 60 metres) is freehold / public land, in New South Wales land owners own the bank 'at least to the water's edge'. This means they can also develop and invest with security. In Gol Gol, investing takes on a whole new meaning. I have never seen such extravagant waterfront properties. On one stretch, not only did the houses have decks extending over the water, but private concrete boat ramps with tiled retaining walls and built in down lights like in a pool. In between these expensive looking jetties they made private beaches. The sand must have been brought in, because it would not stay there naturally. One property even had little toy excavators for their kids to play on. The consistency of the water level, maintained by the weir in Mildura made the investment on their shaded foreshores possible and practical, but there must also be an awful lot of money coming in from somewhere.
|Some like it rough. The NSW side of the bank leading into Mildura is lined with 'villa noble'. Others were much more extravagant than this one near Gol Gol. Whilst some sort to blend in with the landscape, others tried to recreate the French Riviera.|
I read that 80% of Victoria's table grapes come from Mildura, and 70% of its carrots. Added to that the region is key to citrus fruit production. They like to think of themselves as the food bowl of the Murray-Darling Basin. The house may be industry leaders, or perhaps they were expensive holiday homes designed to impress and maintain important clients. Mildura is an interesting social and geographical venture. The natural land type here is mallee. Following a prolonged drought of 1880's, the then water minister Alfred Deakin, looking round for a way to secure Victoria's agricultural industry heard of an irrigation scheme in Canada pioneered by the Chaffey brothers. He visited Canada and persuaded one of the brothers to return with him. He was given a derelict sheep station and £300,000 to invest with the task of developing irrigation infrastructure within twenty years. Chaffey said that with water he could change the dry dusty mallee into a productive regional centre as green as the most luscious garden. He set about building channels and pumping stations. Deakin and Chaffey's plan became a reality. Irrigation has transformed the landscape. With its rolling vine covered hills, olive trees and citrus orchards it looks quite European at times. Set out in numbered streets and named avenues, all in grid formation, the city planners did not want to fit in with the environment, they wanted to tame it, mathematically, scientifically and geometrically. In contrast to the disorderly growth of gold fields and many of the city capitals, this was to be a planned city; quite possibly, Australia's first.
Now, almost five generations later, we have come to realise that nature's resources are finite. In Australia, water is often said to be our most precious resource. What is taken away in one place is not available somewhere else. Following a long period of drought (El Niño) where the river did not reach the sea, irrigation in the Riverina virtually stopped, the Coorong was five times saltier than the sea and Capital city of South Australia was left wondering how it could ensure that its inhabitants had a reliable source of drinking water since the river ceased to flow in its lower reaches, the government brought in legislation called the Living Murray. The aim of the legislation was to return the health of the river basin. As a local Mildura business, Trentham Estate Winery puts it,
"The long term viability of the Sunraysia District and horticultural ventures such as the Trentham Estate is intrinsically linked to the health of the Murray River.
Environmental problems such as poor water quality and algal blooms could have a devastating impact on industries in this region through increased water treatment costs and the loss if the 'clean green' image in the important export markets."
|Trentham Estate Winery. Boats can pull in and sample the wines, eat a meal at the restaurant, or lounge under the shade sails and enjoy a coffee with a view of the river.|
It is no longer a matter if how to get the water onto the land, but how much and how efficiently. It is part of getting to know and managing our country's resources better, wiser and for the benefit of all Australians.
|Karadoc - Mildura. Google Maps|
More from this expedition:
More information about topics from this page:
- Visit Victoria: Mildura
- Wikipedia: Mildura
- Discover the Murray: Loch 11 and the Chaffey Trail, Murray River Lochs, Dams and Barrages
- Goulburn Murray Water: Loch 11
- Environment Victoria: The Living Murray
- Trentham Estate Winery
- Geology: Murray Valley Geography (A geological timeline of the development of the Murray).
- Victorian Geology: Tectonic Framework of the Lower Murray. (from Red Cliffs).
- ABC Mildura swan Hill: News and Community Events