Click here to read the first part of this trip.
Day 5 - Wednesday 20 June 2012 - Murray Valley Regional Park, Mulwala to Echuca
Weather: minimum of -0.5ÂșC and fine
What a cold night! Despite it getting down below zero, we were comfortable sleeping. I get up early and take some photos as there is frost everywhere. The car is covered in ice and the grass is a snowy white colour. I go back to bed and we end up getting up at 8:30 am. When we put Veto down, she does not seem affected by the icy ground. Despite how cold it was, the fire is still burning so I stoke it a bit to get some heat. The sun comes up over the trees and soon the ice melts, but it is still very cold.
We have breakfast and sit in the sun. The fish in the river have been jumping out of the water (perhaps they are too cold!), but no-one is out fishing on the river. We decide to sit and read while the ice melts off the car and the tent dries a bit. We have morning tea here before packing up.
|A very frosty morning ||Bridge Hotel - Echuca|
We leave at 11 am and continue towards Tocumwal. We are actually heading for Echuca tonight so decide to cross over into Victoria at Barooga. Just across the Murray River we stop at the Thompsons Beach in Kennedy Park on the Murray River. This is in Cobram. It is 11:35 am and I need to get some water for drinking purposes and I find a tap here. This has nice toilets and an excellent sandy beach for swimming. There is also a cafe/restaurant here.
We head off again at 12:25 after also visiting the shops to get some bread and margarine. Kelly gets herself a coffee but Veto knocks it over! At 1:10 pm we stop at a sign-posted rest area on the Goulburn River for lunch. This is not a nice spot and we probably should have left as soon as we arrived. There is rubbish everywhere, broken beer bottles galore and some shitty old barbecues. Pathetic really. There even appears to be human excreta in some spots. The RTA should take down the signs. By now it is mostly overcast but still cold.
We leave at 1:30 pm and arrive at Echuca at 2:40 pm. Before actually heading into the town, we go to look at some possible camp sites east of the town. This is Banyule Park State Forest. There are a few spots to camp, of which only two were reasonable. We pick out a spot on the western side of the forest right next to the Murray River. While there is a caravan park almost in the centre of town, we prefer to camp out in the bush away from other people.
We head into town and the go to the main reserve north of the town where Kelly thinks that you can camp. Kelly has been here a few times for work. However, there are no camping signs as we enter. This would be a nicer place to stay if you were permitted to. We drive right around the reserve and then go back into the town.
|The street next to the river, Echuca||A gutter made from timber, Echuca|
We decide to have a beer at the Bridge Hotel which has some outside tables. We get a couple of pots (why is beer so expensive in Victorian hotels?) which cost $4.20 each. There is a bit of sun every now and then so it is nice sitting here. After the beers, we take a short walk up along the wharf area. It is such an historic precinct, with the restored wharf and old buildings. The gutter is interesting in this street, it is made from timber.
We decide which paddle steamer we will go on tomorrow for a sightseeing trip and book our tickets. We have picked the PS Emmylou which costs $26 each. The lady who sells us the tickets advises us we can take Veto on board. That is better than leaving her in the car for the hour or so.
|The former Star Hotel next to the river, Echuca||Kelly and a tree with the heights of various floods|
We go back to the camp site we have chosen east of the town and set up. There is a bit of wind blowing but we have a spot which is fairly protected. There is a lot of timber here so we gather some up and start a fire as it is quite cold. We put out the side awning but do not bother with the rear one. We read for the rest of the afternoon. After showers we have beer and nibblies. At 7 pm Kelly serves up a beef stir fry with noodles (use 2 minute noodles it is easier). To follow up, we have the remaining sticky date puddings that Kelly cooked a few nights ago. Yum!
It is much milder tonight and we only have a small fire. Kelly finishes her book, which is a problem, as she has no more to read. She has a Kindle electronic reader, so she decides to go onto the internet (we use our iPhones to connect the laptops to the internet) and orders a couple of books. She cannot download them, but we have figured out how to do this as all you need is to connect the Kindle to a Wi-Fi network. We will do this tomorrow.
|Ouor campsite at Echuca||Sunset from our campsite|
Kelly heads to bed at 9 pm and I follow at 9:30 pm. At 2:30 am it starts raining and it continues for the rest of the night.
Weather: Overcast for most of the day, max of 12ÂșC Arrived: Banyule Park State Forest, EchucaTime: 3:30 pm Distance: 171 kilometres
Day 6 - Thursday 21 June 2012 - Echuca to Jerilderie
Weather: minimum of 9.2ÂșC and raining
It started raining last night at 2:30 am and has continued all night. It is not all that heavy, but it is constant. At least it has been milder than the past few nights. We awake about 7:30 am. As it is still raining, we do not get up, as we do not need to leave camp till about 9:30 am so we can go on the paddle steamer at 10 am.
After listening to the 7:45 am ABC Radio News and then AM, it stops raining. We decide to get up and pack everything away while it is relatively fine. We quickly pack up, finishing in a near record 40 minutes. It is raining very lightly, but we do not even need to get out our raincoats.
We head off at 9:10 am and go into town. We head to McDonalds and order some breakfast. Easier to have something here than back at the camp. In addition, we need something else that Maccas offers that few other establishments do. Kelly takes her Kindle inside and logs onto their Wi-Fi network (free in every Maccas). The books she has ordered download. The plan we had last night has worked perfectly.
After breakfast we drive the short distance to the wharf area. We get there early and give Veto a run while waiting for the okay to board. The PS Emmylou is a locally built traditional paddle steamer. She was built only in 1980-82 but she is powered by a timber burning steam boiler which drives two steam engines. They are simple twin cylinder engines built in 1906.
|Kelly and Veto waiting to board PS Emmylou||The bridge of the PS Emmylou |
Kelly and I are fans of steam engines, mainly because of our love for scuba diving shipwrecks, many of which were steam powered. It is fantastic to see engines still in use that were built over 100 years ago. In February this year we went on a paddle steamer on the Mississippi River at New Orleans which also had engines over 100 years old. It is still lightly raining, so we have our raincoats on as we wait.
Finally we board. The boiler has a full head of steam and the engineer is polishing parts of the steam engine. The engine room is open, with great views of all parts of the engine (much like there used to be on the famous Sydney Manly ferry, SS South Steyne). It is quite an economical boat to run, using only one tonne of timber each day for the four runs it does. We have a look around and go up to the bridge. We are here as the skipper manoeuvres out of the wharf and we head upstream. The river is flowing quite strongly, so I imagine it is not as fast a trip as normal.
|Kelly and the wheel of PS Emmylou||The PS Emmylou's bell |
|The steam powered bow winch ||The PS Emmylou's clock, voice pipe|
and steam pressure gauge
We go under the bridges (road and rail) that cross into NSW from Victoria and continue upstream. The skipper gives a running commentary on the history of the river and the port of Echuca. He also talks about each of the paddle steamers that are based here. There are quite a few, including many privately owned ones. It is now raining a lot heavier than before.
As it is now morning tea time, we go downstairs to the back of the boat and I order coffee, hot chocolate and a Devonshire tea. We sit at some tables and enjoy our small feast. Veto gets a few scraps of scone as well! The boat has a good range of things to eat and drink at reasonable prices. They also do a couple of longer 1.5 hour cruises where you can purchase lunch.
|The steam engine PS Emmylou||Another photo of the steam engine|
We pass the site where we camped last night and just past here we are at the halfway mark. It is interesting how they turn around in the narrow river. The boat reverses towards the riverbank and then uses the current of the river to push the bow (front) around and face downstream. We steam back and pass the wharf and then again turn around. This time the bow faces the riverbank and the current pushes the stern around.
We arrive back at the wharf after the one hour cruise. It has been quite an enjoyable time, worth the cost to experience a bit of history. By the way, the PS Emmylou was one of the paddle steamers used in the TV mini series Where the Rivers Run.
|The huge Echuca Wharf||The PS Pride Murray|
|Some of the many paddlesteamers in the Murray River||The PS Hero|
Back at the car we give Veto a drink of water and decide what we are going to so now. The rain has settled in a bit and it is not looking good. I use the weather radar app on my iPhone to check out the extent of the rain. Not looking good! We had originally planned to spend the rest of the day here looking around (including the Holden Museum) and then stay in another regional park just north of here. However, we do not want to have rain, we are sick of it. We notice that there is no rain further to the north of us, so we decide to move now and find somewhere else to camp.
We set off at 11:45 am and head towards Deniliquin in NSW. It rains all the way and about 12:30 pm it stops raining. We decide to head to Jerilderie. At 1:15 pm we stop at Conargo. This is a small village, a few houses and a pub (looks nice - should have went in for a beer). There is a showground with some shelter sheds and a nice new toilet block. We have lunch at the showground. This is 114 kilometres from Echuca.
We leave at 1:40 pm. At about 2:20 pm we see that the road is running parallel to Billabong Creek. A few kilometres outside Jerilderie we see a track heading from the road to the trees along the creek. We turn around and go back to the track. It leads to the creek and we follow it for a few kilometres. There are a few nice spots to camp and we find and mark a couple on the GPS. We mentally pick out the best one. We end up back at the road and go into town after checking out one more lot of possible sites.
|Royal Mail Hotel, Jerilderie||Another building in Jerilderie|
We arrive in Jerilderie at 2:35 pm. This is 57 kilometres from Conargo. We go to the visitor centre (which is in a lolly shop) and get a couple of brochures and a copy of Ned Kelly's The Jerilderie Letter . Jerilderie is a famous Ned Kelly town, where the bushranger and his gang robbed the local Bank of NSW (now Westpac) branch while holding most of the town hostage in the hotel for two days. This was in February 1879.
Even though it is not late in the day, the town appears quite deserted. We do the Ned Kelly walk, looking at the various places that had some involvement with Ned Kelly's infamous visit to the town. We visit the locations of the bank, the hotel, the saddler's and more. Before arriving here, Kelly dictated to Joe Byrne, a member of his gang, a letter that later became known as the The Jerilderie Letter .
In the letter, Kelly sets out (in a rambling and disconnected manner), his explanation of what had happened to set him on his path to his ultimate capture and conviction. It was 56 pages long with 7,391 words and was an attempt to refute the claims of the Police. In particular, his version of the events at Stringybark Creek, where he and his gang killed three policemen in October 1878, was recounted. It was only published in small sections till 1930. In 2000 the original was given to the State Library of Victoria. Another copy (made by John Hanlon, publican of the Royal Hotel, Jerilderie) is in the National Museum of Australia.
|Kelly of course is named after Ned Kelly||The Post and Telegraph Office robbed by Ned Kelly|
We head back out to the camp site after looking at all the Kelly sites. It is not far back out there, only few kilometres or so. The best way to find the site is to travel to the cemetery which is on the western side of town. As you approach from Jerilderie, there is a track off to the right before and right next to the cemetery. Follow this and it will take you to Billabong Creek. The actual location of the camp site we used is GPS S35Âș 20' 37.0" E145Âș 41' 44.3".
The spot we have picked is right next to the creek and has some nice grass. This whole area appears to be a Travelling Stock Route. There is a lot of timber around so I collect some. I am cooking pizza for dinner so we need a reasonable fire and some coals. Once we have the camp site set up and the fire going, Kelly works on a job application that she needs to submit by tomorrow. I make the dough for the pizza bases and let it rise in the warmer confines of the car. I then read for quite a while.
Meanwhile, Veto is having fun, running all over the place. Every now and then I take a break from reading and go for a walk to collect some more timber for the fire. The timber is not very thick, so I need to get a lot of pieces. Once Kelly is sick of doing her application, she cuts up all the toppings for the pizzas. I roll out the dough and make six bases. Two will be garlic and cheese pizzas as entrees and the rest will be two shared pizzas and one for each of us.
|Our campsite at Billabong Creek ||Billabong Creek|
Once the bases are ready, I set up the hot water shower and we have showers. Beer o'clock! I make the garlic and cheese pizzas and put the camp oven on the fire to heat. I then make up my pizza and Kelly does the share ones and her own. We use whatever we have left over from nibblies over the past few days (cabanossi, salami etc) as well as some chicken off cuts (cook first) and other items.
After a lot of experimenting over the past 10 years, I have found the best method of cooking pizzas in a camp oven (we also have our own home wood fired pizza oven) is to heat the camp oven as hot as I can get it by placing on the direct flames. Then, take it off, place the pizza in it and cover the lid with hot coals. The oven is not put back on the fire, but on the ground. This seems to cook the top and bottom evenly. It takes about 4 to 5 minutes to cook each pizza.
I do the garlic ones first and we have these as entrees. Once they are eaten, we have a break while I reheat the oven as hot as I can get it. I then do one of the shared pizzas. Once we have eaten this, I put Kelly's pizza on and then mine. The shared one is done last. We each end up eating half a shared one and half our individual one for dinner. The other pizzas add up to two complete ones. This is kept for lunch tomorrow.
After dinner we read for a while. Later, it starts sprinkling a little so we go to bed and read for a while.
Weather: Rain and then overcast, max of 12ÂșC Arrived: Billabong Creek, JerilderieTime: 3:05 pm Distance: 177 kilometres
Day 7 - Friday 22 June 2012 - Jerilderie to Wantabadgery
Weather: Minimum of 7.7ÂșC and overcast
Again it was a warmish night. It got very windy during the night and there was a lot of noise from the flapping tent awning and moving trees. As usual for most mornings on this trip, we get up at 8:30 am. After breakfast, Kelly completes her application form while I read. Once it is done, she connects to the internet (we use our iPhone to tether or as a hot spot) and submits it. How great is it being able to do this in such a location?
At 10:30 am we head off. We stop in Jerilderie as I need to get some more drinking water. Yesterday I noticed that there was a tap in the park as you enter town. I fill up our main water container (20 litres) as well as the two other containers. After a toilet stop (they are behind the visitor centre/lolly shop and are very nice indeed), we leave town at 10:50 am.
We travel via Urana and on the way pass Lake Urana which is full of water. We look for somewhere to stop for morning tea but see no suitable place. At 12:05 pm we come to Lockhart. We stop very quickly for morning tea here and leave 10 minutes later.
Our original intention was to head straight towards the Sturt Highway and then into Wagga Wagga but about 20 kilometres out of Lockhart we decide to cut across to The Rock. This small town is, as you can imagine, next to a small mountain call The Rock. We turn at a locality called Brookdale and it is a reasonable road to The Rock. It is a quaint little spot. We then take the Olympic Highway towards Wagga Wagga.
Somewhere along here (I foget exactly where) we passed a property that had a number of sculptures in its yard. They were made out of cars. One was a giant kangaroo and joey and another was an emu. Brilliant!
At 1:05 pm we arrive at Uranquinty, another very small town. It has a nice rest area in the centre of the town so we decide to stop here for lunch. It is freezing cold (8ÂșC), with a strong south-westerly wind blowing and almost raining.
This is a very interesting spot. In the rest area is a memorial to the No 5 Service Flying Training School which was based at RAAF Station Uranquinty during World War 2. At one stage there were over 130 planes based here. RAAF Station Uranquinty closed down in 1948 and then became a migrant hostel, reopening in 1951 and being used till 1958. It is now farmland again. Over 1,500 pilots were trained here. During the war lots of pilot training was done out in this area, including Wagga Wagga, Temora, Cootamundra, Deniliquin and Parkes.
|The kangaroo and joey on left and the emu on right||The memorial to RAAF Station Uranquinty|
We leave at 1:20 pm as it is too cold to stay any longer. We head towards Wagga Wagga and arrive there at 1:40 pm. We need to get some fuel as we will not have enough to get home. I also want to buy a nice bottle of sparkling wine for our last dinner of the trip. We leave at 1:55 pm.
Our plan is to look at a few spots to the east of Wagga Wagga for tonight's campsite. The first is quite close to town, a few kilometres out of town and left into Eunony Bridge Road. The entrance to the park is only a couple of hundred metres off the Sturt Highway. The reserve runs alongside the southern side of the Murrumbidgee River. We enter and go for a drive. It is wet all everywhere and we do not see a spot dry enough to want to set up camp. There are large pools of water and even some of the tracks are flooded. After a few minutes we decide it is too wet. It may be okay when drier, but not today. We head back to Eunony Bridge Road and turn left. We cross over the river(presumably at Eunony Bridge) and then turn right at Oura Road.
We follow this road (variously called Oura Road, Wantabadgery Road or Barney Street, depending on where you look) to the east and when we get to Oura we turn right into Wagga Wagga Street. We follow this to its end and then turn right. A little way along you will see signs proclaiming you are entering Oura Beach Reserve. We get here at 2:30 pm (it is 26 kilometres from Wagga). There are lots of camping sites here, mostly grassed. It is very nice. There are four covered tables, some toilets and a nice beach on the Murrumbidgee River.
We have a look around and even though it is nice, we decide to try the next place we have in mind. The go back to Wantabadgery Road and turn right and head towards Wantabadgery. This is about 28 kilometres from Oura Beach. The directions we have are terrible (as were the ones for Oura). They both come from a canoeing brochure published by the Department of Lands (or whatever their name is this week) about doing a canoe trip from Burrinjuck Dam to Wagga Wagga.
When we get to Wantabadgery we have no idea where to go. After a few trips up and down the main street, we take a punt on a road that has a sign saying Sandy Beach. This is not the name given in the brochure to the camp site (they call it Wantabadgery Reserve and say that it is on the Old Hume Highway), but we figure Sandy Beach must be on the river. This is accessed from Wantabadgery by taking Mundarlo Street and then turning left into Jewnee Street. After about two kilometres the road turns right and then about another kilometre on it turns left. At this turn (where the road actually becomes River Road), is the entrance to Sandy Beach Reserve. We arrive here at 3:05 pm.
This is a really nice reserve, as good as Oura Beach Reserve. We are the only ones here so we drive around and look for the best spot. As it looks like it might rain, we decide to camp next to the largest shelter shed which as a very large table (but no chairs) under it. There is a toilet nearby. There are also four other shelter sheds with tables/chairs and another toilet and a boat ramp. The reserve is run by Junee Council and there are also garbage bins and even town water.
|Sandy Beach/Wantabadgery Reserve camp site||The Murrumbidgee River at Sandy Beach|
We back up to the shed and run a small tarp from the back of the car to the shed in case it rains. I start a fire as we are having a roast dinner. There is a lot of timber here and I also use some of the stuff we have been carrying for the past few days. It is still quite cold, and the threat of rain is constant. We go for a walk to check out the reserve and Veto sees some cows in the paddock next door. She does not like cows, and barks at them all the time.
After the walk we read while Veto explores more and continues to bark at the cows. Later, Kelly gets the vegies ready while I set up the shower. We have nice hot showers as normal and then drinks and nibblies. Just before dark some cars come in and camp at the other end of the reserve. By 6 pm we have some great coals so I put the roast pepper beef in the camp oven and on the coals. The vegies go in soon after.
It drizzles on and off, but we have plenty of room under the shed to stay dry. The roast takes about 45 or 50 minutes to cook. We have it with a bottle of NZ Seven Sauvignon Blanc sparkling wine, a favourite of ours. A great meal to end a nice trip.
As we do every evening, we wash up all the plates etc. As there are only the two of us, there is not much to clean and I normally just heat a small amount of water in the saucepan and then do the washing over it. This is a lot easier than getting our larger collapsible washing container wet.
After dinner we read more, sitting around the fire. I have placed the fire close enough to the shed that we can sit under it if it rains. We end up going to bed at 10 pm.
Weather: Overcast and drizzle in evening, max of 10ÂșC Arrived: Wantabadgery Time: 3:05 pm Distance: 241 kilometres
Day 8 - Saturday 23 June 2012 - Wantabadgery to Sydney
Weather: minimum of 6.5ÂșC and overcast
What a racket! The white cockatoos are going off this morning. There are hundreds of them in the trees to the north of us. We get up at 8:30 am and Veto goes back to her barking at the cows. We have breakfast and the sun is trying to break through the clouds. We leave at 9:50 am.
We travel by River Road, but which some say is the Old Hume Highway. I do not think this was ever correct. It seems that prior to 1938, the Hume came west from near Tumblong south of the Murrumbidgee River to a spot called Mundarlo and then turned south and went towards Tarcutta, crossing what is now the Sturt Highway at Lower Tarcutta. Therefore, the road we have been travelling on does not appear to have ever been the Hume Highway (or the Great South Road as it was named till 1920). Why the Department of Lands brochure refers to it as this when none of the signs call it by this name I do not know.
Anyway, at Mundarlo (a locality), we cross the Murrumbidgee River and turn left on what is now Mundarlo Road (not to be confused with Mundarlo Street which was in Wantabadgery). This was, as far as I can figure out, the Old Hume Highway till 1938. This takes us to the Hume Highway at Tumblong. We take the Hume and head north.
|The Jugiong Rest Area||The cafe and wine cellar in Jugiong|
We decide to have morning tea at our old nemesis, Jugiong. Jugiong is on a section of the Hume Highway that was by-passed in 1995. Back in 2004 Kelly and I got stranded here from Boxing Day (26 December) till 31 December 2004. This was when we lost a wheel off the Prado. Click here to read about this adventure.. At that time Jugiong was a town in deep decline. The general store only opened at strange times, it never had things you might want (eg newspapers) and everything apart from the very nice rest area and swimming pool were run down.
Over the years since we have stopped here a couple of times (at Kelly's insistence I might add) as we have headed south. Each time we have noticed that there has been a slight increase in the town's prosperity. This seems to have coincided with the conversion of the general store to a cafe called Long Track Pantry. At the same time Gino's Fruit and Veg and the Jugiong Wine Cellar (selling local wines) opened next door.
We arrive here at 10:50 am and there are cars parked everywhere. There is a huge crowd in and outside the cafe, they are doing a roaring business. Even the fruit and veg place and the wine cellar have quite a few customers. We have morning tea and I walk over to look at a second-hand book sale set up near the shops. I end up buying a book on various NSW rivers, including the Murray and Murrumbidgee.
We leave at 11:10 am and as we head north out of town, we pass the motel where we stayed in 2004. As amazing as it seems, it looks like the motel has had a lot of work done on it, with a fresh coat of paint. We get back on the highway and continue north. At 12:35 pm we stop at the service centre at the entrance to Goulburn. We decide to have some Maccas (we need food like this every now and then). We sit in the car and eat as we do not want to leave our poor little baby (Veto) alone in the car! We leave at 1:00 pm.
We have a good run home, cutting across from Wilton to Bulli Tops via Appin as we normally do. This is quite a bit shorter than going via the M5, but only saves a few minutes in time. We arrive home at 3:15 pm. It is now sunny so I decide to open the Shippshape so it can dry (it was mostly dry anyway). We decide to empty the car of all its items and later, once the tent is dry, I hoist it up into the roof of the garage where it lives (I use four pulleys to lift it).
Weather: Overcast but not too bad, max of 15ÂșC Arrived: Sydney Time: 3:15 pm Distance: 416 kilometres
Apart from fuel and food costs and the trip on the paddle steamer, we have virtually not spent anything else. There were no accommodation costs. We travelled 1,782 kilometres and the fuel cost was $363.15 in total (for 1861 kilometres between fills), with an average of 14.8 litres per 100 kilometres used. Our only other expenses were the paddle steamer trip in Echuca and some beers in pubs.
Despite the rain and cold, it was a very nice and relaxing trip. You could easily spend another week doing this trip.