EXPLORING THE MIGHTY MURRAY RIVER
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
325Trip End Oct 31, 2013
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TUESDAY AUGUST 2- FRIDAY AUGUST 5, 2011
WEATHER: 5-10 degrees o/nite. Sunny, cool, overcast, rain, flooding. 15-20 dgrees days
JOURNEY: Mount Beauty, Yackandandah, Albury/Wodonga, Rutherglen, Mulwala -233kms
Mulwala,Bourkes Bend, Cobram, Little Toms Beach- 60kms
Little Toms to Barmah Lakes NP- 100kms
Barmah to Barham- 160kms
After 5 happy days with the lovely Thompson family at Mount Beauty, we set off this morning with intentions of driving towards Sydney. We made a quick stop at the very pretty town of Yackandandah, and then headed north for Wodonga.
We reached Wodonga/Albury. Which way to go?? Let's check with the Information Centre and then something clicked between us; why don’t we head back to Adelaide, following the River Murray because driving to Sydney and needing to be back in Adelaide by August 18 now seemed like too big a rush. So we grabbed maps and information on our new intended journey and changed directions east. The joys of free and independent travellers! The brain drain for the navigator/trip planner to get things organised without missing special places!
The River Murray is the 3rd longest river in the world- the Amazon and Nile are longer- and it weaves its way from the Snowy Mountains in NSW, through Victoria and NSW, until 2530 kms later it reaches the Southern Ocean at Goolwa in SA.
We were excited about witnessing the river in full flow after years of drought.
With the excellent 'Discover Murray River Trail’ we soon found our way and because the river creates the natural border between NSW and Victoria we found ourselves hopping from one state to the other. The drive through Howlong and Rutherglen (a renowned wine destination) to Mulwala was attractively scenic as it followed the Murray and some large billabongs with crowds of waterbirds on shore. The road passes through mixed farming regions and historic villages and on this lovely sunny day we are happy to be a witness.
At the end of the day we had some challenges with our search for free camping, so on advice from the very helpful Information Centre at Yarrawonga we checked into the attractive Lake Mulwala CP situated on the lakes edge for $15 pn. With a change of plans and direction and a journey of 230 kms we needed a rest and good sleep and we got both.
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 3 2011
JOURNEY: Mulwala, Bourke’s Bend, Cobram, Little Tom’s Beach- 56kms
WEATHER: Sunny reached 27 degrees
Still riding the Murray Valley hwy, we had an easy day with a midday stop at Bourke’s Bend where we chatted to an Italian couple from Melbourne who had parked there overnight and frequently enjoyed short trips to this area each year. Because of the recent flooding the road into the campground was closed but we appreciated a stroll through the lovely gum trees standing tall in the billabongs.
We found Thompsons Beach at Cobram, famous as Australia’s largest inland "beach"; it had a pretty grassed area where we sat to appreciate the 150 year old river red gums and the mighty Murray. We said it seemed odd to have a beach on the river! Camping is not allowed here but we found a great spot at Little Tom’s Beach; Tom’s ground was firm, not boggy and we were close to the river with crowds of noisy birds looking for roosts for the night. After a softly pastel sunset, we watched a spectacularly starry sky and reminded ourselves that this was a good life; it was a silent and restful night and best of all it was free camping.
THURSDAY AUGUST 4
JOURNEY: Cobram, Nathalia, Barmah- 100kms
WEATHER: 15 degrees at 10am. 25 degrees by noon, sunny.
We were hoping that we could access Barmah National Park, having picked up a park brochure extolling the beauty of the area. On the one hand it has been fabulous to see the Murray River in full flow, but on the other it has meant a great deal of flooding of nearby land and with our heavy van, we are limited to hard gravel roads minus the sodden boggy tracts we sometimes encounter.
We turned off the Murray Valley Hwy at Nathalia, having passed through very green dairy pastures and hectares of fruit trees. This area is also known for its Murray Cod. Happily the road into the park’s Dharnya Centre was good and we met the ranger who advised us that areas of the campground were accessible although still wet.
Wow, this was a special camping spot at the Barmah Lakes, still very much underwater. No one was about so we chose the driest sunniest site, positioning the van for an easy exit if rain, although not forecast, did eventuate. It was late morning and we set ourselves up outside the van and enjoyed the sunshine, the peace and the environment.
Barmah National Park boasts the largest River Red Gum forest in the world; these iconic trees reach up to 50 metres and can live to be 500 years old. They require periodic flooding and the recent long drought put many of them at risk- they must be happy now, well and truly inundated! The beautiful trunks with their silver patches and wide spreading branches make for stunning impact. Just don’t camp under or too close, as sections of the tree can come crashing down to earth at any time!
The walk around the lake was out of the question with the high water level but the discovery trail through the old cattle yards was interesting. We had only three visitors during the day and decided to stay overnight, even though we would be alone- we had phone coverage, the ranger knew we were there and it was quite out of the way!!!
Definitely a favourite camp site and free!! We had a good night and enjoyed the sound of what we guessed was the barking frog.
FRIDAY AUGUST 5
We reluctantly left Barmah Lakes late morning with overcast skies and rain forecast, we decided that the road into the camp ground would get too boggy. We needed information about the nearby Gunbower National Park, so stopped at the Information Centre at Echuca, but as often happens no none knew enough to help us. We did discover that Port of Echuca was once the largest inland port on the continent.
We were hoping to find some riverside camping but after a few attempts to get into the park and with showers preventing us getting out of the van too often, we made our way to the town of Barham. We checked out the free riverside camping spots but mostly could not access them because of the height of the Murray; in fact one of the caravan parks had closed off sections because the river was flooding. Barham was hosting the Rock and Roll Festival so we were lucky to find a place to stay- Barham Lakes CP, $20pn with power. It rained heavily from late afternoon so it was into the onsite bathroom for a lovely hot shower, and then into the van for dinner, red wine and TV. We noticed that the ASX had taken a beating and it was a relief to have some protection from the instability this time!
We were also glad to be on hard ground because we got a large amount of rain overnight.