Old meets new. SA has really embraced renewable energy.
After a lazy 300km of South Australian farmland we faced another border, back into Victoria – our 10th border crossing in 11 months. Surely our adventure was not coming to an end, and yet it feels like that as we leave the outback behind and enter cultivated farm land. Two months to go and only Victoria and the south coast of NSW to travel through (and lets not forget revisiting Uncle Robert’s Farm at Green Acres).
Our tenth border crossing. No (fruit) flies on us!
We turned off 10 km before Mildura to camp right on the bank of the Murray River at Merbein Common. No facilities but the price was right. This would be our base for the next four nights as we explored the Mildura region. Like all good educationally focused families, our first stop on day one was the Mildura library. Conveniently located next to the info centre, but not after noticing that our indefatigable source of free power, our solar panel, had shattered. Inexplicably, the panel was still working, which meant a tarp was needed every time the weather gods threatened rain, which they did, often. We had our first cracking thunderstorms of the trip, and they rolled on and on over several hours and then again the next day as well.
Our free camp on the banks of the Murray. Sun, rain, sun, lightning!
The library, free WiFi and all, was a great opportunity for the boys to catch up on some homework (although Sam would have achieved more if they did not have such an extensive collection of Lego books!). Another job on the list was an out-of-state pink slip. This was easier to sort out closer to the border than it would have been in other parts of Victoria. The old Cruiser was on the hoist for a nerve wracking hour and apart from a dodgy indicator, got a clean bill of health. After several phone calls and emails, the brilliant news was that the solar panel supplier agreed to send us a replacement panel, well out of warranty and everything!
Down but not out. Our shattered solar panel still cranked out 14 volts like this!
Mildura itself is a pretty, very well ordered town, thanks mainly to the efforts of the Californian Chaffey Brothers, who were the driving force behind the massive fruit growing efforts in the late nineteenth century. They are effectively responsible for this area now growing a massive portion of Australia’s fruit, including almost all of our dried fruit. This gives the region the apt name ‘Sunraysia’. We all checked out the locks and weirs of the Murray, the only ones we’ve seen on our trip, which allow all this extensive irrigation to work whilst mitigating the ever present flood risk threat.
Kris and the boys pose for Mildura street art.
Back at our camp, the boys enjoyed playing by the river building a large dam and their own irrigation network, filling it with bucket loads of river water. James was the only one to brave a full swim in the water, though they both had daily “baths” in the river to clean off after so much mud after play.
A few days later, with clearing skies, we visited nearby Wentworth to see the confluence of the Murray and Darling rivers. This is just across the Murray in NSW, even closer to home, yikes! We also had a look around the beautifully restored paddle steamer ‘Ruby’ and squeezed in an afternoon at Perry’s Sand hills.
The confluence of the Murray (left) and Darling (right). We couldn’t pick the difference.
The Paddle Steamer ‘Ruby’, lovingly restored to full working order by volunteers.
Perry’s Sand Hills – just outside of Wentworth.
These weird red dunes, just a few kilometres from the river, cover only 10 hectares. The boys loved it and by the time we left, there were garages, caves and roads carved into the wonderfully mouldable sand. James reminded me to collect a teeny sample for our ongoing collection.
Another benefit of relative ‘civilization’ are the normal prices for fuel, food and gas. The NRMA has long published that fuel transport costs are only 4 c/l anywhere in NSW. With differences of up to $1/l noted during our trip, I wonder if some of the more remote service stations haven’t got that memo yet?