Our boat had moved a few kilometres upstream from where we joined it at Murray Bridge and on this our first day on the river we awoke to find ourselves moored by a nice quiet park at Woodlane. I’m a bit surprised at just how many timy settlements there are along the river. Some were old ports where riverboats used to refuel and load red gum logs for their boilers. Others opened up as remote soldier settlement areas after WW1 and some have just developed as weekend locations and holiday spots.
There is a lot of bird life on the river – Pelicans, Cormorants and the occasional Herons. I assume that there must also be a good number of fish in the river to support the birds.
By lunchtime, we reached the little town of Mannum. This was once the hub of the riverboat trade with a large port. Now it is a just a sleepy river town. The major employer – a company that made farm machinery has virtually closed and now employs only eight people. There is a lot of history here. Large sternwheeler, the Murray Princess’ operates out of the town and the restored steam vessel, the Marion, sits at the wharf. She is the last coal fired river boat in the world to offer overnight accommodation.
Speaking of history, it would be wrong to omit the collection of stuff in a local private museum. A local bush mechanic and tinkerer named Wally had collected a large quantity of old engines from all over the district. These are stored in a big shed on his property just out of town. They still run, along with the old record player and the parts of his machinery collection. Not to be outdone, Wally’s wife had visited many of the local clearing sales and collected a vast array of old homewares. Two other sheds on the property had enormous quantities of what I can only describe as ‘stuff’ from my grandmother’s day.
By late afternoon, we were further up the river near our overnight mooring at Walker Flat. This river banks here alternate between farmland, marshy wetlands and cliffs. Some of the highest cliffs along the Murray are found along this stretch of the river. They were lit up in a golden glow by the setting sun.
After dinner, we had a unique experience in going spotlighting in a tourist coach. We travelled along a number of roads a little further inland from the river to an area where Hairy Nosed Wombats could be found. These are different from the Easter Wombats we find in Victoria as they not only have a hairy nose (duh) but they are also adapted to the very dry conditions of this area where rainfall is as low as 300 mm per year. We found over twenty of them with the aid of a powerful spotlight.
Along one dirt road we found a kangaroo in the middle of the road that did not want to move away. A closer look showed that its baby had its leg stuck in the sheep fence from the adjoining property. Our good deed for the night was dome when our driver released it and it jumped over to its mother hand hopped straight into her pouch. If we had not have stopped this bay kangaroo would have just died a slow death.