For the last few days, we have been cruising upstream to the town of Blanchtown and now we heading back down the river to Murray Bridge. It’s a very peaceful life, but at times it does get a bit boring.
The river is about 150 metres wide but very slow – flowing at only about 1 km per hour. Our furthest destination up the river, Blanchtown, while over 260 kms from the mouth of the river is only 3 metres above sea level. The river is lined with old gnarled red gums, each with its own character. From time to time, it is edged with high sandstone cliffs and at other times with broad expanses of wetland.
There is a significant lot of bird of all sorts life along here. The largest birds are the pelicans with a wing span of eight feet. Then there are the cormorants and the darters. Shore birds include swallows, parrots and the little willy wagtail. Nesting on the cliffs along the river bank are the sulphur crested cockatoos and the long billed corellas.
The river is, of course, essential in supporting local agriculture. Oranges and citrus fruits were previously grown along many parts of this stretch of the river but these have now given way to more profitable crops. One of these is the growing of almonds. We visited an almond farm / orchard where over 180 acres of trees were grown and harvested. The river also provides opportunities for people to develop entrepreneurial activities such as yabbie farming. This small freshwater type of crayfish are sold to restaurants around the country.
Our Proud Mary is not the only river boat in this area. The Murray Princess is a much larger boat and operates out of Mannum. It looks a lot older than our boat but it was built in the early 1980’s – around the same time time as this one.
Of course there are many forms of pleasure craft. House boats can be hired for vacations and some people seem to use them for permanent homes. Some are very luxurious and others are much more humble; seemingly built in someone’s backyard.
We stopped at one location (Naught Naught) where we could explore an archeological site where local aborigines had lived. Members of the tribe still look after it. They described how their ancestors had traded stone (for tools) with fish from the river and baskets made from the local reeds and vegetation. They used to watch out for smoke signals to detect others travelling through their area and to determine whether they were friendly tribes wanting to trade or others who were likely to raid their women. Fires have now been replaced by the mobile phone.
Plenty of other excursions have allowed us to walk through the streets of some of the local sleepy river towns. Other have taken us out in a small boat through the billabongs to observe wildlife. Others have included campfire BBQs and some good old Aussie entertainment. This cruise has also just been a time of sitting back and watching the world (river banks) go by..