It took us two days to drive the 900 kilometres home from Broken Hill.
Before leaving, we had a last look across the centre of town to see some of its historic trains and mining displays and then we took the road south to Wentworth on the Murray River.
All I can say about the trip south was that there was plenty of nothing! The land was flat and without any noticeable features. The wildlife consisted mostly of emu and an occasional kangaroo. The sheep stations in this area are very large and they all have a tank or a dam at certain points so that they provide water to their stock.However, Instead of seeing sheep at these places, we saw hundreds of feral goats.
The city of Wentworth (near Mildura) is the place where the Murray and Darling Rivers converge. These two rivers drain about 1/3 of the Australian mainland. Water from the Murray is used for irrigation and around this north west corner of Victoria there were many orange groves, vineyards and an increasing number of almond orchards. At one place, we saw a small patch of cotton but that crop is mostly grown in NSW to the north.
With its system of locks and weirs, the Murray River is navigable by small craft for about half of its length.The water flow is well controlled. The Darling River has always been a more intermittent river. In the colonial days paddle steamers were used to haul wool from outback stations but they could only operate with high water. In many years of drought, these paddle steamers would be stranded until more rain fell in the far north and months later, the river would began to flow again.
On the last night of our trip, we stopped overnight at the town of Swan Hill. In the early 1850s, a wharf on the Murray River was built and Swan Hill became one of the region’s major inland river trading ports. A living museum (The Pioneer Village) now provides a taste of what life was like in the area around that time. The river trade declined with the expansion of railways, however agriculture spearheaded the town’s prosperity with the clearing of surrounding land and the use of the river for irrigation. Vast citrus farms and vineyards surround Swan Hill and extend many kilometres to the north-west. One of the old paddle bloats (The Gem) is located here.
On our final day, we followed the Murray east to Echuca and stopped there for a cup of coffee. I would have liked to have spent a little time in the town but we timed it right on this year’s music and blues festival in the city. It was extremely busy and we had trouble finding somewhere to park, so we discarded to push on and head for home.
The road south to Melbourne took us right through the centre of Victoria – through Heathcote (not far from Puckapunyal) where I did my recruit training in 1968 and then down to Lancefield which is just about in the geographic centre of the state. Along the way, we passed through an area with interesting granite boulders and rocky outcrops. There were a couple of places where we could image children having lots of fun playing hide and seek among the rocks.
We travelled 3650 kilometres in total on this trip and virtually all of it was very interesting. The Flinders Ranges is a location that I have never been to before and I think our trip just touched the surface. I think we could have easily spent a month or more exploring the creeks, gorges, mountains and tiny settlements.