Tonight, we have reached the South Australian outback town of Peterborough on our way to the Flinders Ranges.
We began our day in Mildura (420 kilometres away) with a visit to the Murray River and the lock / weir in the city. By international standards, the Murray River is tiny, but it is our biggest river and a key source of water for Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia.
In a park by the river, we visited Lock and Weir Number 11 (the eleventh lock and weir upstream from the river’s mouth) and spent some time watching the many birds on the river. There were hundreds of pelicans in the water, so we assume that there was plenty of fish to support this large amount of bird life. The series of weirs along the length of the river regulate the water flow and provide a means of irrigation. Most of the lower regions of the Murray River are quite arid and nothing would grow without irrigation from the river water.
The surrounding farm areas grow citrus, grapes and dried fruits. Many of these farms were soldier settlement areas created in 1918. I have no idea why, after surviving the harshness of WW1 in the trenches, returned servicemen were given plots of land by the government (on which they could resettle) that were in some of the most inhospitable farming areas of the country. Clearing and developing them into self sufficient farming properties was a long and heart-breaking task.
We crossed the South Australian border and just before entering Renmark. We had to stop at a large quarantine station where a team of about eight inspectors were checking cars and trucks for fresh fruit and vegetables that are not allowed to be taken into the area. Their big concern is the introduction of fruit fly that would devastate local crops. I had a bag of fruit confiscated although I was able to buy some more it at the local supermarket just 20 kilometers down the road.
For many kilometres after leaving Mildura, we drove through orchards and vineyards. The topography was very flat and uninteresting for most to the way. By the middle of our trip, we encountered long stretches of Mallee Srub with small multi-trunked eucalyptus trees that are able to grow in this area of very low rainfall area. These were interspersed with areas of saltbush. Nearer to Peterborough, we were again into wheat and sheep country with enormous fields of newly sown wheat and flocks of sheep in the paddocks that were lying fallow.
We stopped for a beer at the historic Overland Corner Hotel. During its life, this pub has been a store, a post office, and a police station. Its original purpose was as a watering hole for drovers and overlanders who operated between New South Wales and the Adelaide Colony. It also served as a temporary camping ground for steamers passing through on the River Murray, which flows a mere 200 metres from the hotel. The historic building was erected in 1859. It gets its name from its position at the ‘corner’ of the borders of NSW, SA and Victoria.
We crossed over the Murray again at Blachetown and then headed north up to the town of Morgan. From there, we travelled on to the old mining town of Burra. It was raining for much of the afternoon and quite cold. For a good part of the day, the temperature was as low as 13C. IT was only 7C when we arrived in Peterborough tonight.
We arrived at Burra, the most scenic spot along our journey for the day, just in time for it to rain. Burra is one of the best preserved mining towns in Australia and instead of being able to wander the streets taking in its history and beautiful old stone buildings, we found ourselves avoiding rain showers and trying to stay dry.
The town began as a single company mining township that, by 1851, had become a cluster of townships (company, private and government-owned) collectively known as “The Burra”. The Burra mines, at that time, supplied 89% of South Australia’s and 5% of the world’s copper. The settlement has been credited with saving the economy of the struggling new colony of South Australia. The copper mine here, was established in 1848. Miners and townspeople migrated to Burra primarily from Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Germany. The mine first closed in 1877, briefly opened again early in the 20th century, and closed for a last time from 1970 to 1981. When the mine was exhausted and closed, the population shrank dramatically and the townships, for the next 100 years reverted to supporting pastoral and agricultural activities. Today the town continues as a centre for its surrounding farming communities and as an historic tourist centre.
For the last hour of the day, we drove through continuous rain before reaching our motel in Peterborough. By then we had had enough of the day and were glad to see a warn room and a place to dry out.