We have finally made it to Port Macquarie where the 2019 reunion of 85 Transport Platoon (Vietnam) is being held over this weekend.
A few days ago we left the canola fields of northern Victoria behind and continued up the Hume Highway to Sydney.
We stopped at Gundagai for a rest break and saw the historic bridges that cross the flood plains of the Murrumbidgee River. It’s hard to believe that this bridge was once the main highway between Melbourne and Sydney, carrying all sorts of transports, cars and trucks. The timber viaducts are wonderful examples of early engineering solutions to crossing a major flood plain.
This Prince Alfred Bridge was built in 1866, the first major crossing spanning the Murumbidgee River. It formed part of the Hume Highway until it was replaced by a new bridge in 1976. It is the longest timber viaduct in Australia and has been classified by the National Trust as a structure whose preservation is essential to Australia’s heritage
The mainstream of this river system flows for 900 kilometres. It headwaters arise from the wet heath and bog at the foot of Peppercorn Hill situated along Long Plain which is within the Fiery Range of the Snowy Mountains. From its headwaters the river flows to its confluence with the Murray River. The Murrumbidgee drains much of southern New South Wales and all of the Australian Capital Territory, and is an important source of irrigation water for the Riverina farming area.
We had a lunch stop at the old coaching hotel at Jugiong. The Sir George Inn is the most prominent building in Jugiong (and one of the few) standing at the end of the main street that the highway now by-passes. An Irish settler, John Phillip Sheahan, built the first pub here on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River in 1845 but it was washed away in the floods of 1852. Undeterred by this setback he decided to build something that would last forever. He brought stone masons from Ireland and built the current Sir George Tavern which opened for business a few years later.
I found a narrow bridge that crossed the river and thought that I might try and make photographic version of the famous painting by Sir Arthur Streeton – ‘The Purple Moon’s Transparent Might”. I don’t think that I was very successful but it was a nice looking river anyway.
We stopped overnight at the Rydges Hotel in Campbelltown just south off Sydney. It was a nice modern hotel and where our daughter Cathy stayed while undertaking her final physicians qualifying examination at the nearby hospital. It was an ideal break in our trip being about half way between Rutherglen and Port Macquarie.
We were on the road early on the next day with a good highway ahead (except for a very busy, and rather frantic, stretch of road around the Sydney suburb of Pennant Hills).
We had heard of of a Memorial Walkway at Newcastle so we made a detour to see it. It’s quite a spectacular elevated coastal walkway with a personal connection for thousands of local people. The walk was built to commemorate both the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli in 1915 and the commencement of steel making in Newcastle. It acts as a magnificent memorial to the men and women of the Hunter Region who served their community and their country.
We reached Port Macquarie late in the afternoon on Friday and in enough time to attend the first of our reunion functions. By coincidence, this town was our honeymoon destination 47 years ago. It was only a little fishing village then but it now has a population of 45,000 people. We remember that in 1972, the local drama group was presenting a play and there were advertising banners all over the town. Every time we passed one, Jill would elbow me in the ribs telling me to take notice of the name of the play. It was called ‘Let Sleeping Wives Lie!’