Our day began with breakfast at the bakery in the main street of Griffith. We had a warm egg and bacon roll that was very nice but as I looked into the gelato cabinet I wished it was later in the day. I think that i could have eaten every flavour, working from left to right.
We crossed the Murrumbidgee River at Darlington Point, south of Griffith. The three major rivers in Australia are what I would call ‘lazy rivers’. On average, the Murrumbidgee falls just 1 metre over every kilometre of its distance. It is the fastest flowing of them all. By comparison, the Darling River falls just 6cm over every kilometre and the Murray River drops 14 cm per kilometre near Albury and just 2.5 cm per kilometre in the last 160 kilometres of its distance.
A little further south, we came to the newest town in New South Wales, Coleambally. It was officially opened in 1968 and is the administrative, commercial and social centre of the Coleambally Irrigation Area, an area which began to be developed in the 1950. It covers 87,600 ha. with rice being the principal crop though wheat, barley, corn, canola, soybeans, olives and almonds are also grown.
At the entrance to the town is a giant Bucyrus Class 3 Dragline which is one of four machines that were imported from the USA in 1935 and used to excavate the main channels in the Murray Valley and the Coleambally Irrigation area. The huge machine was “walked” to Coleambally from Deliniquin following completion of the Mulawa canal. It started digging channels in the Coleambally district in 1958. In 1978 the machine was driven to its present site where it is a reminder of the scale of work involved in establishing the Coleambally Irrigation Area. It is still in working condition and is statrted on special days. The sign beside the machine says that it weighs 130 tonnes, has a speed of 3 km/hr and can scoop 4 cubic metres at a time with its bucket.
Between Coleambally and Shepparton there is a town almost every 20 kilometrees apart, unlike the 200 km distances we have experienced over the last week. We reached Finley just in time to buy a pasty and a pie before the bakery closed at 1.00 pm. The main street of Finley crosses the huge Mulwala Canal which is 155 km long and the longest irrigation channel in Australia.
We found a picnic table in the park on the landscaped foreshores of the artificially created Finley Lake that was converted from a swamp. It also has a wharf, a boat ramp, a pool, a gardens area and children’s play facilities.
Another 20 kms south brought us to Jerilderie. It’s famous for being the location of a good guy and a bad guy.
The good guy was General Sir John Monash. He was the military genius who turned WW1 from a static war in the trenches to a mobile war when he created a way to get armour, infantry, artillery and aviation to work together for the first time. This resulted in a 17 mile foreward push near Amiens in France that turned the tide of thew war. His father came to Jerilderie in 1874 with his family to manage a General Store and Monash spent his primary school years at Jerilderie.
The bad guy was Ned Kelly. In February 1879 Ned Kelly and his gang carried out a daring raid in Jerilderie on the local bank. Ned and Dan Kelly, dressed in police uniforms, rode into town where they robbed the bank and burned all the townspeople’s mortgage deeds. Ned left a letter with the bank manager to explain his actions, which would go on to become famous as the Jerilderie Letter. After this raid, the NSW Government issued rewards totalling £4,000.
The Jeriderie Post and Telegraph Office which the Kelly Gang sabotaged during the raid.
We crosssed the Murray River into Victoria at Tocumwal. It is reported to have 23 beaches within five minutes of the town. Not surprisingly, Tocumwal is a popular holiday destination and attracts visitors who wish to fish for the famous Murray Cod, play on the town’s 36-hole golf course, swim, water ski, canoe or kayak up and down the meandering river.
The Tocumwal Rail Bridge over the river was built in 1895 as a road bridge. When the railway arrived in 1908 it was strengthened. It was closed in 1988 to road traffic.
There are three museum areas at old Railway Station and I did notice that it had two ticket offices – one for the broad gauge line to Melbourne and one for the standard gauge line north to Sydney. The Terminus Hotel across the road was a grand old Aussie Pub.
We continued on to our overnight (and last) stop at Shepparton through a series of wheat and canola fields. The closer we were to Shepparton,. the more dairy farms we encountered. We were met by the police in Shepparrton who were conducting a random breath testing station. We passed but were careful not to go back to our motel the same way after dinner at the local RSL.