NOW: FROM THE COAST AND ALONG THE MIGHTY MURRAY RIVER
We left the coast and headed to Cessnock in the Hunter Valley where the temperature was 47 degrees. It was so hot it felt like the ground was burning your feet straight through your thongs. The pool was big, deep and HOT but it was wet and made us feel better. The bushfire warning was at catastrophic but there was no smoke on the horizon yet.
We’ve visited the Hunter before and really enjoyed the Verdhelo from Tinkler’s, a small family vinery. We liked the new vintage as well and bought a few for our mobile cellar behind the driver’s seat. BUT ……. we were in the Hunter Valley to hear Casey Chambers, Bernard Fanning and James Taylor. There was now a lot of smoke and concerns that the concert may not go ahead. Along with thousands of others we braved the heat and the wind with the hope of a cool change and had a blast!
When we left Cessnock we couldn’t see smoke but we could smell it and hoped we’d still be able to travel through Denman, Sandy Hollow and Bylong, crossing the Great Dividing Range through the Goulburn River National Park. At Denman the road was blocked to advise travellers the road was closed by bushfires at Merriwa. We weren’t heading through Merriwa but heard later that whole villages in that area were burnt to the ground. Our route took us further south along the Bylong Valley to Kandos and Sofala, an old gold mining village on the Turon River and on into Bathurst our old home town. My sister lives near Bathurst so we called in (is staying in your sister’s front yard called free camping?).
With our destination being south to Adelaide we had a commute day in the rolling hills from Bathurst to Cowra, Young, Cootamundra, Junee on the Olympic Highway then west to Coolamon and on to Narrandera. So this western leg included peaches in Bathurst from our favourite orchard, the Cootamundra wattles made famous by John Williamson and Junee where they admit to owning the famous NSW rugby league star Peter Stirling.
On to Echuca via the Newell Highway through Finley where you’ll find a vanilla slice which almost rivals the ones we had several times in Crescent Head. The Riverboat Music Festival was on in Echuca. When we left the Hunter Valley we saw James Reyne was coming soon but when we got to Echuca so was James Reyne and we got to hear him here. More great live music!
At Echuca’s historic port area paddle steamers are moored by the wharf where wool was brought down river to meet the steam trains which took it to Melbourne for export around the world. Improved roads saw the end of the paddle steamer era but some have been restored and still operate for tourists.
As we cruised on PS Pevensey we could imagine those early days in the 1800’s when the mighty Murray was the lifeblood of the communities that lined its banks. We tried the fish and chips in the port area and tasted the boutique beer. David loved the coffee porter called The Insomniac.
The Scenic Drive follows the banks of the Murray River but the views were really much better from the paddle steamer on the water than from the bank.
From Echuca we travelled through the river towns into Victoria to the river port of Mildura. The temperature only reached 26 degrees making it perfect for driving. We’d had an intermittent problem with the charging of the car’s second battery but the cooler weather seemed to have solved the problem – or was it the jiggle and hit David gave it?
A leisurely cruise downriver on Paddle Boat Rothbury included using Lock 11 to travel both up and down stream. A weir holds the water at a constant level while boats use the lock. It’s amazing to think that the locks on the Murray were built in the 1920’s and are still in use even if just for tourists and fishermen, plus the water supply for many towns.
We needed the annual roadworthy certificate for our NSW car registration and could do this in Mildura before heading into South Australia where it could have been more difficult as SA has no annual inspection requirements.
NEXT: SOUTH AUSTRALIA’S YORKE PENINSULA
See you on the Emu Track
Cheryl and David