We had decided that our next goal was to take a ride along the Murray River in a paddle steamer. To do this we headed north to the border crossing towns of Echuca – Moama where you will find the largest riverboat fleet in the world. We all got a kick out of driving on the bridge crossing from VIC to NSW and back….and then back again. It doesn’t take much to amuse us!!
Our home for the next few days was Christie’s Beach Campground within Echuca Regional Park. This is a huge area of land with plenty of camping available along the banks of The Murray. It was a terrific spot. There were only a few other campers and we all had our own secluded camps.
We managed to set up right next to a rope swing over the river. It was far too cold for swimming but the kids still had a ball swinging backwards and forwards over the water (and mud). This is something they did for hours on end. We were all content to spend time just chilling around the camp, enjoying each others company and watching beautiful sunsets. We kept a campfire burning and enjoyed cooking potatoes and corn on the cob in the coals.
The water level in the river seemed quite low although it was easy to see just how much water has flowed through the area. It certainly wasn’t as majestic as I expected the ‘Mighty’ Murray to be but this whole area is yet another nice part of Australia nonetheless.
It was while we were here that we discovered a problem with the hot water unit which resulted in no hot water at all. Very handy when the kids were spending hours playing in knee-deep mud!
Since we were content to spend time around the camp site Paul got to tinkering and carrying out general maintenance on both Stan and Pat. As well as fixing the water unit he played with the tow hitch, which needed a couple of new bolts and also fitted a new battery in the van – which we were lucky enough to purchase from the local caravan yard at $200 cheaper than we had seen elsewhere.
Whilst in town picking up said battery and replacement bolts Paul and I decided to indulge in a cask of port. We had visions of spending the chilly evenings snuggled up next to the camp fire, reliving our adventures to date along with dreaming up more to be had.
Needless to say we may have enjoyed the whole fireside experience a little too much. It would seem that we underestimated the warming powers of the port. Apparently there was nothing snuggly or ‘quiet’ about our fire side session. The next morning we were met with very disapproving looks from all three children – along with an empty cask!
I maintain to this day that it was obviously left too close to the fire and the port had in fact evaporated. Needless to say I have been cured from ever drinking again (again) and the mere thought of port makes my stomach churn.
It was just as well that the kids were happy to be tree climbing and rope swinging as Paul and I had both seemed to come down with a migraine and didn’t feel like roaming too far. At one stage I was ‘resting’ in the van listening to the kids playing outside, as they climbed trees and swung on the rope. I could hear lots of laughing and then suddenly heard a large splash followed by silence.
Rope swing – 1. Emma – 0.
To take our cruise on a paddle steamer we headed off to The Port (gag) of Echuca. There is a huge revitalisation project currently underway and the plans look very impressive. In the meantime it is possible (as we did) to wander down the historic Murray Esplanade and visit the sawmill, foundry, old cinema and a number of novelty shops. There is also the alternative of taking a guided tour around the precinct which can be coupled with meals and cruises if so desired.
The area is very quaint and some people may recognise it from the TV mini series All The Rivers Run. One of the stars of the show was Sigrid Thornton. As Paul has admired Ms Thornton from afar for as long as I have known him, it was really a no brainer that we chose The PS Pevensey for our cruise. This was the boat “The Philadelphia” in the show, upon which Sigrid had spent quite some time.
The PS Pevensey was built in 1911 and was used to cart wool from station properties to the wharf. $59.90 was the family price for a one hour cruise along the river. Paul really enjoyed chatting to the staff on board about the original steam engine, which was still being used and the kids each had a turn at the wheel of the boat, for which they were awarded a honorary First Mate’s Certificate.
Our time at Christie’s Beach Campground was very peaceful and relaxing. We took a few walks within the Regional Park but apart from that really didn’t do any touristy stuff apart from the paddle steamer cruise. Of course we did take a decent look around the town of Echuca itself and met some lovely staff at the Information Centre but our time here was all about the steamer experience.
Now we needed to head up the road where a major de-mudification operation was required. Next stop – Swan Hill, home of a really big ugly fish!