Category Archives: Victoria

Cruising The Murray

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.

Our camping spot on the banks of The Murray

Our camping spot on the banks of The Murray

Looking towards The Murray River

Looking towards The Murray River

The kids spent hours on the rope swing

The kids spent hours on the rope swing

Beautiful spot!

Beautiful spot!

The view from the loung in the caravan

The view from the lounge in the caravan

Reardon on the swing

Reardon on the swing

Ben swinging sideways

Ben swinging sideways

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.

Wharf precinct, Echuca

The Murray Esplanade

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.

Waiting for our cruise

Waiting for our cruise

Passing another paddle steamer

Passing another paddle steamer

Reardon checking out the thong tree

Reardon checking out the thong tree

Steering the PS Pevensey

Steering the PS Pevensey

Original steam engine

Original steam engine

First Mate Ben

First Mate Ben

oh so shy Emma on the paddle steamer

oh so shy Emma on the paddle steamer

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!

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Farewell to the mainland!

We spent our final night in NSW at the Scrubby Creek Forest Picnic Area and it was here that Ben decided that he had had enough of Pinky (his arm cast). As it was just one day short of the three-week period he was required to have it on we agreed that it could be removed. Once again displaying our most awesome parenting skills Paul grabbed the tins snips and proceeded to cut it off. None of this fancy schmancy getting it done by a health professional lark!*

Going!

Going!

Going!

Going!

Gone!

Gone!

It wasn’t much of a drive before we reached our next border crossing and the first of three nights before we left the mainland. Willow Park Rest Area at Rosedale deserves a mention. This area is next to the La Trobe River and is well maintained. There is a large grassy area to park on, toilets and a large gazebo with fireplaces. A local gentleman (I think he was from The Lions Club) came by and welcomed us to Rosedale. He also gave us a greetings pack with information about Rosedale, Sale and the surrounding Gippsland Region. This was a really nice touch and  we  regretted being time limited. The kids had a great time getting dirty and playing under the bridge. Before leaving we were more than happy to put some gold coins in the donation box.

NSW/VIC Border

NSW/VIC Border

When we were researching dates, costs etc to get to Tasmania we discovered that it was going to be cheaper for Paul to go across on the ship the Spirit of Tasmania with the car and van, while the kids and I flew over. To be honest, a 45 minute flight from Melbourne to Launceston was also far more appealing to me than a nine-hour trip across The Bass Strait to Devonport.

So, after an early morning start from our caravan park we headed to Port Melbourne to drop Paul, Patricia and Stanley off. The boarding process took a couple of hours – this included waiting in line and the quarantine check (no fresh fruit and vegies can enter Tassie). Security personnel checked our gas cylinders and boarding passes and were aware that although we were all in the car, Paul was the only one sailing. So when we got to the boarding stage the lady that checked the ticket almost fell over to find that the kids and I were still in the car. She got all flustered and hopped onto her radio,  before we knew it we were surrounded by security and being escorted into the departure lounge! The only thing missing were flashing lights and sirens! The lady was not amused but the security people thought it was funny.

So, after a very hurried goodbye Paul was safely on board the ship – without his delinquent stowaways. We hung around long enough to wave him goodbye and then the kids and I had a full day to spend in Melbourne before catching our flight.

Waiting to board the ship

Waiting to board the ship

The Spirit of Tasmania

The Spirit of Tasmania

Paul waving from the top deck

Paul waving from the top deck

Crossing The Bass Strait

Crossing The Bass Strait

We walked into the city from Port Melbourne which turned out to be a little further than I had anticipated! After stopping for a late breakfast we set off to explore. We  spent some time at Federation Square and then  decided to jump onto the free tram that goes around the city and has a running commentary pointing out various landmarks. What we hadn’t expected were the many city commuters using the trams to get around. It was stinking hot, we were all standing and the kids were getting bumped and jostled by people getting on and off. Even though I was standing right next to Emma, at one stage I even lost sight of her.

Crossing the Yarra River

Crossing the Yarra River

 

Melbourne tram

Melbourne tram

Needless to say we didn’t stay on the tram too long. Instead we headed to St Paul’s Cathedral where, after having a look around inside, we jumped on a free bus that also tours around Melbourne. We all managed to get a seat, the commentary was great and it was lovely in the air-conditioning. Definitely the way to go.

Ben inside St Paul's Cathedral

Ben inside St Paul’s Cathedral

After doing a complete loop on the bus we decided to head to the Melbourne Museum. A good few hours were spent here and we all loved it. Children are free to get in, with a $10 charge for adults. There was a children’s section to play in and heaps of interactive displays. One of our favourite things was a 3D show and also seeing Phar Lap.

Reardon at the museum

Reardon at the museum

Emma enjoying the children's section

Emma enjoying the children’s section

Very cool dinosaur exhibit

Very cool dinosaur exhibit

Bring it!

Bring it!

Before we knew it, it was time to catch a bus to the airport. After having something to eat we decided to head through to the departure lounge, where we had our second experience with security for the day! At the bottom of my bag was a small vanity wallet that had nail scissors in it. They must have shown up on the x-ray machine because my bag was quickly whisked away and the offending scissors confiscated. This was all well and good but when we unpacked our backpacks after arriving in Tasmania, we couldn’t believe it when an almost identical wallet, complete with nail scissors, was discovered in Emma’s bag!

ooopps!!

Tullamarine Airport - ready to meet Dad

Tullamarine Airport – ready to meet Dad

The flight was over before we knew it. The plane took off and then levelled and as we settled in to read our books, the captain was announcing that we were coming into Launceston and the cabin crew needed to prepare for landing. My kind of flight!

After disembarking from the plane we hurried through the airport to meet Paul who had arrived in Devonport a few hours prior. He had then driven an hour to Launceston and set up the van before  hurrying to the airport to collect us.

The gang was glad to be back together again and very much looking forward to jumping into bed after such a long day.

We were also looking forward to commencing our Tasmanian adventure!

*Don’t panic people, Ben had follow-up treatment (including physiotherapy) when we reached Hobart and after further x-rays it would seem the bone has grown thicker than it should have near the fracture.  As a result he may require more treatment in six months time.