We woke up to a chorus of birds and watched the sun rise over a misty Murray River.
Richard brought me a cup of tea in bed so I could kick back and watch the river flowing gently by. Once out of bed, I enjoyed a beautiful morning yoga practice by the river while Richard explored the bush.
Diving into the cold muddy waters of the Murray was breathtaking but fabulous! Our first ‘bath’ in days. Scrambling out of the river we were left with rich mud between our toes – I hear it’s good for the skin? It was to stay there for the next couple of days!
As we dried off in the sun we watched the ant colony near our tent slowly come to life, with hundreds of bull ants busily going about their work. It was time to pack up and leave this peaceful place and head for Echuca.
I was pleasantly surprised by Echuca. Despite it being a busy tourist town, it had a lovely welcoming air (and the coffee wasn’t too bad either!). Clydesdale horses hauled coaches filled with excited tourists down the main street whilst others sat around and enjoyed the beautiful Victorian spring morning.
Echuca is an Aboriginal word meaning “Meeting of the Waters” which describes the important role rivers have played in the town’s existence. Echuca is at the junction of the Goulburn, Campaspe and Murray Rivers. And as the river town closest to Melbourne, it a thrived as a river port city during the 19th century.
The industrial boom led to a rapidly expanding population, at one stage in excess of 15,000, with more than a hundred pubs rumoured to exist in the Echuca district at one time. Not a bad pub:person ratio!
One of Echuca’s claims to fame is that is has the nation’s largest collections of Holden cars, in the Australian Holden Car Museum.
While the Holden certainly holds a special place in my heart (my first car was a 1974 Holden Belmont) we didn’t take the time to visit the museum this time around.
With General Motors closing its manufacturing base in Australia in 2017, the Echuca museum will be important to preserve the Holden name (so synonymous with Australia) in our memory.
Although we missed the Holden museum, Richard did venture into the town’s camping shop and emerged quite shell-shocked, which is amazing for a hardened gear freak.
I still haven’t asked him why but the sign out the front may explain a thing or two?
We left Echuca and headed east along the Murray Valley Highway (B400) which we were to stay on until we hit the snowy mountains alpine region. The ride was spectacular, with rich agricultural land all around us. Blossoming cherry trees and other fruit trees made for a picturesque journey.
We stopped briefly for water along the way and met a guy in a wheel chair who showed us the scar and indent in his head from a serious motorcycle accident. Why do people love to share these stories with us?
The highway wound down through fertile land and wheat farms gave way to beef and dairy production around Yarrawonga. We soon were in Rutherglen, home of Australia’s fortified wine growing area. A large sign proclaimed ‘Sydney may have a great harbour but Rutherglen has the best PORT!’ Richard was particularly excited by a ralley of vintage Citroen cars driving through the town.
I had to do some paperwork in a bank and after stuffing around in Wodonga in Victoria we discovered everywhere was shut for the AFL (football) Grand Final the next day. WTF? Stupidest thing ever! So we had to cross into the far more enlightened and cultural state of NSW 6km away where they don’t shut the economy down for a sporting event. In fact there was a huge parade happening in Albury for the opening of an ARTS centre. Case made!
As we were leaving, a local woman asked where we had ridden from to which Richard replied “from Sydney via the Northern Territory”. Now that impressed her!
We continued East still on the B400 (we picked up just across SA border) and sped towards Australia’s alpine area. On the way we passed Old Tallangatta which was deliberately flooded by an artificial lake and ponds by the construction of a large dam. Drowned, dead trees still stick out of the water like tomb stones.
Kilometres of fabulous rolling hills and bends were heaven after thousands of kilometres of straight road. Around Corryong we had our first glimpses of snowy mountains, complete with snow. Such a contrast to the desert and heat we had travelled so far through.
We decided to take the North route through the Kosciuszko National Park due to potential snow conditions on the southern road.
We had to ride the last part in the dusk which was dicey as there were lots of wallabies grazing on the side of the road and wandering wombats. Hitting one of these little critters would be like running into a low brick wall.
After crawling along for half an hour we found the perfect camp – a rest area with table, grass and a toilet (total luxury). Complete with the sound of an alpine creek flowing nearby. We realised how much colder it was here especially after the heat of the outback. Thermals to bed for the second time this trip!
We set up camp quick sharp under millions of stars. Our typical great dinner – couscous, haloumi, peas, almonds, sultanas and rocket washed down with wine – we rough it in the wild – not.
Warm in bed. Total silence bar the whispering creek.