The Sturt Hwy from Robinvale to Mildura turns away from the River for much of the 88 km journey. It passes through Mallee scrubland and there is little agricultural activity until the outskirts of Mildura when grapes, citrus, olives and almonds return in abundance.
We are in Mildura for four days, there is much to see and also time for some feet up enjoying the town cum rural city. MIldura is the heart of the Murray’s irrigation heritage dating back to the 1880s when the Chaffey brothers arrived from America to develop the scheme. There is a Chaffey trail brochure that leads you around pin pointing many of the important sites, too much detail to dwell on here. There is a strong Italian and Greek influence in the region, including numerous pizza shops (there are around 50,000 people in greater Mildura and so the need for all the pizza shops). We did have dinner out at The Provence, an Italian restaurant with a good reputation and recommended by the restaurant we went to back a few days ago in Swan Hill. It was a nice meal. Allthego was very pleased with his braised goat and potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce. Homealone, a little disappointed with her choice of a sliced Italian sausage with kale in a creamy sauce pasta.
We had two special experiences in Mildura. The first being a cruise down the Murray aboard PV Rothbury, navigating Lock 11 beside the weir and then returning after cruising for awhile down the River, a very pleasant afternoon. Now Allthego and Homealone have been through a few locks in other parts of the world, throwing ropes and keeping boats in trim so it was pleasing to have someone else do these tasks this time! Also special because these locks on the Murray are the only working river locks in Australia. The way locks work seems to fascinate people and there is much chatter onboard, some more accurate than other, as to how it all works.
The second experience was getting our first glimpse of one of the spectacular river cliff lines that dot the landscape between here and the River”s mouth. It was out at Red Cliffs, a small town a few km outside of Mildura, where there are also a number of vineyards. Zilzie is one that we see in bottle shops in Queensland. A houseboat was cruising around the bend in the River making for an interesting vista.
We are staying at Buronga, opposite Mildura on the other side of the River, in NSW at a riverside campsite. Rather good spot and a great vantage point for sunsets along the river.
Our next port of call on this trip is Renmark. However, the Sturt Highway takes us away fom the River on a very direct route through the Mallee country. Prior to leaving Brisbane Allthego had scoured the maps and found what appeared to be an intersting alternative that followed the River on its twists and turns. The road is known as the Old Mail Road or the Old Coach Road and links Wentworth (just up the road from Mildura) with Renmark. The road passes by a number of the locks on the Murray, albeit off on side tracks to the River.
So we included this in the journey and headed off for a day trip up the Old Coach Road but back to Mildura on the Sturt Highway. All about a 300 km round trip, 160 on the Old Mail Road. Well the first half was on a pretty good gravel road and we got in to see Lock 9, (looks pretty much like the other locks and weirs we have seen) unfortunately further on Lock 8 is accessed from the other side of the River. After this point the road became a bit of a track dodging water across the road and muddy sections by diverting into the paddocks and then working back to the track. Slowed our advance somewhat. Also a little testing on the nerves.
Lock 7 was a bit of a disaster, a long drive along a dirt track to find the gate in locked! We diverted off to the side and found a good spot beside the River to have lunch. The River here was quite high and had flooded into the wetlands, trees were well under water, their roots getting a good drink. A pretty spot. We are about 750 km (as the River flows) from the its mouth over in South Australia, yet only 27 metres above sea level. We skipped Lock 6 on the approach to Renmark (where Lock 5 is) and headed back to MIldura. A long day getting back about 7pm. Not sure that this side trip can be recommended, but if you like a bit of a dash along gravel and mud through pretty non descript flood plain country then why not! Diversions to the River are rewarding and as we came into the outskirts of Renmark the fruit trees emerged, hectares and hectares of oranges , lemons, manderins etc.
So back in Mildura for our last night we went and had dinner at the Italian place mentioned earlier where Allthego had the braised goat. But before that we went for a short time to the icon of Mildura, the Mildura Club.
The Club originated as a colonial gentlemen’s club dating back into the late 1800s, although the Club’s current premises are early 20th C. A classic place, old bar area, fire places ablaze and darts about to be played. We had a chat with a Commitee member, the Club has about 350 members but only 40 or so really active ones. They are trying to revitalise the Club with some renovations, it has a squash court built in 1933, Australia’s first it is thought. It smells and feels like an old club too! What a great old institution for Mildura to have!
We are now off to South Australia and Renmark, considered to be the start of the Riverland region. It is where the Murray broadens, slows and meanders on its march to the sea.
Posted on May 29, 2022, in Murray River times 2022. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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