After a day of bright sky and warm sun, we said goodbye to Hay with clouds building up on the horizon. It was a short 200km drive down to Echuca on the Murray River.
Echuca is a large town on the Victorian side of the Murray, with Moama, also a large town, on the opposite, NSW bank. The border between the states is actually along the southern bank of the river, so you can be sitting with your fishing rod on the Victorian bank, catching NSW fish. Before federation in 1901, the two states had customs offices controlling traffic across the river. These days restrictions like that only happen during covid pandemics. But that’s another story.
The weather darkened the further south we went and the rain arrived at about the same time we did. The temperature also dropped a good ten degrees. As far as we were concerned it was fff..reezing. And although we’d brought coats and jeans we weren’t prepared for cold. So, we went off to the nearest Big W (a cheap department store) where we bought some warmer clothes.
That done, we booked into our motel. It had been a long several days, the weather was awful, and the town was full of Victorians enjoying a long weekend we hadn’t known about. We stayed in and watched Rocky IV (a truly silly movie) on the TV. Dinner was a handful of cheds and cheese slices we’d bought at Woolies.
By the next morning the clouds were on their way and the weather warmed. We went down to the Beechworth Bakey for breakfast. It’s in a lovely old building on the banks of the Campaspe River, a tributary of the Murray. We had a egg, bacon, and cheese toasted sandwich with excellent coffee in a lovely setting. We’d be coming back tomorrow morning, hopefully with fewer people around.
Breakfast done, we hit the tourist trail and bagged a parking spot beside Echuca’s old port. The precinct has been preserved as it was, with its dirt main street and old buildings beside the wharf where paddle streamers transported goods up and down the river. It’s a pretty spot, with lots of river red gums amongst the Victorian and Edwardian buildings. Flocks of yelling corellas live in the big trees on the opposite bank, swooping over the water and landing on waterlogged branches for a drink and a bath, all adding to the character of the place.
We’d been here several times before, the first being in 1996. We stayed overnight in one of the old pubs, complete with creaking floorboards and rickety stairs. It was great fun wandering around the old wharf. Because of the inevitable floods, the wharf is built high above the river’s normal height, so getting down to the old steamers can be an adventure. Or used to be. These days, everything’s fenced off. It’s a shame.
In 1996, having never been on a paddle steamer before, we decided we had to go on a one-hour trip on the river in the PS Pevensey, It was a particularly windy day but we didn’t think that would matter. Pevensey’s boilers heated, the paddles turned, and the captain set off a little late. The vessel covered not even a hundred metres when she was blown onto the mudbank a little past the wharf. And there she stayed. The captain clambered over the side and slushed through the mud to fetch a plank, which we all used to disembark, a truly unforgettable experience. We got our money back. Nine years later we did an overnight cruise on the EmmyLou for my birthday so we didn’t feel the need to go cruising again.
These days, people can hire a powered houseboat to do their own Murray River adventure. It would usually make a lovely holiday. I’m sure that’s what the group of nine ladies, several pregnant, thought when they hired a houseboat for the long weekend. All went well until they encountered a group of twelve young men on another houseboat. Here’s what happened.
And that, folks, is why women need their own safe places. If the perpetrators are tourists they should be chucked out of the country.
For dinner that night we availed ourselves of the club’s courtesy bus to visit the Moama Bowls club. Clubs in these places offer meals at reasonable prices. As it happened, we spent a few dollars on the poker machines – and did rather well. But rest assured we know it’s a mug’s game.