There’s No Fish in the Murray

It was clean, quiet and sociable as most free camps are and we also had the company of a few resident pelicans. I don’t know what they ate. It can’t be fish as having had a line in the water for hours, I can say with some certainty, there are no fish in the Murray River.
We departed at a reasonable hour, well after those on a schedule had gone and 15 ks later we were in Victoria. An hour after that, we arrived in Mildura and I took the opportunity to buy some fishing tackle and long-life bait. Now I know what you’re thinking, if there’s no fish in the Murray why do I need bait?
As it happens, one of the stops will be on the Murrumbidgee River and I have it on good authority, there are plenty of fish there.

Tearing Out The Tow Bar

Everywhere in Australia is a long way from everywhere else, so we generally try to get at least a week in between assignments for ‘free-camping’. In this case we had to get ourselves 1,000 kilometres (600 miles on the old scale) in two days, which by Australian standards is nothing much but with our dodgy old camper and a heavy trailer, there is an element of risk involved.
On our wanderings on some roads that could more easily be described as bituminized tracks rather than roads we came across a few places, well a lot actually, where they forgot to put up the ‘dip’ sign. You must know them, you are driving along ‘dumb fat and happy’ well I was anyway, when the front of the vehicle takes a short sharp dive, followed by an upward surge as your seat tries to swallow your bum and your lower jaw seeks out engagement with your navel.

The Bridge That Doesn’t Meet in the Middle

The bridge that doesn’t meet in the middle. One of the big benefits of our plan to Travel Australia house sitting is being able to spend time exploring areas that we might otherwise just pass through. Beechworth was one little town we wanted to see to experience the ‘time capsule’ effect that seems to be associated with the town. From our base in the village of Ned Kelly’s ‘end of the road son’ nightmare, Glenrowan, Beechworth is only a half day excursion so we only set out at lunch time and it seemed no time we were there. Beechworth panorama

Beechworth panorama” by Taken byfir0002

It’s only 40 ks or so from the ‘capital’ of the area, Wangaratta and the first surprise was the presence of a lake in the middle of town.

For some reason this apparently insignificant detail was absent from the information I gathered before we set out. Lake Sambell came as a bit of surprise and although it is clearly a distinguishing feature and a little hard to miss. From what we read, it was a pit where gold was mined and later filled or allowed to fill in the 1920’s. It’s not like it’s something new that has just been overlooked and there’s a nice little caravan park too as one would expect. Beechworth S1The town was interesting enough and there’s a fair bit to see around the area but we were really only there to give it the ‘once-over’.

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Operation Destroy the Dam

Operation destroy the dam. In this, our second Travel Australia house sitting assignment, we had seen a lot of bumper stickers around Glenrowan about saving the lake, ‘SAVE MOKOAN’.
It was only to be a few days before we knew what they were on about.

The focus of much of our attention initially had to be in Wangaratta as this was ‘town’. Here we could find the supermarkets and other services one needs. I spent some time with the mechanic and a few trips to Bunnings for knickknacks to be used in upgrading the van and trailer.

It’s actually not a bad place with a population of 17,000 substantially larger than the nearby Benalla to the west.

If you can’t find what you need in Wangaratta another seventy kilometres to the north Albury Wodonga with a combined population of 100,000+ it has most offerings of larger cities.

We made the trip into town maybe twice a week and the mechanic loaned us his car while we worked on the van. Overall the van was much improved during our stay as we gradually found and eliminated small problems and rattles. We fitted extra sound proofing and re-cut carpet, filled door panels with insulation and lots of other little titivations.

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Glenrowan and Snow On The Mountain

Our previous and first Australian house sitting experience in Armidale did us a favour in our acclimatization to cold weather which was a jolly good thing because if we expected it to be cold in Victoria in winter, we were not to be surprised. It takes at least a couple of hours after dawn for the sun to warm the house through the big East-facing windows and when the snow on the distant mountains reveal their true white brilliance, you know it is safe to venture out into the garden.

Glenrowan sunrise SNot that we had to wait for the sun to warm the house as the reverse cycle air conditioner did the job very well.

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Sliding The Bus Down The Hill

We’d been talking by phone of course and Ian gave such generous directions I almost immediately took the wrong turn driving down a rather intimidatingly steep, wet and slippery dirt road. Naturally the trailer, being the head-strong twerp that it is, wanted to get to the bottom first and applying the brakes was to invite disaster.
Another kilometre further and the few numbers to be seen on property fences were getting smaller, so clearly we were going the wrong way. As the rain continued to fall, it quickly became apparent we needed to turn around our small ‘bus’ with trailer and tackle ‘the hill’ and get back to the turn off.
A few anxious bum-clenching minutes later we had slipped, slid, skidded and spun our wheels to the top and back onto the main road where we were met by our now mystified host in his 4WD, who then led us to our sanctuary for the night.