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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 12 Oct 2011

Location: Renmark

MapRobe was so typical of all the seaside towns wed visited over the past two weeks. A lifestyle that obviously involves every aspect of the water jetties with people fishing, picnic areas of cushioned grass and sheltered barbeques, lookouts from every elevated vantage point, foreshore walkways and bikeways, and cafes with outdoor dining. With so much to see and do around the town, very little time was spent actually at the caravan except for sleeping.
When the time came for moving on, it was sad to say goodbye to the sea, for we were to head north and inland. The road ran through the Coorong National Park, a hundred kilometre stretch of coastline consisting of shallow saltwater lagoons separated from the sea by a narrow stretch of land called the Young Husband Peninsula, the northern tip of which forms the mouth of the great Murray River. Our aim is to seek out the Murray, and follow it for as long as we can before our homeward ferry voyage beckons.
A transient night was spent at Tailem Bend on our journey north, and unlike our previous choices of caravan parks where some scrutiny was taken, we pulled into the first one we came across. What a contrast! The location was sublime, with a view over the magnificence of the river from a vantage point on a cliff top, but the standard of the facilities had taken a dive. I had noticed that the sign at the entrance to the park had been altered, where the wifes name had been crudely scratched out from beside that of the husband. The condition of the toilet, laundry and camp kitchen was obviously missing that female influence. The harsh traffic sound of trucks on the main highway out of Adelaide had replaced the gentle sound of surf. The dusty excuse for a roadway laid in a haphazard design around the park lead us out of the park the following morning.
The river looked healthy from the perspective of the sheer amount of water. Having heard in recent years about limited water flows down the Murray due to drought and irrigation, I expected to see a relatively narrow river in its death throes so close to the sea. The view I saw from Tailem Bend was one of a swollen stretch of water with submerged trees and bushes as if the river had burst its normal banks and invaded the floodplain.
The drive north continued, through Murray Bridge, Mannum, Bowhill, Swan Reach, Blanchetown, Waikerie, Barmera, and on to Renmark. Each of these towns are on the banks of the Murray River, progressively further away from its mouth as we journeyed upstream. In Bowhill, we were invited on board a riverboat, hired by two New Zealand couples escaping the Rugby World Cup for a seven-day cruise on the Murray. This vessel was like a floating luxury hotel, with everything to make for a fantastic holiday while viewing the Murray from a different perspective. Another one for the Bucket List.
These few hours of driving have really made me feel like a Tasmanian, where the roads have curves and they wind their way around hills and mountains. The roads in front of me today are dead straight, only broken by the occasional undulation where the road reappears a little narrower than before. The land is flat, so incredibly flat. It seems so strange to look out and see that the only reason why the horizon is where it is, is due to the curvature of the earth. Like being at sea. Its an alien terrain to a Tasmanian. Its reassuring, however, to catch a glimpse of the mighty river to our left, seemingly showing us the way more reliably than Sharon the GPS.