My mate gave us a good tour of the countryside, showing us the big old estates that lined the roads. These great places formed and forged out of the wilderness by people that came and claimed vast tracks of grasslands to graze sheep when this was a wild country.
Most of them in the Rutherglen area went on a building spree at the turn of the century, adding towers and turrets and fanciful additions in anticipation for an official visit from his royal majesty crown prince Albert Edward. The landed nobility and gentry went crazy in a feverish preparations for a visit that never came. Queen Victoria died and the trip was cancelled.
But the grand houses remain.
From the grand houses outside of Rutherglen, we headed into the ‘Home of Federation’ – the river town of Corowa to stop at the old flour mill in town. These little old flour mills dot the landscape, much as they do the US countryside…or at least those that haven’t burned to the ground over the year – the scourge of flour and grain dust.
This one has been turned to sweeter uses. Rather than making flour for cakes and cookies, it has been turned into a chocolate factory. A rather tasty endeavour. It was a good mix of history and sweetness. It is good to see history preserved.
Then it was off to the farm.
It was now mid-afternoon, right at the heat of the day with temperatures hitting in the mid 90′sF. We had a bit of afternoon tea (a little water and some biscuits – or cookies as good Americans would call them).
“What do you say we take the boat out?” My mate’s dad said over his afternoon tea.
Which is just what we were hoping for.
It was a great classic ski boat, long, sleek, modern, and powerful. But taking it out required a little bit of work. There was the untarping the inspecting, and little cleaning and sorting that needed to take place. Then there was packing the essentials – the eskie filled with beverages and a big chunk of cheese (more on this later), putting some towels in place, the fishing poles and tackle were ready and a few other odds and ends.
With a nod, we were off and down the road heading about eight miles to the landing on the mighty Murray, it was quite a little caravan with two utes, a boat, two Aussies and three Americans.
I don’t think anyone was happier that fine afternoon on either bank of Murray.
When we reached the little landing on a backwater off the main branch of the Murray, it was already packed, mainly with fishermen after the elusive Murray Cod. The boat was launched from the concrete ramp stuck in the midst of the sticky red clay which stuck to our feet and filled the spaces between our toes as we worked to get the boat off the trailer and prepared for fun.
For someone that has lived two years in Australia, it was exhilarating to finally be on the mighty Murray River. It truly was a river of legends. Diving the rival states of New South Wales and Victoria and born from the misty mountains of the Australian Alps, it is like some mythical beast. In truth, it is the barometer for the health of the country, ebbing and flowing depending upon the state of the land – drought or flood. Combined with the Darling, which joins it farther downstream, it is the lifeblood of the nation and the major artery like the Mississippi, the Danube, the Volga, or the Nile.
With the top down, my mate hit the throttle and we set down the Murray, setting birds flying into the tops of the big river gums that lined the bank. It had that feeling of adventure, of freedom, of excitement, with the band of water, the big trees, the wildlife, and the fast boat.
We crossed under a low bridge and then put the top up, giving us a little more room and a little shade.
On the main channel, my mate really opened her up and we skimmed across the churning waters of the mighty Murray. In the warm Australian air, the wind and the freedom felt good. I looked back at the smiling facing of the Australian and two Americans in the back seat. Something about a fast boat on a nice body of water on a fine day that just makes people feel happy.
Turning a bend, a nice sandy shoreline lay dead ahead. This was to be our destination: a nice quiet place under the shade of big river gum trees to cool our heels. We pulled the boat up into the soft wet sand and disembarked.