G’Day Mate! Here we are again ‘down under’ . . . on the Murray River, Australia’s longest river, over 2500 km. long, from the Australian Alps across and down through three states (New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia) to empty into the ‘Murray Mouth’. (Great Australian Bight or Southern Ocean).
When we planned our trip to Australia, there were several things we considered as “must do’s” . . . and the Murray river paddle wheeler trip sounded like a good one. The only other paddle wheeler I had seen in action was the old ‘Samson’ out of New Westminster, B.C., that serviced buoys and navigation aids up and down the Fraser River.
The trip was offered by ‘Captain Cook Cruises’, a three day cruise on the Murray River in a stern wheeler. We had just flown into Adelaide from Melbourne and there was a little confusion about if someone was going to pick us up, or where we caught the ship. Several phone calls from the airport information ladies and a hair-raising taxi ride caught us up to the bus. . .waiting patiently for us at the station. We had some sarcastic and hilarious greetings from the other passengers for keeping them waiting, and some tricky explanations and apologies on our part for the delay, and we were under way. I think as soon as they heard we were from Canada, they cut us some slack. We neglected to tell them we hadn’t just arrived from Canada, but had just flown in from Melbourne. A long drive to Mannum, the start and finish location for our cruise. The “Murray Princess” was waiting for us.
Before long, we were all checked into our staterooms, small, but adequately equipped rooms, and we were immediately underway. The river scene was beautiful, calm, quiet waters, surrounded by Gum trees and weeping willows hanging from the banks. The river was populated with other recreational boats and houseboats along the shore.
Miles of the ‘River Red Gums’ along the river banks, as well as the numerous white trunks of the ‘Coolabah’ trees. Ah . . . remember the song ‘Waltzing Matilda’? . . . where our ‘jolly swagman’ camps by the billabong, “under the shade of a coolabah tree”? Well there certainly are a lot of them . . . just another of the over 700 varieties of Eucalyptus trees in Australia.
The first evening, we all met in the dining room for dinner, a lovely, delicious meal served very elegantly with the staff all wearing white gloves and looking very proper! The ship carried on during the meal, and we continued into the evening . . . a quiet cruise in the dark, eventually reaching Craignook, where we pulled into the river bank and tied up to a tree.
I laughed at this move, as many boats (ships) that I have had experience with cannot get away with a move like that. The shallow draft of these boats, and the fact they are stern wheelers, allows them to just pull in somewhere, and a crew member steps off and throws a line around a big Gum tree. I’m sure there are a few rules involved, but we all thought it was an interesting manoeuvre.
The following morning, we were treated to a fabulous breakfast, lots of variety and a lot of that delicious Australian coffee. I must say, they really know how to brew a good ‘cuppa’ down under.
Shortly after breakfast, we had a sort shore excursion, complete with nature talks, checking out the kookaburras and other birds.
As we continued up the river, we passed miles of yellow and orange cliffs along the shore, inhabited by thousands of small birds, nesting in the cliffs.
Throughout the trip, we encountered Sandpipers, Ibis, Egrets, Herons and Cormorants, as well as the noisy Kingfishers.
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