Australia’s Murray River Paddle-wheeler

Part 2

Just a few words about our ship.  The P.S. Murray Princess is the largest paddlewheeler on the Murray River, and actually the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.  She was launched in 1986, and is based in Mannum, where she operates 3 and 4 day cruises, and sometimes a 7 day cruise.  As the climate and water depth in this location can be unpredictable, it is not always certain whether she can clear under the bridges, or even navigate the river.

The Murray Princess at home at Mannum from Author Ian Kent
The Murray Princess at home at Mannum

She is just over 1500 gross tonnes, 220 feet long, 49 feet wide, with a depth of just under 4 feet.  She is powered by 2 Scania AB Diesel 6 cylinder engines, powering hydraulic pumps, which can drive her at about 7 mph.  With 5 decks, she has 60 cabins, which include inside, outside, and limited mobility staterooms.  She even has a spa, gym, sauna, and laundry room, but who needs those when you have the great Australian outdoors all around us?

One of the lovely features we enjoyed on board was the double story elegant PaddleWheel Lounge, which has floor to ceiling windows looking out on the enormous paddlewheel, as it churns up the river.

“PaddleWheel” Lounge from Author Ian Kent
“PaddleWheel” Lounge
Our Stern Paddle, churning up the river. from Author Ian Kent
Our Stern Paddle, churning up the river.

Later that afternoon, we took off for a twenty minute excursion in a small 20 passenger launch.  It was fun and very interesting as we had a continuous commentary on local nature and river lore.  The weather was sunny and fair, about 30 – 35 degrees . . . perfect! We were soon back on the ship, heading down the river for “Piggy Flats”.

            Other vessels on the river:

After dinner that evening, we were treated with some entertainment by the crew.  Great vaudeville routines, skits and recitals.  The Chef, Ian, did an entire rendition of Cinderella in spoonerisms – Hilarious!

The crew’s vaudeville show from Author Ian Kent
The crew’s vaudeville show

The next day, just before we reached the Murray Bridge, we moored and walked up to the “Pemberuk” Aboriginal Culture Centre. We were treated with a talk, movie and live shows of traditional dance and music.

There was some fantastic didgeridoo playing.  At one point, I was invited up on the stage to try it, but I don’t have the lips and control for it.  With the didgeridoo, you not only have to perfect the lip vibrations to make the sounds, but eventually you have to learn “circular breathing”, a technique where you never stop playing, you must breathe in and out without interrupting your music.

I thought I would steer for a bit from Author Ian Kent
I thought I would steer for a bit

Later that evening we all prepared to say farewell to our shipmates and new found friends.  During a fun ‘Happy Hour’ and another lovely meal, a photographer was cruising from table to table, trying to immortalize all aboard with photos. 

Ian and Diana down under from Author Ian Kent
Ian and Diana down under

We found it particularly difficult to say goodbye to Yvonne and Keith Lovegrove, our new-found friends from Perth, far out on the western side of Australia.  Yvonne and Keith visited us in Vancouver, Canada, several years later, and we enjoyed giving them a brief tour of our sights.

Yvonne and Keith friends of Author Ian Kent
Yvonne and Keith

Over the years, we have made many friends and what I like to call ‘cultural contacts’, locals who can provide so much insight and knowledge to your travels.  Keith was an interesting individual as he was converting his home to a complete solar energy one.  The last time we talked, he was over halfway there.

I have found over the years that the friends, hotel owners, restaurant and guest house families and others we have meet in other countries have always been there when I need some information about their country, their language, or their culture . . . or just some tips about when is the best time to come . . . or just to say ‘Hello!”.  This is one of the main benefits of travel . . . Some international diplomacy . . .an example we should all try to experience.

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