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Swan Hill for four days then on to Mildura

Beautiful Swan Hill on the Murray River

We had stopped off in Swan Hill twice previously, both occasions in 2010 and on both those occasions just for one night as we headed elsewhere. This time we stayed for four days and realised the error of our previous ways; this is a very nice little town. Indeed, we would have stayed longer on this occasion had we not already booked a site at Mildura over Easter when all parks were full and people altering their bookings at the last minute could find themselves missing out.

Our reasons for staying at Swan Hill were twofold; it was in the right place to break our journey from Halls Gap to Mildura and, more importantly, we have some wonderful friends living there.

Pam with Cath and Phil

Cath, Pam and Phil on the bank of the Murray in Barham.

We had met Cath and Phil Parry in Emu Park ... and will again. They were kindness itself to us while we were in Swan Hill, inviting us round for some of Cath's magnificent meals and driving us around the area. Phil has had an interesting career as an auctioneer in agriculture. Consequently he understands the country well making him a very knowledgeable tour guide. Due to his career experience and his friendly, outgoing personality he knows many people in the region.

Phil and Cath live in a new development in Swan Hill and at the end of their avenue is a tall, concrete water tower. This has been made into an attractive feature by lighting it at night with constantly changing coloured lights.

Water Tower by Night

The water tower at Swan Hill is illuminated at night with constantly changing colours.

There was one other rather sneaky reason I wanted to visit Swan Hill. Close by is Lake Boga where military flying boats and amphibians were maintained during World War Two. There is now a Catalina museum there with a complete Catalina on display.

Catalina Flying Boat

The Lake Boga Consolidated PBY Catalina. This version was a true flying boat, not an amphibian. Before bringing it ashore, maintenance engineers had to wade out to the aircraft with bolt-on undercarriage legs (seen attached).

The BIG 4 Caravan Park next to the Murray River was one of the best at which we've ever stayed. One novel feature was the inclusion of a café behind the reception office which served breakfast and lunch from Wednesday to Sunday and coffee and cake all week. Being beside the Murray, paddle steamers would cruise past from time to time and a crowd of youngsters would run along the bank immitating the steamer's hooter until the captain gave in and responded with a loud blast. Sometimes a distant hoot from another steamer would reply. That was the impression of Swan Hill with which we departed, a nice, relaxed, friendly town. Next time we'll stay longer.

Mildura and More of the Murray

Once again, meeting friends was a large part of our reason for visiting Mildura. Unfortunately the RiverBeach Caravan Park was chock-a-block within days of our arrival. Not people coming to see us, you understand. It was Easter, a four-day weekend followed by two weeks of school holiday. Yes folks, the place was full of kids - the closest thing to hell a geriatric can imagine. You know what a school playground sounds like when it’s full of yelling, screaming, crying kids? That was the RiverBeach. Bikes sped everywhere; there was even a battery powered scooter that went quite fast and was very silent. One boy bounced a ball, over and over and over, day after day. He only stopped when he was asleep – and doubtless he then dreamed of bouncing it. You would expect things to quieten down after dark and to an extent they did. However, seeing on the television that there was a lunar eclipse in progress I stepped outside at 11 pm, almost under the wheels of three high-speed scooters ridden by little kids. Notwithstanding all that, the lunar eclipse was well worth seeing ...

Full Lunar Eclipse

The earth's shadow was just starting to move off the bottom of the moon.

We were to meet up with three different couples in Mildura, none of which knew each other. First came Gavin and Jo Gittos whom we first met soon after leaving home in December 2004. We were camped close to one another in Tumby Bay, South Australia, during Christmas. It was later that we became friends when we drove into a drive-through bottle shop in Port Augusta and there they were, in front of us. We probably thought, "Can't be much wrong with these two." They were in the same caravan park as us so naturally, we got together. We've had a few reunions since then. This time they towed their caravan from Renmark and stayed for four days at the RiverBeach with us. Unfortunately work commitments prevented them staying longer.

No sooner had Gav and Jo left than a rescue helicopter flew low overhead and landed on the river bank adjacent to the caravan park.

Riverboat and helicopter

Yesterday and today. Paddle Steamer Melbourne chugs past the rescue helicopter.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter was not on an emergency and the crew of three stood around and answered questions from the curious campers from the caravan park.

Meanwhile, back in the caravan park and right next to our caravan, an area of dirt was being cordoned off ...

Crime Scene

        ... and in the centre was an axe and a severed hand.

Some of our neighbours were expecting friends with whom they had a rather curious relationship. The scene was a sort of welcome for them in retaliation for previous occasions when the boot had been on the other foot.

Rio Vista

Between the Apex RiverBeach Holiday Park and the town of Mildura is a grand old house which is inextricably linked to the town's history. Rio Vista was built in 1890 by two Canadian brothers, George and William Benjamin Chaffey (pronounced 'Chaify'). The Chaffey brothers arrived in Mildura in 1886 following the establishment of a successful irrigation scheme in California. In Mildura they developed the first irrigation scheme in Australia though things didn't go smoothly for them. I'll leave the details of their story to others and concentrate on Rio Vista (Spanish for River View).

Rio Vista

Rio Vista, overlooking the Murray. The red objects around the fountain are artificial poppies;
the aim is to display 1,000 on ANZAC Day (25th April). They were up to 500 on April 9th.

Rio Vista was occupied by the Chaffey family until 1950. George had returned to America in 1897 but William Benjamin - always known as WB - remained. His first wife gave him six children, though the sixth baby and its mother both died soon after the birth. One of WB's children had drowned in 1897 when, still a toddler, he climbed into the basin of the fountain. WB had the fountain drained and removed. It was later installed in the town and a replica built to replace it in front of Rio Vista.

Original Fountain

The original Rio Vista fountain, now a memorial to the Chaffeys, in the centre of Mildura.

WB Chaffey later married his first wife's niece and they produced another six children. He died in 1926. On the death of Hattie, WB's second wife, in 1950 the house was purchased by the Council for £18,000 and converted into an art gallery. The house suffered in the process of conversion but today it is open to the public and slowly being restored to its former glory.

Road Sign Confusion

Traffic Lights

We wanted to turn right. The arrow on the bitumen pointed right, the sign said RIGHT LANE MUST TURN RIGHT. Okay but ... the next sign bans right turns! Then comes a KEEP LEFT sign! A red sign warns STOP HERE ON RED SIGNAL then the last sign repeats RIGHT LANE MUST TURN RIGHT. Does it really mean it this time?

Disabled Sign

Here's another confusing sign. I'm referring to the left one, (the right one has been 'Photoshopped' by me). Starting at the top, the green P is stating that parking is permitted and beneath it are the conditions.

The wheelchair image and the word EXCEPTED are stating that everyone except disabled drivers can park there. Below that, the sign insists that all parked vehicles must display a blue disabled label - which only disabled drivers should possess. So, I suppose, NOBODY can legally park in the bays concerned.

The image on the right is how I believe the sign should look.

Well, Mildura Rural City Council, is this sign nonsense or what? I suppose your parking attendants could book anybody who parked here, disabled or not.

Yes, okay, everybody probably knows what the signs really intend but that doesn't excuse the relevant department from making a hash of it. Might be fun to get booked for illegal parking and see what a court would make of it.
Off to renmark for lunch with Gav and Jo

I mentioned Gavin and Joanne earlier on this page when they stayed with us at Mildura but I didn't show a photo of them, so here they are now. Good looking pair, aren't they? And both have a lovely personality to match. Really nice people.

Jo and Gav

Jo and Gav at the Renmark Hotel.

Mad Bastard Cab Sav

What was in the bottle? I knew you'd ask. Well, after a few minutes, nothing at all, of course. On the wine list we'd found a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon called Mad Bastard and with a name like that we couldn't resist trying it. Then, finding it quite palatable, we tried some more ...

The reason we went to Renmark on this occasion - we had stayed there previously - was all about a Turbo Oven. Pam had talked about getting one for a while but hadn't had the opportunity. Then Jo very kindly said that, as she didn't use hers much since they'd bought a new caravan with a built-in oven, would Pam like it? Pam said she would love it if Jo was sure. The next problem was how to transport it, and what better way than for us to visit Renmark, have lunch with Gav and Jo at the Renmark Hotel restaurant and bring the oven back with us?

And so it came to pass, and we made the acquaintance of the Mad Bastard on the left into the bargain. Why his head is in a cage is a matter of conjecture. Anyway, we had an extremely nice day out and although Renmark is 145 km from Mildura, the road is practically dead straight and the surface is good. The only excitement on the way was caused by four emus standing on the edge of the road, milling around, trying to decide which car to die under. They didn't choose ours, fortunately, as the speed limit was 110 km/hour and that's the speed at which we were travelling.

Of course, as with Swan Hill and Mildura, Renmark is on the Murray River and more of those glorious old paddle steamers give passengers a taste of days gone by as they chug along the river.

Phil, Dawn and solar energy.

Phil and Dawn live in Mildura. We've been good friends since we first met at the bizarre Daly Waters pub in the Northern Territory ten years ago. Our friendship has been renewed many times as Phil and Dawn have the lovely habit of popping up when we least expect them. During our time in Mildura they have been kindness itself to us, showing us Mildura and its surroundings. On this occasion they drove us out to see a revolutionary solar power station project.

Solar Power Station

The demonstration 1.5 megawatt Mildura Solar Concentrator Power Station at Carwarp.

This very expensive trial was sponsored by both the State and Federal Governments. The plan was to build a 100 megawatt plant, increasing the present forty reflectors to over two thousand.


The picture on the right shows one segmented reflective 'dish' made up of 112 curved mirrors focussing the sun's rays on the concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) module suspended in front of it. The dish tracks the sun throughout the day and the combination of mirror profile, mounting framework, and solar receiver delivers concentrated solar energy to each photovoltaic module. The tracking mechanism allows electricity to be produced during the day whenever the sun is more than 5° above the horizon. Due to the intense heat developed in the photovoltaic module, cooling water is supplied to each. The unique active cooling design increases reliability to produce the highest output power and increased cell life.

When we visited the Carwarp plant it was deserted, the reflectors pointing at the horizon despite the sun being high in the sky. This demonstration plant was commissioned in 2013 but the project was abandoned in August 2014 due to lack of commitment to clean energy by the Australian Government and the uncertainty of the Renewable Energy Target in Australia.

It seems that millions of dollars have been spent on developing and building this scheme. Then, having been commissioned and proved capable of generating clean, renewable energy, it has now been shut down because our political masters don't have the courage of their convictions.

Don't worry, taxpayers, if they weren't wasting your money on this it would be something else.
Lock Eleven on the Murray River

Closed Lock Gates

The upstream lock gates are closed against the water, the height of which is shown by the wet mark (arrowed) on the far wall. The gates are designed so that the harder the water pushes on the far side, the more firmly the gates close.

Open Lock Gates

Moving back down the lock, the downstream gates are fully open, recessed into the lock wall.
In this mode, the lock is ready to receive a boat sailing upstream. And, guess what ...

PS Melbourne enters

... here comes the Paddle Steamer Melbourne for a lift up to the next level.

Flooding the lock

Once in the lock, the downstream gates are closed and water from the higher level rushes in through huge
underground pipes, churning the lock water wildly as the level (and the boat) slowly rises.

Top Lock Gates Opening

Once the levels equalise, the upper lock gates slowly open without a ripple and hinge back flush into the walls,
ready for the P.S. Melbourne to depart.

Melbourne Leaves

With a piercing shriek on her whistle and a plume of steam, Melbourne's paddles begin thrashing the water
as she slowly accelerates forward, soon to be lost to sight around a bend.

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