We were in Goulburn by 8am to get fuel and off along the Hume Highway soon after.
Our first stop was The Long Flat Pantry, a café which has a growing reputation despite being in the single horse Jugiong. It sits beside the old pub, which despite the kegs on the verandah is either abandoned or badly cared for. It had looked sharper and loved when we last visited in 1978!
The café was packed! There must have been fifty people in various stages of breakfast or morning tea, many of them in recovery from the night before. He showground, which we intend to stay at on our return from Victoria, was similarly robust in its patronage. Whatever Jugiong has got going for it, bypassed by the highway and seemingly time, it must work.
The country from her to Wagga was full of those lovely rolling hills so typical of the Southern Plains and hasn’t appeared to change much since my first visits here in the late 1960’s: rolling hills of fertile pasture, happy cows (according to Sue) and the feeling of it being a never ending stretch of contentment.
We stopped at Wagga Wagga for lunch, in a public space down by the Wagga Beach – a bend on the Murrumbidgee where the local council has formalised what has always been a hand out for the locals on a hot day. There was evidence of much work being done to improve the space even further, with pavilions and seating under construction.
We dropped our chairs on the bank a hundred metres from the main public beach section and enjoyed the slight breeze on such a warm day for spring (low thirties). A guy floated past with little on except panic when he realised he was in the strongest section of the current and started swimming diagonally across it for the near bank. He disappeared around the bend and it wasn’t until I had finished my sandwiches than he came walking past rather disconsolately.
|Red Wattlebirds - mother and fledglings|
The real treat was discovering we had set up our seats about ten metres from a pair of Red Wattle Bird fledgling, who were clinging to a low branch, while mother came and went with food for them. She fed them alternately, much to the chagrin of the one having to wait its turn each time. Back and forward she came while the little ones held on for dear life in a freshening breeze. I managed to get some shots of the three of them.
Having done the bulk of the day’s driving before lunch - a pattern we have adopted to take advantage of Sue’s back being at its best in the morning - we drove the remaining hour and half to our campsite into a strong north westerly wind. While we had managed 11.7 kms/100L in the morning, we were closer to 15 in the afternoon.
Our campsite for the evening was at the Five Mile Reserve, where the tar ends on the Old Wagga Road, east of Narrandera. Located on a fat tributary of the Murrumbidgee, Bundidgerry Creek, it is a typical riverside free campsite which can be found along the rivers of eastern Australia: casuarinas, red gums, dirt and lots of ducks, galahs, corellas, Willy Wagtails, ravens and waterski boats. It was mid-afternoon on a public holiday so who could blame the locals for taking advantage of the temptation of the water. Seemed to be two families who were courteous and left the area spotless, waving as they left.
I had my first driving mishap on arriving, taking a turn too sharply around a tree and just clipping the bark with one of the latches that hold the roof down. Running repairs were effected but I’ll need some hardware supplies when we go through Narrandera in the morning.
The last three or so hours until sunset were spent swimming (Sue) and taking photos and writing (Peter) and then sitting beside the river, watching its moods as breezes came and went and birds settled in for the night. Grey clouds rolled in during the last hour and the wind picked up. Rain and winds gusting to 50kms/h were predicted on the last weather forecast I saw before we dropped out of range so we placed ourselves in an open clearing away from the trees and hunkered down to ride it out.
Postscript: winds blew up to 60km/hr during the night and about 6mls of rain fell. We were okay, but the young family at the other end of the reserve had their fun. I saw him up and about re-pegging their tent at about 2:00am. Fond memories but I don't miss it!