Friday, 10 October 2014

Days 21 & 22 - Mildura

PS Melbourne at Port of Mildura dock
Day 21

A long chat with new acquaintances Ziggy and Heather this morning which led to an interesting moment. After finding out I had bipolar, Ziggy highly recommended an episode of Conversations, with Richard Fidler, they had listened to, only a few days ago, as it was all about someone's struggle with managing bipolar.

Imagine his surprise to find out he was talking to that someone! (Conversations with Richard Filder)

Not feeling at my best owing to an increase recently in medication, our day was a little limited but still enjoyable.

We went first to Lock 11 and had lunch in a lovely park beside the Lock. A Whistling Kite sat high up in a Red Gum, looking for food and then took to the air, calling as though lonely in its pursuits.

Driving back along Hugh King Drive, we were in time to watch a paddle steamer arrive and disgorge it's lunch time crowd and were disappointed at not being able to book an evening cruise. Numbers drop dramatically in this post school holiday week.

Not far away we found the Mildura Arts Centre which currently houses a very attractive sculpture exhibition.

Rio Vista House
Attached to it in a rather unusual marriage, is Rio Vista, the original home of William Chaffey, one of the Chaffey brothers who establish Mildura. Its a Queen Anne style building with internal staircases leading off in all directions giving a multi-layered affect. Original tiles and wallpapers are in dark and sombre hues, in keeping with the deep red wood furnishing and staircases. Its not until you reach the upstairs bedrooms that light comes into the house and balconies from these rooms look over the Murray only a few hundred metres away. An interesting feature is a room in the basement, designed for entertaining and with a sprung floor for dancing. The springs have long since given way and the floor is now convex along the short sides, such that you walk uphill to the middle of the room and down hill to the other side.

We did some shopping which was limited by our inability to carry fruit and vegetables into South Australia but by this time I was feeling to unwell to do much else, so we returned to camp and had a nice evening with Ziggy and Heather, talking about life and our part in it. Ziggy is a fascinating fellow. He came to Australia from Poland before the age of three and owing to one of those silly family fallings out, he lost touch with his family back in the home country. It wasn't until recently that he has been able to reunite with cousins and second cousins who he didn't even know he had. It's an extraordinary tale, quite apart from the life he and Heather have made for themselves.

Sometimes you just get lucky with who you meet.

Day 22

We wandered into town - eventually - with Sue heading to the shops to by presents and browse, whilst I went to the library for the free wi-fi  and updating this journal.

A couple of hours later ... I met Sue at a cafe and she showed me all the specials she had found and little presents she bought me from the second hand bookshop. We did some forward planning, booking the Kangaroo Island leg of our journey and then went looking for a few more items. Sue took me back to the bookshop - Boomerang Book Exchange - where the cheerful Jenny made us feel right at home. Earlier, when Sue had gone to purchase some books, Jenny had apologised to Sue for not being able to offer Eftpos facilities because the bank had not delivered on a promise to deliver a replacement machine. Sue, being Sue, went to the bank and made a polite fuss (as in James Bond, nobody does it better) and on our return, an hour or so later, the new machine had arrived and was up and running!

This was one of the better second hand bookshops I have visited, with clear organisation of sections - something sadly lacking in most - and quality stock. We each picked up a few happy bargains.

We returned back to Lock 11, with it's well cared for park and displays explaining the ecology and machinations of weirs and locks on the Murray River. We were in luck, as a paddle steamer appeared, heading back upstream, so we were able to witness the operation of the lock. As luck would have it, the public address system on the paddle steamer we watched go through the lock was loud enough so that we received all the information those paying customers on board listen to. Most helpful.

When Alfred Deakin went to California in 1884 on a fact finding mission as the Victorian Minister for Public Works, he was able to attract American brothers, William and George Chaffey to Australia to sate his passion for irrigation. The brothers were given large land grants in the Mildura area in return for a guarantee of three hundred thousand pound investment in developing irrigation for the Murray. Using a system of weirs and locks, they were able to regulate the flow of the river to maintain a constant supply to agricultural endeavour, instead of the boom/bust nature of any river's normal flow. Within twelve months, the town, later city of Mildura was underway, with an initial five hundred residents. The rest, as they say ...

When the Murray Weir was constructed, the problem arose of how to maintain river traffic, which was the life blood of commerce before roads or railways became established freight links. To get around this, a canal was constructed which cut of the bend of the river where the weir was constructed and a lock installed. A lock is simply a large bay, with doors on either end, which allows river traffic to move between the two levels of the river created by the weir. Lock eleven uses no pumps, but instead simply opens valves to allow the passage of water from the high side to the low or the release of water on the low side allow the bay to be filled or emptied with water. Very clever, very simple. We watched several paddle steamers and house boats make the transition both before and after walking around the "island" created by the canal, so we could view the weir.

Pelicans and Darters were doing a roaring trade in the turbulent waters immediately past the sluice gates on the down river side of the weir.

A quick visit to the Information Centre - oddly after we had finished our sight seeing - and then some final supplies and it was back to the caravan park for sundowners, this evening with a completely new set of neighbours. It still takes some adjustment when you overhear Sue and I being referred to as "the young couple next door".

Into South Australia tomorrow and the much anticipated Naracoorte Caves National Park.

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