After breakfast, showering and getting dressed, we dropped Chilli dog off at Tracey’s parents before driving 80km to Echuca. Located on the banks of the Murray River and Campaspe River in the state of Victoria, the Aboriginal name for Echuca means ‘Meeting of the Waters’ and is kind of indicative of the role that the rivers have played in the town’s existence. Once we’d found a parking spot, we made our way to the port to organise our tickets for a paddle steamer boat ride. The port is home to the largest paddle steamer collection in the world, which includes the world’s oldest operating wooden hulled paddle steamer, the PS Adelaide built in 1866. Kept being called ‘young ladies’ by the lady in the kiosk, which (obviously) delighted us both, as we followed the deckhand, Alan, down the ramp towards our boat – P.S. Pevensey. Built in 1911, the P.S. Pevensey was a new design in riverboats with capacity to carry cargo as well as tie barges. One of a handful of paddle steamers that haven’t sunk to the muddy bottom of the Murray River, the P.S. Pevensey has been fully restored to carry tourists up and down a small section of the river. In its hay day, it held it the record for the most amount of wool carried out of the Murrumbidgee river (2000 bales in boat and on Ada barge).The boat ride itself was quite calm and peaceful, with the occasional engulfing cloud of steam if the wind changed direction. The paddles steamer still had its original layout and they had reconstructed some scenes in the room so you could see what it would have been like ‘back in the day’. It also had a sensory system so when you stepped into each room there was a little commentary about it… The Irish guy sleeping was a particular surprise!The steam ride lasted about an hour and we disembarked, had a look around the outside museum which had working parts of the paddle steamer engines so you could see what they actually looked like. A quick visit of the gift shop, resulting in two pressed coins for the price of one thanks to the broken machine! Headed outside to the ‘town’ which still has many buildings from the Victorian era. Spotted a very random tree that people had nailed flip flops to – some broken, some new but most with messages on. Was slightly concerned at first that it might have been a memorial to those who had drowned in the river but as we went around, we saw the usual ‘x woz ere’, ‘call ___ for sex’ and other timeless witty comments…The Murray Darling river system was Australia’s main artery of commerce in the late nineteenth century and the paddle steamers were its workhorses. Therefore, Echuca was a bustling town and the high street is still lined with original shop fronts from Victorian times. Over 100 paddle steamers, many of them built on the banks of the Murray, plied the waterways, rowing barges laden with wool, wheat, timber and other goods from the forests and pastoral attain and delivering people and goods back again. The shops tried to maintain the illusion of the historical heritage, with horse and cart rides being offered next to a shop were you could take Victorian styled photos in costumes.We stopped into the wine shop for some free wine tasting (as you do!), sampling a range of local wine – white, red and fizzy – before finishing it off with a bit of port (only me as Tracey was driving!). The drinking made the stop at the fudge shop next door slightly more expensive as, after the free tasting there, we both got ourselves some fudge… Headed further down the road to the chocolate shop, where I got lured by the sales lady to try the chocolate liqueur – I’m sure they are all in cohoots about intoxicating poor foreign tourists as I handed over $25 for my own bottle of chocolate flavoured port with a free bar of chocolate!!! Fortunately, the butchers weren’t giving out free samples and the sweet shop that proudly displayed a sign advertising British sweets had none… A look around a couple of book shops – I still miss real books – before getting back in the car and heading back to Shepparton.
Picked up Chilli dog, chatted to Tracey’s parents for a bit before having a dinner of left over noodles, cheese, bread and dip. All was washed down with copious amounts of alcohol whilst we chatted the night away on the sofa. 17 days to go!!
Saturday 18th June 2016