Monday, 7 January 2013

Day 10: 1261 to1191 km to the sea: Beach campsite - Boundary Bend -Beach campsite

Day 10: Tuesday 27/11 
Beach campsite - Boundary Bend - Beach campsite
River markers: 1261 to1191 km from the sea.
Distance travelled today: 70 km.
Total distance travelled:  521 km.

The calm before the storm. What I thought might be heavy vehicles on a highway turned out to be a series of slow moving thunderstorms. Packed up camp quickly and had brekky after 20 km. — at Downstream from Wakool Junction.
This morning I awoke as usual to the sound of bird call that comes with the dawn. I would rather have stayed in the comfort of my sleeping bag a little longer, but I knew that a late start puts pressure on the day. As well as that, I wanted to visit Boundary Bend. That would take some time. So I got up. Everything seemed normal, except that there was a frequent rumbling in the background, like cattle trucks passing over a corrugated road. It happened so often that I thought I must be either near a highway, or a major stock route. I packed up my tent, sleeping bag, mat and all the things I had in my tent, placed them in the boat and settled down to get breakfast ready. One of the things I like about beach campsites is that I can pull the boat up to where I am camping and use it as a seat. It is also much simpler with cooking because everything is there. I have a pretty simple set up, all my camping gear is in the back of the boat and all my food is in the front. Camping gear packed, I sat on the bow of the boat and began to prepare brekky and lunch. The rumbling changed. It got closer. Ok, no truck. The sky darkened alarmingly and a sudden strong wind scattered dry leaves from high in the canopy all across the river and through the air. Not good. Plan change. Action stations. I tipped out the metho I had only just filled into the burner of my trangia and lit it to burn off the rest. Metho leaves food tasting disgusting if you allow it to spill. I hurriedly finished preparing lunch, half a carrot, a chunk of Kraft cheddar processed cheese, a chunk of salami, a tomato and a tube of vegemite; filled up my snack hatch with bananas, peaches in syrup and mixed nuts; donned my raincoat and packed everything away as fast as I could. The lightening was getting closer. Rain would fall any moment and I wanted to keep my gear dry. I just pushed off the shore when the first heavy drops fell.

Trying to get away from thunderstorms is difficult when the river keeps doing snakies.

The rain kept coming, so, nothing to it but to keep on paddling. — at Murray River, near Boundary Bend.

I had not had brekky, but reasoned that I could snack on the way once the rain stopped. I noticed that the thunderstorm was very slow moving and had a notion that I might be able to paddle away from it. If the bends in this area of the river were not so big and if they did not double back on themselves as much as they do, I might have stood a chance. No hope, as soon as I seemed to be paddling away from the storm, the river took me back. Some of the bends around here are 7 kilometres long and when your done with that there is one of a similar size going the other way! So, whether there were several thunderstorms, or whether I just kept paddling with all my might into the same one is beside the point. I was wet on the outside from the rain and wet on the inside from the exercise. About three kilometres from Boundary Bend the rain finally stopped. 

I beached my boat by taking a run up at the shore. I like doing this because if I am lucky I can step from my boat onto dry ground and its fun :). The Murray Valley Highway runs through Boundary Bend. After 500 kilometres of virtual isolation and almost only forest, the activity of the highway was quite a contrast. I decided that I could not go dripping wet into a shop and ask for an icy pole. I had to dry off first. 

River landscape. — at Murray River, upstream of Boundary Bend.
River landscape. — at Murray River, upstream of Boundary Bend.

River landscape. — at Murray River, upstream of Boundary Bend.
Boundary Bend, where Major Mitchell crossed the Murray.

Reception was excellent, so I used the time it took to dry to upload some photos. I also took a look around. Boundary Bend is not a big place. It is also not as cosy as Tooleybuc. It does have a petrol station and its own street, a dirt track, just off and parallel to the highway. It also has river pole art. This kind of art originated in Mildura (I believe) and consists of painted and sometimes carved bollards from old wharfs. The one in Boundary Bend is of Captain Arch Conners, which is fitting, because he lived here up until his death in 1981 in his home on a bend in the river. He called his home 'Blighty'. Arch Conners was one of the last river boat skippers on the river. He was famous for his knowledge of the river and river lore. He could tell whether a boat was approaching by the way the ducks flew overhead, or that a paddle steamer was ahead from the way the water behaved. He owned many boats in his time, including the Fairy, the Canberra and the Etona. Despite the busy and often frontier nature of the river trade, Arch strove to be a good family man. he kept Sunday free for church and family. As well as having strong moral fibre, Arch was famous for helping stranded families in the Murrumbidgee area in the great floods of 1956. he steamed as far as he could up the Murrumbidgee - no mean feat when it is in flood - and took supplies or rescued stranded families. My father spoke very highly of Arch Conners and interviewed him before writing his first book on paddle steamer history, 'Riverboat Days'. He was also part of a group of people who purchased the Canberra from Mildura, before selling it to the Echuca council back in the 1970's. Another Echuca partnership, including Phill Symons, purchased the Etona. So Echuca has links to Boundary Bend. 

Murrumbidgee Junction. This water comes all the way from Thredbo, passing through Canberra, Wangaratta, Hay... — at Murray River, near Boundary Bend.

I walked into 'town' and identified the main street. There was one business there, serving as a post office, take away and restaurant. I wandered in there rather than the flash looking petrol station and was rewarded with not only my icy pole, Big M and a pie, but also some wonderful conversation from the lady who ran the shop. She knew an awful lot about the river. She knew the names of the cuttings and how far away the sand bars were. Peter Garfield (Captain of the Canberra and Emmy Lou in Echuca), told me that there are still Conners in Boundary Bend and that they run the shop. Later I noticed an uncanny resemblance between Arch Conners face on the river pole and in my charts and the lady in the shop. I reckon she was Arch's granddaughter - river royalty. As well as telling me how many people had died on the river and checking that I was aware of all the dangers, she told me that every chance she gets out in her tinny with her husband. They fish, have BBQ's on the beaches and sometimes see how far up the Murrumbidgee they can go. Without prompting, the lady said that she did not work every day, she kept Sundays free.

Arch Connor, river boat captain and I, over looking the place where Sturt crossed the Murray.
Boundary Bend: Main Street. Next to Murray Valley Highway.

Boundary Bend: Other Street.

Original cottage: Boundary Bend.

Two other highlights of the day were seeing the Murrumbidgee junction and the Tala Rocks. The Murrumbidgee is one of Australia's great rivers, yet when it enters the Murray it is not much wider than a stream. It had a good flow though and bolstered the current in the Murray, much to my pleasure. In high river times, paddle steamers traveled over 1200 kilometres up the Murrumbidgee, at least as far as Gundagai. It is hard to imagine that now. The water that flows from the Murrumbidgee is clearer than that of the Murray. The river boat captains used to refer to the times when the water in the Murray was clear as 'bidgee water' and when it was not so clear as 'Murray water'. Rivers are always changing.
Just the spot to take a break and get out of the heat. Downstream of Boundary Bend.
Yungera Station: overlooking the river.

At Tala rocks, aborigines used to trap fish in woven nets. It used to be a drawing in every Australian history book. I believe it was also key evidence in the legislative fight for native title. The Australian constitution did not recognise the right to ownership of the land by any native people unless they showed that they worked the land. Because of Australia's climate and lack of suitable species for planting en masse, or animals which could be herded, aborigines were largely hunter gatherers, moving with the seasons. The fact that they had managed our land without the massive species loss that has occurred under white man did not count in the eyes of the law. There needed to be evidence of 'working the land'. The Tala Rocks fish traps was one of those examples. It's example helped establish a fairer society in Australia.

Campsite Tuesday night. — at Murray River, downstream from Boundary Bend.

More from this expedition:

  • Google+  Murray River Paddle Echuca To The Sea Photo Album
  • Facebook Murray River Paddle
  • YouTube Murray River Paddle

More information about topics from this page:
  1. Discover Murray: Captain Arch Connors
  2. Travelling Australia: River Trade on the Murray-Darling System
  3. Travelling Australia: Murrumbidgee River

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