The locals say the water is much better than it used to be, Jill and Geoff, the artist and farmer, who live in the beautiful Original homestead of Talmalmo Station and run Talmalmo Cottage, where we are staying, say that there are less carp than there used to be, so they must be doing something right. "In 1994, when we moved here, I was caught 90 cm long carp, really big ones, regularly. You don't see them anymore." I remember those carp from my childhood. The carp took over the Murray in the wet years between 1974 and 1976, when we had some of the biggest floods on record and a constantly high river. When the river went down to its normal level again, the banks were littered with dead carp of around a metre in length. We reasoned that, unable to forage on the floodplains, there was not enough food for them to eat and they starved. I can still remember their rotting corpses. There were too many to clean up. The riverbanks stunk. We didn't go near them again for months. Why the large carp persisted for another 20 years in the Upper Murray is a riddle to me: perhaps the constantly changing water levels in the Hume dam provide them with a niche environment which they are able to exploit better than any other fish. Trout Cod have been sighted again and the river is regularly stocked with juveniles of trout cod, murray cod and rainbow trout. These are all predators which would enjoy young carp as a meal. The pelicans, standing where the river shallows, like to catch the carp as they swim upstream, though some are too big to tangle with. Leaving snags in the river causes swirls which create holes in the river bed, including deep holes in which the predators like to hide. So although carp may travel up the Upper Murray from the Hume, it is a dangerous place to breed.
Talmalmo's School Bus Driver / Racing Car Champion.
The winding river road on the NSW bank is home territory to rally car champion, George Fury. Fury, also known as 'farmer George' was multiple times Australian Rally Car Championship, twice runner up in Australian touring car championships and the holder of pole position in the 1984 Bathurst 1000. Racing biography. When not racing cars, George was a school bus driver. Source. I'm sure the ride to school was an interesting one.
If you have the opportunity to get out of your boat and explore the Upper Murray valley by road, then travel to one of the many lookouts and take in the magnificent views of Mt Kosciusko and its companions. They form an impressive bulwark at the head of the Murray Valley: sentinel guardians of a river that provides nutrients and life to so many in its three month, two and a half thousand kilometre journey to the sea. It feels like a pilgrimage and I suppose it is one of sorts to see these mountains. From the lookout near Tintaldra, they stretch further than the eye can see. Kosciusko is so high, it has formed its own clouds and was hidden by the rain within them. Almost all of the water that flows down the Murray comes from the high country, rainfall and runoff is much lower on the plains. This is unusual for a river. It heightens my appreciation of the water that I have been kayaking on in the Upper Murray these last few days. This is all there is, there isn't anymore. We now have the job of sharing that water with the seven or eight million other people who depend directly, or indirectly on its water, produce or life giving properties.
Sitting on the balcony of our riverside cottage, watching the sunset, the stars rise and the river travel ever further towards the sea, I already have a plan to return, to accompany it on that journey once again. It is always a privilege.