Monday, February 15, 2010

- The Murray River & The Barossa Valley -

The Murray River begins in the Australian Alps carving its way through 3 states ending in South Australia, that's a total of 2756 km! Its an amazing river and not knowing enough of its history encouraged us to get our Murray River Experience. We decided on the small township of Mannum to visit as it was the birth place of the iconic paddle steamers that transformed the Murray into a virtual river Highway back in the 1850's. The history of the region is amazing with dramatic floods, engineering marvels and typical Australian outback hardships of the time. In more recent times the draw card to the river is the holiday option of hiring out your own houseboat.

When we arrived it seemed like any outback town lining the banks of the river, however the longer we spent in Mannum we were immersed into the unique style of the region. The Paddle steamers are now a thing of the past, however the local historical society have rebuilt PS Marion to her formal glory, built in 1897 she is the last remaining wood fueled paddle steamers. We took a look around the boat and they truly are like no other, the powerhouse in the middle burning the wood to build up the steam to rotate the massive paddles on either side of the boat through the water.

(The Paddle Steamer Marion.)

The towns all along the river use the local transport which is by ferry, they're free and were well used by us when we took a drive out along the banks to some outlying towns. The dramatic cliffs carved by the water over time were a constant reminder that the river was once a lot bigger than it is today. We also took a tour on a little boat and it brought home the fact that this river is in fact in a bit of trouble. The water level has dropped over 2meters in the last 3 years with over extraction being the main cause, and that between the 3 states the river runs through, they're not using equal amounts or allowing enough water to flow downstream. This is resulting in many changes evident to us during our short stay effecting not only all those who use the river, the river itself is showing signs of stress. So without getting into a political story, we recommend if your travelling through, stop in and see the Murray River Region and help out the locals. The river is their lively hood and if the river continues to be exploited the way it is, the unique way of life maybe lost for good.

(Ferry crossing the river)

(Murray Princess)

After a interesting stay of 2 days in Mannum, we headed off towards Adelaide. Not before stopping in Birdwood to visit the National Motor Museum. It was an amazing showcase of cars that had Bren excited at every turn, everything from racing to vintage, to Eco friendly, to the outback feats made by hardy trucks and hardy Australians.
Adelaide is a nice city,and being a Saturday we had a look around the main shopping malls and then out to the local markets for a look around. There doesn't however seem to be a lot of appeal to Adelaide. Yes the beaches are nice, which we checked out on a drive out to see Port Adelaide. the main attraction for most is the festivals which occur there, however we were a few weeks to early and were more interested in enjoying the wine at the Barossa Valley. So after a Day exploring the city and they coast we headed back out to the Barossa, camping the night on its outskirts at the tiny town of Williamstown.
The Next day being Valentines Day, seemed like a perfect day to visit and sample the local drop. But where to begin?? There were so many to choose from, In the end we decided to go to the ones we knew or liked the look of and we'd call in... we were a little early at the Jacobs Creek Winery, so we enjoyed a coffee. However come the next winery we visited we got right into the swing of things. We called into Chateau Tanunda, built like a castle on sprawling grounds surrounded by rows of vines its hard not to want to spoil yourself! We sampled a few whites and bought a bottle for later and then it was onto the next! We went to the likes of Yalumba, Cockatoo Ridge and eventually it was lunch time and we called into this quaint little building home to Charles Melton Wines. We sampled the signature reds, and ate a glorious lunch on the Veranda it was beautiful! And afterwards bought a few bottles to send back to Perth!

(At Chateau Tanunda. Barossa.)

(Yummy Lunch!)

We then decided it would be best not to spend too long in the Barossa, for fear of draining the bank account and headed north west passing through the little town of Freeling made famous for the TV series McLeod's Daughters. Eventually we arrived in the baron town of Port Pirie and camped for the night!! What a day and so glad to know that we'll have special bottled memories of it waiting for us when we get home!

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