The Murray River is Australia’s longest river at 2,500 kilometres. Its source is in the Australian Alps, draining west of the highest mountains, and it meanders west across the plains, forming the border between Victoria and New South Wales before turning due south at Morgan, South Australia, and empties into the Indian Ocean at Lake Alexandrina near Goolwa.
We began our ride along the Murray from Peter Arnold’s farm in Barmera after enjoying his hospitality for two days. Peter picked us up on the highway just north of Morgan and invited us to stay with him. Peter rode with us from his place for a short while as we headed north to ride around Lake Bonney on our way east to Renmark.
We didn’t like the look of the roads on the south side of the river. Mostly highways and busy with traffic, so, we chose the lesser travelled track on the north side from Renmark to Wentworth, a two-day ride across the Mallee.
The Mallee is a vast, flat, dry landscape home to emus, kangaroos, lizards and a few hardy souls on sheep stations. Explorer Charles Sturt said in 1833: it is “…as barren and unproductive as the worst country we have passed through.”
It was a beautiful ride on gravel roads and dirt tracks. We saw only a few vehicles and met just one man, Paul, who stopped by our camp in the morning and kindly gave us a 3-litre container of frozen water that slowly thawed in the heat and was a welcome addition to our meagre supply. Paul was on his way north to round up feral goats. He rides a dirt bike and his five dogs do the rest as they drive them into makeshift corrals. The goats are then shipped off to be butchered and, according to Paul, the meat goes into the restaurant trade or is exported. The government pays him to rid the land of these feral goats as they are not a native species and damaging to the ecology.
The most frustrating thing about it, though, was that we hardly saw the river and were thwarted from several attempts to get near it by fences. It wasn’t until we arrived at Fort Courage that we were able to camp beside the river, after two days on the Rufus River Road.
From Wentworth, we picked the smallest roads off the beaten track we could find. It was lovely cycling through riverside forests and small, secondary roads. The last two days, the wind diverted us from the Murray River as we faced a strong head wind that was not helping us. Instead, we rode across farm land to Manangatang and into Swan Hill the following day.
We were hosted by Sally and Rick. We had met Sally’s sister, Karelle, in the Flinders and she had kindly invited us to stay with her sister. Sally and Rick welcomed us warmly into their home and we spent two nights with them before taking the train to Melbourne.
We had planned to ride as far as Echuca and take the train from there but the trains were not running for four days due to a bridge repair. Buses were put on instead but we were not allowed to take our bicycles on the bus. We had no choice but to take the final train from Swan Hill prior to the four-day stoppage. It pays to be flexible.
Here are some photographs from our journey through river country from Barmera to Swan Hill.