Our route today took us further north and back to the Murray River which we had left as we drove eastward from Meningie. Majella’s research had revealed little to distract us for the first few hours so our plan was to drive through with as little delay as possible.
Departure time was set for 8:30 am and Warwick drove us out of the motel just ahead of schedule. We filled up with fuel and then attempted to find the house in which Bob Hawke had lived as a child. A sign pointed us to the street but there were no obvious indications beyond that. We drove up and down the street and saw several houses but no sign to indicate which one we should be looking at. Nobody was desperately interested so we drove on out of town.
The only settlement between Bordertown and Riverland is Pinnaroo so that was our target for morning coffee. It was about 90 minutes away over sealed but occasionally bumpy road. Initially the countryside was grazing land but that gave way to mallee country and a large conservation area before we returned to dry farmland as we approached our coffee stop.
Pinnaroo was more substantial than we had expected and it was evident from the quality of some of the old but disused buildings that it had been busier and more prosperous in the past. On the way into town somebody noticed a sign promoting a bakery which we expected would have coffee. We parked nearby and were soon enjoying coffee with a variety of goodies. By the time I got in, Majella had ordered our coffees and a scroll bun which would have been enough for us but once we saw that the bakery had won a prize for its vanilla slice I had to have one of those too.
I finished my coffee quickly and while others finished theirs I stepped out to take some photos and check the Mallee Tourist and Heritage Centre across the street. It had displays of farm and printing machinery and we could have had a discount for our group of 10 but when I returned with that information there was no great interest in the museum. Instead we went for a stroll along the main street before getting back in the van to continue up the road.
Much of the country north of Pinnaroo was cultivated but many areas looked like sand dunes and not far short of the desert that some of the material we consulted last night had described. Eventually we reached the Riverland area of the Murray Valley. The first indication was the quarantine bin into which a sign instructed all fruit not purchased in South Australia and accompanied by an itemised receipt should be placed. Fortunately our fruit was permitted and we drove on.
At Loxton we drove toward the riverside to see the Tree of Knowledge. Our first stop was by a green grassy space on the river bank and several in the group were so impressed that they wanted to go buy fish and chips for lunch and bring it back to eat by the river. The tree was further along so we drove there first and found a large gum tree with the flood levels for key years marked on it. That appeared to be the extent of its knowledge.
By then we had decided it was too early for lunch and that we could hope to find a similarly attractive site in Berri so we drove on. Parking was easy in the main street of Berri and there was a takeaway store nearby. We bought food there with the intention of eating by the river but ultimately ate it there before driving on. I found time to walk the short distance to the river where I found a cafe with a deck overlooking the river.
At Renmark we easily located our accommodation, which is a Boats and Bedz houseboat moored on the river. We were suitably impressed with the space and comfort of the boat. It has a full kitchen with dining and sitting areas, rooms with double beds, two bathrooms, a barbecue on the rear deck and an upstairs covered area.
The boat is within easy walking distance of the town centre so we walked into town for essential supplies and returned for drinks and nibbles. Dinner was barbecued sausages with salad and trimmings. While we cooked we enjoyed the sunset and twilight on the river with fish jumping and pelicans patrolling.
After dinner we watched as much of the budget presentation and analysis as we could bear. In some cases that was not much. After that it was relax and then to bed. There is nothing planned for tomorrow so those who prefer to avoid the forecast minimum of less than 5°C might sleep in.