Friday, November 14, 2014

Houseboat Heaven

It was time to take time off, but first we had a BBQ with Colin who flew in for a few days to see how the project was going.  Roger had just gone off nights, so we were able to make dinner and have a visit.  Quite a change for Roger who was getting used to eating dinner at 7 a.m. when he came home!
Colin seen sitting; Standing left to right:  Jake Stratford, Craig Stratford, Roger  
To avoid having to borrow Craig's vehicle again, I checked to see if there was a bus service from here to Mildura and there is ---- it runs once a month.  But as Craig says, "it's a regularly scheduled monthly service!"  So, thanks to Craig, we had wheels to get to where we chartered a houseboat for 5 days.

The only other time we went houseboating was probably 25 years ago on the Shuswap in British Columbia, where houseboats are used more often for partying than sightseeing.  

On this trip, we rented the houseboat through MurrayDarling Houseboats in Wentworth which is at the confluence of two very long rivers:  the Murray (over 1550 kms long) and Darling (over 900 kms long).

Roger was given a really good orientation with the owner of the company before we headed out on our own
The houseboat had 2 bedrooms, 2 half baths and 1 shower, and was better equipped than a lot of the rental apartments we've had over the years.
We headed up the Darling River for the first night, and saw many more species of birds than on the Murray.  While chatting with Roger's mom, we saw two kangaroos hop by as we cruised past them.
Sheep grazing along the Darling River were prevalent and they too, sought shade
Moored for the night along the bank
Sunset seen from the top deck
Huge pelicans kept following us up the river and they were fun to watch as they landed on the river like planes on a runway
It was a scene right out of "The Birds" seeing hundreds of pale yellow parrots squawking and circling over us
They landed in several trees and we never saw anymore of them for the rest of the trip
The Murray River is often called, The Mighty Murray, but it was pretty meek and mild.  Apparently its water management has not been well regulated over the years and we saw many farms using it for irrigation.

Despite the temperatures nearing 40C, since we didn't see anybody swimming in the river, we didn't either.  The river is quite murky because it has a very muddy bottom and tangled tree stumps are hidden from view.  I'm partial to seeing what's in the water with me and since returning to Balranald, we've heard tourists over the years have died when swimming where it wasn't safe.

Watching to see what the locals do and don't do has served us pretty well on our travels.
Where the Murray and Darling Rivers meet
The bridge at Wentworth had to be raised for us to pass under.  This involves planning as an ambulance has to be sent over to the other side of the bridge in case there is a medical emergency while the bridge is being raised and lowered.
The bridge at Wentworth being raised for us to pass under
It seems that many people in the area own houseboats instead of cabins --- some were beauties, and some were definitely homemade and probably reflected their owner's personalities.

This one is called "Tin-Tanic" and even has an outhouse off the left hand side
This has GOT to be a bloke's boat

With nowhere to stop and eat or shop, we had a whole lot of time to relax.  Fortunately we had stocked up on great food, beverages, and our travel Scrabble game so we were well equipped.
Daily Scrabble game on the top deck
The Murray may be muddy, but it was calm as glass and provided a canvas to show the reflection of the sky and trees.

Sunset on the Murray
Picture perfect morning
Roger fishing off the back of the houseboat
Roger caught a carp, which is a pest fish -- so while we didn't eat it, he had fun catching it!
Relaxing in the jacuzzi with an iced Bundy and coke.  The fatigue from working nights literally drained away.
The trees were magnificent, with exposed roots that defied keeping trees upright let alone surviving in the extreme heat.

The bird in the foreground is perched on the stump cooling off with his wings outstretched.   
Parts of the Murray had red sand hills -- all of it was very dry and you can see how people fear catastrophic 
fire days where rural schools are shut down.
Each sunset was unique and breathtaking
The stars were so bright we felt we were in a snowglobe and nighttime was peaceful until it got very noisy -- but not from rowdy partiers.

The birds that we found interesting to watch during the day became extremely boisterous for several hours at night.  Some sounded like babies wailing....others sounded like monkeys in the jungle....and others cackled.  I forgave the kookaburras because...well, because they laugh.
Back under the bridge at Wentworth to drop the houseboat off
For us, the few days cruising the Murray and Darling Rivers were all about relaxing.......having fun being on a boat........ and doing something a little bit different during our time in Australia.

Check....check.....and check.

"A vacation is having nothing to do...and all day to do it in."
                                                                                         Robert Orben

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