Brenden and I have been very fortunate to have had some great travel experiences in the almost 20 years that we have been travelling together. One of the best holidays we ever had was a week we spent on a Murray River Houseboat way back in January, 1998.
The Murray River forms the border of New South Wales and Victoria. It is the longest river in Australia at over 2,500 kilometres. For much of the early years of Australian settlement, the Murray River was the only way to get goods in and out of inland Australia. 1000’s of paddle-steamers plied their trade up and down the river taking supplies to settlements and farms up river and then bringing the wool clip back down. As the dry season approached and the river levels dropped this could test the abilities of the riverboat captains to their limits. Sometimes the boats would misjudge how quickly the water levels were falling and would end up stuck upstream until it rained up north and the water levels rose again.
We had no such problems when we went on our trip . The river was very full at the time, so it had obviously been a good season. There were about 18 of us that went on this trip so we had two boats. Our boat was really big and very comfortably equipped. It had a good kitchen, two double bedrooms, two sets of bunks and a sofa bed in the lounge area. Houseboats have very low powered motors on them which means no licence is required to pilot one.
We collected our boats at Wentworth, a small town which sits on the junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers, on the NSW side of the river. Life on a houseboat is slow. In a week we had enough time to travel upstream to Mildura and then turn around and come back down to Wentworth.
We also took with us a speed boat as we were all mad water skiers and 3 jet skis plus a tinny. Our daily routine was fairly simple. We travelled in the middle of the day about 3 to 4 hours at the most, then found somewhere to tie up for the evening and skied and swum until night fell.
Dinner was easily prepared in the kitchen and on the outdoor BBQ. Everyone was up early of a morning for more skiing and swimming. Our friends who we shared our boat with had three little girls and they had so much fun. Often they just floated on tubes tied behind the boat as we cruised along. A game of cricket between the two boats was perhaps not so successful. There were lots of trips in the tinny made to retrieve the balls!
NEGOTIATING A LOCK
One thing you will have to negotiate if you travel on the Murray River is the series of locks that raise and lower the river level. We only had to negotiate one lock which was mid way between Wentworth and Mildura. Locks and weirs were installed along the Murray River to control water storage and provide distribution facilities. Most of the locks were constructed between 1922 and 1935. The locks are controlled by lock masters and open several times a day to allow boats to pass through. Navigating them is a fairly simple procedure if you follow the directions of the lockmaster. It was certainly an interesting experience to watch and be a part of. You can find more information on the Lock Passages HERE.
When we reached Mildura we needed to replenish our grocery and fuel supplies. We found that there was a supermarket (I think it was Woolworths) in walking distance of the river. We were also pleasantly surprised to discover that they were happy to deliver to the house boat. Of course this may not be the case now but it was great service at the time. We all had a good laugh when we got back to the boat and discovered that the petrol station had also delivered the fuel for the ski boat!
Although this holiday was a longtime ago now, it is one that I still have really fantastic memories of. We would really love to do a similar trip again in the future. It is an experience we would highly recommend it to anyone who wants a very relaxing break away. The scenery is fantastic and there are plenty of places to stop and swim or fish along the way.
Do you have a favourite holiday memory? Where was it and how long ago?