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We are now three weeks in Australia and still having fun. We planned the track from Bendigo to Echuca along secondary roads. At first nice low mallee forests, later narrow, one lane roads, in straight lines, like a grid on the map in agriculture areas. Here the problems were obvious: the only green colours were the native trees and the green painted doors. The fields were all brown and yellow. The cattle and sheep tried to eat the last dry grass and ponds were dry. This is the time the farmers have to sell the cattle as it impossible or too expensive to feed them. There are farmers even making a business of it. Upon the prediction of the arrival of the El Niño, they sell in advance for high prices all their cattle. When the land is dry they buy the cattle again for bottom prices, expecting the weather will change soon to more favourable conditions. Now we get slowly more understanding for the high prices. In the good years the farmers have to save for the bad, dry years, just to survive. Everywhere properties are for sale. In Elmore we hit the main road again and here we see a few water trucks. That water must be expensive. Upon approaching the Murray river the situation is better. The Murray has murky water and meanders 2700km through the land. Sometimes the river is wider and forms lakes, excellent for recreation. We crossed the Murray river and left Victoria and are now in New South Wales.

We illegally crossed the Fruitfly Exclusion Zone, a bizarre line on the Australian map where you are supposed not to take any fruits or vegetables with you. We had 4 potatoes so we could be fined. But throwing them out of the window is no solution either.
This Australian paranoia with fruitflies surprised us many years ago but is still going on.
If here was no Murray River, it would be desert here. Echuca is a nice town, but hot. Too hot for Birgitt. The pool is excellent for cooling off. We have two options: to the West, direction Adelaide in South Australia, where we never have been, but probably hotter or to the east to the cooler mountains, where we have been a few times. In the west is Mildura an interesting town in the desert, just fed by water of the Murray River, but extremely hot. Birgitt does not hesitate a moment, we must go to the cooler area's.
Mariska has lots of fun in the pool, the is not afraid of water. Sometimes she tries to explore the world on her own

She refuses now usually to sit in the buggy, but likes to push it. That goes rather slow of course, so we take the time to walk.

Before we set course to the east, we visit Echuca. It is a very interesting town, a century ago one of the biggest inland harbours in the world. Shipping was the way of transport before roads and railroads were built. Still a few original paddle steamboats operate on the Murray river. A picture shows the oldest in the world.
The harbour is almost in its original state. Somehow people forgot to destroy those houses and they are now a touristic centre. Woodworking was shown as well. Red coloured River Gum was made into nice souvenirs by a wood turner, The wood is dark red and when polished, feels smooth and hard as glass. All kind of artefacts and antique machinery were on display. A remarkable, now forgotten technology was the 14 hp. water pump which pumped the right quality water for the steam machines. But the water under pressure was used as well to drive the hydraulic cranes in the harbour.
There was a nice Mediterranean atmosphere there; with regret we had to go further, to the cooler west. The plan was to stop at a lake in the Murray river.

The trip was initially not much different from the day before, dry, yellow and brown fields and green trees. Interesting is that all native trees in Australia have small leaves, many seem to turn from the sun. The means few shadow under the trees.
We saw lots of canals transporting irrigation water. It was interesting that only the next 10 cm to the channels was green and further it was brown again. If the land is not actively irrigated, it stays dry

The second half of the trip was through orchards, and we took the opportunity to buy lots of peaches and nectarines. The peaches were of an Australian variety, named 204.

We ended the day at the artificial Yarrawonga lake, a weir held the water and canals transported the water from here for irrigation. The lake is bizarre, as everywhere are dead trees in the water. When the dam was constructed in 1945, half a year was available to cut all the trees. Only a small part was cleared and for more than 60 years the remaining trees are still there. That tells something about the durability of the red river gum tree in water
Here looks enough water available, but in 3 weeks the situation will turn worse as well.
We chose a caravan park at the other side of the border with New South Wales at the lake. Both area's are in the fruitfly exclusion zone. But you are not allowed to take fruit from New South Wales to Victoria, even if you bought it in Victoria. The paranoia goes here in a higher gear. I'm still confused, but now at a much higher level!
The weather is wonderful now. At sunset a comfortable 32C degrees and no wind. We can examine the bark of the red gum river tree, it has a complex pattern.
The sunset is spectacular. In the water we sea tree with sulphur hooded cockatoosThe lake is a water sports centre and many villa complexes for retired people are concentrated here. And lots of them are build here.
We witness a welcome and very rare phenomena a rain shower, the first in 3 months here. People are exited but knew that it is still not enough. The fun lasted short time and soon the blue sky showed again, and quickly the temperature rose high in the thirties.
Internet is always a problem till now. Very expensive, usually slow and no possibility to do anything with our homepage. Today it's different. In the Library the internet is superfast and free! We can plug in any USB device and at last we quickly can upload out pictures on the homepage.
The lake is prefect for water-ski and wakeboarding, so I try to get a course at the local watersport school. The price is high, 130$ per hour, but you get used to that prices. Wakeboarding is a kind of waterski what uses a board which resembles a snowboard. Unfortunately the water-ski school is fully booked for the next days, so we have to find another solution later.
So we leave for trip to Wodonga. Again an interesting trip, initially through dry fields, later through vineyards. We make a detour via the sleepy little Chiltern an old old gold mining town, still lots of original buildings preserved. Gold was discovered here in 1859. East of Chiltern we pass along many old diggings, where many tried their luck. Here suddenly started the mountains of the Great Dividing Range
Next town was Albury, at the foot of the mountains. A big and modern town at the Murray River. A crossing of the main freeway in Victoria, the Hume freeway, the Murray River and the border between Victoria and New South Wales. a thriving town. We got more and more annoyed about the internet possibilities, so we decide to buy a laptop computer. So we can prepare things at ease in the campervan and only use the internet for receiving and transferring files. It is a NEC laptop, with the fastest processor of any computer we bought until now. It takes quite a lot of hours to install everything on the computer. Few programs were included in the deal and the salesman was so kind to let us use the internet to download a host of free downloadable programs from the internet, which could be used to write stories or work the pictures. And we had lots of programs and data on our USB sticks, that were instantly handy now.

After spending the night in Albury we proceeded to the Hume Dam. We had heard that the possibilities for watersport were minimal, as the artificial lake was shrunk to 2 percent of it's maximum size. Still it was a considerable lake, bit the volume of water is of course very small if only the bottom part is filled. Here again the trees in the water. Difficult to imagine that a fortune worth of wood was just left in the water. So we left soon again to follow the course of the Murray river. The river was still filled with adequate water, but the100 km long lake what was formed by the the Hume dam was empty. In the valley many farmers struggled to scratch a living out out their land, but in the drought it is an uneven battle, many gave up. Halfway the empty lake there was a ferry, spanning the kilometres wide lake, if in existence. But the ferry was suspended for the time being. We made a walk to the position of the ferry

We continued along the very scenic route and much to our surprise we saw a flock of pelicans, 400 km from the sea!pelikanan until now we only saw the near the sea. The trip along the Murray was extremely nice, but no tourists around. Somehow forgotten. Birgitt did a nice job for the map study, to discover such nice places. At many spots we had a magnificent view.

After a long, enjoyable trip we stopped at Walwa, where exactly at the Murray river banks was a campingIt was summer and only two guests. How can people make a living out of it? The camping was shaded by high trees. And while we were a few meters from a big river with plenty water, restrictions did not allow us to wash the campervan. The river is home to the Murray cod, a fish that can grow up to 114 kg!

Next morning we left for a wonderful trip along the Murray river. At many places we had a very good view on the valley and sometimes a surprise: green meadows. Apparently the waterlevel of the river was just below the grass, so it stayed green without irrigation. Here must live the happiest cows in Australia!
Often we stop to enjoy the scenery. Sometimes we take a picture, but our memory chips of the camera could easy be filled with all the nice pictures we could take here.
Sometimes you see the Murray river nicely meandering through the valley.
Mariska and Birgitt have a comfortable trip back in the campervan. It is definitely not ideal, to be separated during the trip in the back, [but Birgitt can give Mariska full attention, read books together and so on.

This day we finish in Kahncoban, a village in the for of the Snowy Mountains. We plan to stay here for a few days.
Today is the 17th February, Birgitt's birthday. We plan to celebrate that with a diner. We go to the classy Kahncoban Country club and have a delicious dinner. Mariska gets her treat (pasta) and we enjoy the specialities of the day. Mariska enjoys feeding Mamma , changes often from position at the table and has fun with Birgitt, as the Party queen. We were the first to order the meal, so nobody could have comment on this family gathering.

Next day we decided to do it at ease. Make a stroll along the lake, to test the backpack child carrier we recently bought. It is a very sophisticated piece of gear and indeed very useful. But you always have some 20 kilo's on your neck and that has limitations. So no hiking on steep rocks because if you fall, you hurt the baby. During the stroll, to the picknick and boat launching area, we meet a farmer who explains and complains about the situation. There is indeed drought relief from the government, but that goes here to the local government and then direct to prestigious projects like a picknick area. The farmers get no subsidy and he, with grounds next to the lake, is still in a relatively good condition, but others fold. He pointed to the neighbour who had sold two third of the cattle. Interesting is that his farmland had at least still a shade of green. Earlier we saw no trace of green. The farmer had to import the hay from 400 km distance, so very expensive. If he sells the cattle now he gets only one and a half dollar per kilo. As every farmer sells now the cattle the prices are low. But you won't notice that in she shops, the prices are stable there. A few people must get very rich now, while others go bankrupt. He told that he can live it out till December. If there still is no rain then, he is bankrupt.

All sounds like a sad story but if the country is not fit for agriculture, better pull out and let nature reclaim lost territory, to be enjoyed by next generations.

If any farmer is intended to emigrate to Australia, he can by the farms dirt cheap now, but then he's the proud owner of a kind of brown desert.

Anyway, still there are horses around and Mariska was very interested. The horses have a anti-fly net around their head. Here are the cows that remained after 60% had to be sold.

Australia always have had cycles of good and bad weather but nowadays the difference is that the cost of running a farm are much higher and regardless of income, the cost must be paid.

We enjoy it here that there are only few tourists. In Tasmania there are much more tourists and even you have the feeling that YOU are the business. Despite that we hare now in the Australian Alps, you have to drive big distances to the next caravanpark.

After a relaxing day we decide to stay here. It's so nice here and we have a special place under the full shade of a European platan tree. In this valley most of the trees are of the European type and most do it remarkably very well.

Next day we plan to make a trip to the Alps. They are locally more than 2000m high and absolutely interesting, as locally plants and animals live there, that are unique in the world.
Here the ladies stand for a huge,burned tree, that sheds the bark . It is an effective and nice defence against forest fires. Shortly further we see interesting geological features.. It is a kind of soft granite with a green yellow mineral in it. Along cracks roots can grow and here we see how ants use an old root hole as a secret passage.
Further on we see an artificial lake, running slowly out of water. The water is from this lake transported trough big channels drilled in the mountain to another reservoir. A comprehensive system of hundreds of kilometres of channels, tubes and powerstations exploit the water. About 3700 megawatt is the power production, the capacity of about 5 big conventional or nuclear powerstations, and the water is diverted to the Murray river and other area's, on demand. The area has been hit by huge forest fires, some 20 years ago. The old dead trees are still standing there, but it is good to see how the forest is regenerating.. Eucalyptus trees have something special. If they are young they have blue big leaves and stems, but at a certain age the leaves change suddenly to small green leaves. On this picture is good to be seen how big the difference is. On a certain moment a tree has both kinds of leaves.
Around the top of the Snowy Mountains the trees are lower. Swamps of buttongrass and low gumtrees make a fine landscape. At the base of each gumtree lots of young trees are sprouting.
Climbing further we see another artificial lake
Then we reach the highest settlement in Australia, Cabramurra, at 1488 meter. A respectable altitude, even in Europe. We see a ski-lift and many well maintained houses.
We have a nice view over the village. used by personnel of SnowyHydro, the company that runs all the activities in relation to the water and hydro power project.
On the way back we see many regenerated forest, full of life. It attracts lots of wildlife.We saw hardly any roadkill, simply there was hardly any traffic.
On the following picture is again the Tooma dam visible. On the next picture the same dam, but now the young, blue eucalyptus is clearly visible as well.
After driving further, you see the regenerated gumtree forest. The dead wood gives a silvery shine to the hills in the distance.
At this picture is good to see another survival startegy of gumtrees against fire. In the base of the tree, under the ground are buds and they emerge after a fire.
Here we see a really strange plant, unique to the Snowy Mountains. The leaves are leathery and in three rows around the stem.
Here we see a swampy mountain valley, with all kinds of grass
At a hight point of the trip we are approaching the tree level. The top is without trees.

fruits vegetables as well.

Click on a picture to enlarge The pictures you see after clicking on the small thumbnail pictures, are shrunk to 5% of their original dimensions

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