Take Me to the River

Sitting on the banks of the ancient Murray River, the day is hot and still: I pass the afternoon with a glass of vodka and Passiona on ice, sunning my legs, followed by a dip in the water,  while chatting with my daughter/best friend. Oh Happy Day.

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I’m on a mission to explore the many beaches and banks of the Murray River, camping off the grid where possible.  As the river is 2,508 kilometres in length and runs through three states of Australia, this could be mission impossible.  Earlier Murray river posts can be viewed here and here.

Isolated beach on the Murray River
Isolated beach on the Murray River

This time, we set up camp on a sandy bank between Cobram and Yarrawonga in Victoria, one day after a holiday weekend. We had this glorious beach to ourselves, bar two canoeists heading down stream, and one tourist passenger boat. I’m glad I wasn’t perched on the throne of my river view toilet/shower on that occasion.

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Thanks to Kyle, who should be cloned and packed away in everyone’s tool box, we had hot water on demand, many other unusual and handy camping gadgets, as well as ready help with anything to fix or adjust. His gadgets included a vacuum cleaner, a high pressure hose, an electric fan, radios, mobile phones, tablets and iPads, shower pumps and portable fridges, to name just a few. Solar panels supplied power to the 12 volt battery systems that had already been charged by our vehicles in the trip to the river. An inverter took care of converting 12 volt power from the batteries to 240 volts for those appliances that required mains power.

Our hot water service was fired up each morning and evening. Cold river water is poured into a funnel inserted in the top of the keg which is then heated on the campfire. A short time later, boiling hot water comes from the outlet, providing enough for showers and dishwashing.

Kyle's reprurposed stainless stell keg hot water service.
Kyle’s repurposed stainless steel beer keg hot water service.

Camping trips require good but simple food. Sometimes we cooked on gas or used Kyle’s Dutch ovens, partly buried in a shallow layer of hot coals with more hot coal on the lids enabling roasting, casseroling and baking.  Lunchtime catering on hot days consisted of sandwiches and salads: the kids picked out the bits they liked. The pescatarians ate stuffed peppers with leftover Pesto Mac ( a variation of Mac and Cheese for pesto lovers) as well as curries and salmon burgers.

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The family took the week off, cashing in on Melbourne Cup Day Holiday to take time out in a great month of the year. What did the kids learn? The oldest (10)  learnt about solar energy and sustainability and the basic law of physics, via the water heater service. He observed our camping solar panels in action and asked the pertinent question, “If this is the sunniest spot in Victoria, why aren’t there more solar panels around? This area could produce enough power for the state of Victoria!”  Good question Noah.  A child can see the common sense in solar energy after a camping trip like this.

Are our political leaders slow learners, are their heads buried in the sand or inserted into another orifice of the dirty brown coal industry providers?  At 10 years old, kids ask questions, at 18 they vote. At 50 what will their world be like without a radical change to address climate change?

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The younger ones learnt to use the currents of the river to move downstream (with safety jackets on). They watched the full moon rise each evening. The girls found some instant $1.00 fashion in the op shops of a nearby town. The children had no need for shoes, they were always hungry, and they played and looked after each other. The cards came out, Ollie found a handmade sling shot, Lottie found an off cut of redgum wood which became an oiled cheese board. They skip jumped rocks on the river and dug vast holes in the sand and joined in night-time campfire conversations about dreams.

We wound up with a moonlight ballet concert on the beach, spot lit by one of Kyle’s camping toys, with Daisy doing a great dying swan act on the banks of the river. 

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How nice it would be to take a tinny or kayak down the river from Yarrawonga to Cobram.

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Song plants to go with this post, because camping is also about singing:

  • Take Me to the River, Al Green, nicely covered  by Talking Heads.
  • I See the Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater Revival.
  • Swan Lake, Tchaikovsky -you know the one!
  • Oh Happy Day,  18th century gospel song first popularised by Edwin Hawkins Singers in 1969.
  • Love is a Battlefield, Pat Benatar, a good tune to dance to in the wilds.

 



25 thoughts on “Take Me to the River”

  1. I had Take Me to The River playing in my head whilst I read this beautiful post. I love how camping brings out the best in children and us all. Slow down, change our biorhythms, learn new things and remember old things too.

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  2. I’m a tad envious. Our daughters have all partnered with non campers, so family trips to the river are a thing of the past, but it doesn’t look as if the riverbank activities for kids are too much different now than they were 30 yrs ago. A camp vacuum cleaner? Really? Our gear has done nothing but accumulated cobwebs this year.

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    1. I know- when my daughter pulled out that vacuum, I had to laugh. She was demonstrating Kyle’s wonderful love affair with gadgets that can be converted via solar.
      That’s the thing- nothing really changes much. Camping is a timeless activity.

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  3. Loved the read sis. The time spent there is so important to children in the wild learning about things from their parents and grandparents. Reminds me of the days we spent with Pop out at sea in his boat at Port Albert, catching fish with bait hooked onto a cord. No fancy fishing rods then. We learnt a lot zipping out to Raymond Is, Sunday Is and Snake Is – it was great. By night the oldies played Crib while we watched by the flickering fire.

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    1. Ah those days were magical for sure. But being out in the open, camping or fishing, things don’t change much- a timeless sport really except for the benefits provided by solar panels. Thanks for dropping in, Chris.

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    1. Yes it’s a wild place, the Murray River, but sis has managed to overcome it and make it comfortable with good food etc – no restaurants needed – only fire and sun. Definitely ‘glamping’ but not ‘pampering’. Everyone pitches in and so it becomes fun for both adults and kids.

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  4. You brought back wonderful memories for me of camping holidays with an entourage of people and a mob of kids. It’s always interesting to see what wonderful things each brings, thinking them necessary to “roughing it”. I like your style 🙂

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    1. Ah yes, camping with others is an interesting experience. I found Kyle’s ( S.I.L) camping toys amusing. As we aren’t so practical, although enjoy camping, it was a real bonus. Complain about one thing- Mr Kyle fixes it. I suppose I shouldn’t say I need him in my tool box, just in case he thinks I’m calling him a tool.

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  5. Wow … love it. I wanna join in on this set up! A totally different experience from our Peninsula gatherings 😉

    We used to camp at the Murray for days, but there was no shower and the fanciest ‘gadget’ was a toilet seat on a bottomless chair haha 🙂

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    1. It is a great set up. So nice when empty of people and just the family and the river. A toilet seat on a bottomless chair is slightly better than digging the hole, squating over the hole and praying that no snakes appear, or other visitors.
      The set up is as far removed from the one at the Peninsula as can be, except some of the cast members are the same. x

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      1. Ha ha – I like that – “some of the cast members are the same”! The Murray River is soooo long that every family would have no trouble finding their own wild empty spot. Thank God there are no crocs in the southern rivers of Victoria like up Northern Australia. I’m not long returned from up north and there were crocs in every river.
        Just finished baking a huge Lasagne so now I can relax! Smells out of this world.

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  6. After 20+ years of ‘roughing it’ with nothing more than swags, tents, ice boxes and a long handled shovel, not to mention a 4 month trip living out the back of a 4WD ute with only a canvas tent and butane stove.
    I think Rach and I deserve all those fancy Glamping gadgets!

    Laugh at the cordless vacuum all you will, but the Jayco was sand free all week, even sucked the hoards of vinegar flies!
    The matching fan also works a treat for that cool breeze while you take an afternoon nap… 🙂

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    1. I have to say, Mr Tool, that I was completely envious of your vacuum cleaner, despite what others may have said. I should have borrowed it after the kids played hide and seek in my bed, leaving behind very sandy sheets.
      I guess there was no chance of borrowing that fan- no wonder the kids hung out in your van more than mine. I had to settle for river dips and alcohol to stay cool, both physically and metaphysically.
      I do remember that 4 month camping trip with no glamping items, however there were an abundance of tools. And good food also.

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      1. The food was good. Who could forget sushi for lunch on the edge of the Simpson Desert. I liked the chef that followed me for 4 months…

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