We found a pub with a motel attached about 10km outside of Echuca…it was pitch black and we couldn't see much around but the room was warm and cozy (and with a pub built-in it was perfect). In the night there was a problem with the water (meaning there wasn’t any!) so in the morning the owner gave us most of our money back and apologized although we managed to get a little water out of the tap before we left, enough to freshen up and have a coffee – we opted for a 'Pommie shower’ which is Australian for not having a shower and using deodorant instead…cheeky Aussie b’stards (no, I am not really swearing it is a term of endearment over here…honest!) so we didn’t mind, it was still a good nights kip. In the daylight we saw that everything outside was upside down - a ‘dunny’ , a tractor and even upside down sheep and cows (made out of tin drums not real ones obviously!). We had breakfast and went to Echuca, the birthplace of the first Australian paddle steamers…The town had kept its old charm and even had a street set as it was back in the 1800’s. We enjoyed walking along the river watching the old paddle steam boats pass by and horse drawn carriages driven by guys in cowboy hats – we felt like we had been transported to the Mississippi. The main high street was filled with quaint cafés, bakeries and handmade craft shops where I succumbed to buying a wrought iron gecko souvenir.
We followed the Murray River for two and a half hours up to Swan Hill and found a very bright pink motel for the night. We unloaded our bags and went into town to the Pioneer Settlement Heritage Village that had a complete reconstruction of a town back when people settled here for the first time. It was quite big and took a couple of hours to walk round. We got a chance to be chauffeured around in an old Dodge car from 1925 around the town (very comfortable but extremely noisy) and could visit all the shops and old houses – it was a good day out in Aussie history. At 7 o’clock we returned to the village for a night ‘light and sound’ show where you are taken through the old streets and at many of the buildings they would light up and a story would be told about how the pioneers survived in their new environment. It was only for 45 minutes but it was fun and a bit quirky.
At breakfast we got chatting to a couple that had a place two hours away down south and they invited us for a cup of tea if we were heading their way but we had planned to head to the desert outskirts and into the Grampian Mountains so it was a bit too far out of our way just for a cuppa! As we drove on, the land became more baron and very, very flat, the deep orange sandy earth became more visible stretching as far as we could see with the odd couple of trees, watering hole (billabongs) and country home breaking up the scenery. We did not go too far into the desert as we did not see a soul for miles and didn’t want to get stranded in the middle of nowhere. It is amazing to see the land change from lush green mountain ranges to dry orange deserts in just a couple of days driving (and if we had headed the other way we would have reached wintery ski slopes on the Victoria Alps but our car rental insurance doesn’t cover driving in the snow and we can’t see everything).