On the Riverina
Trip Start Jan 14, 2012
24Trip End Mar 13, 2012
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Where I stayed
Albury Motor Park
After a relaxing sunny Sunday afternoon on the shores of beautiful Lake Jindabyne, the next morning we headed slowly down the Alpine Way via Thredbo Village, Khankoban and Cooyong to Albury-Wodonga. We heard the way would be quite a challenge towing a caravan, in fact the sign advised that the road was unsuitable for trucks, coaches and caravans. The messages we received from various people we spoke to was mixed and the general consensus was that we should not drive the Alpine Way but we had been told by the Visitor’s Centre that as our caravan was less than 18 foot and as long as we took it slowly and with extreme care, we should be fine. Despite this assurance it was still with some trepidation that we set off especially as we passed Thredbo and the end of the full width road
The first sign of Khankoban was a long new building with café, post office and grocery shop. As we were about to go into the café we started talking to an English couple our age who had also just come through the pass so we joined them for coffee to continue chatting about our two countries. We were in such a rush to get away early in the morning that we didn’t have much to eat but the roast lamb wrap we had at the café there was delicious
Soon we were travelling the Murray Valley Way and we were in Victoria with no fanfare or fuss! The first Victorian town we came across was Cooyong which at first seemed to be just like any other rural town until we noticed a big black rearing horse cutouts adorning nearly every building along the main road including garages, shops, banks etc. Pity we couldn’t see a parking place for our car and van to take a photo of at least one. Presumably they are proud to be in Snowy River country made famous by the wild brumbies and the poem, “A Man from Snowy River’.
Further down the road we drove alongside kilometres of the Upper Murray Pine Plantations. After the long bridge crossing the Mutta Mutta River we bypassed Tallangatta - The Town that Moved in the 1950s. No doubt that was necessary when they built the Hume Dam across the Murray River which has been full the last couple of years. We drove along the massive lake till just before Albury from where it veers east covering an extensive area to Thologalong
Early afternoon we crossed over the Murray River and we were back in New South Wales and in Albury where we booked into the Top Tourist Motor Village Caravan Park. In the 296 kms we had travelled that day, the temperature had risen from 11C to 30C when we arrived at our destination. We were delighted to be given the site right next to the BBQ and the swimming pool, so no sooner had we set up, we jumped into the lovely cool water. A quick shower after the swim and there was still time to cross the road to the Centro Shopping Centre for a visit to the hairdresser.
After three weeks in the high, cooler areas it felt very different to be back in summer in the lowlands again and the more rugged type caravan park. It didn’t even cool down much at night and with it getting dark only about 8pm, we felt we had much shorter evenings than on our last trip over east. We still slept well and had a leisurely brunch before heading off to see the sites of Albury. We parked by the Railway Station just in time to watch the train pull into the station for two minutes before carrying on with its journey to Sydney
Back in town we found a spot in the free parking garage where we left the car while we wandered around town. We noticed that street parking is also free in this town but restricted to one or two hours. We walked along the pleasant tree lined main street consisting mainly of typically early Australian historic double storey buildings in stark contrast to the one multistorey building being the Rydges Hotel on the edge of the city centre. Being lunch time, we noticed all the busy coffee shops, cafes and restaurants (some with tables out on the pavement) and people relaxing on the grass in the open parks. The town felt like Gouburn but seemed to have grown more from a country town to more of a city though both have impressive Cathedrals. The door was open in the magnificent cathedral so we went inside to relax awhile in the cool listening to a choir practice
On our second day here, we drove across the Causeway into Victoria to visit Wodonga. This is the second town in what is known as Albury-Wodonga though Albury is in New South Wales and Wodonga in Victoria, separated only by the Murray River. The south bank of the Murray is the state border so in fact the river itself is in NSW but the Hume Dam is all in Victoria. With these towns being in the Riverina Agriculture Region, the appeal is summed up well in the Visitor’s Guide. “Recognizing Albury-Wodonga’s unique appeal is easy, summing it up in a few words is much harder. It’s partly about the beautiful setting on the banks of the Murray River, with easy access to some of Australia’s best skiing, oldest wineries and most historic towns. But its also about the special atmosphere that blends an urban vibe with laid back charm, tradition with innovation….” In one of the parks is a community wood fired oven which is fired up every 2nd Sunday for the public to bring their dough and toppings to cook their own bread or pizzas
The cities other claims to fame are that Margaret Court and Lee Kernihan hail from here. Also the Dutch DC2 plane achieved 2nd place in the 19,800 km race in 1934 from London to Melbourne with the help of locals. The plane got lost over Albury during the final leg, so “in the early hours of a stormy morning, resourceful locals hatched a series of plans to save the plane and its passengers flashing the town’s lights in morse code to give its pilot his bearings and creating a makeshift runway at the racecourse using car headlights. The next morning, the Mayor rallied 300 people to dig and pull the DC2 out of the mud so it could…” continue the race.
Our evenings are a lot shorter than on our last visit to the Eastern States due to Day Light Saving. As the weather is warming up we end up cooking about 7pm so by the time all the dishes are washed up and put away the evening are almost over. We are also sleeping later in the morning unless for some specific reason we need to get going earlier.
The City Centre of Wodonga is much smaller than Albury so after parking near the park, we relaxed there awhile after taking photos of the War Memorial
On the way into town two days ago we had passed an Army Museum at Bandiana. We were keen to visit it as it has the reputation of being one of the best in the country. The museum is located within the Gaza Ridge Barracks, an active Army Base so we first had to report at the Gate House together with photo ID and after further scrutiny, they allowed us into Safe base Bravo with the Army Transport Division to the left and the Museum further along on the right. We have never seen so many different types of Army Vehicles assembled in one place, some going back to The First World War and others from more recent times. Army uniforms of all types from camouflage to mess dress are displayed and many familiar types of small arms bring back memories of Mikes own time in the armed forces of Rhodesia. One display of Bedding laid out for Saturday morning inspection when leave passes were cancelled for any minor infringement brought a smile to his face, blankets and sheets were folded with pieces of plywood inserted in the front to keep them in perfect shape while webbing, brasses cleaned to an unbelievable shine, took their place on top. Altogether this is one of the finest museums we have come across and a credit to its Manager and the many volunteers who man the place, if you are in the area this is a display not to be missed.
After a chicken wrap and seniors coffee in the local MacDonalds we visited the local meat market to stock up on Porterhouse Steaks, Lamb Chops, Pork Steaks and some Bratwurst , then home to prepare dinner, complete this Travelpod report and watch a bit of TV.