18-23 March: Berri nice…groan

Author: Mr A

Location: Renmark and Berri, The Riverland (Ngarrindjeri), South Australia

We only stayed one night at Renmark, a small town on the banks of the Murray river, and according to a couple of sources, originally home to the Naralte people, about which I confess I can find absolutely nothing.

However, research published last year, led by Flinders University in collaboration with the River Murray and Mallee Aboriginal Corporation (RMMAC), has accurately radiocarbon dated a site near Renmark as having been occupied 29,000 years ago. That’s before the last Ice Age! And yet that news doesn’t even warrant a mention by Renmark town council on their site, or any other related tourism site. This is how ingrained the dismissal of our deep history is in Australia. I just can’t imagine many places in the world that would discover a site of such antiquity and the local people pay such little respect or interest. We hope drawing the attention of our readers goes some way to acknowledging the achievements of our First Peoples. They looked after Millewa, or Yorta, as the Murray is called, for all those thousands of years. Thank you.

Now the Murray around Renmark is home to ski boats who take their baffles out to make the noise on our camp site almost deafening, combine that with the continuous rumble of road trains crossing the bridge at the end of the camp site, and we changed our booking to one night! We did go for a wander in the only marked walking trail in town, which turned out to be also used as a road. Catherine managed to get some good pictures given all of that.

Lock 5 – one of several locks on the River Murray that ensure the river continues to be navigable

Look at that euro (kangaroo), no matter how many we see, they still delight us. That wasp larvae also elicited quite a few “ooh’s” and “ah’s from us as well. Never seen anything like them, and thats one of the joys of Australia, we still keep coming across new to us flora and fauna.

Beautiful paper bark
A Euro in the woods
Crested Pigeons an increasingly common sight, their populations growing with land clearance
White-plumed Honeyeater
Yellow Rosella
Bizarre SawFly Wasp Lavae – about the length of your little finger and wiggling out of a hole in the ground. Check out our Instagram feed for a video of these guys in action!

We moved a short way down the river and have spent a long weekend at a caravan park on the traditional lands of the Meri (or Meru) tribe, a people who I have also struggled to find out anything about. All I know is that native title was finally recognised for them and and other Murray River First Peoples in 2011, after a 13 year battle. It grants “non-exclusive rights” (so not so much really?) to “access, hunt, fish, camp, gather and use natural resources, undertake cultural activities, conduct ceremonies and meetings, and protect places of cultural and religious significance” in some 47,500 square kilometres along and around the river.

In total 37% of Australia now has a recognised native title interest in it, which is managed by a body corporate. What that really gives in practical benefit and influence, I’m still trying to read about and understand.


Berri had little to interest us to be honest. Its a small settlement based around the bridge of the Murray. We just needed to have a few days out of the dust of the Mallee country. And what happens on the first night? We have a dust storm 🙂 Another cleaning session in the caravan required! They have a lovely pool, and in the afternoon heat we retired to the cool of the water. The Murray’s muddy brown water, thanks to the carp, didn’t appeal.

This is Wilabalangaloo Reserve, gifted to the community (National Trust) and run by local volunteers. It is a wonderful place to wander in the early morning before the heat drove us back indoors.

Early morning on top of the cliffs that line the Murray River
A great look out – bandage hiding a minor graze that the flies flocked to!
Female Rose Robin
A pair of Red-Rumped Parrots
These parrots flit around in noisy flocks in the morning sun
An ochre quarry – this orange pigment would have been traded with other Aboriginal groups as paint colour

We had a walk round a Martin’s Bend reserve on a couple of mornings, giving Catherine a chance to practice her zooming and catching birds in the act of hiding from her.

A couple of fishermen disturb the stillness of the morning
A couple of really tall people
An unlikely pair of friends – a White-plumed Honeyeater sitting beside a Dusky Woodswallow
Finally a Red-rumped Parrot shows us the red rump!
Wallabies grazing in the early morning cool
A female Superb Fairy-wren catches a fine breakfast
Our Dusky Woodswallow spots a spider and makes short work of it
A Masked-woodswallow surveying the breakfast bar
Our Masked Woodswallow catches a dead leaf for breakfast – not such a tasty morsel. Perhaps it looked like a moth in the breeze?
A Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater joins in the fun
A Yellow Rosella emerging from its nest in the hollow branch
A magnificent sunset brings us out at mosquito o’clock to capture the scene at dusk

24-27 February: Cobdogla – not easy to say…but easy to stay!

Author: Mr A

Location: Cobdogla Station Caravan Park in the Riverland Region of South Australia

Its a name to conjure on the tongue – say it out loud “Cobdogla”. Wonderful. We planned to stop a couple of nights and then booked for a week! Its easy to love, with access to the Murray River from our front door, a nice shaded camp spot and the whole place so well looked after. A short drive and there are wineries in abundance, we just thought…why not stay a while longer.

Cobdogla is word that is derived from a local indigenous phrase meaning “land of plenty”. How apt a description. The Murray winds its way though this arid landscape and brings life to where there would otherwise be desert. The massive irrigation of this area has further enhanced the landscape, making it possible for acres of vineyards on land which was once dry scrub. In the grounds of the caravan park are the remains of a grand chimney, all that’s left of the property that once ruled over 500 kilometres of river front, breeding horses that explorers used to traverse the desert to the north.

It makes such a difference to your whole perception of a place when you are greeted as warmly as our campsite owner Karen did. We set up and I got the kayak all pumped up ready to explore. We launched 100 metres from our van onto a small bay fringed by River Red gums, that provided a lofty perch to Whistling Kites, who had already announced their presence with that oh so idiosyncratic call of theirs. Pied cormorants stretched and wiggled their snake like necks over at us to acknowledge they knew we were intruding on their fishing patch.

Finally out on the River Murray
Whistling Kites are forever our companions
An Australian Darter – a little nervous as she has eggs in her nest (right)
A pied cormorant drying its wings

A short paddle brought us out into the main channel of the Murray. We turned down river and felt insignificant in that broad reach of water. I imagined the countless generations of First Australians who had called this area home, sustainably sourcing food and water from what were, until Europeans arrived and introduced carp, crystal clear waters. Now the water now is a muddy brown as they suck up the silt, which then blocks the sunlight and kills off the other fish and aquatic plants, contributes to blue/green algae blooms. Other than that…another great environmental move. Check out the ‘With and Without’ Carp photo below from an experiment where carp were removed from a water system.

We soon got used to their ugly mutts sticking their heads up next to our kayak, and we tried to ignore them and keep looking up at the birds. We had a couple of paddles like this from it camp, then another where we launched a bit further in Loch Luna Game Reserve, a maze of back channels that needed a short drive to gain access. Nockburra Creek Canoe Trail was one of the best paddles EVER!

We didn’t see another human in 3 hours paddling

The bird life was just teeming around us. We lost count of the different species, but a new one for us was the Red Rumped parrot. Yes..it did have one.

A female Red Rumped Parrot – yes, she’s pretty much olive, no red at all
Male Red Rumped Parrot – much more vibrant – bright yellow, green, turquoise and a patch of red on his back
Another male flies in
We spent some time watching these characterful little birds chase around the hollow trees
A kangaroo on an island in the creek munching on reeds
Perfect reflections
A few obstacles on the creek to negotiate

A few hours of exploring this maze of channels and we were grateful for our Strava app to plot our way back to our launch point! The Advanced Frame inflatable kayak once again proved to be a pleasure to paddle, going swiftly through the water and providing a stable photography platform to capture these shots.

After several mornings of pre-dawn starts to get on the water, it was time for a gentler day. A little wine tasting was organised at a small organic winery producing what to me sounded like some interesting varietals. We worked our way through examples of vermentino, petit manseng, durif, touriga nacional, and ended up taking half case to try and cram under our bed in the caravan with the other supplies.

Day 187: 3 December – Mud, glorious mud!

Author: Mr A

Location: Renmark, South Australia

Distance cycled: 15.5km

There were glimpses of blue sky this morning, enough to tempt our sun loving Burmese out of the Zone and onto the banks of the Murray flowing past our doorstep. She was particularly interested to catch sight of a duck paddling serenely up the river. It was great seeing her enjoying the great outdoors like her fur parents.So we decided to head off on the bikes into Renmark. We picked a route to avoid the main road, and regretted it, sinking deep into clinging, stinky mud. I managed to wrap a piece of wire around my chain and break a spoke. After some fiddling around, and the odd expletive, we were off again and made it to the car wash on the edge of Renmark. Even the high pressure jet shifted the mud with some difficulty. Stickier than an English toffee that stuff.Making back into camp with a wobbly wheel, we cheered ourselves up with home made pumpkin soup. Absolutely delicious. Our neighbour then knocked on the door to show us two European carp that he had caught. Apparently they aren’t a good eating fish, very bony, so the pelican got an unexpected Sunday feast.The wind continues to howl along the water, so there is no sitting outside for drinks tonight, instead we are cosied up (again!) in the Zone sipping a lovely Adelaide Hills Shiraz and tucking into a spag bol. Perfect…we’ve really loved this camp…in those words made famous in our favourite Aussie movie The Castle, “Ah…the serenity”.

Day 186: 2 December – Exploring the Riverland

Author: Mrs A

Location: Renmark & surrounds

We survived a stormy night of strong winds and rain, and the River Murray remained at the same level without flooding. We didn’t have to test whether the caravan could also cope with being a houseboat. The morning dawned dry but still very windy, the temperatures now not getting higher than 20 degrees.

We decided a walk might be in order so headed to Banrock Station which had an 8km wetlands walk I had read about. Banrock Station usually is known for its wine – not something we usually drink – they specialise in the cask or ‘red’/’white’ variety. We were not intending having a drink there.

We arrived at the Station – a fancy glass and wood building with a bar, restaurant and fabulous views across the vineyards and wetlands. Banrock Station puts a proportion of its profits into restoring its wetland ecosystem and has some programs in place to bring back a number of plants from the brink of extinction, including the spiny daisy.

I registered our intention to do the walk and was provided with a CB radio – they take safety pretty seriously here and there have been several poisonous snakes observed on the track. As I turned around to see whether Mr A had returned from picking up his binoculars from the car, a stranger asked me ‘Excuse me, are you Catherine?’.

Last time I heard that question from someone I didn’t know it was in Geraldton from a stalker/blog follower (now friend!). This time it was not the situation. ‘Your husband has fallen over out by the car park’ was the next sentence. Not what I expected at all!

Mr A had indeed stumbled on a wash out on the footpath from last night’s downpour, and had twisted his ankle and grazed his knee. He was sitting on the floor feeling very sorry for himself. The lady who was checking me in to the walk rushed out behind me with the medical kit, assessed the situation and returned with a couple of witches hats to warn others of the hazard. Mr A was more embarrassed than anything.

He hobbled back into the station and we were immediately offered free coffees – we selected hot chocolates instead, but it was very kind of them nevertheless. The laughter was very nervous when Mr A joked he was going to sue them.

So, an 8km walk was off the table. We enjoyed our hot chocolates and did a short hobble down to the wetlands to a bird hide. There were not too many birds to see through the hide, in fact more to see in the hide with a couple of Welcome Swallow nests up in the rafters!Leaving Banrock Station we drove back to Renmark. On a windy, overcast and relatively cool day it looked quite bleak. Most of the streets were shut off in anticipation of this evening’s Christmas Pagent – held at night due to the usually high temperatures. It was 37 degrees centigrade here on Thursday. Today it barely peaked 17! What climate change?

Instead we returned to camp. I took Tassie out for a short walk and we chatted to our neighbours (who gave us a freshly caught and steamed Murray River Yabbie to taste) before the cooling temperatures and strong winds drove us all indoors for the evening. A dinner of satay pork and vegetables was whipped up, and accompanied by a glass or two of Claymore Blackbird Sangiovese from the Clare Valley.

Our evening’s Netflix viewing was interrupted only by the gorgeous sun setting over the river – worth a dash out to photograph. Just in case you’re in need of a new Netflix addiction, we can recommend ’12 Monkeys’ – it’s a goodie!

Day 185: 1 December – Off to the mighty Murray

Author: Mr A

From: Tanunda, Barossa Valley

To: Plushy’s Bend, Murray River

Despite the dire warnings of storms, the morning dawned dry but overcast. We dragged ourselves away from the Barossa and headed inland to our next camping destination on the Murray River, near the town of Renmark. We didn’t enjoy the drive very much on the A20, traffic was pretty heavy, and drivers anxious to get somewhere fast.

We had to do a mad midday cook up as we didnt realise there was a quarantine on bringing fruit and veg into the Rivererina. Half an hour of peeling and cooking before on reading the website we saw if you have a valid receipt from SA for your fruit and veg then its OK! Ah well less work for dinner tonight.It wasn’t a long day behind the wheel though, and by early afternoon we were pulling up. It was a great location on a bend of the Murray, with only a few other vans here. It was good to get in the bush again after our caravan park. Tas was happy to see a bit of greenery she could sniff around in, and didn’t seem phased by us being right next to such a large body of water. She really is developing a higher tolerance for new things!I had been looking forward to getting the Packrafts out on the water, but with drizzle and wind it wasnt too appealing. Our neighbours also wandered over to warn us about a large brown snake that had driven off the previous occupants of our pitch. Ah well, better keep our eyes peeled.

We wandered along the river and saw a pied cormarant looking for an afternoon snack in the water. Black swans and pelicans floated along the river, while whistling kites glided around overheard. After a cuppa we headed out for a quick explore, with half an eye on the gathering storm clouds. We really have landed in a beautiful spot, a giant grey kanagaroo bounded off when he saw us, more cormorants were splashing in and out of a backwater of the Murray. We really like this location – it’s free to camp here too!

Back at the van, thunder was soon rumbling across the sky, lightening added to the drama of the scene. Rain started lashing across the Murray, no problem for us all snuggled up in the Zone. Catherine noticed with some relief that the flood warning had been cancelled for our area, good job as we are parked a couple of metres away from a very big river.