This morning was spent attending to practical maintenance issues, or at least by Chris: flushing out the caravan drainage system, vehicle washing, changing the water filter, all jobs where I could be of little assistance.
Further discussion brought us to yet another decision; to stay a couple more days so we could enjoy the first of the ten days of Music Festival, or Country Muster, as some say. So we walked up to the office, dodging the lines of caravans streaming in, considering the possibility of extending our stay to be diminishing by the minute. Sure enough we could not stay on at this site however we could have another powered site for one night. We had already decided to stay another two if possible, and so elected to take an unpowered site for the two nights. We were given a road cone and “Reserved” sign to place in our designated spot, which we duly did.
It was close enough to lunch time by the time all was done and dusted so we unpacked our picnic and consumed it inside, not for the first time.
After lunch we headed across the river into Mildura, picked up one of the last copies of the newspaper before hunting out the art gallery. The Mildura Art Centre is situated adjacent to the Rio Vista Historic House, the second residence of the father of Mildura, W B Chaffey, his two wives and eight children. It should be noted that the wives were not concurrent, but the second, the niece of the first, took over the reins in more ways than one when Mrs Chaffey 1st died of pneumonia soon after childbirth. Interestingly they were both named Hattie, and the second of these lived long and faithfully caring for this grand house until her death in 1950. The house was immediately purchased by the council for the purposes of an art gallery, however in more recent times a modern extension to the building has served to house the artworks and the house is there as a heritage piece, an artworks in its own right.
Chris was particularly taken with the redecoration of the house, the wallpapered ceilings and walls, with their intricate corners and all the complications a painter and decorator could possibly be faced with. He advised both the receptionist and I that it had been carried out with much skill. There is still much more work to be done however Chris was not keen to offer his services. He is retired after all.
We drove on a few kilometres down river to visit the Old Mildura Station Homestead. This is in fact a recreation of the first station established by the Jamieson brothers in 1847, later purchased by the Chaffey’s, on the high banks above the Murray River.
Actually the European genesis of the station is not quite as simple as that. In 1847, one Francis Jenkins swam 900 cattle and ten horses across the river from New South Wales to this site. Believing he had settled in South Australia, he travelled to Adelaide to register his selection. Meanwhile the Jamiesons obtained a “Depasturing Licence” for leasehold from Melbourne and took the property instead.
We were appreciative of the many interpretative panels explaining the history of the region, the paddle steamers of the river system and the irrigation scheme, which is more than I can say for one woman who entered one of the buildings while we were absorbing this mountain of information. “More bloody reading!” she said. “I’ve had enough!” Obviously she is not a keen would-be historian such as we are.
From the homestead site, we could see the lock on the river and so we decided to explore this too. With the river as high as it is, it came as no surprise that the lock is not currently in use. We walked crossed the Lock Island to the weir and found that it too was not in use, in fact the huge structural pieces of this were all stacked up on the island. We wondered how this was installed when required; perhaps with very heavy machinery?
We stood and looked at the volume of water in the river at this spot and that a little downstream where the Mildura Homestead stood and considered the crossing of all Jenkin’s livestock. We hoped the water levels had been less in that particular year.
The lock is one of the many on the river, this completed in 1927.
From here we returned to the vehicle and to camp. The temperature had soared to its forecasted 36 degrees, the morning having started with a slightly barmier 17 degrees. How the temperatures fluctuate here. Each day is a “what to wear?” dilemma.
At 4 pm we were ready with our chairs and bottles of water and on our way across to Frog’s Hollow, the camp common. This afternoon we all had been invited by singer Graeme Smart who is here no doubt to entertain at the festival, to a free concert. Clouds gathered as he struck the first chord, thunder rumbled from afar as he started on his second ballad and lightening danced about our heads by the fifth one. Half an hour into the programme, the heavens opened and we all fled back to our caravans carrying our furniture.
Obviously he and his wife managed to safely cover their electronics, because the music recommenced once the storm had passed. We chose to listen from the caravan having already started preparing for dinner.
Tomorrow we will pack up in a cursory manner and shift across the park to a more informal posse before setting off into the city centre to make the most of the free entertainment.