Water, Water Everywhere

Rushes near where salt meets freshwater at the Murray
Rushes near where salt meets freshwater at the Murray

You remember how I mentioned the other week it’s twenty years since I started working at the ABC?

Well, it’s also twenty years since I moved to South Australia.

I remember vividly arriving in Renmark on a Friday afternoon, after an overnight stay in Broken Hill. I remember vividly the drive on the back road between Wentworth and Renmark which took me via Rufus River, a spectacular “oasis” in the “desert” landscape of the corner country where South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria meet.

Working as a journalist/presenter, I spent a lot of time talking about the environment, and in particular some of the Murray River environmental problems.

This trip to South Australia is bringing back memories of many things from the past.

Today, for example we visited the mouth of the Murray River, and in particular the lock which separates fresh and salt-water. On the freshwater side there are reeds and Black Swans. On the saltwater side, your eyes are led out to the ocean. Down the middle is a lock with just one bloke working there today doing some repairs.

The only other visitors where a couple in their fifties who came in, made a brief inspection and left. Sue and I were left wondering if maybe the bloke had worked on the lock for many years and still made “daily inspections”? Or if perhaps they were a couple on a round Australia trip taking in the sights of infrastructure irrigation, as I’m sure some people do.

Although my memories of covering irrigation, salination, and other environmental stories were strong, we struggled to remember the detail of the Hindmarsh Island Bridge affair, other than a very vague memory that it involved disputed claims over the sacredness of the land to the local indigenous people.

After having a look at the land around the bridge, we had a late morning tea at a cafe in Goolwa. The only other people in the cafe was a group of eight or nine women (and one husband) who we agreed were part of a tennis or walking group which met regularly. They were all in their sixties, we assumed.

Well, virtually everyone we’ve seen since arriving has been in their sixties. “The greying of Australia” is very evident in this region, with young people (we include ourselves in that category, relatively speaking) few and far between.

That was also the case at lunch today. As we headed towards our destination, we walked past the Port Elliott Bowling Club. Looking through the window there wasnt a free seat in the house. It’s as if everyone who hit retirement age in Adelaide had suddenly moved south.

At the recommendation of a friend of Sue’s, we had lunch at the nearby Flying Fish Cafe at Port Elliott.

“Shall we sit outside in the cafe, or go into the restaurant?, asked Sue, to which there was only one answer.

Inside, we had a great table which overlooked the ocean, afforded us some wind proteciton, but which also allowed a nice breeze in.

Afrer sharing half a dozen oysters – the ones with onion and balsamic were the best – we both had beer-battered fish. Sue had the flatheard, while I had the garfish. Both meals were large and tasty, though not necessarily worth a tip.

Looking around the restauant there were lots of retired people “doing lunch”, while outside it looked as if there might be a school excursion underway.

A brief walk followed lunch which took us around the sites of Port Elliott, including their lovely palm tree memorial to local soldiers, as well as affording us pretty spectacular views of the coastline.

All of this physical activity, naturally enough, resulted in the need for a mid-afternoon nap ahead of tonight’s “penguin tour” on nearby Granite Island.

We were expecting it to be much colder than it turned out to be, as we walked the bridge from the mainland to the island. A seafog that has drifted in has both brought the temperature down, but also maintained it at a reasonable and consistent level.

Sue, who knows Phillip Island well, contrasted the difference between the penguins there and the penguins here. “There’s hundreds and thousands there, here we’re looking for just a few” she observed as we walked around a small part of the suitably named, “Granite Island”.

With a soft red torch, we were led by a guide from the National Parks and Wildlife Service, in search of the penguins, and were told about the risk they currently faced, especially from increasing seal numbers. “Seals are actually increasing at about the rate of 10 to 15 percent each year”, the guide mentioned.

Overall it was a really interesting, satisfying, and relaxing day. What more could you hope for except a good night’s sleep? I’m exhausted…

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