Travelling Australia - Journal 2006
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4 March 2006 - Hay to Mildura

Location map The A'liner and Territory had remained hitched overnight so we were away with minimum fuss on a bright and sunny morning. Leaving Hay on the Sturt Highway we headed across the flat Hay Plains which were covered in grass, low scrub and some patches of low timber. We saw a few sheep, cattle and emus on the way to Balranald which appeared to be the end of the Hay Plain. Elevation at Hay was 90 metres while Balranald was at 67 metres. This was a drop of 13 metres in 130 kilometres (1 metre per 10 kilometres). We passed some properties with surrounding grain fields and sheep or cattle but most of the Hay Plain was uncultivated although frequently irrigation channels passed under the road taking water from the Murrumbidgee River to the south. Around the property of Ravensworth large areas were under hybrid corn and we saw a flock of about 20 to 30 emus feeding on the stubble. We also saw emus easily stepping through four-strand wire fences along the road. These were not barbed wire fences and I doubt if they would as easily step through a barbed wire fence.

Balranald marked a terrain change. East of Balranald the Hay Plan was flat and the road was straight and level, but gently sloping down to Balranald. Around the town were a few fruit orchards and vineyards. After we crossed the Murrumbidgee the terrain still sloped gently downward to the west but there was a succession of small hills (undulating between 62 and 38 metres elevation) as the road passed through mallee scrub on both sides of the road. West of Balranald there was a change in terrain; reddish sandy soil dominated and wheat was widely grown. By the time we were 55 kilometres past Balranald, wheat fields stretched to the horizon on both sides of the road. Around Lake Beannie some grapes were being grown then we came to very large areas of vines around the road near Euston. Then we were back into Mallee with some cypress. Approaching Mildura and entering the irrigation area, citrus and vines became very common.

We found the selected caravan park after referring to a street map of Mildura and checked in. It is a large park but has sites very close together and would not be very pleasant during busy times. It was about 25% occupied so was not too bad. It's beside the Murray River, at a river beach of sand, and dotted with the river red gums which were here well before caravans; there are very few slabs on sites, most are entirely red sand with scattered clumps of grass. An hour or so before sunset and after sunrise corellas high in the crown of the red gums make sure that people are not sleeping. A flock of ducks patrol the grounds feeding as they go.

Since coming over the eastern edge of the Southern Tableland near Mittagong on 2 March, where the elevation had been 734 metres, the road (Hume Highway then the Sturt Highway) had been progressively downhill, sometimes very gradually, to 33 metres at Mildura. The slope of the terrain had gradually decreased to be one metre in 10 kilometres from Hay to Balranald. The road since entering the Murray-Darling catchment near Mittagong had contained many small hills except for the stretch across the Hay plain from west of Wagga Wagga until Balranald which had been nearly flat

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