Travelling Australia - Journal 2008b
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9-15 July 2008 - Mildura
Location map 9 July.
We spent the morning wandering around the bakery beside the caravan park and in the shopping centre across the highway. As well, we checked out the main shops area closer in to central Mildura; it was busy. The weather was cold; so cold that a small dog tied up outside one shopping centre was yelping, probably because it was cold, and kept lifting its paws to get them off the cold pavers.



10 July.
Weather today was forecast to be cold and windy and it started out that way. The wind remained strong and gusty with some sun until light rain began falling and the wind increased later in the afternoon so that nearby tree tops were moving. Neighbouring caravans hastily folded their awnings; we hadn't spread ours.

The cold, often windy and wet, weather is leading us to review our plans for the next few weeks. The weather is not favourable for travel along the Great Ocean Road as we had intended, but we are not sure where we will go next; the decision will depend largely on the weather. Being more than usually interested in weather forecasts we paid attention to television weather forecasts in the evening; they were quite nasty for Melbourne and southern Victoria but vague about our part of the state. The Weather Bureau web site had a forecast for Mildura which was not the gloom and doom of television and didn't include gale or storm warnings. The lesson seems to be to rely on Internet forecasts which target a specific area.



11 July
A much better day. No wind, some sunshine, a lot of cloud and still cool but a single jumper or jacket was adequate and not the three of four needed on the day before. We went for a bit of a sight-seeing drive around parts of Mildura including driving through the main shopping area which was quite busy and congested. Later in the afternoon I drove to the Inland Botanic Gardens near Wentworth across the river.



12 July
Another cold day. Our supply of toilet chemicals is getting a little low so I went looking for more. We use only a biological product called Bio-Magic; most alternative chemical products are formaldehyde-based and reputed to kill caravan park septic tanks if poured into them; they also have an offensive smell. I found Bio-Magic in the second place I tried, a caravan and parts shop. The first camping shop I tried had an enormous range of products and was the biggest camping equipment shop I have ever seen.

Local residents kept telling us that very cold days in Mildura at this time of year are most unusual. We've heard that statement in many places around Australia and usually don't take it very seriously but there may have been something in it this time. The church we went to in the evening was bitterly cold and had no form of heating at all; as if they were not used to cold weather.



13 July
A milder day today, cloudy all day and with a little rain in the afternoon; a cold breeze in the morning died away after lunch leaving a fairly comfortable day. In the morning I went to have a look at the pumping station installed in 1889/90 to pump water out of the Murray River for irrigation. The three pumps and the single driving steam engine installation was designed by George Chaffey (one of the founders of irrigation in the Mildura area) and made in England. These pumps began working in 1891 and operated until 1959 when electric pumps were installed alongside the steam driven ones to continue pumping water into the system designed and implemented by Chaffey. The pumphouse and contents were subsequently restored by local enthusiasts and remain a tourist attraction.
Psyche pumps Inside Psyche pump-house with one of the three pumps in the foreground; the steam engine driving the pumps is in the background.
Psyche pumphouse Psyche pumphouse with water outlets.
In the afternoon I went to Wentworth at the junction of the Darling and the Murray Rivers. The drive there (about 35 kilometres from Mildura) emphasises the very large number of grape vines in and around Mildura, and there were a lot of citrus trees as well. Grape vines are grown right up to the edge of housing areas in Mildura. The grape vines are dormant for winter so there are no leaves on them but the citrus trees (mainly oranges and mandarins) are covered in dark green leaves and ripe fruit.



14 July
Weather today was quite mild. In the afternoon we drove to Orange World just outside Mildura for a guided tour of the citrus orchard. Nine people in the tour group sat in a trolley towed by a tractor driven among the 10,000 trees (oranges, mandarins, cumquat and avacodos) in the orchard. The oldest was 55 years old, the youngest seven. We stopped and chatted with a picker working on mandarin trees; we were shown how pulling a mandarin from a branch tears the skin leaving a hole and makes the fruit impossible to store and transport. Pickers have to cut each mandarin from the tree. This means it takes four hours to fill a mandarin fruit bin compared with one hour to fill an orange bin when the much larger fruit can be pulled off the branch without damage (a picker is paid $80 for a bin of mandarins). We each picked a couple of mandarins and ate them on the spot - very nice. The orchard employs five pickers in total, they pick citrus six days a week from May to November then pick table grapes on other properties for the rest of year making picking a year-round job. Orange trees are planted in north/south rows, 20 feet apart and ideally trimmed to a height of 12 feet to maximise sun exposure. Trees in this orchard were overdue for pruning but pruning costs $10 per tree and that money is better spent on water at present. Citrus trees in orchards around Mildura must have irrigated water in the spring to survive but, so far, there is no water allocation for this orchard for the next growing season; if there is no change in the water available because of the drought the citrus trees will die.
Picking mandarines Picking mandarines. The curved ladder rests against the foliage while pickers cut mandarines from the branch and place them in the green bin to be taken to the store. Filling a bin with mandarines takes four hours.
We bought some fruit and other food in the shop then left after spending much longer at Orange World than anticipated and drove back to the van for the rest of the afternoon. The weather had remained fairly pleasant during the day but there was an unexpected downpour after sunset.



15 July
A cloudy day, no rain but a sharp breeze. Mail from our mail forwarding service arrived this morning. We use an Australia Post diversion from home to this service, called Landbase, which holds mail until I call them with an address to send the mail to.

In the morning we went into Mildura's shopping area to the Dried Fruit Association shop. This was a health food shop with a display of dried fruits; we bought a few.

In the afternoon Mary stayed at the van while I drove around Mildura and Red Hill to look at a few things we had missed.
Big Lizzie Big Lizzie was built in the early 1900s intended to replace camels in the desert but got as far as Mildura on its delivery trip. It proved to be excellent at clearing mallee scrub during the 1920s when the region was being settled.
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