|Travelling Australia - Journal 2010|
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|6 May - Beechworth to Swan Hill|
The night was cold with occasional rain on the roof. We were up earlier than usual and drove out of the caravan park just after 8:30.
This was to be a day of contrast. We started at an elevation of 560 metres in the Alps among gum trees and very large granite outcrops and ended up in flat irrigated pasture and fruit orchards in Swan Hill.
Our first section was downhill to Chiltern which we reached with an average fuel consumption of 12 litres per 100 kilometres because the engine did so little work on the steep downhill gradient. As we descended, eucalyptus forest was gradually replaced by cleared grazing land; in the upper parts large outcrops of granite and group of buried boulders were common indicating shallow soil.
Chiltern was pretty well empty as we passed through at 9 o'clock before any shoppers were around. Then we were on the Murray Valley Highway through Rutherglen, Yarrawonga and Cobram. This was all flat land, we had left the hills behind before Chiltern. The Highway is mostly long straight stretches with a generally reasonable surface, albeit with some bumpy bits. The land is devoted to grazing sheep, cattle and horses with a few alpaca herds. Rutherglen has its own wine area; wineries, or the distinctive signs pointing to wineries, were common. We turned off the Murray Valley Highway at Cobram to visit the Big Strawberry for morning coffee.
From the Big Strawberry we returned to the Murray Valley Highway and continued west past Strathmerton and Nathalia towards Echuca. Main irrigation channels around here were full and even some of the drainage channels had water in them.
Weather all day was not particularly good; a solid layer of cloud above us, strong and gusty wind moving the van around in stronger gusts and sometimes sprinkles of rain threatening to get heavier but not doing so. Traffic was fairly light with a number of caravans going the other way and reasonably frequent heavy trucks. I pulled over about three times during the day to let trucks or buses go past.
We refuelled at Echuca where the Highway goes through the edge of the town but avoids the main shopping area. Lunch time was at a rest area 26 kilometres past Echuca. After lunch we passed through locusts which splattered themselves over the Pathfinder windscreen, front grill and the EuroStar front. They were not particularly thick swarms but an indicator of what lay ahead; many vehicles going in the other direction had hessian or shadecloth stretched over the radiator grill to stop locusts splattering themselves on the radiator and grill.
Just after we joined the road from Bendigo we entered the fruit fly quarantine area then, much to our surprise, we came upon a Department of Primary Industry checkpoint with people in it. In five or six years of visiting this region we have passed numerous unmanned checkpoints and never seen an inspector so this was a surprise. The temporary checkpoint was setting up or packing up so we were not investigated but it was most unusual in our experience to see a live quarantine checkers.
Arriving on the outskirts of Swan Hill we turned into the selected caravan park and setup on a well-grassed site. The weather was brisk but not nearly as cold as late afternoons at Beechworth had been.