Travelling Australia - Journal 2010
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7-11 May - Swan Hill
Swan Hill is a fairly small place (population about 10,000) on the Murray River. Irrigated orchards and vineyards are around the town and along the Murray River. Swan Hill has fairly recently put irrigation supply underground so there are no longer numerous open channels full of water, and subject to evaporation loss. The only sign of irrigation in orchards is the pipe running along rows of trees or vines. A comprehensive drainage system 1.5 metres underground collects rising ground water and saline drainage from irrigation system and delivers it to the Woorinen Drainage Lakes for evaporation. The lakes are left with crusted salt deposits.

Irrigation does not extend far from the river. Beyond the irrigated land wheat dominates; wheat paddocks extending for many kilometres into the Mallee region.

Swan Hill's main attraction is the Pioneer Village which is a reconstructed nineteenth century village, mainly a street of shops and small businesses. There is also an interesting collection of genuine nineteenth century houses moved to the site and rebuilt to show visitors the reality of life before electricity and white goods.

The paddle-wheeler Pyap provides hour long trips along the Murray River. Recent rain has restored the level of the Murray River so these trips are now routine. This was quiet and pleasant.

On one day I drove to Lake Boga to have a look at the Catalina aircraft on display there. The aircraft has recently had a special-purpose enclosure built and is now out of the weather which causes long-term damage to historic aircraft. Now that it is out of the weather, making its future more certain, the aircraft is being refurbished. The associated museum in the former communications concrete bunker is small but worthwhile and showing an interesting video explaining the Lake Boga seaplane repair organisation during the Second World War.

Locusts were a major feature of this visit. They swarm in thousands; even walking on grass disturbs hundreds of them and driving on roads outside built-up areas results in numerous locusts smeared across vehicles. Most stay less than half a metre off the ground so the lowest parts of vehicles carry thicker deposits of locust pieces after travelling any distance; higher parts, such as windscreens have fewer locusts smeared across them. The real problem with locusts is that they can cover car radiators and reduce their efficiency; but the actual risk depends on car design. Some people put covers over the radiator grill to protect the radiator core; flywire or shadecloth is commonly used.

The long term problem with locusts for farmers is not the ones now obvious but the next generation. The adults making a nuisance of themselves now are laying eggs which will hatch at about the time cereal crops germinate and horticultural crops sprout and locust nymphs will devour those crops. Apparently it is not practicable to destroy buried eggs so the plan is to spray nymphs when they emerge but before they can fly. That has to be done swiftly and effectively and requires careful planning and adequate funding. Farmers are worried.

The last days in Swan Hill were bright, sunny and very cold. We did some car touring on well-designed tourist routes for the town and environs, or stayed in the caravan out of the increasingly cold wind.

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