Travelling Australia - Journal 2012
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15-18 June 2012 - PS Murray Princess 3-day Cruise
15 June
Murray Princess sailed from Mannum at 4:30 p.m. and headed downstream towards the first night stop-over at Mundurra (35° 03' 16.8"S, 139° 21' 21.7"E) where we secured to the river-bank. Night fell before the vessel reached the destination and the last kilometres were done by searchlight. Murray Princess has four floodlights on each side high up in the superstructure pointing outwards and lighting up the ground (or water) on both sides of the ship. A pair of large spotlights above the bridge pointing forward allow the helmsman to see ahead.

For the first meal on board we settled in to our assigned tables for the Welcome Dinner.
Alongside at Murray Bridge
Murray Princess alongside the wharf at Murray Bridge. She is too high to fit under the bridges across the Murray River here so Murray Bridge marks the downstream limit of her travels.
16 June
Murray Princess sailed from Mundarra at 7:30, before breakfast, heading downstream and arrived at Murray Bridge at 9:00 o'clock. This is as far downstream at she can go because she is too high to fit under the road and rail bridges at Murray Bridge. Coming alongside at Murray Bridge would have been difficult but for the two thrusters below the waterline which pushed the ship sideways onto the wharf. A bus was available for passengers to go into the shopping centre but we chose to walk around the shops closer to the river then returned on board well before sailing time at 11:00.
Shacks Shacks along the river at Purnong. Each group of shacks seemed to have a different character; some were obviously built without regard to cost and were status symbols, others were more functional. There was wide variation in the probable damage caused next time the river breaks its banks; some buildings were several metres above the current water (because the banks were that high) while other buildings had very little flood safety margin unless they were on stilts.

From Murray Bridge the ship headed upstream, passing Mannum and continuing onto Saltbush Flat where we moored to red gum trees at 1830. Although the sun had set by then the floodlights on the superstructure provided more than sufficient light to moor the vessel.

During the afternoon the Captain gave an interesting presentation on life on the Murray River and some of the events in the life of a river-boat person.



17 June
Saltbush Flat is a flat piece of ground near Purnong wetland and a little downstream from Purnong. A gangway put in place last night allowed crew and passengers to go ashore for local walks and in the morning the First Officer led a group from the ship on a brief walking tour of the saltbush and edge of the wetlands. The group members had to return on board before the ship sailed at 1000 heading further upstream. Shortly after sailing we passed the village of Purnong and crossed over the vehicular ferry which is the shortest vehicle ferry on the Murray River. The houses of Purnong are lined up along the river bank, most with their own private jetty or wharf. They appeared to be mostly holiday houses; the term 'shack' could be applied but the obvious cost of many houses made that term inappropriate.
Alongside
Murray Princess spends most nights moored to the river bank with lines secured to river red gums. This photograph was taken at Saltbush Flat downstream of Purnong; the paddle-steamer regularly moors at this point and passengers are taken on a nature walk by the First Officer.
A food and wine tasting with a Riverlands theme was held in the dining room before lunch. The Cruise Director commented that it always amused him how people who were complaining about having over-eaten last night would regularly turn up at this event to eat yet more food.

Just as we were passing the long, red sandstone cliffs at Walkers Flat the Murray Princess reached the turning point for this three-day trip; we turned around and headed downstream.
Car Ferry Car ferries have been used instead of bridges at many crossing places on the Murray River in South Australia. They run on steel cables permanently in place across the river, but allowed to settle to the river bed when the ferry is against the shore.

After lunch we moored at River View Lodge where three or four of the river red gums were used as mooring points with mooring lines secured to them. A flat-bottomed boat was available to take passengers along the base of the cliffs much closer than was possible in the large Murray Princess. There were also better opportunities for bird photography. Whistling Kites were prominent along the bank here as well as the more regular darters and pelicans with the occasional egret. Passengers could also take part in a fishing competition from the port side of the Murray Princess; the aim was to catch the largest carp or native fish but the total catch was zero. The weather had gradually improved so that the days were not quite so bitterly cold although the wind still had a bite in it. The sun shone occasionally and there was no rain.

We remained secured to the gum trees at River View Lodge overnight. Flood lighting ensured that the nearby trees and reeds were clearly visible from the ship.



18 June
The ship sailed at 6:30, before sunrise but the floodlights showed the fog only too clearly. Sunrise was at about 7:22 and the fog soon burnt off. Passengers had an early breakfast and those going ashore left their luggage outside their cabins to be taken ashore when we reached Mannum. At 9:00 o'clock the Murray Princess secured to her berth at Mannum and passengers began disembarking. Those of us remaining onboard for the next (four-day) cruise joined a bus for a tour of the Barossa Valley; the real purpose of which was to get us off the ship during the turnaround when passengers would be in the way.
Houseboats Houseboats are an enduring feature of the lower Murray River; many are privately owned but many are rented. Houseboats usually moor by driving onto the bank at right angles as these ones have done. How this works when the river has a stronger current is not clear.

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