Travelling Australia - Journal 2015c
|22 June 2015
Mildura to Waikerie
Today we planned to drive along the Sturt Highway to Waikerie in South Australia. Weather was reasonable as we drove out of Mildura on the Sturt Highway, it was cool, there was some cloud but no wind and little sunshine. Outside air temperature had not yet reached 10°C but we were comfortably warm in the Pathfinder.
Leaving the Mildura proper the Sturt Highway soon passes the village of South Mildura then the airport. Some paddocks along the road are covered in the mallee screb native to the area but grape vines were mostly dominant. Grape vines dominated the scenery until the Highway passed through the village of South Merbein where they were abruptly replaced by grain as we entered the Millewa grain growing area stretching from Mildura in the east to the Murray National Park adjacent to the South Australian border to the west.
The Millewa region was large pastoral holdings until it was opened for settlement by wheat growers in the 1920s. The area has low rainfall averaging 250 millimetres annually but now successfully produces hard grain high protein wheat and malting grade barley. Around Lake Cullulleraine grain is supplemented by grape vines and fruit trees watered from the Murray River to the north.
The road runs in remarkably straight sections and is not quite dead flat but has frequent long, low rises and descents. There are no overtaking lanes but the bitumen surface is mostly very good. Traffic was reasonably light considering this is an important road route between Sydney and Adelaide. Heavy transports were not unknown but were not present in large numbers. Caravans were common.
Towards the South Australia border, but still in Victoria, cropping land was replaced by national parks covered in mallee until the border marked by the boundary between mallee of the Victorian national park and cropland in South Australia. Shortly after entering South Australia we were stopped at the fruit fly quarantine check-point at Yamba where the content of the caravan fridge were checked before we proceeded.
Once we were in South Australia we were in the Riverland region where grape vines were widespread as well as citrus orchards. Different towns seemed to emphasis different crops and products. Berri was notable, not only for extensive vineyards around the town but for the very neat appearance of the vines. At this time of year grape vines having dropped their leaves are ready to have straggly small (and some large) branches pruned leaving neat rows of vines. But pruning is a lengthy procedure and many properties have only a few sections pruned leaving vineyards straggling and untidy. Except around Berri where most vines visible from the highway had been neatly pruned and ground between rows carefully cultivated. The effect was neat and attractive.
Through Renmark, past Berri and Barmera the road crossed several irrigation areas, sometimes with a view of the Murray River which had been crossed at Paringa via an old lifting-span bridge with a speed limit of 30 kph for vehicles. After passing Kingston-on-Murray the road ran through cropland until reaching the outskirts of Waikerie where we turned off to go through the township shopping centre to the caravan park where we checked in.