Travelling Australia - Journal 2015c
|28 June - 4 Jul 2015
Mildura and Wentworth
We had planned to spend several days in Mildura and this stay was extended by three or four days so we could go on a Wentworth-based barbeque boat trip on the Darling River.
Our visits to Mildura are a combination of relaxation and catching up with specialised shopping. The part of Mildura we stay in is well equipped with supermarkets, coffee shops and the like as well as more specialised business such as Bunnings, caravan accessory dealers and camping shops. On past visits we have had tyres replaced at the nearby tyre dealer and bought a new battery (from the RACV) for the Pathfinder. We also use the visit to look around Mildura and nearby Wentworth.
Weather was a factor on this visit. A cold wind had become usual, even on sunny, blue-sky, days. Rain was not unusual but neither was it frequent on this visit. By now we had got fairly used to the cold weather and didn't feel it quite so much, partly because we were now dressing more suitably for the cold. Although some days were cloudy, dank and pretty miserable, others were bright and sunny with a clear blue sky (and bitingly cold wind). On the gloomy days staying in the van was a good idea. Sunny days were good for getting out and about; the dirt tracks into national parks had pretty much dried out now and four-wheel drive was no longer needed to reach some of the more popular walking tracks.
A succession of weirs across the Murray River controls water level along the river. Weir 11, at Mildura, had been dismantled for maintenance before we arrived and the level of the Murray River was very low with grass growing on the river bed.
We made a few visits to Wentworth 30 kilometres from Mildura across the Murray River in New South Wales. Wentworth was founded as a river port at the junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers and was a thriving settlement long before Mildura was founded. But the end of paddle-steamers on the rivers marked the end for Wentworth which is now a very small place (population 1200). We had planned to go the Wentworth Club for lunch,this has had an uneven history and I had telephoned the day before to confirm the club would be open for lunch and was assured it was open seven days a week; but when we got there the place was locked with a sign saying it had ceased trading. So we went to the pub across the road for and excellent lunch.
28 June 2015 - Mildura and Wentworth, page 2
The Wentworth Club was a very large club for a township of Wentworth's size (and there are two fully functioning hotels as well) with extensive car parks beside the building. Several local residents volunteered that the Wentworth Club grew remarkably when poker machines were legal in New South Wales but not in Victoria or South Australia and poker-machine players flocked to Wentworth from those states. Now poker machines are legal in the other states and the flow of visitors to the Wentworth Club has dried up.
A couple of weeks after the club closed, on 14 July, The Australian strongly implied that the Wentworth Club had closed because of changes in water allocation in the Murray-Darling basin leaving irrigators short of water for their crops. No evidence was offered for this theory which ignored, among other factors, the turbulent history of the Wentworth Club, the obvious mismatch between the size of the club and Wentworth's population, and the logical explanation offered by local residents. On balance, The Australian's claim lacked credibility; it was far more likely (as local residents' explained) that the Wentworth Club had fallen foul of changes to poker machine legislation.
28 June 2015 - Wentworth, page 3