I have always dreamt of going to the mouth of the Darling River to see where it ran into the Murray. I spent half of my childhood living on the Darling, early on at Sunset Strip near Menindee and later out at Bourke. I have always been enchanted by the river, the ways it constantly changes, the distance it can spill its banks in flood and how the carp can survive for months in shallow ponds during droughts. My dad used to tell me when i was little how all life came from the river, how it eventually flowed into the ocean, and living so far inland the ocean was such a magical thing that i would imagine every leaf i would release would be soon swept into the sea. The wild flowers that grow on its banks are breathtaking and any where near the river teams with life. There are many fish traps, middens, scar trees and sacred sites along its banks, reminding us of the life it sustained a few hundred years ago. I feel a little sad when i think on how controlled the river systems are now, they are no longer free to flow and ravage unless they are in flood and all the weirs are forced open, we control it and use it and no doubt abuse its resources. Old indigenous women have told me when they were young the river was mostly clear, they could spear the fish by site, our modern day regulations of flow must have stirred so much sediment that i have only ever known a brown flowing mass. Out at Bourke when it flooded dad would take me to school in a little tinny. The river would rise so much that it would come within a km of our house, so we would drive to its edges then boat the 3-4 km to the actual river then follow it’s flow upstream about 8km back into Bourke and he would drop me on the levee bank right near St Ignatius school, other times i remember him flying us into town for school. We were always cut off in floods. It was such an adventure!
When we swam in the Darling I hated touching the muddy bottom so would usually opt to swim with a big tyre tube, this kept our cattle dog fred from climbing on me when i was swimming too! Our spa was at the pump station, the cement pipe that led to the channel would have water flowing out of it and we would sit in there! As we got older we would use the utes and ski or knee board up the channels, it was a blast but i shudder now at the thought of all the cotton chemicals we were swimming in! At sunset strip i was a little girl just at school. Our front yard led down to the lake and it was a sandy bottom. I loved the freedom of the dessert and would escape out into the dunes and salt bush any chance i could. Dad was a pilot for Tandou, a huge agricultural company out there and would fly the workers from Sunset Strip to work everyday. I loved hearing the buzz of the plane coming home in the afternoons and mum would let me run over to the sand strip to meet him. One day i remember he caught a huge python on the run way that had just eaten a rabbit. Dad bought it home to show us and i feel just as petrified today when i see the pictures of it around my neck! I could not believe i could still see the shape of the whole rabbit and was a little concerned he might fit me in there too! He was in Dads toolbox for a little while and I remember watching from a very safe distance when dad would open it as he would be feisty until he realised who it was. He also bailed up our cattle dog a few times, eventually he went free in the dunes over the back. His name was George. Most animals dad rescued and bought home were called George. I remember a wedge tail eagle dad bought home and nursed back to health, he was George too! I guess it is just one of those funny things I love about my Dad.
Getting back on track i finally made it to Wentworth, where the Darling flows into the Murray. It was a beautiful thing, all those years of dreaming culminating in finally making it, and with my own family in tow. The land out here still enchants me, its space and beauty nurture my soul so deeply. I love it! We stayed at a little caravan Park on the Murray called Fort Courage, and contrary to it’s name it was a super peaceful place. We initially went to check it out, as it was 20km out of town and we thought it best to stay in town. Rob and I were both reluctant to leave so decided to flip a coin, heads we stay, tails we go. Rob flipped it 4 times, all heads, i flipped it twice, all heads, then Pearl once, yep, heads. So we stayed! And ended up being there 4 days. It was one of those places which is so relaxed it kind of sucks you into the rhythm. It took us 5 hours to do a 1 hour pack up, so am kind of glad we got out when we did or we may never have left!
Late this arvo we arrived in Broken Hill. Not sure where too from here? We had hoped to get to Mungo National Park and a few others around Menindee and Broken Hill, but the rain has all the roads closed so we are unsure whether to wait? More rain is forcast for tonight, none as yet. Selfishly i would love to get to these parks, but rain is a precious thing so surrendering to what ever unfolds. Tomorrow we will go find our old family home at Sunset Strip and i will take Pearl into my old hiding places in the dunes over the back!
Time for sleeps for me, Rob and Pearl are both snoring, it has been a lovely thing to type and listen. I am thankful they are rythmical snorers, i can sleep when it is consistent snoring!