We departed Lake Benanee on Tuesday and made our way back to Euston with the hope of picking up the cable we needed to repair the lighting situation between the motorhome and the jeep. We have been here far too long now to put any hope that these smaller villages will have what we need. We received the standard, but not unexpected response, “we can order it in – it should be here on Friday”. We decided to cross the river and try at Robinvale. We lucked in and they had 4 metres left at the local service centre. The captain bought the lot. We decided to leave the repair until we stopped for the night, wherever that was going to be.
As we commented on the last blog update, we were hoping to find a park up somewhere between Robinvale and Tooleybuc along the Murray River. What we did not know that along that stretch of highway was all crops and orchards and the local growers did not want anyone near their ‘income’ just in case travellers bought disease or bugs into the area. We cannot say we blame them. There was one spot we could have stopped off, Boundary Bend on the Murray, but unfortunately access to the site was quite steep and should it have rained, getting out was always going to be a drama.
Based on what we found, we continued on to Tooleybuc. What a stunning little village. Located on the Mallee Highway and 381 kilometres north west of Melbourne, the village is situated on the banks of the Murray River and across from Piangil in the neighbouring state of Victoria. It has one of the few remaining ‘lift bridges’ where the centre span is raised to let houseboats and paddleboats pass underneath. We did think of staying the night but the motor camp was too small to take us and there was no free camping close to the town. We made do and had lunch at the village on the banks of the Murray then continued on our way.
About 20km further down the highway we came to the small village of Nyah. After a quick online search we discovered that the village had a rather large recreational reserve where they allowed travellers stay at no cost. It was getting late in the day so we decided that was us. After 10 minutes of searching we found the reserve, selected our spot amongst the gum trees and set up for the night. Once set up, the captain decided he would fix the wiring problem. It was not a ’30 minute’ job but our problem is resolved and the new wiring job is done. He was treated with a few R & C’s at the end of the job.
On Wednesday morning we departed Nyah and made our way 36km south to Swan Hill. Swan Hill is a city in the northwest of Victoria on the Murray Valley Highway and on the south bank of the Murray River. Unfortunately there is no free camping around Swan Hill so we based ourselves at the local Big4 Motor Camp at the junction of the Murray and Marraboor Rivers and on the site of the area’s first hospital in 1860. In the 1850s, a wharf on the Murray River was built and Swan Hill became one of the region’s major inland river trading ports. Agriculture spearheaded the town’s prosperity with the clearing of surrounding land and the use of the river for irrigation. Vast citrus farms and vineyards surround Swan Hill and extend many kilometres to the northwest. We spent what was left of Wednesday taking a walk around the town and finding what was where.
We awoke to a stunning day on Thursday and decided to stay on at Swan Hill for another day. The navigator was keen to walk back into town and continue with her ‘retail therapy’ while the captain took himself 16km south to visit the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum. During World War II, Rod’s Dad trained in Canada and flew in Catalina’s in the Pacific during the war against Japan. Rod was keen to discover if there was any record of his Dad being at the Lake at any point during the War.
As a bit of history, during World War II, Darwin and Broome were the Pacific bases for wartime float plane repair and maintenance. In the 1942 bombing of Darwin (February) and Broome (March) by the Japanese, a number of valuable allied float planes were lost and the allies decided to relocate the repair and maintenance bases. Lake Boga in Victoria was the preferred choice because of its size, its inland location and the ample spare land around the lake for hangers, accommodation, stores and workshops. Lake Boga saw its first Catalina in July 1942. In all, 416 aircraft were either serviced or repaired at Lake Boga. The aircraft serviced were Catalinas, Dorniers, Martin Mariners, Walrus and Sikorsky Kingfishers.
Unfortunately Rod was unable to confirm whether his Dad ever visited the Lake. However as it was the only Catalina repair and maintenance base in the Pacific from July 1942, there is more than a better chance he was there. Because the base was Top Secret in its day, he surmised that perhaps not all personnel information had been made available to the Museum.
Of interest to Rod while at the Museum was the underground communication station. The station is still in its original bunker and is exactly as it was in the 1940’s, including the radio equipment. The station’s HF and VHF capability enabled it to communicate with aircraft at both short and long distances. The bunker consisted of a radio room, the ‘bosses office’, a cryptographic office, a kitchen and bunkroom. The bunker also contained a diesel generator that provided power to the bunker in times of emergency. There was no noise protection around the generator so the bunker must have been hellish noisy when it was going. On the upside, at least it was vented outside.
We depart Swan Hill this morning (Friday) but as usual no decision has been made as to our direction except we will go westward.