008 Monday 20th February.
A Feast of Photos this week.
The week begins…
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Nothing to report.
Thursday 23rd February
The CO-PILOT has 6 days off and we planned to get away in WWWGO to visit new places. An early departure was planned but as things always work against me in these matters we left our camp at Culcairn at 3.30 pm. We drove the Olympic Highway until it linked with the Hume Freeway and drove through Albury, Wodonga, Wangaratta and points south in the direction of Melbourne although that was not our destination. We left the highway to look at the pretty town of Benalla and a Freedom campsite for the night. The CO-PILOT is a fully qualified, black belt, ALDI Stores spotter. True to her amazing talents she found an Aldi and we stopped to look for groceries we did not need. We failed to find the campsite although the GPs took us to the correct dirt track in the middle of nowhere. I decided to push on as the potholed road narrowed. There was nowhere to turn around and no signs of human habitation anywhere. Eventually we came across a narrow sealed road and with the help of the GPS followed several back-roads, finally emerging on the Freeway. We turned off for another pretty town called Violet Town and once again could not locate the freedom campsite. As it was getting dark we called into the sports centre and stopped in a rear car-park and settled down for the night.
Friday 24th February
We were on our way by 8am with the plan being to arrive at Seymour and then on to Puckapunyal Army Base by 10am.
I was based at Puckapunyal in 1968 being trained in the Royal Australian Armoured Corps, eventually being posted to A squadron 1st Cavalry Regiment at Holsworthy near Sydney. The unit was dissolved in early 1967 becoming A Squadron 2ndCavalry Regiment.
My training started out in Saladan Armoured cars,
Ferret Scout cars,
and M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers
where I became a Crew Commander Gunner/Signaller.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2nd_Cavalry_Regiment_%28Australia%29 note the item about the unit mascot, a Wedgetail Eagle called Trooper Courage. My army buddy, Noel L was the mascot keeper and trainer and I had the honour of being involved when time permitted)
Puckapunyal now has an Armour Museum http://www.armytankmuseum.com.au/i-intro.htm which houses 90 tanks and other armour vehicles which were of interest to me and to a certain degree, the CO-PILOT. We arrived at the base and were issued with a visitor pass, which allowed us to drive directly to the museum, do not pass GO do not collect $200.
Of course the base has changed dramatically in the last 45 years but enough has remained the same to bring back memories. When being discharged from the Army in March 1968 I was asked by the commanding officer if I wanted to sign on for another term of 7 years. Of course the answer was no. I have often wondered what course my life would have taken if I remained in the Army. I did enjoy my time while in service so staying would not have been alien to me. The regimentation and discipline appealed to me.
The museum, as you could expect covers a huge area on the base and many exhibits allows you to stand in, on or try the equipment.
An original Furphy Water Cart was on display.
See the web page for a full explanation.
After a late lunch after walking around Seymour we decided to drive the Goulburn Valley Highway to Shepparton and stay the night there. Before leaving I saw the Royal Hotel where I was plied with beer on my 21stbirthday and became very drunk.
The afternoon was oppressively hot and although Shepparton was worth a visit, there were no Freedom campsites nearby so we pushed on towards Echuca on the Murray River, the historical once third busiest port in Australia. We found a Freedom campsite, Christies Beach,
on the banks of the Murray River about 10klms from Echuca. It was a magical spot and the evening was still hot.
A houseboat cruised slowly past our campsite as evening drifted into night.
Saturday 25th February
Echuca turned out to be a pleasant surprise
and one of the first things we did, after taking a walk around the main shopping area, was to find the historical port.
Mostly it has been retained in the era for when it was famous.
I was excited to take a cruise on a real wood fired steam engine paddle wheeler. The steamer was the fully restored PS Alexander Arbuthnot. http://www.echucamoama.com/ps-alexander-arbuthnot
A funny but potentially serious incident occurred during the cruise. The deckhand, Darren, was on the dock at a winery escorting passengers ashore. As he was untying the PS ready to jump aboard, the engineer put the PS into gear and pulled Darren into the water. The skipper did not see the incident and it was several minutes before he was able to berth and pick up his sodden deckhand with a ruined mobile phone.
Of course none of the boat trip was recorded as our camera battery died as we were waiting on the dock. The spare battery was in the camera bag back in WWWGO. I was forced to use the mobile phone camera.
The day was oppressively hot again with temps pushing around 40° and much too hot to be camped beside the river in a Freedom campsite. We chose a caravan park where we could have a swim and turn on the AC in WWWGO.
Sunday 6th February
It was another hot day although with 50% cloud cover, not as hot as yesterday. After attending a service at the Catholic Church we once again took a walk around the Port of Echuca, stopping at the Beechworth Bakery for coffee and baked goodies. We also bought a loaf of 96 hour sourdough rye bread which they sliced for us. The smell of that bread lingered in WWWGO all day and during the night. Yum.
We enjoyed a simple lunch at a restaurant built on the river walk and watched the paddle steamers and other boats as they cruised by. Our simple lunch consisted of a piece of delicious Triple Cream Brie cheese accompanied by sourdough bread and a plate of duck dim sims with sweet soy sauce and coriander salad. All this was washed down with tall glasses of icy cold James Squires Dark Ale. That simple but filling lunch was enough for us to enjoy two hours on the deck before driving the Murray Valley Highway through several small towns until we reached Cobram on the Murray. Our Camps book indicated a spot along the river bank would be suitable for camping. The dirt track meandered through Red River Gums along the river bank.
Finding a spot not beneath one of these widow-makers proved more difficult than expected. After a walk along the river track we enjoyed a hot shower and dinner of chilli and sourdough rye bread.
About 9.30 pm I could see an approaching electrical storm which although a constant spectacular lightning display could mean lots of heavy rain and we did not want to be caught on greasy clay tracks under the trees should the storm reach us. So it was during a dark night we left our camp site following the track to the entrance of Cobram Regional Park where we stopped for the night in an area relatively cleared of trees. We watched the distant lightning display before drifting off to sleep.
Tags: A Squadron 1st Cavalry Regiment, Albury, Beechworth Bakery, Benalla, Centurion Tank, Christies Beach, Cobram, Cormorant, Culcairn, Echuca, Echuca Uniting Church, Ferret Scout Car, Furphy Water Cart, Goulburn Valley Highway, Hume Freeway, M113 Armoured Personel Carrier, Murray River, Olympic Highway, Port of Echuca, PS Alexander Arbuthnot, PS Billy Tea, PS Canberra, PS Emmy Lou, Puckapunyal, Royal Australian Armoured Corps, Royal Hotel Seymour, Saladan Armoured Car, Seymour, Shepparton, Violet Town, Wangaratta, Wodonga