I went into the pub and stood at the counter. There were three middle-aged guys sitting on bar stalls around the rectangular shaped bar. The third Ashes test was showing on the telly, Steve Waugh was in batting.
There was nobody behind the bar. I waited a good minute or two. One man who looked like he owed most of his physic to Carlton Breweries said “Want a drink, mate?”
“Yeah wouldn’t mind.”
“He’s goon out.”
“Reckon I might die of thirst before e’s back then mate.?”
“Could do” and then as an afterthought “I might be able to manage”. He got off his bar stall and moved around the side of the bar, took a beer mug down off the shelf overhanging the bar and asked if it was okay.
“Yep, for the first one” The improvised bar man poured a ”Light Ice” fairly well and with plenty of encouragement from his mates.
“The next one is trickier.” I instructed him “A Bourbon and Dry”. He checked with me he had the right size glass and then brought out an array of jiggers and measuring shot glasses. I pointed at the largest and he poured the Bourbon.
“Now Ginger Ale” He looked through the bar and the freezers for the soft drink.
“What the fuck are you up to?” Standing behind the helpful wanna be bar man was a huge six-foot plus bar man with a number 5 hair cut. My helper stuttered some words about just helping and scooted back to his seat. The real barman completed my order.
I took our drinks outside to the pubs’ outdoor wooden picnic tables. Ali and I picked through our spoils from the information centre.[/su_panel]
Much of the same long straight road to start. We stopped for Ali to take some photos before continuing on to Wentworth. On the way to Wentworth, we drove into a town called Mildura. We decided our trip was a bit tight to stop and look around this time, though.
After pitching our tent, we went to the information centre to see what we could do with our afternoon. We left with our arms ladened with pamphlets crossing the road to a pub opposite. We decided we would sit down and have a cold beer while going through all this stuff we’d picked up.
Post beer, we drove around to the lock in time to see three aluminium dinghies going in to it on their way downstream. The lock keeper later explained these guys camped three kilometres downstream and came up for a counter lunch. They had being doing this for several years.
The lock opens on the ½ hour one way and on the hour the other way. It only opens if there is traffic. Nowadays there is not much traffic, and it becomes the busiest when the town has river boat shows.
The lock keeper also talked about the houseboat trade, dying around this area. He thought they were far too expensive now, at $2000 a week to hirer.
I quizzed him about the navigation and depth of the river. He said you could probably go East on the Murray to Lake Mulwala. He said to the east you could camp anywhere on the River bank to Renmark as most of it was through National Park. He said that in South Australia a lot of landowners have posted notices declaring their property as “Private” and that annoyed him.
He had travelled from Wentworth to Renmark in a steamboat, and it took about 4 days. They travelled from first thing in the morning until about 10pm at night. He thought they were probably making about 8 knots.
He said that navigation up the Darling was only good for about 40 kilometres North of Wentworth.
After our discussion with the Lock Keeper, we went to the old “Wentworth Gaol” and the Museum across the road. Both were interesting, with the Museum having an enormous collection of riverboat photographs. We returned to the campsite to find two tents pitched hard up against ours. I constructed a tarpaulin wall between us, and we settled down for a drink and dinner. I am afraid I am not tolerant of people who have to camp on your doorstep, especially when you are in a large campground with plenty of room.
That night while we were sitting outside our tent there was a lot of activity from possums in a tree next to us. We sat and watched as a number came down to look around the camping ground. Ali got some very good shots of these little guys going about the evening business.