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  • Heading west following the Murray River. We arrive in Swan Hill in the late afternoon. It is an old paddlesteamer port with history still close to the surface. We arrive just in time to watch the rugby league grand final which is won by the only Victorian team in the competition. The next day we head further west and leave the red gum forests behind us as we enter the dry mallee country. Beautiful yellow-flowering eucalypts line the banks of the Murray now. We stop and discover a midden, where Aboriginal people have discarded shells and bones over thousands of years. High above us ibis are circling.

    Closer to the town of Mildura the banks of the Murray become red cliffs and as we pass the town we soon reach its junction with the Darling, Australia's longest river. The Darling is, according to Henry Lawson (one of Australia's early poets) either a muddy gutter or a second Mississippi (so poetic!). Today it is a second Mississippi as it has water and deep flowing water at that. In the late 1800s up to 80 riverboats and barges used the Darling, perhaps fooled into thinking that it was a reliable river. But a river journey to Bourke could take anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 years. Sometimes it was quicker to walk.

    Tomorrow it will be time to head north and leave the Murray and Darling behind as we head inland into desert country, to the banks of long-dry rivers and lakes. A world heritage area where archaeological discoveries have re-written the history of Australia and reminded us of how ancient this country is.
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