Thursday, April 16, 2015

Riverlands 2014, Part Four: The food basket of South Australia, and the proverbial "pub in the scrub"

Destination Murray River ... and we're there! The river is the life's blood of South Australia, and --
--driving through the Riverlands, you're surrounded by vineyards and orchards...
... it's the richest agricultural country we've ever seen, on three continents.
Little communities like Cadell supply much of the state's fruit and vegetables --
-- such as oranges, which are year-round crops in South Australia.
South Australia's Riverlands, near Waikerie ... orchards as far as you can see.
And here's the Murray River at Waikerie, where the paddle steamer Murray River Queen ties up...
and check out those houseboats moored a little way along the riverbank!
The Murray River Queen is a serious vessel. She offers tours as long as a week, cruising the river
from these waters with up to Renmark. Gotta do that one day. Soon.
Wetlands are habitats for a vast assortment of birdlife. Dead trees like this are not merely curiously
photogenic, but they are also where native parrots nest, so many dead trees are actually protected: do not cut!
On the road again, heading for Barmera and Loxton. Eventually. But first --
Toolunka Flats. Yes, Virginia, there really is a place called Toolunka (which tends to sound like a
native village from a Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movie). Actually, it's a wetlands project, and --
-- very beautiful indeed. See the orchards and market gardens stretching to the horizon, too.
Toolunka Flats under a gorious morning sky. The clouds parted, the sun shone! Grab the cameras!
Then we were back on the road -- specifically, the Goyder Highway. We've driven both ends of this highway,
but never the middle stretch, east from World's End (see it on an earlier post). We need to drive the whole thing...
Not surprisingly, it's quite a busy road; and predictably, you share it with a great many
semi-trailers hauling produce to the city.
You also share the road with kangaroos, so -- watch out. (Actually, roos are seldom active before
twilight, so during main daylight hours you're more likely to glimpse them napping under  tree.)
Desperate for a cuppa, we literally stumbled over a jewel in the wilderness -- the proverbial
"pub in the scrub," the Overland Corner Hotel...
The Overland Corner Hotel is just there in the middle of nowhere. It was built in 1895 to
service drovers and "overlanders" making the haul between NSW and Adelaide, and the
National Trust bought it in 1965. What a fantastic place!
The Overland Corner stands in a large garden where one can dine outdoors; but in 1956 --
Yes, the whole region was deep underwater in the 1956 flood.
Original colonial construction, brand-new galvanized iron roof...
...horseshoe for luck (the right way up, thank you!), and a gorgeous chandelier in the bar just inside.
The interior of the Overland Corner Hotel has been updated just a little, but the overall
construction and flavor are original. It's like stepping right into Cash and Company! (Which,
incidentally, just came out on DVD. We're loving it ... again. Saw it in 1975.)
Live music plays in the gardens at the weekend, and --
-- if you're having your cuppa outside, check out these tables. They're great slabs of polished local stone
set on upright logs. Now, we have got to have one of these at home!
The Overland Corner Hotel isn't a secret. Taking up six spaces in the parking lot was this tour bus,
just over from bushranger country -- the Victorian mountains -- and headed who knows where?
Great place to stop for tea and a taste of history.
Love the art on the back of the bus. The Man from Snowy River rides again.
We had actually parked in the wide, open space behind the hotel. Here's "Lola in the wilderness" ...
well, not quite. You could hear the music from the pub as you stepped out of the car, because --
Overland Corner is also a "biosphere reserve" and wetlands project, and the hotel
backs right onto the area being reclaimed. In the rainy season, it'll be a chorus of frogs...
...such as the Golden Bell-frog, which, like so many species, is "vulnerable" in South Australia.
Areas like Overland Corner will make all the difference to the survival of many animals and birds.
Cruising the fruit and vegetable area at the supermarket, you can sometimes wonder where it all comes from; and if you take the drive from Morgan via towns like Cadell and Waikerie to Barmera and Loxton, you'll know where it comes from! We've never seen such rich agricultural land, and it all pivots around the Murray River.

You can see this lush, beautiful region from the road, as we did, or from the water. In fact, if you're interested, there's a major website arranging tours ... check it out. It's easy for folks from Adelaide to load up the car and head out early in the morning, but we'd also dearly love to "lead foot it" through to Renmark and then get on a riverboat for the cruise through to those towering red cliffs. One day!

For the moment, we hopped from one photo-op to another, and one cafe to the next. Late in the afternoon we were dying for a cuppa -- tea, not coffee; we were coffee'd right up to the eyeballs. We hadn't know the Overland Corner Hotel even existed before we rolled up to it, and we were due a marvelous surprise. Original colonial-era building, lovely garden, live music ... great tea! Also very friendly people who gave permission for photos to be taken and uploaded. Here are just a few of about a hundred we took.

The land was pretty dry when we were there, but if you visited in late autumn, winter or early spring, the wetlands should be ... wet. You'd certainly hear the Golden Bell-frog, though you'd be very lucky to catch sight of one. Aussie frogs are usually invisible -- and astonishingly loud.

From Overland Corner we were headed toward Loxton and Barmera ... but Banrock Station and Murray River Lock 3 came up first; and those will be in the next post in this series.

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