One of the questions so often asked after a big holiday is “did it live up to your expectations?” Our response is that we go with an open mind and will wait and see how it turns out. This way you are often very pleasantly surprised.

During our recent holiday to Australia, the Murray River Walk proved just this point.

Having experienced a ‘Great Walk of Australia’ previously, Steppes Travel informed us of a new walk on the Murray River, which we were keen to sign up for. We enjoy walking and wildlife, and this looked like a great adventure. Unfortunately, the last scheduled walk departed the week before we were able to get to the Riverlands. “No problem”, said Kate at Steppes, who had spoken with Tony the owner. He had agreed to add an extra departure. True to his word he did. We love the Aussie ‘can do’ attitude.

We met in Renmark on the first morning, greeted with great enthusiasm as the first English couple to complete the walk. The other walkers were from Canberra and Sydney and made us very welcome. After spending four days walking alongside them, we learnt what it is really like to live in Australia: an interesting opportunity to really get under the surface of a country.

Before the walk we had very little knowledge about this particular area in Australia, but this was going to change dramatically.

Our guides told us about the historical importance of the Murray River as an exploration conduit and a vital trading route. He explained about the installation of the lock system to help make the river navigable. The benefit for today is that it has created a large river land recreational area. We discussed the politics of the water management from the catchment area that covers one-third of Australia’s land mass. Inter-state disagreements happen the world over!

Irrigation from the river has turned the desert, through which it flows, into a highly productive fruit and wine growing region. But in severe drought, there may be a drastic reduction in the availability of water, or in the worst-case scenario, none at all. The flip side to this is that like all rivers, the Murray can flood, bringing a different sort of devastation. Being a farmer in Australia can be nerve-wracking.

We walked through part of the old Chowilla sheep station, across 600,000 acres, which has been sold back to the Government to be ‘re-wilded’ as a wetland area for wildlife.

Climbing up and down the multi-coloured sandy escarpments beside the river, the geology of the ancient landscape through which the river flows was revealed. The guide’s knowledge of the river, the flora and fauna, was most impressive and they were extremely enthusiastic and great fun.

We saw a profusion of different birds, as well as many kangaroos. Walking on foot enabled us to get close to the wildlife. We also came across evidence of aboriginal activities; bark removed from the trees to make canoes and shields, as well as an old site of habitation with stone cutting tools, waiting for the archaeologists to visit. We learnt a bit about ‘bush tucker’ and picked our own Salt Bush leaves to add to scrambled eggs for breakfast.

The walking was very varied as the billabongs meandered back and forth from the main river creating different habitats. Tapping them first to check for snakes, we found shady logs to sit and eat our delicious lunches.

After long days walking, we were welcomed to our accommodation: a very comfortable houseboat on the river. One of Tony’s school chums is now a top Australian chef who designs his menus with great emphasis on local produce. The wines at dinner showcased small local producers with some very unusual grape varietals.

We could not fault the whole experience and thoroughly recommend it to anyone who wants to get off the normal tourist route, take a bit of exercise, see some great wildlife and get a bit further under the skin of Australia.

Thank you to our clients, Robert and Elaine Davis, for writing a fantastic blog about their recent experiences in Australia. To find out more about the Murray River and Australia, get in touch with one of our travel experts today and get started on planning your next adventure.