Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Meeting of the Waters (Australia: Echuca: 15 July 2007, Written 15 July 2007)

It’s not a great feeling to wake up and be cold – I really hate it. I think it has to do with my teeth clenching and your muscles get really tense. Well, that's how Sunday morning was. It’s ok though, I spent some time being really lazy, editing photos etc. Had some breakfast then Susan brought me down to Echuca to meet Sue.

Sue came on one of the gourmet trips in Japan and she is a lovely woman, a doctor in this small town of 15,000 people located 2.5 hours north of Melbourne. Echuca is an aboriginal word that means meeting of the rivers or waters, and Echuca is indeed where they meet; the Murray and Campespe meet, and it was an important point in transporting goods to Melbourne during the gold rush in the 1850s. Goods would be brought by river to Echuca, then transferred onto trains that would then do the journey into Melbourne.

We went for a stroll along the Murray, then along to the cute old fashioned part of town with old buildings and shops. We had lunch at a lovely little place overlooking the river called Oscar W’s – an eclectic menu including middle eastern appetizers, a variety of meats and seafood, and plenty of exotic vegetables mixed in. We then headed onto a touristy paddlesteamer, the P.S. Emmylou, that is a restored boat running on steam that shows tourists today how it used to be in the good ol’ days. It was a lovely afternoon, and we drifted slowly upstream passing by huge red river gum trees with their roots fully exposed due to the ongoing drought in the region. Cockatoos and galahs flew overhead while a plethora of ducks, cormorants, and other water birds went along their business in the river.

After that, we had a little driving tour of the town and visited Sue’s parents. They live in a gorgeous house designed by Fiona, Sue’s sister who was also on the trip to Japan. The backyard was lovely, going down to the Campespe River and wisteria vines draped across archways. We headed home after that.

Sue lives with her husband Ian at Cape Horn Vineyard, located 15 minutes out of Echuca. They grow 6 varieties of grapes to produce 13 different kinds of wine; it’s a small property, relatively speaking – about 20 acres of vines. She showed me around the place and we took their lovely dogs walking out back where there were plenty of kangaroo tracks, distinctive due to the long middle toe. Cape Horn gets its name because the Murray River turns there in the same shape as the Cape in South America that it’s named after. We walked around that bend in the river down to a campground and headed back.

A lovely evening started by some nibbles that I haven’t had in ages – or never at all; soft farmhouse cheese, quince paste, beetroot hummus, tzatziki, and olives, all served with grissini and crunchy crackers and potato crisps – ahh how nice to visit someone who had been on a gourmet tour in Japan! And, of course, a bottle of homegrown Cabernet Sauvignon – quite tasty.

I drifted off to have a quick nap next to the fire and Prince, the beautiful black lab, and woke up just in time for dinner – Osso buco beef with stewed carrots, celery, and onion, mashed potatoes, and green beans. And yes, more wine. Dessert was a gorgeous rhubarb and apple crumble with King Island cream; once again, all the Aussies who had advised me on the qualities of anything made on King Island were correct.

A full and enjoyable day, another glimpse into Australian life that makes me think, yup, I could live in this country.

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