I liked Morgan the instant I rode into town yesterday afternoon. It wasn’t just relief at being able to stop after a long day in the saddle. No, this was an actual deep sense of liking the place and so I decided to stay here two nights to rest, relax and allow my body to recover from the demands of five days on the road. I set aside the whole morning for work (I work 19 hours a week writing online training courses). I find that I am efficient and focused when I am relaxed and the sunshine in the town’s riverfront park was conducive to said relaxation. The hours passed by quickly and, before I knew it my laptop battery had died and it was already lunchtime.
After a trip to the museum, with it’s funny male manekins dressed in women’s garb (I doubt it’s intentional cross-dressing and more a feature of necessity), I couldn’t resist a visit to the old morgue. Apparently, this is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the whole town. We humans are such morbid people 🙂
Morgan used to be a major centre on the Murray River. It was so big that it became a railway town in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As a former railway worker myself, I have a thing for railway towns. There’s something kinda cool about trains and the way they can travel almost anywhere – so long as there are tracks for them to follow. The railways always conjur up an era of prosperity, adventure and industry. I think that I would have liked to have been a railway man in days gone past. And visiting railway towns also brings up fond personal memories of the men I worked with when I was myself a railways man.
Naturally, as a prosperous river town, Morgan was also home to a lively shipping industry. The local community are currently bringing life back into the PS Canally, which sank near Morgan many years ago. I hope one day to return to see her once again making her way up and down the river as the Murray Princess does today.
And then there were the houses from various periods of Morgan’s history. I think we all know by now that I like derelict stuctures, especially those built from stone. But I do also like structures that are still alive. There’s something about the stories that their walls must be able to tell about all the souls that have passed through the rooms, whether as residents, guests or maybe even thieves. There are countless little historic houses in town that trace it’s links to times long gone.
My final day on the Murray wouldn’t be complete without launching my packraft. My campsite didn’t really have a good launch point and I didn’t feel like wasting time searching the area for a better spot so I made do and got myself safely into the boat without the need for a swim (I am a strong swimmer but it’s not an activity that I enjoy).
The effort was worth it and I was soon paddling my way on the river’s greeny-brown waters looking up at the burnt orange cliffs on the opposite bank. I know I will miss those cliffs that I have followed north these past few days when I turn north-west away from the river’s path.
There is a gorgeous recurring burnt orange theme to the Murray’s banks in these southern reaches. Where cliffs rise on one side, burnt orange grasses grow in gay abandon on the other. If someone painted it with oils you’d say they were using artistic licence. But it really does look like this.
The pelicans are still here, swimming away and catching fish. But there are fewer of them than there were further south. Perhaps we’re starting to get too far away from the sea for their liking. Or maybe there’s not as many fish for them to eat up here. That’s not to say they are rare here because I still counted about 25 of them on my paddle. They seem to like being in pairs and I saw some swim quickly away when a third tried to join them. It was rather like seeing two lovers interrupted by an unwanted dinner guest.
The strangest thing I saw was this toilet stuck way up in a tree. Someone must have gone to a lot of effort to get it up there because it was very high. You’d need to park a houseboat under the tree and then probably still climb a ladder to get there. However it got there, it made me chuckle – for I am someone who finds these random sightings amusing.
After paddling upstream for almost an hour, I turned my raft for home and allowed the wind and current to carry me partway back while I basked in the sunshine. Don’t let the short sleeves and shorts confuse you – the maximum temperature today was only around 10 degrees celcius (50 degrees farenheit) but I seem to be aclimating quite well now.
Back at camp I laid my packraft out to dry while I cooked up some dinner and watched the sun drop down behind the cliffs. It was so quiet and peaceful watching the pelicans and listening to the kites calling. I have thoroughly enjoyed my week on the Murray. Perhaps one day I will be back to ride her waters by packraft or canoe. For now, the time has come to explore new territory. But I will enjoy one last night of listening to the water lap against the shore knowing that I am here sleeping beside Australia’s Mighty Murray River.