The only real way to experience the Murray is to go with the flow on a wood-fired paddlesteamer, SUE PRESTON reports.
THE young guns on the jet skis think they're onto something. At full throttle they carve a swathe through the gentle river, sending the birds scattering.
They're gone in seconds but in their wake is all the things they've missed; things they'll never see at the speed of life they've chosen.
There's a bird nesting high in a majestic river gum and the slow passage of our paddlesteamer, PS Emmylou, enables us to watch it as well as a mother duck and her ducklings paddling by.
There's a fisherman on the bank giving us a friendly wave, pleased we won't disturb the cod he's hoping to hook. A woman in a purple cap confidently swims by, uttering a cheery "Hoy there".
The mighty Murray River deserves to be done slowly. The country's third-longest navigable river is home to the world's largest red gum forest and World Heritage wetlands.
While there are myriad ways to enjoy it, there is arguably no better way than from the decks of the only wood-fired paddlesteamer offering onboard accommodation in the world today.
Emmylou became the most recognisable paddlesteamer in the country when she starred in the TV series All the Rivers Run as the PS Providence. Powered by a restored 1906 steam engine and named after the American country singer Emmylou Harris, her nine compact but lovely cabins have been refitted with ensuites, including the new Emmylou Suite.
I'm on board for an overnight dinner cruise with fellow guests taking up the eight other cabins on the top deck. Joining us is a group who will disembark after dinner leaving the rest of us to later enjoy the overnight mooring and roaring campfire.
We enjoy the excellent five-course dinner and a glass or two of local wine as the side-wheeled vessel slowly takes us along the river. She's handsome, and campers run for their cameras. "Look Mum, look" the children cry running along the riverbank.
The sun is setting as we cruise past the historic Echuca wharf, home to the largest collection of paddlesteamers in the world. As we tie up for the night, the dinner guests depart with regretful glances.
We make a beeline for the campfire where skipper Warren brings out his guitar and launches into John Williamson's Hey True Blue. Engineer Scotty stokes the fire with some of the lengths of red gum that fuel the steam engine.
At first there is a companionable silence as we stare into the fire or "bush television" but soon we're swapping stories of the land and things we've seen.
Early next morning I open the double doors of the Emmylou Suite to reveal the river in all its quiet glory.
IF YOU GO...
PS Emmylou is based at Echuca, around three hours' drive from Melbourne. On offer are lunch and dinner cruises, the overnight dinner cruise and two, three and four-night cruise packages taking in winery visits, riverbank campfires and cultural experiences.
A Second Person-Half Price offer applies to selected 2020 cruises departures. The offer ends on December 15. You can phone the office or reserve your cabin online using the relevant Promo Code. A deposit is required on booking.
Two-night cruise departures, June 11, August 27:
Promo Code 2NDHALF2
Three-night cruise departures, June 1, July 13, August 24:
Promo Code 2NDHALF3
Four-night cruise departures, June 15, August 31:
Promo Code 2NDHALF4
Phone (03) 5482-5244 or click HERE
Stay a while in Echuca and explore its historic port, art galleries, cafes and shops. More HERE