The other week, I won the lottery.
Not literally but, now that I put my feet up after five days cruising the Murray on a river boat; it feels like that’s what happened when an ill friend called to offer me his place on the tour, only days prior to “sailing”. Arrangements were put in place rapidly to get me to the starting and finishing South Australian town of Murray Bridge to join Murray River Cruises’ Indulgence Cruise.
Before I knew it, standing on the jetty there, ship’s engineer, David, greeted then led me onto the Proud Mary: a triple-deck vessel which would become floating home to 36 passengers for the best part of a week. After a briefing on the features of my cosy and resourcefully-appointed twin share cabin, I went up for introductory dinner. There, we met with strangers who would soon become friends and part by week’s end, some of us in tears at having to separate from a lifestyle that had become as comfortable to us as a favourite old shoe.
While the captain went through salutations as well as formalities for how the next few days would be structured, our attendants, Chantelle and Chloe hovered around us all in their friendly, hard-working and good-natured way. These high levels of service were hallmarks of a cruise company that had clearly been doing its stuff a long time and knew the clientele well; whether it be behind the bar, serving drinks or in the quality of the meals served or the way our rooms were made up, tidied each day complete with bedside chocky for our indulgence.
Cruise “regulars” Vince and Marilyn were up to about their tenth time aboard so something must be going right here! A unique treat was in store for us after our original captain John sadly needed to be replaced at short notice. Proud Mary’s recently retired skipper, David Farren, stepped in to fill this enormous void; with his calming Buckinghamshire accent and wonderfully eccentric British manner (each formal public address to us began: “My Lords, Ladies – and those undecided…”).
Each day ahead was a cracker! Waking in a new location, we’d greet our new-found traveller friends; enjoying their company over buffet breakfast. Lunch and dinners would run the gamut from picture-perfect haute cuisine to hearty Australiana and, of course, the swanky multi-course Captain’s Dinner on our last night.
At some point each day, group activities were available; from township bus tours to night-time wildlife spotting to bush walks to a lively, Aussie-themed live music night. Perhaps the best way towards enlightenment in these troubled cultural times is respect via transfers of knowledge which, as my grandpa always said, “is power”.
Face-to-face always seems to work better than on small screen learnings courtesy of Dr. Wiki. Significantly then, we enjoyed several interactions regarding indigenous life along the river, describing: canoe-making, bush tucker, medicine, rock art and meal preparation.
Positive passenger feedback went off-the-scale after we met with the entrepreneurial kids on our excursion to Mypolonga Primary School. After greeting us aboard our touring coach, three pint-sized students invited us inside with a smile to their “school shops”; selling arts, crafts as well as a multiplicity of value-added gifts created from local produce, including chocolate-coated apricots which the students themselves had harvested, cut, dried, dunked and packaged. Sales were recorded on old-fashioned ledgers and cash change counted back to the purchaser to develop student numeracy!
Of course, the main reason many of us were here was to witness the endlessly changing landscape on our country’s major waterway as it unfolded all around us: multi-faceted river redgums; houseboats and river shacks of every persuasion, as well as majestic sandstone/limestone cliffs towering to either side of us.
Most impressive of all was the wildlife; with pelicans, cormorants and snake-like darters around every tranquil river bend. It was impossible to tire of watching birds with wings arched; gliding mere inches from the water in either take-off or landing or simply in cruising flight mode.
I had indeed won the lottery – only next time I’ll be paying for a ticket for me and my friend who missed out, on this adventure-of-a-lifetime!
Visit the Murray River Cruises website for more information on the Proud Mary Murray River cruises.
Photo credit: Shane Fincke.
- cruising, Murray River
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