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AUSTRALIA | Saturday, 14 February 2009 | Views [1022]

After visiting the Barossa, I drove to Mildura which is close to the triple border of Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales. Mildura is on the Murray river (Australia's biggest river) and is the breadbasket for Australia, with lots of bulk wine and fruits produced there. I was expecting to find Lodi, CA. I was wrong. Mildura is a very nice town, with lots of restaurants, and hotels. There are a few nearbye national parks (I really want to go to Mongo NP, 2 hours north of there but I did not have time). There was also plenty of hotels, including some moderately priced ones. The other thing to note was how friendly everyone was in Mildura. Its probably the friendliest place in Australia, and that says a lot.

My first day, I went to a popular pizza place downtown. The pizza was quite good and the place was packed with families. Right in front of me this guy was sitting at a table for two with a women.  And well, his pants were halfway down his butt. And well, he was not wearing any underwear. So I was sitting there eating pizza, and staring at his crack wondering if I should go up to him and say something. The wait staff just ignored it. Eventually I went around, behind his date and started making a motion of pulling my own pants up, to try to give him the hint without embarrassing him. he paid me no heed. Oh well. I never have any idea what I am supposed to do in those situations...

The next day I took a cool paddle steamer ride on the murray. The murray has a system of locks (like the panama canal) and we went through one of them, so we pulled up to one lock and the one behind us closed, our water level dropped and 5 minutes later we were able to continue on our way. It was pretty cool. There was lots of birds and boats on the murray and even a swimming beach. I enjoyed that ride.

I then drove in the direction of Bendigo, and stopped about 1 hour south of Mildura at another national park. It was the desert, but there were amazing numbers of trees and birds there. I have no idea what those birds were doing there, and where exactly was the water? Anyway, I had a nice hike and also saw some emu's while driving around.

Next I drove  to Bendigo, where I had trouble finding cheap housing (I ended up paying about $80 US for a mediocre hotel). For some reason this former gold rush town (1850's), was still prospering. There were great victorian buildings, including an incredible church (with amazing stain glass windows), and a downtown area with a bunch of yuppy restaurants. I also visited briefly the site of one gold mine. Note that Melbourne (75 miles away) was a town of 20,000 until the goldrush started in 1850, and 10 years later it was city of 500,000. That whole area just exploded during that period.

On my way to Melbourne I stopped at 2 more wineries near bendigo. I especially enjoyed visiting Blackjack. I had a nice hour conversation with the wine maker (Ian?) at Blackjack who was also running the tasting room.


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