Please enjoy reading Paul & Judy Taylor's stories behind the photographs in the 2014 Images of the Riverland Calendar.
Text: Paul & Judy Taylor
The hot summer months in the Riverland make it an ideal place to dry fruit the natural way – via the sun. Fruit is halved, stoned and placed on wooden trays then laid in the sun to dry. At night the trays are collected and taken inside. At peak season hundreds of trays of fruit can be laid out at one time.
The Riverland is deemed a semi desert area. It is the life giving water from the Murray River that changes the district into a horticultural paradise. The river begins in the Southern Alps of NSW and Victoria and flows in a westerly direction to its outlet to the sea at Goolwa. With a combination of warm sun and irrigation water the Riverland is a green oasis in the peak of summer.
Pelicans are a feature of Riverland waterways. They feed on the many fish in the river and creeks. Sometimes they wander onto riverfront lawned areas to investigate visitors’ picnic food. It is important not to feed native animals. They will think they have a right to your food and can become quite a nuisance. Pelicans have a sharp hook on the tip of their beaks, which can cause harm to people trying to protect their lunch.
The Riverland is Australia’s major horticultural producing region, growing thousands of tonnes of fruit. The region is well known as a grape producer but citrus, stone fruit, almonds, olives and even vegetables are also grown. Less well known is the fact the Riverland is also a major producer of the traditionally cooler climate fruits of apples and cherries.
A houseboat holiday is a fantastic way to relax and enjoy the delights of nature in the Riverland. Houseboats are relatively new comers to the Riverland tourist scene. Some of the first houseboats on the river were built in Renmark, in the 1960s by the late Mr Ian Showell. The inspiration for his Liba Liba houseboat fleet, was boats he had seen on the Nile in Egypt. Today houseboats are a multi-million dollar Murray River industry.
Oranges are grown throughout the Riverland. The fruit is mainly used today for juice but there are many stalls throughout the Riverland selling oranges freshly picked from the trees. Today organically grown oranges are also produced by environmentally conscious growers. To be classified as organically grown, no chemicals can be used in the production process. There are very strict guidelines that must be followed to insure certification as an organic orange producer.
The river is beautiful all year round. The level of the river however can rise and fall dramatically according to how much water is coming downstream, from as far away as Queensland, via the river’s merger with the Darling river at Wentworth. The Murray River is Australia’s largest single river and forms the border between NSW and Victoria for 1,880 kms.
Catch of the day for a white crane. Native fish are being encouraged via the Murray Darling Basin Authority ‘fishways’. The locks have ensured a constant water supply for humans but many native fish migrate upstream to breed. To accommodate the needs of the fish ‘fishways’ have been constructed at eight of the locks with more to come. The fishways are a series of interconnected pools that gently slope allowing the fish to navigate over the locks.
Aboriginal people have lived near the river for at least 40,000 years. In the Dreaming of the Ngarrindjeri people, the Murray River was turned into a mighty waterway when local man Ngurunderi chased a giant codfish. As the fish swam it widened the river with sweeps of its tail. At Tailem Bend he threw a spear at the giant fish, causing it to surge ahead and create a long straight stretch in the river.
The PS Industry steams down the river. Today the boat is a tourist attraction but paddle steamers were an important part of the history of the region. The paddle steamer trade peaked during the 1860s and 1880s. Cargo of clothing, homewares, machinery etc. was shipped upstream to settlement villages and farms and downstream with cargo of wool, wheat, oats, hides etc.
Unlike grapes, which are harvested nearly exclusively by machine, oranges are still picked the old fashioned way – by hand. Picking bags are worn at the front of the picker and when full released at the bottom to empty. Thousands of backpackers visit the Riverland each year to harvest the oranges throughout the cooler months of June, July and August.
A chicken keeps an eye on its territory in someone’s backyard. Many Riverlanders have ‘chooks’ for a constant supply of fresh eggs. A good fence is required to keep predators (sometime this means the family dog) from getting into the poultry yard. A flock of chickens is probably the most conventional protein source available to the self-sufficient gardener with the side benefit of nitrogen rich manure.
Text: Paul & Judy Taylor | Photographs: Italo Vardaro