Psyche Bend sits on the Murray river just out of Mildura. I had expected the area beside the river would be lush and green but it was very dry. Being dry wasn’t a bad thing. We could see where the ground had been ripped up last time it rained. When you are traveling you keep an eye out for silly things like that. Yes we did make a mental note to get out quick if it started to rain.
We took a walk around the camp area. We had driven past a building on the way in. It was the Psyche Pump. The pump was built in 1891 to help raise the water level approximately 28 metres to help irrigate the settlements and farms along the river. The pump had an area of approximately 20,000 hectares to supply. It was the first in a grand scheme to supply water to an area of over 100,000 hectares around the farming land of Mildura. It was a massive task and not everyone thoughtthe scheme would work. The steam engine were manufactured by the Birmingham company Tangye’s. To start with they had refused to build the engine but finally agreed as long as the name plate stated “Chaffey’s improved Pumping Engine made by Tangye’s for Mildura Irrigation Colony” was fixed to the engine (George Chaffey was the engineer for the irrigation scheme.) They didn’t want to be liable for the failure if it happened. They didn’t need to worry. The pump operated successfully until 1959 when electric pumps took over the job. The original buildings which houses the pump are still standing but outer buildings like the boiler house were removed and sold for scrap. The buildings and area were restored in 1983.
It was said the pump ‘made the desert bloom.’ What was leant through the building of the Psyche Pump had let many towns along the Murray-Darling Basin thrive.
While our bush camp was dry the area around us was full of grape vines making everything green and inviting. It had been a while since we had taken advantage of some wine tasting so off we went to Chateau Mildura. The vineyard was established in 1888 when wine grapes were planted on over 150 acres. The site was chosen as it was close to Psyche Bend making it easy to irrigate the vines. It wasn’t until three years later the vineyard produced its first vintage. The wine was produced under a bough shed for shelter. By the following year a triple gabled brick cellars had been built. At the time there wasn’t a large market for wine. The average person wasn’t used to drinking wine and the costs of transporting the wine to Melbourne made it too expensive for everyday drinking. The winery then turned to distilling brandies and fortified wines for the local market. By 1930 the company was exporting the Brandy to England.
Our host was an old Russian woman. Very sweet, very talkative and very generous with the tastings. She also made sure we sampled every bottle in the cellar, not taking no as an answer. The wine was lovely, we I think it was lovely. To tell you the truth when we left we had to go have a coffee to sober up. Please don’t think I am complaining for one minute. I’m not, just letting you know we did the right thing and we didn’t drink and drive.
I was surprised to lean although Mildura is surrounded by grapes it is not a great wine producing area, instead they grow table grapes. When we went shopping for some to sample some of the local produce and found all the grapes came from America. Wrong time of the year.
We took a drive around the area and found Santa’s work shop. Adrian wasn’t so keen. His thoughts were “it is just a shop that sells Christmas things. Other shops do that as well.” What! Shock! Grasp! Horror! How could he think that. It is okay I know most men would think the same. Me, I love Christmas so we just had to go. Yes I wanted to buy half the shop but I was good and settled for 5 little items with names on them for the family. Yeah we were there for the rest of the day.