Swan Hill and more Murray moments…


The trip to Swan Hill was another glorious day, driving past golden manicured vineyards, freshly ploughed soil creating a tapestry of brilliant red and orange paddocks on a back drop of a flawless blue sky interrupted by hundreds of hectares of typical, tough Australian bush, studded with olive-green and sage stunted trees and grasses, starved of water.  The sky looks bigger up here and the horizon goes on forever, I think it’s because it’s so flat, I can see why farmers would love this country.

Just before Swan Hill we pulled off on to one of our many off-road explorations to catch another photo opportunity using the Murray River as our back ground. Usually we do these little jaunts after we unload the caravan, but this time I had the caravan on.  It’s very difficult to find a spot to park, let alone turn and get back to the main road, so it’s very risky to go down these bush tracks. It was a little squeezy and the good thing about Scott, no matter how difficult it gets for me, he’s never fazed and he patiently waits while I work through the situation. It was worth running the risk as we found another beautiful river bend and took lots of photos, many of them we will try to reproduce in our own art styles in the next few weeks.

We intended to stay in Swan Hill but for some reason I remember somebody telling me how beautiful Robinvale was further up the road, so decided to grab some lunch and push onto Robinvale.  I took the opportunity of finding a place to park with the van on the river bank, and we walked back to a little cafe near the pioneer settlement, one of my better decisions and Scott completely approved.

The balcony of the cafe stretched out over another bend in the Murray River and we sat in the sun enjoying our Coffee and glass of Coke. Scott was quick to tell me his mobile phone needed charging so we plugged it in at the cafe and we proceeded to have a long, casual lunch, delicious, as all the food has been on this trip. Scott was the best company and I love how he wins people over, at first you can see them brace backwards as he forcefully explains the things he is thinking about. Scott loves to verbalise out loud any thoughts he may have going through his head at the time, a discussion on brain tumours and the effects of playing games for too long, dead people, especially family members, the ages of people, some of whom I have never met, old age and of course his Google research, regardless that it’s of no consequence to the listener, then they appreciate what a nice guy he is and they become very tactful and go out of their way to serve him. I said to him “Scott you have a gift to win people over” Scott said “I don’t have any gifts?” We worked through that discussion over lunch.

We also discussed the river and its different shades of colour and the colours in the ever-changing bark of the giant river gums, ungainly hanging over our heads. This part of the river is very deep and still; except for the occasional ripples of the deep moving water and undercurrent pulling the river along.

Scott’s earlier muddy colour description was now a latte, I was surprised as Scott doesn’t drink coffee let alone know the difference between a white coffee and a latte.  It was a very good description of the river in the midday light and I felt very humble that I’m only really now starting to appreciate how Scott observes and quietly takes in all of the detail around him.  Personally, whether from an artist mind or just some body who loves to observe nature and the opportunity to sit and observe the world passing by, I now appreciate Scott has that appreciation and his own interpretation of what he sees and hears, everything around him. I think this journey has brought out the best in both of us and a greater understanding that Scott doesn’t have to think, or be like me or any like anybody else, he has his own thoughts and versions of life, love and what’s around him.  The more we understand each other is going to emerge in our relationship and our art.

I love how Scott sees everything in black and white, I remember many years ago, when we were building a mud brick house, Geoff asked Scott to give him a hand, there was a very long pause and Scott looking at both his hands questionably asked “Dad, which hand would you like?”

As we pulled out of the park to head for Robinvale, Scott noticed right alongside the cafe was the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement and right in front of us was another windmill, he suggested we should go in and he could draw it, I didn’t want to miss this opportunity because neither of us has really focused on the art and I was becoming concerned that Scott really had lost the want to do art any more, something he does so well and has helped him in so many ways, I quickly found a spot to park. Swan Hill as many of the country towns cater very well for caravan travellers, so it was easy to get a close park.

We quickly mounted some paper on the art board, grabbed the pastels and headed in.  I cannot be grateful enough for the kindness and support everybody at the settlement gave us. This is one of the best settlements I have seen, it has an enormous range of collectables and original memorabilia, horse-drawn carts and carriages and beautiful buildings, thoughtfully restored and presented.  It’s very interactive and a fantastic way to see the area’s history.  Scott found a comfortable place to set up and draw the wind mill, we had several visitors including management to encourage his work, thank you guys so much, we will look forward to visiting you again very soon. Covered in pastels and another windmill under the arm we headed back to our little home on wheels. I must explain Scott isn’t obsessed with wind mills but because in the past he did a few and people just loved and wanted them I keep directing him towards them and hoping to encourage some more interest in his art so in this case I think the obsession is mine .

One of the regrets I have is not staying in Swan Hill longer, but I could say that about lots of areas we have had to move through to keep to our tight schedule. We pushed on to Robinvale and arrived an hour before sunset, just in time to set up the van.  This stop was a lot better; I think the fact that Scott wrote down the steps proved to be very effective.  Another chance to back the van in and there was no room for error as we were only about 5 meters from a drop into the river. Scott handled it well.

Camp set up, we headed for some dinner. There was very little available and a pizza shop looked pretty tasty, even though it broke our rules about junk food and looking after ourselves and losing some weight.  One of the best pizza shops I have ever seen, really well fitted out very effective and equally as efficient plus a delicious pizza. Our diet was one of our major discussions or arguments as Scott referred to it, we made some rules and we have been pretty good sticking to them, although Scott loves any opportunity to bend the rules, and then tells me I broke the rules and not to do it again.

Robinvale Caravan Park is located right on the banks of the Murray River; it’s a beautiful campsite with really good facilities. Our van was only a few meters back from the water’s edge. Wonderful atmosphere in the evening, campers can hire for a very small fee a barrel and fire wood and each van can have its own camp fire at night.

As the sun went down in a blaze of pink, gold and purple over the Murray it was a poet’s dream or should I say, artists dream?  Sitting at your fire and looking down the river as each of the little individual camps glowed a warm flame, each reflecting in the river, was beautiful. The humming chatter and laughter and the camaraderie between campers was earthing. There is a peace you only feel when you all sit around a camp fire blaze, sharing your past adventures and how well your day went.

The Murray weaves backwards and forwards across 3 states, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, sometimes you cross on new modern bridges other times very old bridges, even timber, and some have draw bridges from the olden days when the paddle steamers had to get down the Murray to deliver goods and keep trade going.  We have crossed the great Murray River many times already, we have grown a little tired of “…now we in Vic, now we in NSW” so now we just say “Hi Murray, how’s ya day?”  Scott started this when he decided Murray was a man’s name.

I keep asking Scott if he is bored and only once or twice has he said waving his hand in little up and down gestures “a little bit”, mostly when we have explored the area and we need to move on but 99% of the time he says “no, I love it!”

Scott‘s autism is very endearing, I‘m sure a lot of people won’t understand that, but these days together have shown me that it’s his personality and his character, the good and the bad are all Scott, he wouldn’t be Scott without autism. Strangely all of these elements together have made a very nice person, somebody I really enjoy being with.  He is gentle, honest, and thoughtful and ‘what you see is what you get’, he doesn’t hold a grudge and he is not judgemental or critical.  He won’t get in your space and asks you not to get in his space, he’s affectionate, warm and extremely generous.  Nothing is wasted with Scott and there is no pretence, unfortunately his humour is strange but he has one and that’s very important.

Next… Scott finds his own way into town.

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