We rode from Swan Hill to Robinvale, a distance of 135km, on the most perfect day for cycling. Leaving early from the campsite we found ourselves winding northward through flat but undulating country with the Murray River looping in and out from the road beside us marked by tall Gum trees. The riding was different from the days before as the road meandered with the small hills and was not unremittingly straight. Fields of wheat and cattle were replaced by vineyards of vines, olive groves, apple tree orchards with cherries, almonds, orange and mandarin fruit trees slicing the horizon with alternating colours of pink and white blossoms, greys and greens of ripening trees in the warming spring sunshine. Everywhere there seemed a fecundity of life in this watered land. The air was rich with the scent of olive presses and vineyards as we passed fields that stretched to the horizon. Boxes of bee hives were everywhere amongst the fruit trees and our cycling felt almost effortless as we chatted about the features we were passing.
Finally nearing Robinvale grandiose bungalows began to line the road. Some were built in a ‘Palladian manner’ with centralised pediments to doorless porticos, aligned with faux Grecian urns in road fronted gardens of green lawns. The urns were made from precast concrete and hugely out of proportion to the single storey houses behind. The dwellings were the exception to the typical modest and pragmatic homesteads we’d been passing elsewhere, built with corrugated sheet metal and big recessed verandas. Some look reminiscent of 1950’s Case Study Houses of California in their use of metal framing and mono pitched roofs, but here they are unmistakably Australian, with their lowness to the ground and horizontality.
Robinvale we discovered was tiny. We ate at the only place that was open, as it was late and we were too tired to cook. We camped again overlooking the mighty Murray River.