It is generally accepted that the word Echuca is of Aboriginal origins, meaning meeting of the waters. Echuca (pop 12,900 ish) is located at a point marked by the confluence of the Goulburn, Campaspe and Murray rivers.
The first thing that struck us as we drove through town proper…and our first attempt to cruise the High Street was a total failure after diverting around a road closure and following a ‘short cut‘ that Kelly blames Google Maps for and Google Maps blames Kelly for, that led us up a gravel road with a surface that made the moon look like polished concrete in comparison, and then the whole situation finally requiring a 672 point turn by Ripley to extricate ourselves from….anyways, as I was saying, the first thing that struck us was the number of beautiful historic buildings.
There are at least 80 buildings, some of which are now converted into retail shops and cafes and suchlike. By the time we had transected the length of the town we knew this was going to be more than a one night stand.
As well as the historic and tourism industries, the Echuca area draws visitors with its abundance of wildlife, with an estimated 90 species of birds as well as possums lizards snakes and turtles. There are walking tracks through these wetland and flood plane areas as well as an elevated boardwalk.
Echuca also boasts the largest collection of paddle steamers in the world including the oldest wooden hulled steamer ( PS Adelaide built in 1866) still operating. In fact the first thing we heard as we arrived was the unmistakable steam whistle of one of these boats.
Kelly, Juno and I scrambled down to the riverbank to check on the paddle steamer situation. Juno soon magnetised a conversation with a couple of locals who provided a very entertaining synopsis of the town from their perspective. They also gave us the good oil on what to do. Unexpectedly, dogs are welcome to travel on the paddle steamers….so we are looking forward to that experience tomorrow.
I will write a little bit more about the history of this area tomorrow after we immerse ourselves in a couple of guided tours. However in our search for caffeinated beverages we did pass this old boarded up building with faded mustard walls and rusty corrugated iron roofing.
Turns out this was the only classified brothel in Victoria.
It began operating in 1878, and I imagine its 6 small rooms did a brisk business servicing the adjacent wharf, rail yard and steamboat workers. Some time later when the licensing court met to reduce the number of hotels in Echuca by 20, the Madame defended any hints of immorality in her establishment by claiming that the 8 girls employed there were actually all pianists, and that there was absolutely no way one of them was called, er….Flocker Liz.
No way. No Siree. Nothing to see here. Except a well used piano.
The court was not convinced and the place was shut down in 1897.