RoadTrip21: Mildura, the Murray River and Big Lizzie

May 21, 2021 | 9 Comments

Another straight flat drive from Balranald as I headed west to Mildura. This time there were lots of mallee trees and this type of semi-arid landscape is referred to simply as mallee.


We’re not allowed to take fruit across the border into Victoria (and other states) – it’s a way to stop the spread of fruit flies. There are roadside signs to prompt you to stop and dispose of your fruit. Thankfully I only had two apples to bin.


I also had to stop at a rest area in the middle of nowhere and had my first pit-toilet experience of the trip. No plumbing here, just a bio-toilet and a water tank to wash your hands. It was remarkably clean – much different from what they were like when I was a child. 


The first stop in Mildura was a cafe where I met Bridget – a follower of this blog. We had a lovely lunch and I enjoyed my first Victorian coffee. This page also contains the only sketch done in Balranald itself – just before I left.


After lunch we went to sketch the fanciest historic house in town – Rio Vista – where WB Chaffey lived. He was a Canadian Engineer and irrigation planner who was invited to come to Australia and set up an irrigation system to pump water up from the Murray and in turn develop the town of Mildura. So once again irrigation became a theme of my sketches.


I was talking too much to really concentrate on my sketch! 


And here is a selfie with Bridget – so lovely to make a new friend! 

Here is the full spread with another unfinished map!


Next we went to the Murray and checked out the weir used to control water flow in the river.


I did a quick sketch standing up.
And then watched a boat go through the lock.


Here are the sketches which I painted later with a map and plan of the lock.


Then I checked in to my lovely AirBnB which was on a vineyard in Buronga – the NSW side of the Murray.

The next morning (Saturday) I met Bridget and her mother-in-law at the farmers markets by the river on a beautiful morning! 


We then went to a very eccentric gem store and cafe (called Woodsies) for an early morning tea and we shared the largest scones I have ever seen. The Lamy Joy is included in this photo for context.


The interior has been made into a cave (as I said – eccentric!) and there is an impressive display of the owner’s personal collection of gems. 


Here are my rushed sketches from the morning.


Next up was one of the Chaffey’s pumping stations – pumping water from Kings Billabong.


Which we then sketched from a lookout. (BTW: A billabong is a a branch of a river forming a backwater)


After that first overall sketch I tried to do a more experimental zoomed in version.


Photo at the time…


… and final spreads with map and some colour swatches.


And the second version.


We then had to go and sketch Big Lizzie in the nearby town of Red Cliffs. At the time she was the largest tractor in the world and was used in the area to clear mallee trees. Find out more about her here.


A photo with Big Lizzie to get an idea of her size.


And a post sketch photo. Big Lizzie was so much fun to sketch!


Next we went to Bridget’s for lunch which included another cup of tea in a fancy teacup.


This happened to be placed on the same page with my Big Lizzie sketches!


We finished a fantastic day with a sketch of the main street -Deakin Avenue. Thanks Bridget for such a wonderful time in Mildura.

And finally a few photos from my AirBnB including an early morning hot air balloon sighting.


A lovely place to take an afternoon walk.


Grapes from my lovely hosts…


And watching stunning sunsets from the sofa.


This was the further west I got on this trip and on the next post I will start heading east!


  • Bridget Byrne says:

    Thanks for coming all the way west to Mildura and hang out with me! Your sketches are amazing – just imagine how they could have been if you’d had peace and quiet to create them?! 🙂 So wonderful to meet you, watch you work and get to know you a bit more. (I already felt I knew you from your blog) thanks! You are a gem!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Oh Bridget! the thanks are all mine! thanks for a wonderful 2 days and so happy that I was able to do all my Victorian travel. Take care my friend!

  • Jamie C says:

    Gorgeous tour and adventures. As ever you capture a place so well in your sketches, and photos. I really feel I know your states country towns like I never could have before!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Jamie!!! And there is even more about these towns that I want to explore on a future trip 🙂

  • Louise Cuff says:

    Really enjoying following you on your trip. ?

  • Louise Cuff says:

    Oops on the question mark. Too early here for typing.

  • colleen smyth says:

    I really enjoyed Saturday in Mildura with you and Bridget. Very interesting and relaxing for me. Hope your journey home was a safe and good one. So pleased to have met you.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Colleen – it was so wonderful to meet you and spend the day together. Got to come to SA again!

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