As we have drifted, rowed, sailed and paddled along, we have met a wide variety of people living and visiting on the water. Perhaps a small cross section would be interesting.
Groups of “kids” – perhaps just in attitude if not in age – who have rented a houseboat and perhaps a wakeboard boat or who have brought their own with them, having a high powered week or weekend of boarding, drinking and indulgence in Creedence Clearwater Revival or deep Doof. There seems to be a special offer which includes a huge Australian flag to be flown on the upper deck of the houseboat or on the post of the skiboat, perhaps with an esky completely full of your favourite lager.
Escapees from many things. Even before we reached the Murray, we had met some people for whom the water was not just a place to relax in or visit upon, but had become their place of residence away from the rigours of controlled suburban lifestyle. Not needing three bedrooms and two bathrooms nor a huge mortgage, desiring to live autonomously and not under the strictures of some burocrat’s whims, here are people escaping. A fellow who refers to himself as “Billious Tumorous” living on an old houseboat after a life on the ocean with herbs on his verandah and an allotment of raised bed gardens on the saltbrush floodplain adjacent to his mooring. A young man who had gotten in trouble in Queensland and had come to the Riverland for a fresh start, sitting with his mixed heritage dog in a quiet spot on the river having moved twice that day because of too many loud people. A group of late career friends who had managed to get rid of parents, children and grandchildren for a week of champagne lunches (to which we were invited, huzzah!) and relaxed fishing. A group living on the banks of the river in an old bus and a few tents.
Retirees of so many flavours. Salt and Pepper nomads (there was not enough grey for the classic name of these wandering retirees) who were congregating and encouraged everybody to try out that lifestyle for what one learns about one’s impact upon the world. Retirees who had grown up here but worked elsewhere – Adelaide or Woomera, allsorts occur – then returned for the various beauties they find here. Mick just passing through with 1300 km of river behind him, paddling the river by canoe just beause he can.
People who decided that rather than spend long weekends in the country and life in the city, they would inverse the time and have ended up happier. Raising kids in the country has led them to realise, when meeting up with city based school groups, how much better adjusted kids from here are. Getting the work-life balance right seems to be prevalent. One fellow had moved into semiretirement from ETSA, the state power company, doing engineering work from an office here three days a week rather than 40 hours in Adelaide.
Of course there are crossovers here – retirees who are escaping being a prime example, and there are many other groups – generational farmers, career lock wardens, bird watchers and enviromentalists – who fit in here as well. Its good to know that the spectrum is wide, the resilience of these communities thus supported.