24. 12. 2015
Meeting of the Waters, Wellington – Ngurunderi's Spear
Owen, Richard and I followed the low roads to Woods Point through the Jervois dairy country until we reached the levy bank. From there we could see how Pondi had thrashed about forcing a path downstream to escape Ngurunderi and his spear. On the low side we saw the wetlands/farmlands where his tail had hit the earth, and on the far side the cliff that was pushed up by his efforts. It is one thing to hear or read a story, it is another entirely to actually ‘see’ it. So much about this part of the river is finally making sense to me: the sheer volume and power of the water that was needed to push out into the lake and beyond to the Murray Mouth, for one thing. To imagine Pondi is to imagine just how the river once behaved. Tourist information explains that when there were no longer big gums to hold the levy banks in place, willows were planted to stop erosion but also as a guide for navigation during flood. Captains could be sure they were in the channel by following the tops of the willows just visible above the water. We stood below an old willow and I could only marvel at how high that flood water must have once been.
But driving those low roads past the old dairies had left us speechless, in shock at the sadness that seemed to pervade the once proud farmlands. Owen spoke of growing up in Wellington, working for those farmers and the pride in himself he had gained. But now, after many years away, he could see that so much had changed. It felt like grief; it appeared that a vulnerable community had been hit by a very big stick. Wonder and sadness.
We were in search of Ngurunderi’s Spear – Long Island at Murray Bridge. We hit the road again. Dismayed that the lookout is now blocked by a housing estate, we finally found a paddock that gave us a view. From a hill that is about to be subdivided, we looked into the glorious autumn haze to see Ngurunderi’s Spear. I expected a large flat rock, to be honest, but what I saw was very different. The Spear lay partly submerged between the two bridges, with what looked like a forest growing upon it. Like Avalon it seemed to have magical qualities. Murray Bridge is a town getting on with business and right within its midst is a kind of secret island. I laid down among the wheat stubble and dead white snails to soak up the sheer pleasure of it all. That was the day I truly fell in love with Autumn.
As we headed up the highway for a Tailem Bend pasty, flashing past a big lazer-cut sign that said ‘Ngarrindjeri’ in recognition of whose country we were travelling, I could still feel the buzz of the land over my shoulders like a sparkly cape. There was something special about that place; and to know I might be among the last to see it from that vantage point, before the view belongs to those who build their houses on it. After that, you will need a plane to see the island from above even though it was only from above that I could have some understanding that, if that is the spear, then how impressive must have been the man!