We're on the Blackbird cruise boat, waiting for it to take flight and show us the mighty Maribyrnong River, and simply being at water level offers a completely new perspective on the river and its busy surrounds; calmer, quieter, and more beautiful than I'd imagined.
Within minutes of leaving Footscray, we're passing Newell's Paddock, Footscray Park and then Flemington Racecourse - who would have thought there was so much green open space in the western suburbs? Dog walkers and children on bikes wave as we chug past, with that special affinity that is reserved for people travelling in boats, wedding cars, or on carnival floats.
Further on we see a new side to Victoria University, and then get a glimpse into some private backyards of homes in Ascot Vale and Maidstone, and suddenly understand why house prices have skyrocketed along the river valley.
Captain Warwick Somerville is at the helm and his father, Peter Somerville, has been entertaining us with ribald - and often scathing - commentary that should have a fair few city planners' ears burning.
See how that stormwater pipe is facing upstream, instead of down?" he points out as we pass one development. "When the engineers came out, the tide was rising and they thought the river flowed the other way."
No-one is spared his scorn if they've done the wrong thing by his river, but he can't find enough praise for those who care for it as much as he does, and his knowledge of the waterway is legendary.
The river is tidal as far up as Sunshine, but it is already wild and narrow after passing the playing fields at Essendon and a cry goes up as a couple of wallabies are spotted just past the former sand quarry.
On the other side of the river here is the site of the former Munitions Factory, where bombs and bullets were made in WWII and there are now plans to build a whole new suburb - once the soil has been de-toxed.
As the boat reaches its upper limits - the former Tea Gardens in Avondale Heights; a day-trip destination in Victorian times - we are told that dolphins and even a seal have been sighted here before, chasing the silver bream that also lures large number of fishermen and women to the river's banks.
It is more than 30 years since the 10m-long Blackbird cruiser first carried passengers up the Maribyrnong and around Melbourne's docks. Today is quiet and there's only a handful of us on the 1pm service from Footscray Wharf, but she's licensed to carry 30 and has hosted many end-of-year and birthday gatherings. The ride upstream takes about two hours and costs $20 (children $5), while the 4pm trip downstream around the docks lasts an hour and costs $10 ($5).
I haven't been on the Blackbird but I can highly recommend a river cruise along the Maribyrnong. It is such a beautiful stretch of Melbourne's waterways. I actually went on a boat with these guys for a Xmas breakup party. And then last September they also did cruises from Williamstown to Docklands as a transport option to the footy finals. Was a great way to travel to the game and enjoy a pre-drink with a lovely atmosphere. A great experience!
By elliot - reader Thursday, 14th of December @ 09:05 am