Prince Margaret Rose Caves – Sun 8th / Mon 9th March
Who the caves are named for is pretty obvious, although the republicans might be upset. The caves themselves were discovered by the farmer who owned the land in the 1930’s. He got bored of pitching sticks into the hole in his land and through he would take a look, so his mate lowered him down 17m with a candle and a box of matches. The river hollowed out a fault in the rock, before dropping to a lower level about 500,000 years ago; since then water percolating from above has created a wonderful display.
Its great being able to cook dinner over the fire, although basic fare its kind of 2 fingers up at sous-vide and molecular gastronomy; good wholesome food with no pretensions.
Southend – Mon 9th / Tue 10th March
Time to move on, and to bid farewell to the black centipedes which appeared at the first sign of a fire. Although apparently harmless it was unnerving to find them crawling up a trouser leg. They also liked the shower, curling up along the grout.
Also time to cross over from Victoria to South Australia.
Heading north, Mount Gambier not only provided supplies but also an interesting look at water supply. The whole town relies on a crater lake, filled from the local water table with about 36,000m litres in it. It also, during summer, has a deep blue shade to it.
From Mount Gambier you can take the (boring) bitumen, or head to Carpenters Rocks and Canunda National Park. Airing down to 17psi, looking at the narrow track ahead, I must admit to some nerves. All I can say is there are some soft climbs, and between these it is like being on a constant roller coaster; the volume of vehicles has turned the track into a kind of humpback trail. They have also ripped up the base of the climbs, making it hard to carry any momentum without getting airborne.
The original idea was to camp halfway, but the site was (a) infested with horseflies and (b) the long drop was getting close to capacity, so we pressed on, the landscape looking rather Mad Max post apocalyptic. The lookout for Lake Bonney was well worth a visit, a great view of the windfarms on one side and the sea on the other (shame about the tracks left on the supposedly out of bounds dunes by the idiot brigade).
Southend is a sleepy little town, with a small fleet of crayfish boats and a delightful little caravan park. Originally a 7th Day Adventist Hall it has a great camp kitchen, hot showers and a stroll to the beach, plus Julie as a wonderful host. Time to pause and get some schoolwork done
Kingston – Wed 11th March
Hands up, I’ll admit I enjoy a glass of red. Especially a glass from Coonawarra, that narrow stretch of clay over limestone. Heading out of Southend the question comes to mind – what are the sheep farmers going to do for shade once the few large shade trees die, doesn’t seem to be much planning going on.
Into Penola and the vines appear. Stopping at every vineyard is tempting but risks an unhappy family, so its time to pick a few. Balnaves is resplendent amongst the roses, Bowen has a wonderfully simple list of wines, Wynns is sadly over commercialised. All of them have some great wines.
From Coonawarra to Kingston the landscape is not something for the tourist brochures, spearing between dry brown paddocks and flocks of scrawny sheep, the road disappears into the haze.
Kingston is our first foray into free sites, not too bad, flush toilet and a row of grey nomads already enjoying the view.
Goolwa – Thu 12th / Fri 13th March
Aside from a free site, Kingston also has the Big Lobster. Planning this trip we’d thought it would be fun to see all the “big” things, until we realised how many there were and that idea was scrapped; so good to tick one off at least.
From there the road follows the Coorong NP. An inland waterway between the mainland and a long sand spit, it’s one of those places that is beautiful but annoyingly difficult to photograph as it is so expansive.
The camp at Goolwa was more farmstay than campsite. Set amongst the farmyard buildings Michael and Vicky have created a wonderful place to relax, with the girls loving the chance to feed the sheep, pigs and cows. They own the Heritage bakery in Goolwa & Middleton, great bread and pies (remember those animals…). Michael also has a man cave to be envious of.
The beach driving at Goolwa, heading to the Murray mouth is also pretty good.
Close by Goolwa is Victor Harbour. Originally a whaling port it is now known for Granite Island, a refuge for penguins and other sea life. A highlight is the horse drawn tram to / from the island.
Adelaide – Sat 14th March
Crossing the Fluerieu peninsular it is easy to believe Vicky’s comment that Feb rainfall as been 3mm. All that changes is that it gets bumpier, and irrigated fields get more obvious amongst the brown.
It is picturesque nonetheless. A shame the same can’t be said of the southern outskirts of Adelaide, shades of Los Angeles type sprawl, thankfully replaced with more pleasant surroundings by the time we reached Brighton Holiday Park. A very nice site but boy they charge for it – $78 a night, and you don’t even get wi-fi.