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Mount Gambier to Kangaroo Island

...via the Coonawarra wine region, the Coorong and Meninngie

sunny 31 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Back to Oz on SteveJD's travel map.

As one does in Mount Gambier, we drove over to the rim around the crater holding the Blue Lake on a beautiful clear sunny day. There were several good viewing points on the way round and we ended up at a kiosk just above the pumping station. The lady there offered us tickets for the 11am tour, so we decided to try that and it was excellent. We had a short coach ride down to the Pumping Station and then a rather claustrophobic lift to take us down nearly to water level. There were steps down to the water's edge giving some different views. It was only on this trip that we learned that the lake is not always as blue as we saw it as it takes on a more grey-blue hue at some times of the year. This is something that I would recommend to anyone, both seeing the lake and, particularly, the guided tour.

View of the lake from the crater rim

View of the lake from the crater rim

The Visitor Centre where we had coffee

The Visitor Centre where we had coffee

The blueness is amazing

The blueness is amazing

A demonstration of the water pressure

A demonstration of the water pressure

Wonderful shades of blue

Wonderful shades of blue

We broke for a sandwich lunch in Vansittart Park (named after the former owner, a Captain Vansittart), a delightful small park with many shady trees, beautiful flower plantings and some interesting historic relics (other than us!). Once refreshed and sustained, we did some shopping, refuelling and other 'admin' tasks which needed to de done before we set off again the following day. However, we made sure to leave time for a return visit to the Umpherston Sinkhole, albeit a little earlier in the day.

Monument and gardens

Monument and gardens

Krupp 77mm field gun, used in World War I

Krupp 77mm field gun, used in World War I

Back to the Sinkhole

Back to the Sinkhole

Beautiful Monarch butterfly on white agapanthus

Beautiful Monarch butterfly on white agapanthus

Monarch kindly opened its wings for us

Monarch kindly opened its wings for us

Our stop for the day was to be Meningie and we could have gone straight there but instead decided to head north through the Coonawarra and on to Naracoorte where I had hoped to go into one of the caves. Strangely, the Coonawarra (the name is derived from an Aboriginal word meaning 'a rise or hill covered with honeysuckle trees') has a speed limit of 110kph so we had to keep up a good speed to avoid annoying other drivers and this gave us little chance to enjoy the scenery. We finally managed to slow down enough to turn into Zema Estate where we tasted and bought some wine. We then continued to Naracoorte where we found that the cave we wanted to visit was by guided tour only with the next one being at 2:15pm which would have made us a bit late for the rest of the trip.

Zema Estate with the Beast parked outside

Zema Estate with the Beast parked outside

Trainee wine

Trainee wine

We backtracked about 21km to Bool Lagoon where we had an enjoyable time in the hides watching a variety of birds although for much of our time here, the clouds came over making for dull skies, poor backgrounds and stretching the abilities of our cameras. Still, we got a few decent photos. Just near the lagoon we came across a dog which was almost a double for Blott!

View over the lagoon with many waterfowl

View over the lagoon with many waterfowl

White-headed stilts

White-headed stilts

The reflected beauty of two black swans

The reflected beauty of two black swans

Black-shouldered kite by the lagoon

Black-shouldered kite by the lagoon

Blott's look-alike

Blott's look-alike

From Bool Lagoon we headed south, joining the direct route at Kingston SE where we had a cup of coffee and admired the Big Lobster! Kingston was named after Sir George Strickland Kingston, a politician, surveyor and architect. The SE was added to distinguish this town from another of the same name in the state. The SE simply denotes that it is the South East Kingston.

The Big Lobster

The Big Lobster

One of the places I had wanted to visit was the Coorong but I had not taken in quite how long it is with only a few roads to get into the water area (or in some cases salt flats!). Quite early on we came across a turning to a place called Chinaman's Well and this is believed to date back to the 1850s when some Chinese were trekking through the region on their way to the goldfields. Again the weather was not too kind but it certainly is a fascinating place and we probably could have done with more time.

The Coorong gets its name from one of two Aboroiginal words, both appropriate; one means long neck' and the other 'sand dune'. There are certainly many dunes and the lagoon could be said to have a neck-like shape. Take your pick.

The remains of a well at Chinaman's Well

The remains of a well at Chinaman's Well

Windswept tree open to the elements

Windswept tree open to the elements

Another even more windswept tree

Another even more windswept tree

Scarlet robin

Scarlet robin

View over the more typical flat landscape

View over the more typical flat landscape

Finally we reached Meningie Waterfront Motel where we found that we had been upgraded to a room with a lake view. There was indeed a nice view over Lake Albert but the room was minute. There was no table, one chair, a kettle (n toaster) and a minuscule wash basin in the bathroom with small shelves above making it rather difficult to wash one's face. However, when we saw the room we would have had, we were thankful for small (very small) mercies. It was, if anything, even smaller and was at a level with the car park so that anyone coming at night (as we did later on) would shine their headlights straight into the room. Now aware of this we did try to minimise the lighting that shone from the Beast.

The name Meningie is derived from an Aboriginal word meaning 'mud'. Our first impressions would have suggested that this was entirely appropriate!

We were recommended to go to the Old Cheese Factory (the motel only did breakfasts) where we had a good enough meal. We were met by a chap who was trying to do three things at the same time, so had very little idea of what was going on and was not helped by English being very clearly his second language. Observing other people there, it appeared that the main course was served to the table but you helped yourself to entrees or sweets, we think! As it was, we had very tasty fish & chips (our standard Friday fare) which was quite enough.

The following day the weather continued to be rather dull with odd spits and spots although we did have a few clear spells. We returned to a couple of spots on the Coorong and saw many birds although not perhaps the variety that I had hoped for. However, it is a very atmospheric place and gave us yet a different idea of the variations in scenery that can be found in this vast continent.

Early morning view over Lake Albert from our room

Early morning view over Lake Albert from our room

There's definitely a pelican there somewhere

There's definitely a pelican there somewhere

And our neighbourly pelican sails majestically by

And our neighbourly pelican sails majestically by

Two red-knecked stints

Two red-knecked stints

Australian shelducks and grey teal etc., on the Coorong

Australian shelducks and grey teal etc., on the Coorong

Pelicans on the Coorong

Pelicans on the Coorong

The Beast parked up an a rare high point

The Beast parked up an a rare high point

Panoramic view over the Coorong

Panoramic view over the Coorong

As the morning had not been ideal although interesting, we decided that we would return to Meningie and drive anticlockwise around Lake Albert. This proved to be a good move. The scenery was attractive and we had a nice little ferry crossing across the neck where Lake Albert and Lake Alexandrina meet. On the opposite side was the lighthouse at Point Malcolm, the only freshwater lighthouse in the Southern Hemisphere. We stopped there at a campsite for a picnic lunch break, under cover from some drizzle and were pleased to see a good number of Whiskered Terns either perched on telegraph wires or wheeling around in the air.

Lake Albert was named by George Gawler, Governor of South Australia, after Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria. Charles Sturt had been tracing the course of the Murrumbidgee when he came across a river, which he named the Murray, after Sir George Murray, and followed this to a large lake which he named Lake Alexandrina after the princess who would become Queen Victoria. The river winds its way out of the lake through to the Southern Ocean. By chance, we have been close to the source of the Murray, in the Snowy Mountains, met it again at Echuca-Moama, drove by the lake into which it flows and subsequently drove over the river at Murray Bridge. It has been a good companion.

Bobbie having a tantrum on the ferry crossing, I think Jetset was ignoring her

Bobbie having a tantrum on the ferry crossing, I think Jetset was ignoring her

Point Malcolm lighthouse

Point Malcolm lighthouse

Whiskered terns at Point Malcolm

Whiskered terns at Point Malcolm

A short distance further round we had a side trip to the Aboriginal community of Raukkan where there is a lovely little church. Both the church and an image of David Unaipon, a Raukkan-born inventor and writer, are featured on the $50 note - a nice bit of trivia! The name Raukkan is derived from the Aboriginal word meaning 'meeting place' but was only used from 1982 when the Aboriginal community renamed it from Point McLeay.

Raukkan church

Raukkan church

Raukkan church

Raukkan church

Part of the community with mural across the side of a building

Part of the community with mural across the side of a building

As we continued around the western side of the lake we saw Cape Barren Geese and Black-tailed Native Hens as well as more distantly, various waterfowl.

Cape Barren geese

Cape Barren geese

Black-tailed native hens

Black-tailed native hens

When we saw a signpost to the Coorong we decided to have one last look but this was not very productive although on the way back we saw a Nankeen Kestrel wheeling around and then land on a fence post by the road where I was able to get a good photo (Judith was driving). Having taken a photo, I then noticed another raptor sitting on a fence post a few yards further on. This turned out to be a beautiful little Hobby and I was delighted to again be able to get a good photo.

Nankeen kestrel

Nankeen kestrel

Australian hobby

Australian hobby

On the drive back we saw Pink-eared Ducks, Coots, Black Swans, Black Ducks, White-headed Stilts and finally, in the grass just outside our motel room, a Reed-warbler. The weather could have been kinder and we would have liked more comfortable accommodation but overall, Meningie turned out 'less worse' than it appeared at first and we capped it off with some nice sunset shots over Lake Albert. Along the waterfront is a nice walking trail and at one point I came across a statue of an ostrich, with a saddle on its back! Apparently an Irishman, John Francis Peggotty, who grew only to the size of a seven-year old, had used his size, or lack of, to crawl down chimneys in London to steal jewellery etc. He decided to try his luck in Australia and acquired an ostrich when the market for ostrich feathers ceased. He continued his criminal career and when chased by police would race away on his ostrich into the dunes of the Coorong. He was guilty of many robberies and at least two murders but his career came to an end in 1899. He tried to hold up a fisherman but had not realised that the fisherman had a rifle. After a short chase, the fisherman brought down both Peggotty and his ostrich. The remains of neither has been found - perhaps there is a skeleton with a load of booty yet to be found?

Australian reed-warbler

Australian reed-warbler

Sun beginning to set over Lake Albert

Sun beginning to set over Lake Albert

Sun setting behind jetty on Lake Albert

Sun setting behind jetty on Lake Albert

Ostrich statue and information board by Lake Albert

Ostrich statue and information board by Lake Albert

The final setting of the sun over Lake Albert

The final setting of the sun over Lake Albert

From Meningie we had to travel north to Tailem Bend where we stopped for a light breakfast as we had managed an earlier than usual start. Tailem Bend is a very attractive small town on the Murray River. It is possible that the town name is really Bend Bend as one source suggests that Tailem is derived from an Aboriginal word meaning 'bend', both Aboriginal and English words referring to a bend in the river where the town is situated.

Our last view of Lake Albert as we left Meningie

Our last view of Lake Albert as we left Meningie

Once having eaten, drunk and wandered around for a while, we struck west through Murray Bridge (I suspect the meaning of this is fairly evident!) then south to Victor Harbour where we stopped for a cup of coffee in a lovely park by the sea. The drive through was very attractive but there were very few places to stop and enjoy the view. Victor Harbour was named for the HMS Victor which was under the command of Captain Richard Crozier when he surveyed the area in 1837. It was originally called Port Victor but was changed to its current name in 1921.

Looking over undulating country to Victor Harbour

Looking over undulating country to Victor Harbour

Finally, we reached Cape Jervis where we found that we had to surrender our honey (the local General Store will hold onto this, as it did for us, and you can pick it up on the way back if throwing food away is not your thing). Apparently, Kangaroo Island has the only disease-free population of Ligurian honey bees and doesn't want to risk any infection from the mainland. We also found that travelling with us were some blokes on a 'stag' do - we think possibly medical students.

Cape Jervis was named by Matthew Flinders after John Jervis, Lord St Vincent, Admiral of the Fleet of the day.

Guess which one is the prospective groom!

Guess which one is the prospective groom!

The ferry crossing was smooth and we drove on the island to our motel at Kingscote, Kangaroo Island Seaview Motel. This was unremarkable but perfectly adequate and comfortable.

Kingscote was named after Henry Kingscote a director of the South Australian Land Company. The company was formed in order to develop South Australia. They first set up a settlement in Kangaroo Island but when farming there proved unviable, they moved to the mainland where they provided infrastructure for the new colony and sold or leased land to immigrants who came to settle.

After unloading and getting ourselves sorted out, we still had time for a look around so drove to Duck Lagoon where we delighted to find Yellow-billed Spoonbills as well as a variety of ducks. We drove on from there to Emu Bay before settling in for the night.

Beautiful tree-lined avenue en route for Kingscote

Beautiful tree-lined avenue en route for Kingscote

Pelicans do choose strange resting places, just near our motel

Pelicans do choose strange resting places, just near our motel

Steve at Duck Lagoon

Steve at Duck Lagoon

Yellow-billed spoonbils, black ducks and grey teal at Duck Lagoon

Yellow-billed spoonbils, black ducks and grey teal at Duck Lagoon

Pacific gull at Emu Bay

Pacific gull at Emu Bay

Silver gull at Emu Bay

Silver gull at Emu Bay

Posted by SteveJD 15:00 Archived in Australia

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Pity the weather was not too kind for you both - but you got to find and photograph a wonderful variety of birds :)

by Denise Wood

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