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Unread 30th June 2011, 09:59 AM
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Default Melbourne to Esperance and return via Lake Eyre, 2011

Melbourne to Esperance: March / April 2011


Well, it’s been some time since I returned from this trip, so here is the first installment of the long awaited trip report / journal.

This trip was a long time in the making. Many years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Doc Reynolds and working with him on industrial relations matters affecting Aboriginal communities in Western Australia. This working relationship lasted a number of years, and saw many thousands of kilometres travelled by air and land, in many indigenous nations in Western Australia. Doc has always been extremely generous with sharing his knowledge with me, and I have been fortunate to learn much as a result.

Throughout this process, I never got to spend any time around where Doc lives and now works in Esperance, although many stories he has told me increased my appetite to learn about the place.

I rang Doc two years ago, not having spoken to him for quite a while. By chance he was in Melbourne at the time with his wife Robyne, attending a tourism expo on behalf of their business Kepa Kurl.

http://www.kepakurl.com.au/

We caught up for dinner, and I promised to come and visit them in Esperance the following March. Soon thereafter I was diagnosed as in need of spinal fusion surgery, so that made the trip out of the question that Autumn. I underwent surgery in July, and during recovery resolved to get over to Esperance the following autumn.

So, preparations started, and were in full swing when SKT put his heavily modified Subaru Forester on the market. I had up to that point planned to make some modifications to the red Subaru forester known as Djulpan (Gumatj word which means "seven sisters" (constellation). Also known as Pleiades in the North Hemisphere, and in Japan as "Su-baru". hence the logo on the front of any Subaru), but given that SKT had done the hard work, and a bit more by adding an EZ30r H6 motor, I made the trip to Queensland to test drive it and I bought it.

The story of me and the H6 Forester is a work in progress in this thread on offroad subarus.com

http://offroadsubarus.com/showthread.php?t=2401

The engine transplant thread is also worth a read...

http://www.ausubaru.com/forum/showthread.php?t=16564

So, it was time to load the vehicle, and this process started on the 20th of March 2011, with the addition of 55 litres of water, and storage for 40 litres of fuel (20 litres on the Jerry can carrier, and 2 x 10 litres on t the roof rack). Hand winch, winch cable, bull bag, jack plate, compressor, snatch ropes, tree protectors, D shackles, axe, saw, replacement globes, hoses and belts, tools, computer, GPS, MP3 player, telescope end fittings, camera gear, 2 cases of beer, 2 cases of wine, clothes, fridge, second battery, food and clothing and probably a lot of other **** I can’t remember right now.

Loading was completed at around 4 pm on the 22nd of March, and from Melbourne the familiar route to Lwr Glenelg National Park was taken as far as Dartmoor.



The Glenelg is possibly Victoria’s best kept secret: mention it to someone and they’ll ask you if it’s in South Australia, probably because more people have heard of the Glenelg Tram to Glenelg Beach, than have heard of this river. At that point you could tell them that yes, you are going to camp in a caravan park in suburban Adelaide, and they would probably think nothing of it and the real Glenelg River would be left to those of us who appreciate it.

The truth is somewhat different. The Glenelg rises in the southern end of Victoria Valley in Gariwerd (Grampians), forms Victoria Valley Swamp, and cuts through the Victoria Range at the Camp of the Emu’s foot which is an important rock painting site and aboriginal shelter.

After having its flow interrupted by the massive Rocklands Reservoir, the Glenelg reaches the Southern Ocean some 400 kms by river from it’s source at Nelson. Along the way, the Glenelg flows through Harrow, Dergholm, Casterton and Dartmoor. The Lower reaches of the Glenelg have been set aside as a National Park, and feature a spectacular limestone gorge, stringy bark forest, river red gums, grass trees, creeks and a decent array of wildlife including 5 species of cockatoo. Yes, it is an absolute sh*t-hole and no-one should ever go there. If asked, you are going to Adelaide, right?

The river marks the territorial boundary between Gunditjmara and Buandik, clans and remains significant to their descendants today.

For the first time ever, in 20 years of visiting this part of the world, I was to camp on the northern side of the river, specifically at Redgum Landing. I had booked two nights there to chill out from the frantic exercise of leaving Melbourne, and it was a good idea.

It was a dark rainy night, and I thought it would be easy enough to find the track off Wanwin Rd to the camp; however I underestimated the distance to the turnoff and soon found myself on a firebreak track through the scrub. I knew that I would eventually find the correct track by proceeding ahead, and although I became concerned that I might find myself on the wrong side of a “management vehicles and walkers only” gate, I kept going because I had gone so far by that point that I was prepared to take the punt.
For want of a better expression, I was escorted by mobs of VERY large kangaroos. There have been two good breeding years and the numbers were up. I had to be very careful as there was not much opportunity for them to get off the track, so I had to be quite patient and let them go without further stressing them.

Anyway, about 30 minutes of unplanned offroading saw me in my new camp. I was set up and having a beer by 9.30 pm, tired but pleased to be on the road. I made good use of the awning on the vehicle to thwart the worst of the drizzle, but didn’t bother with a fire since it was still rather warm. The next morning the drizzle persisted, but it was still rather pleasant to be by the Glenelg, fittingly on the Buandik side of the river considering the country I was planning to travel through.

http://www.ausanthrop.net/resources/...p?id_search=64

(...continued)

Last edited by Dulagarl; 19th November 2013 at 07:34 PM.
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Unread 30th June 2011, 10:01 AM
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The next morning was still rather wet, but I was pretty well equipped for any conditions, as you can see…



And even though the morning was pretty crappy for photography, the river still held some appeal.





That morning, I had to go to Nelson to pick up my camping permit, attend to some work matters, and to wish a happy retirement to Lorraine and Bruce Mackeireth who had both worked in the park for some 27 years: Lorraine in the office and Bruce as a ranger and head ranger. They had looked after me for many years and the very least I could do was wish them a happy retirement.

The trip into Nelson gave me an opportunity to view some sections of the river that I hadn’t often seen. The view of the gorge at Sandy Waterholes in particular.



I also paid a visit to my sister in nearby Greenwald, and used her vast shed as a staging point to re-organise the gear packed in the rear of the vehicle. Given the intermittent heavy showers and occasional hail, the shed was particularly useful and the cup of tea and warmth of the fire even more so.

By the time I got back to camp at the end of day two, the cloud had at least broken, and the Glenelg started to look a little more familiar.





I collected some firewood and started a fire, and at the same time collected a mass of sand fly “bites” in my hands, arm and head. The welts were to stay with me for about two weeks. Sand flies don’t actually bite you I am told: they piss on you, and it is the acid in their urine that causes the bite like reaction. Nonetheless, I soon had a fire going and a decent pile of wood to see me though a few beers, dinner and some wine…



Still, in camp, with this rig and another five and a half weeks in front of me, I wasn’t going to get too upset about insects pissing on me. After a beer or two I decided that a shot with the vehicle was in order…



(Ugly ******* with a vicious car, ready for who knows what.)

Night two closed in and I contemplated the end of the shortest stay I had ever made on the Glenelg. Soon, the familiar sounds of possums by night and yellow tailed black cockatoos by day would give way to less familiar sounds.

The following morning saw flocks of cormorants feeding on schools of fish in the river along the bank opposite. Rain came as I broke camp and I headed to Mt Gambier to buy fresh vegetables and fruit, it being illegal to take such things into South Australia from Victoria.

Having visited my sister the day before and being told that the overflow from Picaninnie Ponds was flowing to the sea, I felt compelled to have a look. Picaninnioe Ponds is the first stop on the Mt Gambier Rd heading west from Nelson, and it is well worth a visit on any day.

http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/par...servation_Park



Not the most inviting of places on a cold rainy windswept day, the ponds are popular with divers and accessed by a platform seen in the above image. Diving is strictly regulated here, for reasons most recently evidenced by the death of an experienced diver in nearby Tank Cave.

http://www.theage.com.au/national/ca...228-1baec.html

Given my slight claustrophobia (which I discovered in an MRI machine about a year ago), and my complete inexperience in scuba diving, there really wasn’t any decision to make at all about diving into the ponds. Still, if I were so inclined, this would potentially be the first of many such riches that I could explore while crossing the Nullarbor…

Instead, to the beach, and a view that demonstrated beautifully that I was on the edge of the southern ocean, with the next stop south being Antarctica.







In the foreground the channel from the ponds can be seen running to the sea. It is not a natural channel, but one dug by some enterprising colonist last century in an effort to drain the ponds for some purpose that seemed logical, as did introducing rabbits, foxes, cane toads, prickly pear and other such things at the time. The final of the above three images is to the west, the direction I would be heading for a good couple of thousand kilometres and more. Due west across the waters I would be in a matter of a few weeks, with many places of interest in between. It was hard to not be excited at the prospect.

But, in the short term, less exciting things were in store for me at Mount Gambier where I had to restock. After fuel and the supermarket, eventually I found the office of National Parks and Wildlife after some asking around. The helpful staff soon had me equipped with a Holiday Parks Pass for around $50, and what a great deal that is! Entry and camping in National Parks in SA (other than desert parks) for two months! (Some conditions apply, for example it doesn’t cover camping fees in “campground” like parks such as Naracoorte Caves). Still, if you’re touring South Australia it is excellent value.

Having re-stocked in Mount Gambier, I was soon on the road to my first camp in unknown territory: Canunda National Park in South Australia

I’ll cover that in the next entry….
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Unread 30th June 2011, 01:07 PM
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That's a great report Dulagarl! Going into such detail makes me feel like i'm right there with you. Thanks for the education on sand flies. Makes me glad we don't have them here!

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Unread 1st July 2011, 10:31 AM
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fantastic report
look forward to the next installment
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Unread 1st July 2011, 09:53 PM
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Fantastic trip report
Looking forward to seeing & reading all about Canunda National Park in South Australia, in the next installment

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Unread 3rd July 2011, 10:49 PM
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Been looking forward to seeing a write up and pics of your trip and this did not disappoint! Thanks for taking the time to share it with us. Also keen to hear about the next part of your adventure.
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Unread 4th July 2011, 08:21 AM
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This one has been much anticipated, great to see it coming to be. Excellent, can't wait for the future installments.
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Unread 4th July 2011, 10:46 AM
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Thanks for the encouragement folks: glad you like it.

here's day three's installment.


Mt Gambier is one of those medium sized rural towns that are sufficiently large as to make getting in and out a pain in the backside. Don’t get me wrong, nothing to do with the people: rubbish! Everything to do with the way the people there drive.

I’ll stop before I get nasty, but the point is that if you plan on being out of Mt Gambier by a certain time, for example lunch time, the reality is that you will be out of there about an hour later than that, even if all else goes to plan.

Still, not far to go from Mt Gambier to the closest piece of coast to Canunda National Park, that being Carpenters Rocks. 38 km to be precise. So, with the GPS set, I was soon cruising with a full tank of fuel, and maximum supplies including mandatory Mt Gambier fish and chips.



Somehow, the fact that there was a nearby local called “Blackfellows Caves” escaped me. Ordinarily I would be all over a place like that, gleaning any piece of contact history that I could. Probably a good thing in the circumstances, given that I had thousands of km to cover in the next few weeks, and a “new” national park to explore today!

All I knew about Canunda was that it is a narrow strip of relatively unspoilt coastal habitat, and is probably about the most westerly point where Orange-Bellied Parrots are know to make landfall on their migratory flights from Tasmania at the end of summer each year. Other than that, I didn’t know a lot about it. I did manage to glean from the book “Camping Guide to South Australia” (Craig Lewis and Cathy Savage, Boiling Billy Publications), that there were several camping spots in the park, but only one of them that was purely 4wd access. My choice of destination for camp on night three of my trek was therefore made for me, but more about that later…

So, Carpenter Rocks: some rocks, some sea and some fishing boats, but that really undersells it. It is on the edge of the Great Australian Bight at this point, as I suppose that nearby Port MacDonnell marks the turn that makes this the Bight and east of there the Southern Ocean.





From this, the geologist among you would recognise sandstone and limestone outcrops, and hence the possibility of some pretty good scenery ahead. If this is just scrub and the National Park is comparatively “unspoilt”, then surely some good sights were ahead of me this afternoon.

So, back into the vehicle and on to Cape Banks, on the edge of the National Park…



Unsurprisingly, coastline like this called for a lighthouse, which was not built before a number of shipwrecks over the years.



Back in 1802, (2nd of April to be precise) Captain Nicolas Baudin sailed in Le Geographe past this point and commented (in French of course) “the shore is a continuous line of dunes, at the foot of which the sea breaks so heavily it would be impossible to land”. He was sailing from east to west and as such was the first European to chart the coast between Carpenter Rocks (les Chapentiers) and Encounter Bay. He only achieved this distinction by being a few days ahead of Matthew Flinders in HMS Investigator who was sailing from the west, who met with Baudin at Encounter Bay on 8 April, and passed Carpenter rocks ten days later.

So what?

The importance of this pair mapping this part of coastline was that their voyages, in 1801 to 1803, completed the mapping of New Holland as it was then known. In 1804, Flinders completed his first “general Chart of Australia”, hence assigning the name we have today. All of this occurred while France and Britain were at war, and I wonder why they didn’t blow each other out of the water at the time.

Of course, I didn’t really know much of that until I read a plaque at Cape Banks. Another plaque tells the story of the most famous shipwreck in the area, that of the Admella. I’ll let that plaque tell its own story…






… death, cannibalism, suicide, horses, horseracing: very Australian.

Enough of the maritime history lesson though, and more pictures…



So, leaving Carpenter Rocks and still heading for the national park, the terrain becomes a jumble of dunes, and it was time to fit one of my new accessories to the vehicle, namely the “sand flag” that I had bought from a bicycle shop for about $10. Fitting entailed attaching it to the CB antenna with a couple of cable ties. Very sophisticated…



In taking a photo of the rear of the vehicle, I couldn’t help but notice the suspension travel. This is what having a sway bar “disconnected” (i.e. not there) results in.



So, after a bit of travel through this, I found myself at the southern boundary of the national park, and decided it was time to let some air out of the tyres. First a pic…



Err, but that rear right tyre IS down! (expletive). I thought I’d better change it over and check for a leak once in camp, and possibly repair it then. (Fast forward to camp and I didn’t find an obvious leak. Fast forward a day and I was in Millicent at the tyre place, and we identified a leak around the bead. Evidently, sand had got in between the bead and the rims, partly due to the “rim protector” on the BF Goodrich A/T.)

Last edited by Dulagarl; 5th July 2011 at 08:08 AM.
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Unread 4th July 2011, 10:49 AM
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So, tyres deflated and suspect tyre replaced with spare number one, and it was off for some more exploring. The terrain varying from quite rocky…



with dense coastal vegetation,


to moonscape like sand blows


with calcified tree roots


resembling alien life forms (if you haven't in fact seen an alien life form they DO look like this, I swear).


Some of the sand blows were quite extensive: if you look closely you’ll see the vehicle at the edge of this one near vegetation.



Seriously though, on the life form front, you didn’t have to look too hard around here to find old signs of habitation.



^ this cutter / scraper would probably have been used to pry open shellfish, and / or to scrape flesh from skin of kangaroo or other mammal. Coastal areas such as this supported rich food and artefact economies and hence trade with neighbouring clans. Finding objects like this always makes the experience richer, and this is a reason why I always leave such things where I find them. I ask other people to do the same so that we can share the reminders of those who were here before us, in this case Buandig people and their neighbours.



At times in Canunda, you are given the choice of driving through the dune fields or along the beach. Since I was travelling solo I tended to avoid the beach, especially since it was getting late in the day and I needed to remove some of the weight in the back of the vehicle (i.e. beer). When in environment like this, stick to tracks: on the beach you are in hooded plover habitat and those fellas just lay their eggs on the sand (but by late March they are usually finished with nesting); and off the beach you are on the edge of middens such as that where I found the tool pictured above. Please, don’t wreck these places!



I was now close to my destination for the night: two rocks camping area. The above picture shows the rocks themselves. Knowing that other people are reading this, I feel compelled to say that two rocks camp is terrible, uncomfortable, crowded, noisy, polluted and inconvenient. STOP READING NOW.

Using coastal vegetation as Buandig people have done for millennia, my camp was well sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds whipping of the Great Australian Bight.



Whereas Buandig used a dome like “wurly” built in some cases on a frame of whalebone, my dome like structure was a little more lightweight. It had been an excellent day of travel, and the weather had improved enough to get some decent photos. As you can see from the picture above though, coastal showers necessitated the use of the awning on the side of the vehicle.

Again, I didn’t bother with a fire since I was well sheltered from the wind which blew strongly above the thick coastal scrub. A few beers and dinner out of the way, and I contemplated my good fortune to be out doing this in such a great environment, and still weeks ahead of me, and in isolation: I hadn't seen any person since hitting the coast at Carpenter Rocks. It was a fitting location and occasion to mix the sound of the wind and the sea with Midnight Oil’s album “Place Without a Postcard”.

At some point with day three at an end, I went to bed.

Last edited by Dulagarl; 4th July 2011 at 10:55 AM.
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Unread 4th July 2011, 05:18 PM
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Great trip report, cant wait to go over next March with the camper.
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