The Murray-Sunset National Park

Friday, Jul 25, 2014 at 10:00

Navigator 1 (NSW)

28th - 30th April, 2014

This park is in northwest Victoria, between Ouyen and Mildura and the South Australian border. It is about 550km from Melbourne and 400km from Adelaide. Access to the park from Melbourne is via the Calder Highway, and from South Australia via the Sturt Highway.
The literature says, ‘The park, in Victoria's far north-west corner, is in one of the few remaining semi-arid regions in the world where the environment is relatively untouched. With its wide open landscapes, breathtaking sunsets and starry nights, its vastness and isolation will take more than a day to explore’. We had a different experience.

We headed south from Mildura to Red Cliff then 37km east to Merrinee. From this point it was 21km south on a solid sand track to the park entry. The Park Ranger gave us a weather warning that rain was imminent the next day which would make the sand/clay tracks from Rocket Lake south to the Pink Lakes virtually impassable.

As the track to Rocket Lake was solid sand we headed out knowing that we could return by the same track if the weather set in. The orange sand and the dense mallee made for a picturesque trip along Rocket Lake Track. After reaching the National Park boundary it was a further 11km to the campground on the eastern ‘shore’ of Rocket Lake. It was just on last light when we arrived so any view of the lake had to wait till morning. One other couple was in camp, young Germans, travelling in an old ’88 GU Nissan.

The morning was overcast so we decided to walk over to the lake and then head off hoping to beat the rain. The lake was only a hundred meters from the campsite but, it was dry. It was still an impressive sight, huge and covered with low growing salt bush.

We wasted no time and continued our journey south but before too long a light sprinkle began. Two km south from the lake we crossed over Nowingi Track, a further 6km to Pheenys Track, 10km to Last Hope Track and just a further 3km on we came to the turnoff to Mopoke Hut. We had intended camping at Mopoke Hut however, with the rain getting heavier, we decided to press on. The thought of the green truck sliding off the track or getting bogged was not appealing. Goodness knows how long it would be before someone would pass by as most traffic to the Pink Lakes enters from the Mallee Hwy in the south.

The Ranger was correct, the track south had a lot of clay in it but the low sand dunes, although several being very soft, were no problem. Mopoke Track took us a further 17km south to Honeymoon Track where we turned westward for a further 9km to Crozier Track. It was our original intention to also camp at Mt Crozier but the weather made the decision for us and we headed south on Crozier Track eventually reaching the Pink Lakes, a further 19km on. We drove around Lake Becking and the general area before heading over to the main campground at Lake Crosbie.

The rain was intermittent which allowed us just brief walks around the camping area. The camp ground was well set up with toilets, fireplaces and picnic tables. I ventured out intending to walk to the lake’s edge but only 20m from camp the mud became very soft and slippery so I unstuck my boots and returned to the truck. Before long the rain was falling and we took cover inside the truck for the rest of the afternoon. Not surprising, there were no other campers!

We will have to come back to see the lake changing in colour of the lake from a deep pink to a glistening white and to do the walking tracks in the Pink Lakes area. The salt dump, the old town site and the lookout will still be there on our return.

Harvesting of high grade salt from the Pink Lakes began in 1916 with camel teams used for transport. A gypsum mine also operated on the Raak Plain till 1991.

The next day brought no joy with its overcast skies and light drizzle. There was no point in staying so we headed about 13km south to Linga, on the Mallee Hwy then continued west to Murrayville near the SA/Vic border where we visited with Susie, a good friend we met on the track years ago.

When we left it was off to the Pinnaroo Bakery. It’s funny how so many Bakeries have the ‘Famous Vanilla Slice’.

Our trip through the Murray-Sunset National Park was disappointing as we had planned on a lot more camping and exploring including the historic Shearers Quarters. This building was once the home of the lessee of Sunset Pastoral Co. Today it provides hostel-style accommodation at $61.00 per night. Bookings are essential and can be made by contacting the Parks Victoria's Werrimull

This is a great park for four wheel drive touring, bushwalking and camping so, we will be back.
The outback calls
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