Southern Coastline Day 202 - Adelaide to Melbourne

Wednesday, Feb 10, 1999 at 01:00

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

Since leaving Adelaide on Saturday 6th February we have stayed at some small towns namely Wellington, Boggy Lake, Kingston SE, Robe and today we arrived at Mt Gambier where we are bush camping at the Picininni Ponds cave diving site.

In Adelaide we spent a fair bit of money, as we usually do in capital cities, mostly on food and wine. In one day we went out for both lunch and dinner which was the most extravagant we've been the entire trip! We lunched at a café at Glenelg and then dined with friends of David's from the Adelaide Sanderson office at a Turkish restaurant on Rundle Street.

We picked up a guide to windsurfing in SA and drove around every day investigating the conditions at each location, finally sailing on Friday at Seacliff (south of Glenelg). We were approached by a strange looking fellow on a push bike wearing full safety gear (including a glow-in-the-dark orange vest) who was very excited to meet us. He convinced us to leave Adelaide and start heading south-east to a large waterway called Boggy Lake, which is part of Lake Alexandrina where the Murray River meets the sea.

It was Saturday when we arrived at Boggy Lake and we were surprised to see about 20 sailboarders there. It's about an hour's drive from Adelaide if you take the shortest route, but we went via Victor Harbour and Goolwa (another top SA windsurfing spot). The Lake is at the end of a dirt track running off a country road between Langhorne Creek and Wellington (17kms from Langhorne Creek, 16km from Wellington). The area is all farming land and wineries so you have to pass through a closed gate and watch out for cows, geese and horses. By the time we arrived, it had already been a good sailing day and most of the sailers were either coming in to change down a sail size or having a rest as a storm was brewing. The storm hit just as we were watching and the wind threw so much water from the lake onto the land that the parking area became flooded and all the cars had to retreat to higher ground. One sailer went missing for over an hour anda 4WD rescue mission was launched to fish him off the other side of the lake. The sailer found his own way back though, by paddling on the board, without the rig. The water temperature in the lake was around 14 degrees and he was shaking all over from the cold.

Happy that we'd found wind but unhappy that we didn't get out we asked the locals where we would camp. The land from where we were sailing is available for free camping but we decided against it due to the "boggy" weather. We camped down the road at the caravan park in Wellington and enjoyed a long hot shower.

The following day, Sunday, we had a great day's sailing on both our 6.0m and 5.2m. Many of the same Adelaideons we'd met the previous day returned to Boggy Lake for another sail and some more that we had not met. David was working hard to master both his harness and getting into the footstraps but had an unfortunate incident when his mast track broke and came away from his board. I found him thankfully, in shallow water walking back to shore holding the sail above his head and pushing the board through the water with his hands.

This is the second time in only 8 times on his brand new Bombora 295 that the mast track has broken and so we were very upset. We phoned the shop in Perth from where we'd purchased the board and discussed the problem with them. Perth said the replacement would take a few days to reach us by express post so we gave them the name of a town a few hundred kilometres away thinking we didn't want to get caught waiting here for mail and not being able to sail in the meantime. That night we bush camped by the side of Boggy Lake and had a lovely time with the cows and geese and horses.

The wind was up again in the morning and David couldn't wait any longer. We made some phone calls to Adelaide to see if we could buy a new mast track but none of the 3 shops had one as so many had recently been used for warranty replacements! We decided to try again using another tactic and asked if they had any second-hand Bombora boards and would they mind if we bought the mast track out of one of them which they could then replace when more stock came in. Luckily, this worked and so we drove the 3 hour round trip to Adelaide to buy this $20 item.

By the time we returned to Boggy Lake the wind was coming in nicely. We rigged the 6.0m and shared that for a couple of hours. David was concerned that it was my birthday and that it wasn't appropriate to spend it at a place called Boggy Lake so we packed up our things and drove from 5pm - 7pm to a beautiful beachside town called Kingston SE where we watched a beautiful sunset over the water. After the cold waters of Boggy Lake (I had to wear 3 wetsuits to keep warm) I felt I needed a long hot shower so we had a night in the caravan park. It's getting a bit late in our trip now and the money's running low. We seem to be doing everything we can to save a dollar and that includes not paying for accommodation.

Tuesday 9th February was my birthday and I awoke to a phone call from Nanna. It wasn't a windy day and there is little we can do to occupy ourselves without spending money, so we drove on to the next town (50km down the road), called Robe. Robe looked to be a beautiful place with a long beach called Long Beach! We drove around all the sites and found that this town had a large lobster fleet. David thought that a nice cooked lobster would be perfect for a birthday dinner and I was happy with that too. Unfortunately, the cost of lobster was $39.50 per kg and compared to WA prices this was ridiculous! We opted instead for champagne, BBQ chicken, salad, cheese and dips on the beach. I wanted to top up my suntan so we spent a few hours on Long Beach and then an hour of squid fishing from the jetty (no luck) before David prepared my birthday dinner.

Wednesday 10th February was windy so we rigged up the 6.0m sail and I had just one run out and back on Long Beach. It seemed to be windy but it just wasn't there so we got all salty for nothing. We decided to continue driving to the next town which was Beachport where we were expecting to receive a parcel from the Perth windsurfing shop. Our trusty little guide book to windsurfing in SA gave details of a supposedly even better spot than Boggy Lake just near Beachport. This spot was Lake George and so many people we've met have just raved about it. Finding that our mail hadn't yet arrived we drove out to Lake George and found it repulsive! The has been no rain over the year and it has started to dry-up in the shallow reaches. The salinity is extreme and salt foam clings to the exposed reeds giving off a most pungent and disgusting smell. Although the camp sites along the banks are excellent and FREE we could not even contemplate staying in those conditions. It was a shame, since the glassy waters of Lake George are excellent for fast flat water sailing with consistent 20 - 30 knot summer winds.

We drove back into Beachport and found that the mail had arrived complete with our parcel. We had a quick lunch and decided to continue driving. We drove all the way to Mt Gambier where we planned to dive or snorkel the sinkholes and ponds of Ewens Ponds and Picanninie Ponds. After recent deaths in Picanninie Ponds the local Lands and Environment Dept have put restrictions on diving and snorkelling there. We had to pay $4 each, fill out a disclaimer and chose an hour block on a nominated day to snorkel Picanninie Ponds. The arrangement is that only 4 people can be in the pond at any one time, in buddy pairs whether snorkelling or diving. The snorkel time is for one hour maximum at designated times only so that after every snorkel group the waters are left to settle for an hour before the next group can enter. This is to reduce any silt up occuring and to give time for the water to settle.

We chose to snorkel Picanninie Ponds between 2pm and 3pm on Thursday 11th February and to dive or snorkel Ewens Ponds in the morning. Picanninie Ponds and Ewens Ponds are only about 10mins drive from each other and right on the coast south of Mt Gambier. We decided to try to find somewhere to camp nearby to the ponds and finally set up camp right at Picanninie Ponds. There's a $5 per night self-registration system like in many National Parks but we didn't bother and got a free night there all alone. We heard a few fishermen passing our camp going down to the beach and so we took a long walk there and found where the Picanninie Ponds drain to the sea. We followed a few tracks into the bush and came to the edge of the lower reaches of the Ponds. It is a very rugged wild place. That night we were almost eaten alive by the bugs and mosquitoes, so we locked ourselves inside our car.

Thursday morning finally came and we were so looking forward to our sinkhole diving but it had been raining hard all through the night and the sky was bleak and overcast. This of course, meant that the vizibility would not be idealyic. It took us some time to gear up both my camera and David's video camera for the dive, which after checking the water temperature we changed to a snorkel. The water was icy but the snorkel was fabulous! Ewens Ponds is a series of 3 large open ponds with white limestone walls dropping to cater-like bowls in the centre. Each pond is interconnected via swift-moving channels that are shallow and reedy. It was a magical snorkel/dive and took 20 photos. David took about 2 minutes video and had to go back and do it all again as the lens of his camera housing fogged up due to the humidity above the pond and the icy temperatures in the water.

We were really tickled with the experience and stayed in our wetsuits until the next dive/snorkel in Picanninie Ponds. Picanninie Ponds is regarded as the more beautiful of the Ponds due to an 60m sinkhole called the Chasm which links to another chamber at 80m called the Cathederal. We arrived well before our 2pm booking and watched many people come for a quick look and leave. We even watched a guy arrive, read the warning signs then put on a 2mm spring suit, no fins, no permit jumped in for 5 mins and leave! Anyway, we did the right thing and waited until 2pm but by then a dark storm had come over and it was literally pouring down with rain. We didn't even get in the water until 2.15pm and finally by 2.50pm the sun started to peek out from behind the clouds just enough for us to see to the bottom of the Chasm. I blasted off the last 10 shots on my roll of film and David took another 5mins of video which we're looking forward to watching. It was a fabulous experience but unfortunately the conditions were far from perfect so we'll just have to do it all again!

With the snorkelling finished and still a few hours left in the day we continued driving across the country leaving SA behind us. We started our drive along the Great Ocean Road and made a free camp at the top of the cliffs at The Crags a coastal lookout near Port Fairy. David did a bit of rock fishing with a man who turned up near sunset but didn't catch anything.

So it was Friday 12th February when we drove through Warnambool along the Great Ocean Road and stopped at all the coastal lookouts until we made it to Cape Otway where we camped at Blanket Bay in the Otway National Park for another free night. Every site was full of Melbourneons getting away for the weekend and it wasn't the most pleasant of places to be. The bushland was gorgeous and typically the weather was foggy and overcast.

We didn't plan it very well I suppose to be driving the Great Ocean Road and doing the twelve apostles and lookouts on a weekend! There were buses and tour groups and just about everybody swarming all over the coastline. The weather was still pretty foul and consequently I wasn't too enthused to take many photos.

We finished our touring with a quick look at Bells Beach, Torquay before driving right through Melbourne and out towards the East coast. We stopped for the night in the Holey Plains State Park which has camp sites for free use because it is not governed by Vic Parks. David climbed the watch-tower and we did a little bushwalk though to the banksia grove in the morning before driving on to Lakes Entrance via Seapray, the Coastal National Park, and Sale. With the weather still foggy and overcast Lakes Entrance didn't appeal so we found a little campground just the other side of town in the Lake Tyers State Forest (free). I felt like some driving as all this long-distance sitting has made me become quite bored. I had a few troubles with the trailer and got David all worked up into a rage because I couldn't reverse properly even though he was telling me how! Anyway, we found so many campsites in along Lake Tyers it didn't matter where we went we were alone. We didn't do any fishing but I believe there is lots to be caught there.

On Monday morning we lifted camp again with me at the helm, and drove to Malacoota. The roads were windy and narrow and after only 2 hours I was exhausted and handed the driving back over to David to got us safely to Malacoota by lunchtime. We spent 2 hours errected our tarp to get some shade which ended up protecting us from the rain and then spent the afternoon fishing. David was the first along the beach to bring in a big salmon and then caught another on his last bit of bait. We cooked up a thai yellow fish curry with rice and slept in until 9.30am because it has turned dark and overcast just for something different. We think our trip is coming to an end.
David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
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Always working not enough travelling!
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