The Border Track , Wyperfeld and a retreat to Hopetoun

Wednesday, Oct 01, 2008 at 00:00

Mick O

1st October 2008
Hopetoun Vic

Not surprisingly, one awoke a bit seedy this morning. Still don’t know how I managed to get into the swag last night. Suffice to say it was a painless and deep sleep. It was a threatening sky that greeted us though so we didn’t waist any time in packing up. It was a sad realization that the Engel had in fact bleep itself and wasn’t cooling at all. Damn, particularly with three days meat left on board. Found a small, but no doubt poisonous scorpion meandering about the campsite as we packed. Hugh tagged and released the one decent shrimp we had caught all week and we were away at 8.00 a.m. We headed along the river flats and back onto the Old Renmark Road. Along the way we encountered the strangest sight. On the northern side of the road, a large box tree had been decorated with hundreds of hats. Many had names and messages scrawled across them and they had been nailed and screwed to even the topmost branches. A strange sight indeed.

It was only half an hour until we were cruising through the vineyards of the Riverland and a few kilometers later were pulled up in the local bakery scoffing a toasted sandwich and reading of the stock market crash in the US and around the globe.

After breakfast we headed east on the Sturt highway until we reached the border and then turned right immediately at the border Commencing our trip into the Murray Sunset National Park and the Border Track. The border is clearly delineated by the grain crops growing on the SA side. The track itself is a rough, sandy and windy affair that crests the dunes and follows a track within 100 meters of the cropping lands. Several hundred meters further east is a better maintained track that follows a firebreak. Straight and true it is much easier going. I was impressed by the height of some of the sand hills being better than 20 meters. Further on, the track began to twist and turn and has been mogul-ed unto a rock and roll hump-fest. With the close fringed mallee and the deep sand it reminded me very much of Goog’s track, without the added height of the Goog’s sand hills. A good training ground though for drivers intending a desert crossing.

At The Rock-holes we stopped for lunch after investigating the large deep rock-hole sitting in the middle of a slab of rock. It was a totally uncharacteristical sight for the mallee. Where in hell this came from I don’t know but the slab acts like a sheet for collecting water funneling it into the large rock-hole. The National Parks, in their wisdom have placed a wire grill over it preventing wildlife from getting to it as the carcasses of dead roos around the place do attest.

We were amazed at the number of Shingle Back Lizards on the move. If we saw two pairs, we saw a dozen. They were everywhere. On reaching the south of the park, we began to wind our way slowly along the backtracks through the farmlands and state forest to the Mallee Highway. We surprised the hell, out of a BIG brown snake who reared up and deciding that what he saw was far to big to be frightened, bolted off the road into the bush. He was a good 2 meters plus in length and thick in the girth. Very big. The wind was howling by the time we reached the Murrayville Road. The ABC weather was issuing a weather alert for most areas in SA so we headed east on the highway to Underbool intending to take the northern route into Wyperfield.

Wyperfield is again a mixture of landscapes and vegetation. Vast plains of Beulah, Murray pine and acacia, sandy hills covered in Mallee and spinifex and box flats and creeks. The weather looked pretty damn hostile so we opted to head for Patchewollock and see what accommodation was in the offing. In a word…Zip, nil, nada. It is a ghost town these days. On southward to Hopetoun and the Community Hotel-Motel where for $77 we have a dated but refurbished room for the night. A hot shower, shave and a counter attack over a bottle of red, the news and then the journal.
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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