Blog 207 Mt Gambier 22nd – 23rd Feb 2012

We leave Adelaide via a really lovely twisty mountain route partly by luck but also because any route out south or east criss crosses the Adelaide hills, on the way we visit Strathalbyn and a Moto Guzzi dealer called simply “The Garage”. Mary Lou is the proprietor and several people have said we should drop in on our way by.

Strathalbyn is pretty and after a look around town we find the garage easily. Our bike causes the usual stir and we have a chat to Mary Lou and some of her customers before we head on.


We cross the Murray river at Wellington, the chain ferry here is classed as part of the highways and is toll free. From here we go to Menigie which once was a staging post on the route to Melbourne, in the early days they had to catch a steamer across the lake. We have lunch overlooking Lake Albert.


We are still hugging the coast all the way and pass an old oil rig tower in the middle of nowhere, stopping for a look we discover it marks the site of a boom and bust search for oil in Southern Australia. During the 1850′s in the Coorong area a black rubbery, bitumen-like substance Coorongite appeared in swampy land after the winter floods had dried. This led in 1866 to the first hole to be drilled in Australia in search of oil. Although small amounts of oil were extracted from this rubber like substance the wells were unsuccessful and the Salt Creek Petroleum Company went bankrupt in 1888. By the late 1920′s it had been established that Coorongite was actually a dried residue of an algae.


Passing a few interesting signs Kev almost gets eaten by a giant lobster but we make it to Robe unscathed and ride past the old customs house, we know there’s a parks camp nearby but the signs for the track inform us it is 4wd, we try anyway. It is really sandy withlots of tree roots so Kev attempts it alone, I walk in and we are rewarded with a lovely camp all to ourselves. There is a distinctive nip to the air tonight possibly because we are lower down the country and heading into Autumn.


Kev said it was an interesting ride in so opts to ride out solo again, I think he thinks I’m getting lardy and needed the exercise…..20mins later I am reunited with bike and husband both in fine fettle Kev has just finished pumping the tyres back up for the road and we head off for Beachport. We stop at Woakwine cutting for a look,  the famer Mr M B McCourt and his friend used a D7 tractor to drain a 420 hectare peat swamp on his property via this channel. The project began in May 1957 it took three years to complete and is 1km long. It is an amazing example of engineering accomplished by just two men and a caterpillar tractor.


Bowman scenic drive is just that we pause so many times for photos we almost need to do the ride again to enjoy the bends. On the way we spot something called Sloam pool, it’s a salt lake that is reputedly seven times more salty than the sea. It looks about as inviting as it sounds but we brave it anyway. I video Kev going in first then join him , it feels really weird I’m standing up straight my feet don’t touch the bottom and I am floating with my head out of the water. Kev is treading water out of habit and laughs when he realises we can just stand upright without drowning. We lie on our backs and wave our hands and feet in the air for photos. There is a diving platform a little way out and Kev swims out to it, you cannot drown but it’s hard to swim when your feet won’t sink underwater. After we have finished messing about we get out for a welcome freshwater shower. Having built up an appetite for lunch we make tracks for Mt Gambier and the so called blue lake.


It’s sooo blue you can’t get a more intense blue than this. The Blue Lake is the drinking water for the city situated in one of three extinct volcanic craters, the crystal clear water has filtered underground through the limestone. During December to March, the lake turns to a vibrant cobalt blue colour, returning to a colder steel grey colour for April to November. With an average depth of 70 metres, the lake contains 36,000 million litres (ML).

It’s a lovely lunch spot overlooking the lake.


Back in town we check out the cave gardens in a sink hole right in the centre of town it is planted out beautifully and the fence around the top depicts the various trades and history of the town. We also check out the towns new library, this has won many  awards and the children’s library features a cave. The frog is a self issuing unit and very popular with the kids.Karen worked in a library at home hence her interest.


Just on the outskirts is another sink hole called Umpherston and it seems we have saved the best till last. It belonged to the Umpherston family who established the garden in 1884 and opened it to the public for free. The original garden even had a lake at the bottom and did boat trips. After James death in 1900 the garden fell into disrepair and a saw mill was built next door, by 1976 it was nothing more than rubbish dump. In the early 1990′s some civic minded volunteers began restoring it to it’s former glory, by 1994 it had been restored and was open to the public once again.

Descending into the garden via a ramp and enclosed steps we are rewarded by glimpses of the view looking across the terraces to a waterfall of vines hanging down the walls. It also gives some pleasant respite from the hot afternoon sun and is a popular spot with the locals for picnics.


Our stop for the night is over the border in Victoria, Dartmoor is a sleepy little town with a free camp by the river and is an idyllic spot. On the ride though town we see some amazing tree sculptures so once the tent is set up we ride back to the main street for a better look. They were old trees that needed to come down but the stumps were left and a chainsaw sculptor was bought in to work his magic. The carvings are magnificent, one tree depicts nursery rhymes tree and we spend about 20 minutes working out what was what. See how many you can spot. The other sculptures are animals and a row of memorials to local people involved in The Great War.



Tonight we get some good news, there is an Adventure Travel Film Festival at Bright this weekend. We have been in email contact for a few days asking if we could do a presentation in return for free entry. It turns out there are no more spaces for any presentations but they would like to have our bike on display. We have to be in Bright over 700km away by tomorrow night. This is not a problem but we will have to backtrack later to ensure we fill in the gaps. Its too good an opportunity to miss though.

Next up: – The Adventure Travel Film Festival.



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