Almost immediately upon entering South Australia (SA), we noticed the flat lands. We had been in the hills of Victoria and Tasmania since we had arrived in Australia, so it was a different, but welcome (at least on my part, Jonathan may not like the flatness), landscape. In fact, I was surprised at how different it was from Victoria just across the border. On the SA side, they practiced logging, so the towns on the border seemed really prosperous and new. The roads were straight and flat, which was a welcome relief from Victoria’s pitching and curving roads.
One of the first sites we visited was the Blue Lake in Mount Gambier (pronounced Gam-bee-ya). Mount Gambier is a town located on one of the few hills in the region. The reason for the hill? An extinct volcano. At the top of this hill, the volcano’s crater has filled with water (from both rain and groundwater). What makes it unique is that it develops an unique blue color from calcite crystals that form in the spring (sometime in November). Nearly in one day, it will transform from a steely-gray color to a brilliant blue that lasts all summer, and then it slowly fades back to the gray color. We caught it at the end of the summer. Might be even more blue a month ago.
Next, we decided to hit up the Naracoorte Caves National Park. This park has received UNESCO World Heritage status because of the marsupial fossils found in the caves there. These caves had holes in the ceiling that allowed animals to fall into the caves and not be able to get back out. As a result, a large pile of bones were fossilized in the cave when the holes filled back up. They have found the remains of large animals that no longer exist. Such as large koalas and echnidas, as well as leaf-eating kangaroos, a hippo-like marsupial, and a large python. They have even discovered the largest marsupial to have ever lived. Many of these animals died out only after humans first started populating the continent.
These are just a small percentage of the fossils found in the cave and how they look before the extracted and assembled.
This is a marsupial lion-like creature, which may have dropped down onto its prey from the trees, which sounds a lot like the drop-bear legends that they use to scar kids and tourists here in Aussie.
From there, we made our way to the coast again. We had heard Robe is lovely. So, I set the GPS to Little Dip Conservation Park and Jonathan turned the van down the road. We found the park easily and started driving down the road. Little did we know that, at the end, there were sand dunes with deep sand. We made it all the way to the end, but when we tried to turn around, we got stuck. We managed to get ourselves unstuck, only to get ourselves stuck again at the top of the hill, where some 4x4ers decided to assist us using their winch to save some time. Beautiful views at least.
Next on the list was Coorong National Park, which is this long coastal strip of land south of the Murray River outlet. I figured we would just treat it like the Alpine National Park and just follow signs and see what is interesting. Turns out for this park, that is a bad idea. That just leaves you driving very corrugated roads with nothing to see. There were a few interesting turnouts, but most were accessible from the smooth highway, no need to punish oneself. The park ends at the Murray River outlet. The Murray River is the longest river in Australia. Right before its outlet are several large lakes. We tried to take the ferry across through some of the small islands, but it turns out that section was closed. We did end up on a few ferries though when we turned around and went around the long way.