Day 19 - Meningie to Port Elliot

Trip Start Apr 17, 2012
Trip End May 27, 2012

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Where I stayed
Port Elliot Holiday Park - Powered site

Flag of Australia  , South Australia,
Saturday, May 5, 2012

Woke up to a gorgeous glistening lake outside our windows. We had a lot to do today so we had brekky and packed up quickly. After a short while staring at the lake we had to make a move as we had a big day ahead. We did a run into Meningie township for coffee and then we were off sightseeing and exploring the Coorong.

We headed in the direction of Narrung on Narrung Rd as I wanted to check a barrage down that way and according to the GPS there was a rough road able to take us to it. For those of you who want to know what a barrage is let me explain; the entire Murray River is fresh, however as it gets close to the ocean tidal flow and the effects of drought can mean that salt enters the river and lake system. Due to the fact that this is also the fresh water supply for Adelaide and much of the surrounding area a system of barrages were constructed to block the flow backwards. They can allow for floods to pass out to sea but if the sea level is higher than the lake then the barrages are closed to stop the salt entering. I took interest in these as I find the whole river system fascinating.

We drove for a few kms on Narrung Rd and inspected a boat ramp and camping/picnic area which looked divine called Mark's Point (made us think that the campsite we saw the night before would have been just as good, if not better), we stopped for some photos, some birdwatching and to soak up the atmosphere. Once we started driving again we tried to find the barrage, we took a turn-off and meandered about 20 km on a rough and rocky track (probably only doing 20km/h) when we came to a sign which said "Barrage" with an arrow  pointing further down the road we were already driving on. Cool, at least we were getting close. After another few rough kilometres we came to a locked gate. What?? What a pain! The goddamn catchment authority had blocked access. Why didn't they place a sign at the start of the track to prevent everyone driving all the way to the locked gate? Just plain daft. 

We didn't want to retrace the last 20km on the rocky rough road so we checked the GPS for other options. Luckily we were able to re-route ourselves towards a vehicular ferry not too far away at Narrung which would take us across the lake meaning we didn't need to backtrack to Meningie and go the longer way around the whole of Lake Albert in order to get back onto the Princes Hwy. There were still some serious rocks on the road but it was only 10km to the aboriginal community of Raukkan which we had a quick look at before we continued to Narrung and the ferry. Another 5km of dirt and we arrived at Narrung. It was only a small place with a few houses and a shop.

A waterfront reserve containing some campers and caravanners grabbed our attention because we are always on the lookout for free camping areas so we drove in and had a look around. Suddenly the rear wheel started to shudder and the whole van was shaking. The reserve was nice and grassy so we pulled over in an open area and got out to have a look. Sure enough, the rear RHS tyre had developed a pneumatic aneurysm. Now, if this ever happens to you, change the tyre immediately - we did not.

For some reason we decided to get back in the van and drive to the few hundred metres to the ferry. We started the engine and moved about 10 metres when there was an almighty bang. We knew what it was straight away but pretty much all the campers came out wondering what blew up. We then got to work jacking the van up and removing the flat tyre and unbolting the spare off the bull bar. Just as we were finishing up it started raining so we got in and headed towards the ferry. We made a mental note that we needed to stop in at a tyre shop asap as it was our only spare.

After a short but pleasant ferry crossing we were at Point Malcolm. There was a lighthouse on the point which is interesting because it isn't on the ocean, it's 15-20km inland marking the entry to Lake Albert from Lake Alexandrina. From here it was a short drive to the Princes Hwy and the town of Wellington. We were getting quite hungry so we checked out a few towns on the way but it wasn't until Strathalbyn that we managed to grab some food. Strathalbyn was nice, we would have liked to have a bit more of a look around but it was nearly sunset and we were tired.

We got to Goolwa which has the bridge to Hindmarsh Island so the plan was to find somewhere to camp on the island. We were pretty horrified at how destroyed Hindmarsh Island is. There is not much natural bushland. The caravan park looked like a dive so we skipped straight past it. We drove all over the island trying to find somewhere else but it is too populated and developed to have a free campground so we changed our plans and thought we'd find somewhere nice out of the six caravan parks in the GPS. After driving around until dark we couldn't find anywhere decent enough. They were either too claustrophobic or too crowded. By now we were really tired and it was completely dark and had to keep driving to Port Elliot, Hayborough and Victor Harbour - all disappointing us with their caravan park or campground offerings.

Rather than press on further to Encounter Bay, we took a punt and decided that we'd trust the Big 4 in Port Elliot to be a decent place.  We caught the owner just as he was turning off the lights and were more than happy with the place. He told us we could camp anywhere we wanted so we drove around the hectares of grounds they had and found a quiet spot away from the crowds. We had power for heating and the showers were extremely hot, plus all digital tv channels and internet. After an exhausting day, once I had eaten dinner I was rendered useless. I fell asleep with the ocean sounding quite fierce due to the south facing headland taking the full brunt of the roaring forties coming up from the Great Australian Bight which ensured a good night's sleep.

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