And so the great Australian journey begins… The plan is to drive and camp our way from Melbourne to Adelaide (already successfully completed!), then from Adelaide up to Alice Springs via some fairly well known spots – you know, that big red rock in the middle of nowhere, and other such places – then continuing on north from Alice Springs, veering off up towards Cairns, before then heading down the East Coast back to Melbourne. Phew! Pretty fucking long way to drive.
Over the past 5 days me, Soph and our new travel buddy, Laura, have been meandering our way across Victoria, into South Australia and up to Adelaide. In true Melbourne fashion, as soon as we landed back into Australia from Kuala Lumpur, the weather has been dog shit. It has certainly not let up after leaving Melbourne either. We have thankfully not had to set up camp in the pissing rain yet, with moments of fortune arising at the right time on each day, allowing us the opportunity to construct our portable homes during breaks in the drizzle. The damp weather has not dampened our spirits (too much) and the first week has been cracking.
First stop was the Grampians (again) for a couple of nights, where the encountered the delight of the pissy yellow creek water coming out of the campsite taps and had one exceptionally windy night in which I was awoken by our tent attempting to sit on me – with a face full of tent and the sound of a war zone outside, I was a little concerned (free campsites for you… never the most reliable sources of comfort). We camped, we hiked, we got rained on, we hiked some more, and got rained on some more, before the road was calling for us to head on to the next location.
Much of our decisions on where to go / camp each night are reliant on what we find and what we decide as we drive from place to place, with discoveries of pit-stops and campsites happening on the road. Our second stop ended up being a strange little town called Dartmoor. One general store, one little church, one school, one pub – which was packed full of the players and supporters from the one local football (AFL) team – and hundreds of wood carved statues! They were everywhere, from the Virgin Mary to kangaroos to shotguns, when it comes to random wood carvings, Dartmoor has it all! Also, in the quaint little town, or somewhere not far from it, there was one pretty rowdy party (known locally as a “Bush Doof”) going on somewhere in the woods close to our camp. It must have started started late in the night while we were sleeping and ended at some point in the morning – we went on a fairly half-assed hunt to find the source of the party in the morning during our morning run, but to no avail. Turns out the youth of Dartmoor love a good doof!
We spent just a quick night in Dartmoor before hopping across the border into South Australia – a bit of a fiasco, as it turns out that you are not allowed to take any fruit and vegetables into South Australia. As we were fairly well stocked, but unaware that Australia’s incredibly anal customs laws spread to interstate borders as well as international. So, we went about eating as much as possible before discarding the remainder at the border quarantine. Bullshit.
Onwards to Mount Gambier to explore the beautiful lakes – Blue Lake, which over the course of a couple of days at some point in November changes from a very boring grey colour to a vibrant blue, before gradually fading back to grey over the course of the summer; and Leg Of Mutton Lake (great name!) just to name a couple – and also to check out the peculiar, yet rather impressive, Umpherston Sinkhole. “Oh look, it’s a big hole, let’s stick a garden in it!”
We left Mount Gambier after a few hours, as we wanted to get to out next camp before dusk – the killing hour – where we run the risk of killing, being killed, or getting the car totalled by the hoards of kangaroos that definitely haven’t read their Green Cross Code anytime recently. The roads that spread like veins throughout South Australia are riddled with the corpses of the fallen – kangaroos, foxes, birds, but mainly kangaroos – who braved crossing the roads at the wrong time. We arrived into Coorong National park in the late afternoon and found a site literally in the middle of nowhere, deep in the heart of the national park, down a long unsealed road, close to the vast expanse of beach and the powerful Southern Ocean waves.
Unsealed roads. What the fuck… really, can you just ‘seal’ the road please? To be able to explore any national park in Australia it is likely that you will come across many unsealed roads. By unsealed road, what the mean to say is ‘very shit road that has never been fixed… ever’. Many have signs with unfamiliar terms on them such as ‘corrugated road ahead’. To my knowledge the only thing that should be corrugated is the roof of a barn or garden shed. Not a road. Sometimes that road is so bad it is like the local council have done it on purpose, possibly working in cahoots with a local garage, that will inevitably be at the end of the road to fix what is left of your car by the time you rattle to the end.
Anyway, car still intact, we head on towards Adelaide, with one more stop before reaching the civilisation of the ‘big city’. This stop was in a cosy little European style town called Clarendon sitting on the edge of the Mclaren Vale wine region. The site we found was free for 24 hours and actually in the middle of the local park, which was a little strange and made us feel a bit like gypsies – descending onto a town and commandeering their local park to set up our makeshift homes. Anyway, the spot was stunning in the middle of a valley – which made it absolutely fucking freezing in the tent – but the pub had a very fine selection of local wines to soften the bite of the cold. Clarendon was just a quick one night stop, and then on the road again up to Adelaide…