Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thurs 13th June 2013 - Meningie - Salt Creek - Narrung - Meningie

We again looked at the rain radar to work out where our adventures would take us, and figured the eastern side of Lake Alexandrina would be preferable, so we headed south along the Princes Highway, taking us alongside the narrow strip of the Coorong National Park to the west, and green farmland to the east. It was a nice 60km+ drive, then we turned back at Salt Creek as we figured it would be more of the same where we wouldn't be able to get out and explore with the boys.

We then to the long way back to Meningie via West Meningie, and took the Narrung ferry back, passing the Malcolm Lighthouse, Australia's most inland lighthouse. It would have been nice to have stopped to have a closer look and take some photos, but it was starting to drizzle again, and the track to the lighthouse was blocked by a couple of utes and workers revegetating the nearby slopes.

We got back to Meningie, and went to both the local butcher and bakery, and sat in the sun for about an hour until the mandatory drizzle kicked back in again. Paul and the boys had a nap while I spent some time on the computer catching up on trip notes. We then took the boys for a slow walk around the lake's edge, then Paul set about getting a fire ready in the allocated fire drum.

The expected drop in wind didn't eventuate, and the fire turned out to be a bit of a fizzer as the drum was positioned too high for any meaningful heat to radiate out, and we couldn't see it either. So we sat shivering with a dog on each lap to provide a bit of warmth, drank our beers and gave up when it stated to spit again. Oh well, we tried.

Wed 12th June 2013 - Murray Bridge - Meningie

We woke up to a bit of fog and a fine misty drizzle, but were determined to move on regardless. West to Goolwa or East to Meningie - the rain radar made the choice for us, with some heavier stuff moving from west to east.

Looks like wet weather provides a strong incentive to move quickly, and we were packed up just before 10am, and into the Lake Albert Caravan Park at Meningie by a bit after 11, another record for us. Now that it wasn't raining, we did a full set up of all awnings in just on an hour, had some lunch out of a coolish breeze, then walked the 1km or so into town to check it out, once again under a light drizzle. When we arrived back, the drizzle set in some more, and we were glad to be fully closed in, unfortunately not taking full advantage of being mere metres from the lakeside.

Also unfortunately, we were not making the most of the powered site as it appeared the battery charger wasn't actually charging the batteries. After a bit of investigation, Paul discovered the mains power was in fact pushing out over 240 volts, so the battery charger was giving off a fault light. This is not something wrong with the charger, nor something that can be fixed easily as the power surge is coming from the power supplier. But it means our batteries aren't being charged, basically negating the extra cost of getting a powered site in the first place to do this, as well as running Hades.

Tues 11 June 2013 - Murray Bridge - Wellington - Tailem Bend - Murray Bridge

Another drizzly day equals another day in the car, but it held off long enough to have a good walk around the wetlands area opposite the park. We then stocked up on some groceries and got some lunch, then went to Sturt Reserve to eat it and be treated by the scary noises of the Bunyip in the bunker. Fortunately, someone else got to spend their hard earned coin for that.

We then drove down the western side of Lake Alexandrina to Wellington, and took the ferry across to Jervois, continuing this time a little way down the eastern side of the lake in the hope of seeing where the Murray joined the lake. Sadly, all roads led to private property, and I was chastised by a friend who questioned our adventurous spirit for not trespassing anyway!

The upshot of this day trip was that we had identified spots where we may have stayed - at Wellington and Tailem Bend - as being ones we wouldn't have enjoyed particularly. The general plan prior to departure now gave us a couple of days up our sleeve, and it's better to be ahead of schedule than behind it. So we decided, pending the next few days weather report, to either go to Goolwa as planned on the western side for 2 or 3 days where the mouth of the Murray exits the Coorong, or around to Meningie on the eastern side, which would also allow us to go further south as far as a day trip would allow, and also back around to Goolwa for a day trip but not stay there.

Mon 10 June 2013 - Purnong - Murray Bridge

We were in the process of packing up when a 4wd came in to see us, and we were told that we were definitely on private property. We advised we were just leaving and apologised, but felt no remorse for staying there anyway!

Again, we did our little duck ins to every track to every flat along the river as we headed downstream, until we got to Mannum. There were two recommended sites across the river to Mannum where people were starting to pack up from the long weekend, but they didn't look that appealing to us being right on the road and next to the ferry.

So we got some lunch and ate it in the park next to the big paddle steamer moored near the ferry crossing, and continued on to Murray Bridge through dairy and sheep farms, and some more little weekender villages that looked very nice to duck into. It was all very picturesque, but not forthcoming for sites to camp. We found another dog friendly caravan park on the outskirts of town that had barely half a dozen other set ups, and, whilst not right on the river, it was overlooking a reserve and wetlands area and had a lovely view of the water.

I had bought some cubed steak in Renmark for another camp stew that needed eating, so Paul cooked that up on the stove top. Whilst it was good, it lacked that smoky camp fire essence and that something extra only a good seasoned cast iron camp oven can give. Never mind.

Sunday 9th June 2013 - Morgan - Purnong

We decided not to spend the whole weekend at Morgan, so headed off with the intention of taking every little side track down to the river that we could find to free camp it. Again, there were more flats along the river that would make ideal camp sites - if only people weren't already there, or was private property. Phooey.

Another recommended site towards the end of the day at Walker Flat turned out to be a dud, and we wondered whether our expectations were a bit too high for free camping in South Australia along the Murray, perhaps due to the close proximity to lots of little towns. And that it was still the long weekend. We did get to see the lock at Swan reach, however.

We were just about to settle for the caravan park at Purnong, south of Swan Reach, when Paul spotted a track on the escarpment above the caravan park about half an hour before sunset. There were no signs or gates, and a big cleared area like a quarry that seemed perfect, with a spectacular view of the river and the cliffs behind. It was a beautiful clear night and we could see what appeared to be the distant glow of light from Adelaide, or at least the Adelaide Hills.

Saturday 8th June 2013 - Morgan

There was a bit of fog over the water when the sun came up, which was a good sign for the rest of the day. I cooked up a bit of a Spanish eggs concoction, which was delicious, then we went for a walk along the river, visiting the historic wharf and spotting a shipwreck along the shore.

After lunch, we headed back over the river on the ferry to look at the conservation reserve that we wouldn't have been able to camp at. There were several campers there, including some large groups, and there were plenty of other areas to camp as well, but it didn't allow dogs. We also drove along some small villages that were populated with holiday shacks along the river, often with houseboats tied along side, and some of them, houses and houseboats, were very swish indeed. Only about 1.5 hours from Adelaide would make them very attractive weekenders, and we vowed to put these little places on our wish list once we win lotto.

We had just our third dinner away from "home" for the entire trip up at the pub, after checking in earlier to see if they would let us sit outside with the boys. It was a busy night, but our food came quickly, and it was really good pub grub - Paul had a chicken parmy and I had a chicken breast stuffed with brie and avocado, with a bearnaise sauce that was delicious.

Friday 7th June 2013 - Mildura/Buronga - Renmark - Morgan

Today we intended to farewell NSW and Victoria and head back into South Australia, figuring that as we missed going to Ramco Point near Waikerie on the way down we would try for it this time, as it was one of the sites in our "bible" that was highly recommended.

We hugged the river as much as we could towards Renmark, grabbed a few supplies there, and belatedly realised this was the Queen's birthday long weekend. There were a few sites near Renmark we dropped into, but they were starting to fill up, and weren't particularly salubrious, with the recent rains muddying things up a bit. So we continued on, finding the same situation as we went along. We finally came to the conclusion that we weren't going to find any free camping spots and would have to resort to yet another caravan park, and as they day wore on we settled on the park next to the Morgan ferry. As there was still a high likelihood of continued rain, we were pretty keen on a grassy site that wouldn't puddle too much.

We got a site at the end of a nice stretch of thick grass, glad it was at the end as the sites were very cramped in. Fortunately the neighbours were quiet, and the only disturbance during the night was the occasional clanging of the ferry.

Thursday 6th June 2013 - Mildura/Buronga

Another grey day beckoned, so we jumped on the car and went for a short drive to see the lock, but unfortunately it wasn't accessible due to a 12 week maintenance program. The water levels were way down as a consequence, but there was a nice park to walk around before a late lunch.

We found a nice cafe that let us sit outside with the boys, and had a scrumptious meal of pasta and risotto. It wasn't until afterwards that it clicked with me that it was Stefano's Cafe of "The Gondola on the Murray" ABC series. We headed back to the caravan park to do washing, and Paul set up a fire in the fire pit. When 15kg bags of timber from the CP were only $5, we didn't exactly ration it!

Wednesday 5th June 2013 - Beggs Bend - Buronga

We figured we would cross the border back into NSW in time for State of Origin, with a greater likelihood of finding somewhere with it on in NSW than in Victoria. A bit of 'net research indicated the Buronga Caravan Park, across the river from Mildura, was very dog friendly, so we chose to go there for a couple of nights.

On top of packing back up, we also had to extricate ourselves from the sandy beach and then resupply the tyres back to road pressures, which took about 45 minutes. While Paul sorted that out, I took the boys for a walk downstream. Once the tyres were back to normal, we headed into Mildura, grabbed a quick bite to eat then crossed the border to the CP and were all set up by mid afternoon.

Right from the start, we could tell this was a caravan park like no other, people were friendly without being intrusive, everyone had dogs that were mostly well behaved, the park offered portable fire pits, the sites were large and the place was spotlessly clean. We also discovered the camp kitchen had a tv, and, as we had 3 lots of leftovers, figured that would be an ideal dinner using their microwave to heat them up.

The only thing that would have topped off the day would have been if Queensland won. Never mind, there are two more games to go...

Tuesdy 4th June 2013 - Beggs Bend

We had a lovely easy day doing not much at all, other than a morning walk up stream and an afternoon walk downstream. While it didn't rain, it was a grey, overcast day the whole day, which was a bit of a shame as we would have liked to have seen some orange hues come out of the cliffs opposite, but it wasn't to be.

Monday 3rd June 2013 - Swan Hill - Beggs Bend

We left Swan Hill with the intention of finding a nice spot somewhere near the Robinvale/Euston area. We hugged the river as much as we could, ducking into numerous dirt tracks and discovering the places that we could go would be fairly muddy, so continued on. We eventually settled on a spot called Begg's Bend about 50km south of Mildura, a nice wide sandy beach. We drove onto the beach to see how far we would go without lowering tyre pressures, which wasn't much. Of course, that was the time a local pulled up to watch the procedure, obviously thinking we didn't have a clue what we were doing.

We chatted to him for a bit, but with the sun going down quickly, we let him know that all was good and continued sorting the camp out. It was a lovely evening under the million star light show, plus a good fire.

Sunday 2nd June 2013 Swan Hill

After a day's rain, and most of the night, a big blow came up around 2.30am rehiring some re-tensioning of guy ropes and some further tossing and turning, so we decided to stay another day in Swan HIll. We discovered there was still a mouse in da house nibbling away at things, so we tossed what was chewed into, pulled everything out from under the bed and set the beagles loose to find the little bugger, to no avail. It was fascinating watching them work, but the mouse had clearly gone elsewhere.

We then drove out to a large salt lake, Lake Tyrell, and effectively circumnavigated that before returning back to Swan Hill. 

Worked out the trip so far - 6,550km, 891L of fuel, $1,387 of fuel, average of 699km per tank, average of 222km per day, and an average of 13.3l per 100km. Will be interesting to see the final tally!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Saturday 1st June 2013 - Swan Hill - Nyah

It rained lightly but steadily for most of the night, and were very glad we weren't camped in mud. The sun wasn't up until nearly 7.30, so we didn't feel too inclined to get up early, especially since it was still raining.

We had another leisurely breakfast, then went into town for shopping, found an outside cafe that was dry, had ordinary pasta meals then headed north west along the river to do a recce for the next few nights potential camp spots near Nyah. We discovered that when the tracks are marked as "dry weather tracks only", they're not kidding. Whilst there would have been some nice spots along this particular stretch of the river near Nyah, the ground was very muddy and slippery, and despite only going about 20-30kph and having traction control, the car still wanted to go sideways at times. Still, it was nice to see where we were NOT going!

About 3.30pm we turned back for Swan Hill, and got back about 4. It has rained steadily all day, and a good cuppa tea was most welcoming, as was a dry campsite. A good hearty beef strog with mashed taters will end the day well.

Friday 31st May 2013 - Barham - Swan Hill

We woke up to some fog over the water - no wind and no rain, although it had rained in the night. We ummed and ahhed as to wether we should move on, debating whether we should break camp while there was no rain but wet canvas, or wait till that dried, but with the chance it would rain anyway. There wasn't much else to do at Barham, so we decided to pack up and move on to Swan Hill, unfortunately to yet another van park as the weather looked exceedingly likely to be a solid day of rain for Saturday, with it clearing on Sunday.

We chose a Big4 park for the first time. It's a nice enough park, but just feels a bit sterile and rule-driven. Fortunately they have grassy level sites, so we may be relatively dry underfoot. A riverfront site is $10 more expensive per night, making it $44 a night off peak. We chose a cheaper site, as that just felt galling, then went for a walk along the riverfront until just before dark while it was dry.

Deciding to have one of our packs of lamb shanks for dinner (they are pre-cooked and don't require refrigeration, so have been packed under the bed), we discovered that the mouse found the other day must have remained, and had chewed into 5 separate packs! Thankfully this weather didn't see the packs emit any noxious odours, but it was very disappointing to toss out close to $50 worth of meat.

Thursday 30th May 2013 - Barham

We had a bit of rain overnight, which sounded nice on the canvas, but some had pooled under the kitchen area. Paul dug some drainage channels, and as it looked like it would be set in for a bit, we decided we would do the river walk across the border into the town of Koondrook anyway, and just put our wet weather gear on. It was a light drizzle, no wind, and about 15 degrees, so it was actually quite pleasant.

For lunch, we were going to a cafe that looked nice but unfortunately the outside seating was not under cover, so we went back to the town of Cohuna as Paul had a hankering for fish and chips and we had seen a take away place that did it. Should have done that myself, as their chicken and chips was insanely salty.

Getting Indy into the car, he did a big shake off and split the tip of his tail again. This had been problematic since we had picked them up from the kennels, and wasn't healing. So we took him to a vet that shaved the top third of his tail and wrapped it up, saying to leave the dressing on for 2 or 3 days. The dressing was lucky to last 2 hours, so Paul re-dressed it back at camp much better. Ah well.

Wednesday 29th May 2013 - Echuca - Barham

Today we intended to camp at Gunbower Island, about an hour north west of Echuca. We did a drive around, but maybe our standards were getting high, but the place just wasn't nearly as picturesque as Paradise Beach. Nearly all the vistas across the water were of other people's homes on properties or of a caravan park. The weather report wasn't looking so good, with a high chance of rain, and we figured we would be a bit miserable if we were camped in mud.

So we continued on to the town of Barham, across into NSW, and found a pleasant little caravan park with sites right on the river bank. We had just about finished setting up when we were joined next to us by another camper trailer. As we put our feet up and cracked open a cider, we heard a "stop rubbing it in" so we invited them across for some bikes and cheese when they were done. Bob and Coral were from Adelaide, travelling to Melbourne to visit their daughter, and were very pleasant neighbours for the 2 days we stayed.

Tuesday 28th May 2013 - Echuca

We seem to typically get away after 10.30am these days, so once we have had breakfast it is nearly time for lunch. So be it! We went into Echuca to the old part of town for a wander, and had lunch at a nice cafe that allowed us to sit outside with the boys. It was then time for our 1 hour paddle steamer trip, where we got to sit up the front and the boys got lots of pats from other patrons, which they duly soaked up. It was quite a pleasant trip and well worth it, apart from the "period" music of Foster and Allen.

We got off and had a bit more of a walk around the town, did a groceries run and found "The American", a newly renovated pub with a beer garden and overhead heaters that let us eat outside with the boys. Asking pleasantly has never resulted in a knock-back. As expected with a place named like that, our meals of gnocchi and jambalaya were enormous and couldn't be finished. As it was dark at 5.30, we were back home by about 7.30 and in bed by about 8.30.

Monday 27th May 2013 - Paradise Beach - Echuca

Another pack up to head this time for Echuca. Once there, we spent some considerable time trying to find somewhere to stay, which was a bit annoying, as it was time for another laundry load. We finally found a spot about 16km back the way we came which was also just about empty, but very welcoming. Unfortunately, they had a single washer and no dryer, so that meant a 2 night stay which we were trying to avoid, but never mind. The upside is that I had read on the 'net somewhere that dogs were allowed on the paddle steamers, and I rang up the tourist information centre and had that confirmed, so that would be one of tomorrow's activities.

Sunday 26th May 2013 - Paradise Beach - Tocumwal

Today's adventure was to drive up to Tocumwal, then a quick drop in to The Big Strawberry. Bought, strangely enough, some strawberries, some strawb jam, but passed on the $6 bottle of strawberry or cherry wine.