26th March to 31st March
After 10 weeks we have finally arrived in South Australia or Naracoorte to be more accurate. We arrived at Naracoorte Caves National park about mid afternoon, purchased our multi parks and camping pass from the info centre and set up camp next to our travelling mates ‘The Leeds’. We planned to only stay here for 2 nights, enough to charge up battery and iPads, explore the caves and push out a few loads of washing. That night we headed to the bat cave at twilight to watch the bats come out, was a bit hard to see and the kids got a bit bored but we did see and nearly got hit by lots of bats. The next day we went back to the info centre to enquire about the tours. Due to the rather exuberant price of each cave tour we decided to only do the Wet Cave self-guided tour. The cave itself was awesome, but the girls commented that it wasn’t as good as the Hastings Caves down in Tasmania, I think because it wasn’t as deep and dark. Never the less we still read and learnt a bit about the cave, although all the kids wanted to do was go back to camp and play, which they did for hours and hours.
We left Naracoorte and ‘The Leeds’ to head down to Robe, as we wanted to do the Nora Creina to Robe beach 4WD track. We have previously been here and done it before with friends but that was a few years ago, so we decided to give it another go. We checked out the campsites in the national park but weren’t too impressed, especially with the dried out salt lake smell, so we headed to Wrights Beach which is 20km north of Robe to a cheap camp on private property. The next day we went to the info centre for the mud map of the 4WD track, checked out the tide times and headed off. We entered the park and where requested we lowered our tyre pressures to 20psi and drove onto and got stuck on the first beach we got too. Considering low tide had just occurred and we were well above the high tide mark anyway we weren’t too stressed about losing the car, it was more about how much digging and moving of sand we would have to do to get moving again. Well the answer to that was lots and lots!!! After half an hour the kids got bored in the car and jumped out to help Nik and I dig. Using manpower, a shovel and a set of Max Trax we made ground metre by metre. We would dig out the sand from under and around the car, put down the Max Trax and Nik would gain about 2 metres then we would jump back in and do it all again. Bec nicknamed us all the pit crew and we finally made it out after 2 hours. It would have been quite a sight watching the girls and I running along the beach after Nik and the car brandishing a shovel and 2 Max Trax, as he couldn’t stop and lose momentum until he hit firmer ground. It felt like at least a kilometre but apparently was only half of that……………..
After that the rest of the track had spectacular scenery but was pretty uneventful in regards to getting stuck again. We then went and had a late lunch at the foreshore park as I wouldn’t let Nik stop on any of the 4WD beaches as I didn’t fancy anymore digging, needless to say they all poo pooed me!!!! We then had a meander down the main street and ended up having a coffee (me), a local beer (Nik) and milkshakes (kids) at an old second hand bookshop/ café/ bar. After that we headed back to camp for a pork roast and early night.
The next day we headed about 150km up the road to stop for lunch and laundry at Meningie. Meningie is a lovely small town on the shores of Lake Albert and the Coorong National Park, which is famous for being the largest breeding ground for pelicans. Apparently the cockatoos are a problem here as well, as when we were eating lunch a guy wearing a high vis shirt walked through the park cracking his whip to get rid of them. Once we had eaten and finished the laundry we headed north another 40kms to a free camp at Narrang. WOW, it was a fantastic free camp located on the shores of Lake Alexandria and Lake Albert, near the ferry. It is maintained by the local council, has lush green short grass, was level and had brand new hybrid toilets. As Nik and I were setting up the girls went and checked out the jetty, watching the ferry carry across cars from the other side, which coincidently was the car of our new travel friends ‘The Leeds’. They were staying down at Meningie and had gone out for a drive and whilst they were on the ferry taking photos they noticed 4 girls on the far jetty who looked suspiciously like ‘those Smith girls!’ After much excited yelling by all kids we had a lovely afternoon catch up (cue beer) whilst the kids once again had a ball playing and showcasing some impressive and funny gymnastics routines.
The next day we headed back into Meningie as they had the official grand opening of the RSL Memorial Park. After another lunch and play at the park we walked up to the RSL memorial with ‘The Leeds’ and pretty much the whole population of Meningie and surrounds. It was a big turnout complete with 5 light horseman and their horses and also the choir from the local primary school. After the official ceremony, which involved the laying of commemorative bricks representing the many Indigenous and Non-Indigenous soldiers from the community who have fought in the many wars in the last century, we played local and joined in for afternoon tea at the adjoining lawn bowls club. Afternoon tea was a credit to the local Country Women’s Association (CWA) and we all had a good feed, indulging a little too much in sweets! To burn off the sugar we played a game of park cricket with our friends, with Zoe being declared man of the match (only because she got all grumpy and refused to go out!!!) and went back to camp to sit back and watch Australia win the One Day International World Cup.
Our last day and night at Narrang we met another family, Tracey and her 4 spunky kids travelling around Oz from NSW, who were all around the same ages. Therefore we didn’t see the girls unless they were hungry or had come to get my ukulele and Bec’s bongo drums to have a jam session with their new friends. It was great to see them all play so well and Bec finally getting to meet a girl the same age. They all had ‘hair envy’ too as our new friends were half Aussie and half Ghandian and had ‘unreal afros and cornrows’ according to our girls, whilst they loved braiding and playing with our 4 blondies straight hair!!!!!! With Tracey and her kids we also caught the ferry across to the decommissioned lighthouse opposite our campsite, found a geocache and took some photos, the poor lady operating the ferry didn’t know what to think as all 11 of us came wandering towards the ferry!!!! In the end we had to drag them all apart with the promise of playing the next day before we all left.
As the campsite was a 3 day maximum stay we had to move on.After we packed up we back tracked to a little Indigenous town, Raukkan, to check out their famous church. Raukkan is an Indigenous town on the shore of Lake Alexandria (which the Murray River finally ends in). As the six of us and Tracey and her kids plus another couple all turned up at once to have a look at the church a lady, Janice, came out and offered to open it up for us to have a look at as there was so many of us. Janice was telling us that herself and her Mum, who owned the Raukkan Gallery next door to the church, were one of the few remaining pure descendants of the Ngarrindjeri tribe whose boundaries go from Kingston SE in the south over to Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula and up just north of Tailem Bend on the Murray River. The church is famous as it features on the $50 note together with David Unaipon, who was born ‘a Ngarrindjerin on the banks of the river Murray’. He was a scientist, inventor, preacher, author and musician who went to school and lived most of his life in Raukkan. The town has only recently reclaimed itself back and has established its own Indigenous council and (importantly for Nik) is also the home town of Michael O’Laughlin. After a detailed history lesson we backtracked our way back past our campsite and caught the free ferry across the lakes and off onto our next destination on our OZLAP………