16th April to 21st April
After a fairly short drive for us (180km) we arrived at Mambray Creek Campground in the Mount Remarkable National Park, situated half way between Port Pirie and Port Augusta. The national park is part of the southern Flinders Ranges and well set up for camping. Our campground had flushing toilets and hot showers, we had to book online with the maximum stay being 5 days and due to our 12 month parks pass was another freebie!!!! We quickly set up knowing that rain was coming, said hello to our friends, the Stricklands, camped nearby and then not long after the Leeds rocked up to set up camp next door to us as we had planned previously. Then when the rain did arrive so did the freezing temperatures. We proceeded to add a few layers and spent the afternoon freezing and catching up on each others travels, whilst the 10 kids had a ball riding, playing and running around. According to the website when we booked we saw that we could have fires up here from April 15th, as opposed to the lower part of the state who had to wait till the 30th, but unfortunly in the meantime the fun police had come along and revised their decision and decided that we had to wait till the 30th April as well……… Needless to say we weren’t happy. As the rain had settled in we decided to as well and had an early night.
The rain decided to hang around for the next couple of days so we kept a low profile, when the rain did clear up we went out exploring, managed to find a few geocaches and simply had a wander around, read the information boards that were put up around the park and sussed out some hikes we could do if the weather cleared. The wildlife and trees around here are amazing with emus and kangaroos casually wandering through the campsites. The huge trees here are Red River Gums and are considered ‘ghost trees’ as they have the ability to lay dormant and stop growing for many years when times are tough, but when good rainfall occurs they come back to life. As a family we hiked to the Sugargum Lookout walk, which was 8km return, it was a fairly easy walk with a geocache along the way, but unfortunly we couldn’t see anything at the lookout because of the amount of trees blocking the view. Fair to say we all thought it was quite ‘unremarkable’………
Finally the sun decided to make an entrance and the days were lovely, cool in the shade, but toasty warm in the sun. Thankfully its presence charged our solar panels and batteries. The kids spent most of their mornings having a music session, which included the Leeds guitar and bongo drum and our ukulele and Bec’s bongo drums, whilst Abby found some ‘music sticks’ on the hike which she played. They actually played and sounded pretty good once they all got going.
A few days earlier we had farewelled the Stricklands for the time being and then the Leeds headed off as well. This then gave the girls the opportunity to start term 2 (4 days late), much to their disgust. Thankfully they put their heads down and caught up pretty quickly.
On our last day there Bec had asked me if we could do a 11km hike, I was pretty keen to do it as well, so we both headed off eagerly with our smiling faces and the sun shining. About 500 metres in we started to climb and climb and climb. It was a tough start and we laughed when our runkeeper app told us it had taken 45 minutes to hike 2kms!!! Finally we (OK more me) had breathlessly made the first of 2 lookouts, the views of the Spencer Gulf were spectacular.
Then we headed off again along the ridge to the next lookout, as we walked I jokingly pointed to another HUGE mountain a little to our right and said to Bec ‘jeez, imagine if we had to climb that steep one’…………… Well low and behold guess where the track started to head, yep to that big bloody mountain!!!! Bec was having a ball, I don’t think she had stopped chattering away, literally bounding up the side of the mountain. Myself on the other hand was slightly less enthusiastic, we were literally scrambling up a vertical path, thankfully it had small trees on either side of the path for me to grab onto for dear life or I think I might have just toppled backwards and down off the edge. On and on it went, up steeper and steeper, I could only move up in 5 metre spurts then had to stop, catch my breath and my balance as I gazed around at the view. Then as we neared the top we pretty much had to rock climb the last 20 metres. Admittedly the views were unbelievable as we were so high, the sign said we were on Mt Cavern, 770m above sea level and nervously we realised we were only at the 5km mark of our 11km hike. We took some photos, added to the rock cairn, then braced ourselves for the descent and prayed to god that we didn’t have to go up anymore hills.
Now what goes up must come down and down we certainly came, at some stages it felt like we were literally going to fall off the cliff in front of us. Even Bec had lost her eagerness now, we were both concentrating hard and being careful where we stepped, as with still 6km to go I didn’t want us rolling our ankles and having to limp the rest of the way. The hike down was tough but the rocks and native plants were stunning, it was typical Australiana at its best. At some stages we had to stop and actually study the rocks around us to ensure we were infact still on the path. We had figured that as we had changed directions and were slowly getting back down to the creek our last couple of km’s should be along the creekbed and relatively easy. Thankfully we were right and we finally reached the creek with aching ankles and knees and trembling legs and then typically Bec decided to pick up the pace, having us walk at a very brisk pace that I struggled to maintain. We studied the sign again as we power walked past it, the time recommendation was for 6 hours to complete and we had done it in 4 hours and yes we humbly agreed that the hike more than deserved its ‘challenging’ rating………. Thankfully I had been able to get reception up the top and text Nik to say it would take us longer than the 3 hours we had predicted. Once back to the comforts of the van Bec proceeded to eat her way through our fridge and pantry.
After our little walk we headed into the closest town, Port Germein, to get some milk and bread and post some schoolwork. Port Germein consisted of a general store, a pub, a fantastic playground and interestingly one of the longest jetty’s in the southern hemisphere at 1.5km long. We could see why as the tide was out about a kilometre as well. Bec and I were quite happy looking at it from the car, whilst Nik and the kids had a play at the playground, found a geocache and I grabbed a well deserved coffee from the pub!!! We then headed back to camp and cleaned up a bit in preparation to head off the next day.
We had enjoyed our time here despite the freezing temperatures during the nights, the kids had loved hanging out with their friends and having sleep overs in their tents and we had enjoyed having the kangaroos and emus visiting our campsite. We even got to see a few Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies, which are a rare and protected species here in the Flinders Ranges. However our time was up and Nik had run out of beer, so the next day we rose early to another freezing morning and again packed up and headed off in search of the sun (and more beer) at our next destination on our OZLAP……………