Apr 2 – Warunbunggle Park
We left Queensland heading south into NSW, still on the inland route. It is quite hilly on this route with lots of trees and scenic country. At one point we passed a caravan park advertising itself as the highest in Australia. My altimeter suggested 1200m. The roads we are on are two lanes, made easy even in the hills with many passing lanes. Finally we turned west, generally heading towards Broken Hill, at the border with South Australia, and now the driving began in earnest.
But first we did a small detour to Warumbunggle Nat. Pk. We had picked out this park from one of our books as a minor destination. Enroute we passed through a number of climatic zones, from deep forest to pampas grass. We saw two emus as we drove in on the quiet park road. We cooked in the camp kitchen, as the weather was warmer again. While in the park we picked up a few new birds and did a short hike, on which we saw eastern grey kangaroos, the second largest. But the park had had a major fire in 2013 wiping out much of the habitat that supported the wildlife the park is famous for.
Apr 3 – Copar
And on down the road we went, now well into central NSW and well away from the dense population of the east coast. The further along we went the more kangaroo/wallaby road kill we saw. These simple creatures wander out of the bush onto the road as twilight hits and each night the carnage is terrible. We do not drive at night, but in the morning and through the day the evidence is nauseating. Always there is light bush. Trees, almost always dusty olive coloured, 5-15 metres high, seemingly even spaced on the red soil. And now we began to see feral goats. These along with feral cats have helped man to eliminate two dozen or more native mammal species.
In Copar, at the suggestions of the campground manager, we went to the golf course for dinner. There were more than 100 people there. They were eating mostly Chinese, playing bowls, betting in a huge bar with dozens of TVs fixed on half a dozen sports. The one thing we did not see was a golf course. Each small town we have passed seems empty. Now it seems that they are in clubs doing Aussie things.
Apr 4 – Broken Hill
The road kill is worse. We see a dead kangaroo every 2 or 3 kms. The big trucks and even some cars have bull bars and so they barrel down the road at night without regard for animals that might wander out on the road. We now do close to 100 kms between towns, but with rest stops a bit more frequently. The towns are often just an old hotel with a bar, some food and no end of old junk doubling as antiques lying around the place.
We arrived in Broken Hill early afternoon. Some of the earliest mining history of the area is in Silverton, a sort of Ghost town close by. BHP, a mining consortium formed by early miners here is the biggest private company in Australia. After a few hours we had had enough, but we both left with some Aboriginal art.
We sat out until late watching a lunar eclipse. The moon was full and gradually the sun’s shadow move across almost blocking the entire sphere. My pictures revealed a faint red glow. At the end there was only a bare sliver apparent to the naked eye. We went to bed without seeing the shadow move away from the moon.
Apr 5,6 – Flinders Nat Pk
After visiting an outdoor sculpture park we headed on into South Australia. Still more empty country. Still trees and sparse under brush, but now often large tracts of low scrub or sparse grass. We have been seeing more Emus, often with young. It is the male that incubates and raises the young.
We headed north off of path up into an area called the Flinders Range. We arrived just as the sun was setting and checked into a campground with 100s of camper rigs of all descriptions on this last day of the Easter Holiday. It is fairly cold and we cooked in our van again. But we have been cooking very well, at it is fun to busy around our rig.
We were on the trail early, heading for St Mary’s peak, the highest in the park. It was cool and drizzly when we started and got progressively worse. The first 3 km rose gradually before heading steeply up through the tropical bush, boulders and cliff bands. We had light scrambling to the ridge top. But the wind was now very heavy and with a km left I suggested that I didn’t need another peak, and Rich agreed. As we dropped down again the weather improved, but it never did get nice. We hung around the camp for the afternoon, most doing a wash and catching up on our notes.
April 7,8 To the South
We are now heading away from the desert and outback into more settled Australia. Near Port Augusta we went into a botanical garden recommended in one of our books as a birding site and had a good morning. We then did a search for some wild geese, but didn’t find any. But on we went, now heading south. We camped at Gawler close to Adelaide is the Barossa Valley, famous of wine.
Our tour of the winelands began with the Jacobs Creek Visitor Centre. We arrived an hour early and spent 3 hours birding, not really taking part in the wine sessions at all. It seems we can find birds almost everywhere. We did drive around the region, which probably has 100 vineyards.
And then we crossed over into the Murray River Valley camping at Murray Bridge.
April 9-11 Kangaroo Island
We had a wonderful birding morning on the banks of the Murray. At the visitor centre in town, we made a three night booking to Kangaroo Island. This is one of the highlight wildlife destinations for us. The ferry and one night camping cost us $350. We would find the other two nights once there. The afternoon was spent getting to Cape Jervis and we camped at Kingscote on the Island.
Many of the feral animals that have decimated native species have not made their way onto the island. As a result there are kangaroos, wallabies and other animals that have survived here better than the mainland. Some of the birds also have some evolved differences. The island is 150 km long and we spent out first day driving to Flinders Chase Nat Pk, stopping along the way to visit and interesting Beach. We camped in the National park for two more nights and drove to see Remarkable rocks and Admiral Arch, both wonderful demonstrations of the power of wind and water erosion.
We had some gentle walks, but the birding was not very good, although we did see a couple new ones. The highlights of KI for me were the little Tammar Wallabies and Bushtail Possums. They would hop or waddle as they could around our van and into the cook shelter while we were eating. To top these guys the final night an Echidna waddled into the cook shelter and we then saw one on the road during out final day driving. Three weirder camp companions it is hard to imagine. Rich comes close, but doesn’t quite measure up.
Still heading south…