Monday, 3 December 2012

Go West

27 November 2012

Today has been magnificent. We’ve had a long day (by our standards) and travelled on sealed roads all the way from Mildura to Wallaroo in South Australia on the shores of Spencer Gulf. Tomorrow morning we catch the 8am ferry across to the Eyre Peninsula (2 hour journey).

The quarantine crossing on the South Australian border was quite something.  Three lanes all had to stop (cars, trucks, caravans/motorhomes) and you’re not allowed to carry in fruit, vegies, vines, honey, onions, plants or plant material. We’d made a vegie curry the night before and had oranges for breakfast. I also thought about trying to convince the kids to have some onions and garlic for breakfast as well, but alas we had to surrender them to the quarantine officers. 

From here it was a short skip to Renmark on the Murray where the river has changed again.  There are marshes along some parts, it’s even wider, and lots of wetlands around.  We stocked up at a roadside stall with freshly picked cherries, nectarines, tomatoes, and a few other salad vegies. 

We followed the low bank of the river on the south through orchards and grape country (Berri and Nippy juices are both manufactured here), passed enormous vats for wine production and were amazed at the lushness and prosperity of the area (we’d also passed through thousands of acres of wheat country earlier in the morning).

We crossed the Murray on one of the many free vehicular ferries provided by the SA government - I think there are around 7 such crossings in SA.  The crossing  was a good opportunity to get an up-close look at the cliff-like northern bank of the Murray. It was quite a steep road down and up to get on/off the ferry.  As soon as you cross the river you’re back in the outback really. The high side never floods so it’s completely different country.

From Morgan to Burra was around 80kms and it was beautiful.  We crossed a beautiful plain with lots of stations (with beautiful sandstone homes and sheds) and scarcely a tree to be seen. We saw more saltbush - which gave way to yellowing grass - and you could see the Mt Lofty Ranges shimmering in the distance.  It didn’t seem to take us long to reach the hills and Burra was just over the first rolling hill.

It was a beautiful, historic town that was buzzing but we reluctantly elected to push on to Clare to make our sandwiches there.  We expected the town to be more touristy, but again it looked like a thriving country town in a beautiful setting. The kids let off steam after being cooped up in the car for four hours in a shady park, Simon had a snooze under a shady tree, and I made camping bookings for the next few nights in the Eyre Peninsula.  Across the creek from the park was an old brewery now turned into a cellar door for one of the local wineries.  We couldn’t go through Clare without a wine tasting so we wandered in!  I bought a bottle of rosé.

We hit the road again and continued through the ranges.  To our amazement they only lasted a short time and suddenly we were descending down onto another plain. So either side of the Clare valley are wheat fields.  We stopped for a photo on this plain.  The ute travelling in the opposite direction also slowed and stopped to check we were all OK.  How nice!

We saw a pink lake at Bumbunga and then climbed another hill at Lochiel where we stopped at the lookout.  I’ve never seen country like this – all the way from north of the Murray has been amazing landscapes. Due south of this lookout was the tip of the Gulf St Vincent (which we couldn’t see) and we continued west for another 30 minutes or so to reach the shores of the Spencer Gulf and Wallaroo. 

We’re staying in a cheap motel tonight (long day and early start tomorrow as we cross the Spencer Gulf on SeaSA's car ferry) and had a great pub meal ($12.50 roast with vegies and salad) so we’re all happy. We even snuck in a quick splash in the warmest water we’re sure to feel in the Southern Ocean.  The tide goes out a fair way and the shallow water goes out a fair way too.  It’s one of those South Australian beaches cars can drive on (including 2WDs) with a view of the huge grain silos and jetty for shipping Australian wheat all over the globe.

We were all in bed and asleep before the sun set.  Our watches are now on South Australian time which is 30 minutes behind NSW and Vic, and now we’re only 30 minutes ahead of QLD. At one stage this morning after we crossed the border we had 3 different times going in the car; my watch was still on QLD time, Simon’s watch was on Victorian/NSW time and the mobiles and GPS had automatically switched to SA time!

Oh and Isobel’s tooth fell out tonight while cleaning her teeth!  I wonder if the tooth fairy will find her.

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