Sea to River – September 2015

Trip leader…Fargo and Lynn for John and Sam….others….Norm and Sue, Rose and Stuart, Jeff, and Barry and Jenny….5 cars total.

Met on Sunday 20 Sept at Princess Margaret Rose Caves at 8:30 for 9:00 start. All were ready when we arrived….having stayed in Mount Gambier for a family dinner the night before. Just before we got going, a mum koala with a large joey on her back came down from
one tree, bounded through the brush, and up another. She seemed very unafraid of us…….it was a lovely start to the trip.

We followed the border track, between South Australia and Victoria, as closely as possible, due north. We travelled through bush, forest, and field….some sandy tracks, some grassy, and some roadway. The day was pleasant, warm and fine, with nothing untoward happening…..only the occasional u-turn when we were off the pre-plotted route. We made it to our destination, Black Cockatoo Bush Camp at about 3, unloaded the firewood we’d
collected along the way, and set up camp. After drinks and nibbles, and a nice tea by the fire, it was an early night for some……

Monday morning and it’s cool and a bit windy. We had rain overnight…..not unexpected nor unusual for the South East. Today is a free day…some off to the caves in Naracoorte, some off for a drive. The Naracoorte caves were very impressive. We explored the re-creation display, and then went on a tour of the Victoria Fossil Cave……an area where several digs have already been completed. Other than all the usual cave sights….stalactites, stalagmites …etc. the fossil field was new to me. It was very interesting.


After a picnic lunch undercover, due to on again off again rain all day, we toured the Wet Cave, which was dry. A very beautiful walkway down into a sinkhole. We found a couple of large open chambers which would be perfect for a small function. Very cool.


Heading back to camp, Barry and I found a track which was running along side the Heath Conservation Park, where we saw rabbits, kangaroos and a large echidna….see pic…and had to get through several mud patches. Fun.
Back at camp, Jeff was doing lamb shanks in the camp oven, with verbal assistance from all….somehow they turned out great. Another burst of rain sent us scattering to the shelter….then before long it was time for bed. Another good day…..

Tuesday 22nd September
Black Cockatoo Camp to Little Desert NP Kiata Campground.
Woke up to a fine sunny day. All of us were packed up and away by 9.00am “ish” Stuart and Rose were leading today. We drove through Francis and then turned on to the border track; there were plenty of paddocks full of blooming Golden Canola to be seen.


Along the track were some interesting twists and turns weaving in and out of pine trees. It was particularly difficult for those with camper trailers as we entered the Little Desert National Park.

There were some deep wet ruts and wash a ways. Fargo was driving around one of the ruts when his trailer slid into a deep rut, pulling the vehicle in with it; this resulted in leaving the vehicle and trailer at quite a steep angle. Lynn had to make an escape through the driver’s door. With trusty snatch strap in hand Geoff went to the rescue and soon had 4WD and camper clear of the ruts.


There were also hills that Stuart had to have more than one attempt at.

Our lunch stop was at Serviceton where there was an historic railway station. The town was named after James Service, Premier of Victoria in 1880 and from 1883-86. When the Victorian and South Australian railways were joined at the old border in 1887, a station was built on the border.


The border was intended to be on the 141st meridian east but, owing to a surveying error, border markers were placed 3.6 km west of the meridian. Victoria finally succeeded in having the erroneously surveyed border declared to be the legal border in 1913, and therefore Serviceton is now fully in Victoria. A local friendly guide showed us around the Station for about an hour.

It was then on to Kaniva and Nhill stocking up and refuelling. Then it was onwards to Kiata campsite in the Little Desert National Park. This was to be a three night stay. It was a good location, but was a little windy and cold but the campfires were good.


Wednesday 23rd September
Little Desert Kiata Campground

We awoke to another fine sunny morning it was Barry and Jenny’s day as trip leaders and we drove around and through the National Park. The track was sandy and rutted so it was soon time to let down the tyres. We had morning tea at Salt Lake; we took a stroll across the lake which was soft and tacky in places.


We drove a lap around the small dam / puddle and had a look at Lears Well. Then along Boundary track and Beekeepers track where we came across a kangaroo lying by the fence. It looked
as if it had two broken legs. Unfortunately there wasn’t much we
could do so we carried on along the track, noting a lot of extensive fire damage which was just starting to show new growth. Onwards to Dahlenburg Mill stopping at WP 4 where there was little water arriving back to camp at about 3.15pm to drinks and nibbles and a hearty camp oven dinner.

24/25 September 2015
Day 5
Left base camp about 9ish following today’s trip leader, Norm. Starting out on the Salt Lake track of soft sand and plenty of humpty doos. So far we have blue skies with a sprinkling of wispy cloud. Vegetation is low Mallee trees and spring wild flowers.

Turned onto Mallee Track, aptly named, although the vegetation is interspersed with Yacca plants. Within minutes we are in a low scrub area of Tee trees. Driving through a burnt out section of the park, charred trees with new green regrowth, quite specky.


Next onto McCabe’s Hut track. Still driving through fire effected terrain. Stopped at Eagle Swamp, a dry lake, for morning tea. Quite pretty. After morning tea the track takes us to a native pine tree area then in a blink of the eye gum trees. Into Wail State forest and a quick visit to Babours Lake, no water. The track out of the forest was a nice interesting sand track with deep ruts.

Had a lunch stop in Dimboola. Found a nice little bakery and a park to eat in. Back on the road by 12:40 and heading to the Little Desert National Park to the Pomponderoo Hill Walk lookout. Over grown bush obscured any view.

Homeward bound via the River track. Very wooded. Came to a dead end. Heading back on the One Tree Hill track. This one is sandy with humpty doos. The sky has become quite cloudy.

Back at camp by 3pm. Time to put air in tyres. Martin managed to cut his arm in the process and was kindly tended to by Rose (anything for a bit of attention).

Once again it is very windy around the campfire tonight and spots away from smoke are premium.

Day 6
We had a leisurely pack up this morning; no one was in a hurry to leave. Once again there are blue skies but a definite chill in the air. Left camp and on the road by 9:06am

Stopped for supplies and morning tea at Nhill around 10ish. On the road again and heading for Kaniva.

Morning tea stop at Kaniva at 11ish then back on the road to continue our journey to tonight’s camp.

Today was easy travelling and we reach camp around 1:30. Camping at Pertendi Hut campground in Ngarkat National Park spaces are limited. We get three campers in the bay’s available and Norm and Sue and Geoff pitch their tents off the side. Around 4:00pm other would be campers do the circuit looking for a place to settle but have to move on.

No wind around the campfire tonight, clear skies and a nip in the air.

Day 7
Leaving Pertendi Hut we travelled to Nilma and Pinnaroo. Then followed the border through Scorpion Springs Conservation Park with Big Desert Wilderness Park to the east of us. A nice drive nothing too difficult.


Day 8
Left Pertendi Hut campground in the Ngarkat Conservation park and headed for Pinnaroo following the Ngarkat Hwy and Mallee Hwy. to our next camp at Coburn Pines. Arrived at Coburn pines in the afternoon and made camp.

Day 9
With Stuart in the lead, we left camp along the 2km narrow twisting track through the trees back to Coburn Track & headed right. The track was similar to what we had found in the other Parks – tight, twisty, sandy with some Sandhill’s. We arrived at the Red Gums
Campground, which was similar to ours – very large, no bollards or fences, but also no toilet.

The first serious Sandhill we came to had a sharp bend near the bottom & the track disappeared from sight, hiding what was to come. Stuart apparently cruised up & over with
no problems, & called me up. I finally flew over the top on my 4th try (you don’t know who’s writing this, do you?) Having seen how it was done, the others cruised over the top on their 1st attempts. Hating that! The next serious one was actually bypassed by the track, but three had a go, with Martin getting furthest, but still not over.
After morning tea we arrived at the Blue Gums Old Army Camp, then headed towards the northern boundary of the Park & turned west, back towards camp. We then followed the Coburn Track back to the Red Gums Campground to find another track which would take us north again. We couldn’t find that track, so had lunch while we considered our options. (Stuart asked me to point out that it wasn’t his fault.)

With Martin now leading, we retraced our steps & headed to the Border Track & explored that for a while to the north. Returning to the Park, we headed east along the boundary looking for the northern end of the track we couldn’t find earlier. We found where it used to be, but it is no longer, which explained why we couldn’t find the southern end, because that is no longer too. Simple, really. We did however find the Blue Gums Campground, which is
different to the Old Army one, & then returned to camp at about 2.30pm, having travelled 97 km. It was there that Martin discovered his badly shredded, but still inflated tyre. His BFG was clearly NFG, so it was replaced.
Day 10
Due to Martin & Lynne’s various problems, Martin sensibly decided to leave the group & head for home to undertake repairs before the imminent Butler’s weekend.

With Norm now the leader, we headed out to the Border Track & turned north. We were able to follow the track for quite a distance, then had to do a big detour where it disappeared. We returned to it at the bottom of the Murray sunset National Park. We took what turned out to be the fenceline track, with the actual Border Track being a short distance to the East. We were on the more interesting track, being initially very narrow & hard work for several klms, just a couple of inches from the barbed wire fence.

We eventually came to Pheeney’s Track & turned east, crossed the wide smooth Border Track & headed towards what looked like a large bushfire. Fortunately some Firies told us it was only a burnoff & we could proceed. At about 2-30 pm we found the campsite, again large & open, but this time with a toilet. And again, free. The Victorians do it well. We had travelled 116 km.
Day 11
At about 9ish, we left camp & went back to the Border Track, & headed north. It was easy going up to the Sturt Highway, where we had morning tea. We crossed the highway & followed the track, more a road now, eventually ending up at the River Murray at Border Cliffs, 104 kms from camp at about midday.
This was the end of our Sea to River journey, having travelled 1400 kms from Nelson. We aired up & drove to Paringa, where we had lunch & said our goodbyes. Another great club trip enjoyed by all.
Our thanks to John who spent many hours organising the trip, but ultimately couldn’t attend.
Wednesday 30 Sept……the last day……
Discussions held last night determined we should skip day 11, the 212 km tour of the park, and move on to day 12….the last day. So we got up early, and packed for home. We took the rest of the border track, and a short dogleg, to get right to the Murray. We made
it! Mission accomplished.

Travelling back to Paringa for lunch, then saying our goodbyes, was all that was left. We had a great time on this trip…..lots of tracks, camping and campfires…..not a caravan park in sight!
Thanks to Sam and John for all their work in putting the trip together, to Fargo and Lynn for taking over the lead, and to everyone who made the trip safe and fun.