01 March 2014 | I'd say... Mount Gambier
Top Photo : Beautiful morning
SATURDAY FEB 20th
To Mount Gambier for the day:
Another day full of promise dawned over the bay, made even better by having the sun actually above the horizon before my eyes cracked open. It was as it should be once again and Lo, I rejoiced with a couple of cups of tea.
With a full laundry bag, camera bag and backpack in tow, we dinghied over the the boat ramp where, despite the fact that it was three times the distance away than the jetty, the getting out and in was far less embarrassing. A big plus.
It was easy to spot the hire car, a tiny white 4 door Toyota Yaris. It looked like a dinky toy in amongst all of the 4 wheel drive bloke cars with boat trailers hanging off their wide back ends. I could almost feel the testosterone leaching out of the car-park as the gumbooted feet of decades of anglers tromped in with their manly hauls for the day. It was all too much so we got in our little pedal car and tootled off to the big smoke.
Photo: Mount Gambier Tourist Info. The "Lady Nelson'
Our first land destination was the Mount Gambier tourist information centre. We were not expecting an entire small ship to be outside and so were plenty snap happy to find it there. There was also some really interesting limestone sculptures. Unfortunately the Information Centre itself wasn't open yet (despite the fact it was almost 10am) but luckily they had a stand with local maps and info in it, so that was all we needed in order to plan the next couple of days.
Photos : Limestone sculpture.
We had washing to do and since we could pick and choose between laundrettes (and there are a lot in Gambier) we chose one with a coffee shop attached. Great thinking on our part except that when we got there we found that the laundrette, though new, with really nice, shiny machines and really busy with people in and out, wasn't operating the coffee shop that day or at all as they are currently looking for someone to run that part of it. It would be a really good business I think, considering the number of people who arrived thinking they could get a coffee and something to eat. Oh well, at least the servo made a decent cup of coffee and we wasted a bit of time figuring out what we would do for the rest of the day.
Photo: Main Corner 'Living Wall'
Once the washing was done and dry, we chucked the laundry bag in the car and headed off to do the touristy thing. First on the list was Main Corner, a gorgeous mix of old and modern that has come together in one fantastic building. Inside we were treated to several different art displays, an absolutely fabulous array of touch screen information tables and displays.
Photo: Some of the beautiful carvings on display.
It was quite a dark area (mood lighting I guess) and one part of the display was a model of a of a 'cave' that had carvings in it. To enter, you had to walk through a short, dark 'tunnel (about 8 metres long) that was open either end. It was while I was in this tunnel that I may have inadvertently caused a small child to have nightmares that night and possibly wee his pants a little. This happened purely via a misunderstanding when I thought that Dave was standing outside the 'cave' entrance. I whispered 'give me the camera'. When I got no reply I whispered it a little louder. When I heard a wavery moan from the entrance I peeked out and a young boy of about 11 looked at me and with the most accusatory voice I've heard in a long time said "You frightened me!!" (complete with epic horror-struck face). I apologised profusely (forcing the grin off my face). His dad thought it was comical but again the young lad, this time with a slight wail to his voice said "You frightened me... sniff." Is it bad that I found it hilarious??
Photo: Tree bark canoe.
The highlight of the visit to the Corner was an hour long film about the volcanoes that brought about the caves, sink-holes and lakes that make up Mount Gambier and surrounds, including Mount Schank, an extinct volcano that sticks out like dog's bollocks around here. After the movie what else could we do in Main Corner but indulge ourselves in a couple of packets of Haigh's Chocolates to have later on. I mean really, who could walk past such deliciousness? Not I!
Out the back of the Main Corner building is a beautiful sinkhole called the Cave Garden. Though the Cave Garden is beautifully maintained, we were a little disappointed to find that idiots had thrown all kinds of rubbish, including a shopping trolley and baby's pusher into the hole. Hopefully they'll get down and clean it up soon.
Photos : Cave Garden
The garden was separated from the Main Corner walkway by a decorated metal fence that I just adored and a memorial 'wall' that commemorated the 150th anniversary of the shipwreck Admella, and the bravery of those involved. I just love little touches.
Photos : Beautiful fences. (more in gallery)
Photo: Admella memorial plaque
This sinkhole was the original source of water for the early settlers. Paul Krummel was the first curator of the Cave Garden from the 1880's to 1920. He initiated the first community plantings and rose garden. During winter, storm water run-off makes its way to the cave forming a spectacular waterfall from an aqueduct drainage system that was built in 1916. The water eventually enters the underground water system which possibly feeds into the Blue Lake. **
And speaking of the Blue Lake, that was our next port of call after lunch (and for those who are unfamiliar with the Blue Lake, be prepared for another history lesson).
Photo : Blue Lake
The Blue Lake is one of four crater lakes in Mount Gambier. Of the four lakes, only two remain, as the other two (Leg of Mutton and Brown) have dried up over the past 30 to 40 years as the water table has dropped, sadly by overuse by the people in the district. Blue Lake is thought to be between 72 to 75 metres deep. The crater rim measures 1,200 metres (3,937 feet) by 824 metres (2,703 feet), however, the lake itself measures 1,087 metres (3,566 feet) by 657 metres (2,155 feet). During December to March, the lake turns to a brilliant cobalt blue colour, returning to a grey colour for April to November. The exact cause of this phenomenon is still a matter of opinion, but it is generally considered likely that it revolves around the warming of the surface layers of the lake during the summer months to around 20 degrees Celsius (70 °F), causing calcium carbonate to leach out of the water enabling micro-crystallites of calcium carbonate to form. This results in dispersion of the blue wavelengths of sunlight. **
Photos : Blue Lake again and sculpture.
We were going to walk around the Lake but by the time we'd walked a couple of hundred metres, neither of us could be bothered an besides, we had a car for that kind of thing. We did stop a few times though and take more photos. While we were at the west end of the Lake and watching birds diving far below us in the sapphire depths, three trucks came along the main road, horns blaring, people waving and cars beeping back at them. It was a wedding party. Totally cool. Dave snapped a photo but they were gone before we could blink. I love a wedding.
Photo: Wedding Truck :)
After the Blue Lake we visited the other crater lake in the area, Valley Lake (the one with water anyway, and kind of looked past the ones that were just a weed filled hole now... bit sad really). Valley Lake was a hive of activity, with boating and canoeing, picnics and barbecues, kids and birds everywhere. It was a really lovely place to just sit and relax and take in nature. It was also at the entrance to Valley Lake we saw a hand painted sign announcing "Casey and Brad's Wedding" and an arrow, so naturally we followed it and soon found the wedding trucks and the entire party just as Casey was about to make her way to become Mrs Brad Wossaname. With our long lens on, we snapped photos and wished them well on their life journey together. Keep on truckin'!
Photo : Valley Lake
Photos: The wedding. Congratulations!
Next stop was to be Centenary Tower which was opened in 1904 to commemorate the first sighting of Mount Gambier by Lt. Grant on the Lady Nelson (the boat at the info place) in 1800. It's apparently the highest point in the district and has great views but unfortunately on this day, the flag wasn't flying, which meant it was closed. My knees were appreciative that the curators saw fit to slack off on this day. One thing did make it interesting though. There was a whole assemblage of what we assume were Indian monks, dressed in flowing orange robes and turban style headgear. They were being shown about the place by regular Indian guys in football jerseys and hotted up cars. It was a totally weird combination.
Time was marching on so we thought we'd get a visit in at the Engelbrecht Cave. This would have been an excellent idea if they were open later than 4pm and if the actual time wasn't 4.02 so we decided that, rather than make a scene, we'd give it a miss. I didn't want to see their silly hole anyway. Hurumph!!
After the slight let-down of the somewhat early closing (it was a Saturday for goodness sake!) of the Engelbrecht Cave, we went to the last and I hoped best place on our list for that day... the Umpherston Sinkhole. In the carpark we once again saw the wonderful citrus clad monks and their entourage. The sight didn't look any less weird than it had an hour previously.
As for the sinkhole, I wasn't disappointed. The size and beauty of it was amazing. It was serene and peaceful, the formal gardens down below forming a lush, fragrant and colourful carpet and the knowledge that their were possums lurking in the deep holes in the rock walls or in the huge hanging vines was simply cool. In amongst crevices in the steep rock walls, bees had made hives that were dripping with honey. There were even a coupe of built in barbecues down there. I wish I'd had a sausage. We had been there for about twenty minutes when the monks arrived who then spent a lovely time having happy snaps taken. Sadly the possums that frequented the hole only came out at dusk and since we had to be back at the dinghy before dark, we didn't get to see them. I didn't mind so much. We used to have them in our back yard all the time so it was nothing new really. Seeing them there though would have been quite nice. One day we'll visit again.
Photos : Umpherston Sinkhole.
Tomorrow will be another big day as we mount a Mount.