Exploring Victoria August 2005 - Part 2 Dimboola to the Pink Lakes

Thursday, Nov 03, 2005 at 13:45


It seems a good idea to have a leisurely day, so we head north along the western edge of Lake Hindmarsh which turns out to be dry. Its about 14,000ha and from the facilities at one of the beach areas has at times supported all kinds of water sports. Today though there is a haze of dust coming off the lake bed. We are looking for a secluded spot to hunker down as the forecast is not good – a front with rain and strong winds is coming through this afternoon.

Checking out another potential camping spot we suddenly find ourselves in very soft sand. No option but to let down the tyres, dig out in front of the wheels and do a careful recce to work out how to get out – surrounding areas are also very soft. Fortunately this tactic worked – a good lesson, including re-inflating the tyres. Was a good reason to break out the chocolate rations though.

The sky is darkening so we scout around for a campsite and find a suitably sheltered area well away from the road near the Wattle campsite at the northern end of Lake Hindmarsh. We just had time to get set up, including swathing Troopy in tarps, and gather another store of firewood, when the wind and rain hit. Our site proved well chosen, so we spent the afternoon reading and sleeping. More rain towards evening. Pulled out the radio and found a loose aerial connection – maybe that has been the cause of our transmission difficulties. Subsequently made contact with Adelaide – success!

The following morning was damp after overnight rain, and very cold. Checking the tarps after breakfast we found about 3mm of ice on water collected in a well in the tarp over the spare wheel on the roof. Exercise seems the only way to keep warm so we set off to explore the locality. We are beside Outlet Creek, which in times of flood connects the southern lakes (Hindmarsh and Albacutya) with the more northern lakes in the Wyperfield NP. Though there has not been much flooding for several years at least, and vehicles now use the sandy bed as a road. We followed the creek and the fence line of the adjoining property. Along the creek are the usual red gums, there are black gums/box on the alluvial flats and on the sand ridges there is a variety of mallee, Cyprus, casuarina, wattles, Spinifex and small shrubs. There are a lot of tracks and we are experimenting with the GPS and learning what it can do. Walking on the sandy areas is quite difficult and the black soil areas are muddy and sticky.

After lunch we explore the rest of this apparently informal camping area; some semi permanent camp-sites are present. We are surprised to see what looks like bitou bush growing here and there (and subsequently learn that it is a significant weed in this area). We are used to seeing them on NSW beaches.

It is still cold and breezy though the rain has gone. We will spend another night here in the hope of milder conditions tomorrow, so we settled in for another cold night. There was another frost in morning though not enough to deter a few birds including a brilliant robin with scarlet cap and breast. After packing up we travelled to Rainbow – a small but friendly town that seems to be beating the declining trend of many of these small towns. Bought meat, groceries and petrol. There are lots of murals in town depicting past events and history, and we saw more in the small village of Yaapeet a few miles up the road. We are surrounded by grain country – rolling sand dunes, including some very high dunes at end of Lake Hindmarsh. Leaving Rainbow we checked out Lake Albacutya and its famous red gums now grown world wide, though they look like all the others we have seen. The lake is an unexceptional place, open to the wind, but when full would be a popular place for water based recreation.

It is still cold and occasional showers as we travelled on to Wyperfield NP – the main campground is a few km in from main road, but quite open. Met up with Doug and Shirley who are also in a Troopy and decide to spend a night camped together, as we are the only campers in this big camping area. We drive the lookout track in afternoon and do short side walks to see mallee and a mallee fowl mound. Doug and Shirley are good company – Troopy people, and very keen bushwalkers. So we spend an enjoyable evening around a big fire. There is an occasional shower so we put the awning up for first time – it droops a bit in the middle and leaks with water collected in it. Maybe needs a bit of refinement?

Another frost in the morning but we have slept well and are warm and snug. Takes a while to dry off the tent and awning. Packed up and drove out to Black Flat and did the Tyakil walk, just on 5km. Used the GPS to verify track and to get experience in using it. Walk took in the by now familiar mallee communities and took us around dry lakes and over quite big sand dune. Then headed north on park tracks for about 40km – some sections deep sand, tricky on sharp corners but Troopy handled it OK. Set up camp at Casuarina campground where there is lots of firewood – buloke and Cyprus. Basic amenities and a bit open but no charge and the night is a bit milder than the past few have been.

The following day seems a good opportunity to catch upon basic chores – washing clothes, drying bedding and putting some order into things. There is some water available so we spread ourselves round and set to work. Also solder some loose connections in the HF radio. VKS callers indicate that it has been very cold across much of the country, with some reports of snow falling on southern beaches. In the afternoon we walk along one of the two walks from this campsite – through the buloke covered flats and up onto a sandhill. Not much new to see but we did catch a glimpse of a Major Mitchell cockatoo and saw a few emus and red kangaroos also some new parrots. Towards dusk we got a good look at a colourful parrot – perhaps a mallee ringneck.

Another vehicle pulled in for the night - a young Malaysian couple, Siat and Hen. He is collecting lichens for a research project. They join us after dinner and we have an enjoyable evening round the fire, even though the night is quite cold – it was his birthday so we celebrate appropriately.

The following morning we travelled towards Underbool along park roads at first. We passed a spot where there were many wedge-tail eagles, and past a couple of high shifting dunes. Some of the roads had been churned up by trailbike riders. More mallee and Cyprus. Took a wrong turning as we left the park, so had an excursion around the back roads until we found the highway a few kms east of Underbool. Once in the village we found a phone that worked and phoned the boys, stocked up on groceries and then headed for the Pink Lakes in the Murray Sunset Park.

The road into the park runs through yet more wheat growing areas that look green and lush after the rain. Some of the fallow paddocks are covered with paddymelons – highly productive if there was a use for them. The vegetation here is more open, but still the familiar types, and low lying salty areas are covered with halophytes. The Pink Lakes are indeed pinkish, from carotene producing algae. The sand and mud around them is very sticky and slippery. The water comes from groundwater and is many times more saline than seawater, so the edges are quite salt encrusted.

Salt was harvested here for many years and there are quite a few relics of this period – old machinery, in surprisingly good condition and several big stockpiles of salt now well solidified and shaped and recrystallised into odd patterns. The main campground is too open and the wind too strong to camp there. After driving a loop road that passed some remains of early settlement we found a semi sheltered spot at Becker Lake in the lee of a high dune in which to spend the night. There are the remains of an old tramline there, and some old red gum corduroy running out into the lake, further remnants of the mining activity. Before leaving the next morning we walked some distance around the shore of the lake imagining what a miners life would have been like – hard thirsty work, cold in winter and hot in summer. The area is quite picturesque, with the small salt tolerant plants on the mud flats forming into miniature forests, and the occasional paperbark looking dramatic. Still, the wind off the lake was very cold, so we were happy to get back into Troopy and head off towards Ouyen and the Hattah-Kulkyne NP.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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