19-20 January: The Coorong

Author: Mr A

Location: Narrung, Coorong Country, South Australia

Despite living in Australia for nearly 25 years, Catherine and I keep stumbling across fragments of iconic history that we have missed. For instance, if you grew up in Australia then apparently there’s a good chance you would have read the book by Colin Thiele “The Storm Boy”, and/or seen the original movie when it came out in the 70’s, or at least watched the recent remake with Geoffrey Rush. All news to us. Must have been in Europe when the remake came out and just missed it, because we would have definitely wanted to watch it.

The story is set in the globally unique wilderness of the salt water lagoon eco-system of the Coorong in South Australia. We drove through in a rush in 2012 after hearing that my father was seriously ill and we needed to head back to Sydney. So this time we took the chance this time to meander up this remarkable bit of coastline. Home for thousands of years to the Ngarrindjeri people, Coorong in their language means “narrow neck”, referring to the geographical shape of the narrow lagoon system that runs for 140km down this wild coast.

Pelicans abound on this wild coastline
The Granites – rock formations emerge from the beach at the southern end of the Coorong
Princess Tassie has an explore in the sand dunes, taking it all in her stride

We drove from the southern part of the park and rounded a corner to be hit in the eyes with a vast white expanse of salt lake that shimmered and blazed. We pulled up for lunch beside one of these “hyper saline” geographical oddities. The wind whipped at the sparse vegetation. We really have to see what the movie makers did with this scenery, and they filmed in winter!

This dry, salty landscape is home to hardy vegetation
The plant life has to be very drought hardy, and succulents abound
A wonderful array of colours
Shallow lakes dry up leaving salt encrusted mud
A pair of emus dash away after spotting us
Bleached bones and shells remind us of the challenging environment

Home for the night is a free camp right beside the little ferry that runs across the narrow strip of water that separates the enormous freshwater Lake Alexandrina and the smaller Lake Albert.

A water’s edge location for a couple of nights will suit us fine!

Wandering up the ferry just to have a look, we were beckoned on board by the driver (captain?), and made the 5 minute trip, for free. Thank you South Australia! A short walk up to the lighthouse (a first for us, a lighthouse on a lake!) and we were rewarded by a view across this massive expanse of water (649 sq kilometres, or 13 times the size of Sydney Harbour). It’s fed by a number of rivers, but by far the biggest contributor being the longest river in Australia, the Murray.

The lighthouse – only 3 metres above the lake, still served its purpose in its time. Today preserved by the National Trust
If you zoom in, you might be able to spot our car and caravan on the other side of the lake

Its sobering to think this area was once a bustling hive of activity, with settlements all around the lake and all manner of shipping plying across it. Now, not so much. With relief we note the complete absence of power boats and jetskis, in fact all we have seen is a few kayaks getting blown around. Wonderful. The only sound other than the twittering reed warblers is the intermittent clank of the ferry plying back and forwards.

The morning dawned with a bright blue sky and we were out on the water before the wind picked up too much. Plenty of pelicans around, I look at them with a new found interest after hearing how they responded to training in the Storm Boy movie and bonded with the actors, rubbing up against their legs when they came to film every morning. Pretty smart birds.

Paddling off from camp through the reeds
The reeds are also a great resting place for the swallows that constantly swoop over the water catching insects
Looking out for the next meal
More pelicans take off across the lake

The site is starting to fill up as we approach the long weekend, so we’ll be moving on tomorrow. This free stay has reinforced for us that there is little correlation between spending money and having a good time.

It’s only when you check the news, particularly from the UK, that we are reminded how privileged we are to be in Australia right now.

A final sunset view from our kitchen window brings an end to this stay on the lake

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