Most of the 60 participants stayed at the Meningie Caravan Park, which is situated on the shores of Yarli (Lake Albert). Others were scattered about the town in various motels and cottages. The setting is beautiful, and every day we were treated to stunning sunrises and sunsets, watching flocks of pelicans and other birds flying to and from their nighttime roosts.
Although this was a designated C grade camp, the organisers had arranged three walks each day to cater for the range of walking abilities – D, C and B grade walkers. There were short, medium and slightly longer walks to choose from.
On the first three days of the camp many walks commenced at the eastern end of The Coorong, which involved some car shuttles of up to 180km for the round trip. It was well worth the drive though, as the environment is remarkable. Lots of mallee scrub, sand dunes, and interesting historical sites such as ‘Chinamans well’ (c1856), built with stone from local quarries.
Those who did the ‘28-mile crossing’ walk eventually made their way to the ocean beach for lunch. This is a breathtaking location – next stop Antarctica! The sand drops very steeply into the sea creating wild surf and dangerous currents. We delighted in the millions of shells and weird sponges on the beach.
Some walks took in the town of Meningie and its local history. One of the most notable stories is that of John Peggotty – a diminutive bushranger who rode around bare-chested and draped in gold jewellery on an ostrich. Read more about this entertaining tale:
Of course some walkers couldn’t resist climbing onto the statue of the ostrich to have their photo taken!
Several walks took in areas of the Coorong National Park’s northern lagoon and shores, including some beach walking and various walking trails through natural scrubland. Parnka Point peninsula has excellent views up and down the lagoon, with wading birds commonly being seen fossicking in the shallows and sheltered bays nearby. ‘Hells Gate’ is the narrowest and deepest point between the northern and southern lagoons of the Coorong. Some walks included the Aboriginal leased land of Bonney Reserve, picking up the Nature Trail which was developed by the Ngarrindjeri people based at Camp Coorong. Bonney Reserve is a site where a fringe camp existed as late as the 1980’s and is a rare part of the Coorong with remnant vegetation, providing opportunities for demonstrating Ngarrindjeri bush tucker and bush medicine during cultural walks conducted through the scrub.
We had perfect weather for walking with temperatures between 23 – 26 degrees most days. There was intermittent rain on one day only, which didn’t inconvenience us at all. That day two groups did walks that incorporated the Pangarinda Botanic Garden, near Wellington. The garden was developed on 30 HA of weed-covered Crown Land, when in 2000 Tailem Bend school children started clearing and planting mainly dry land Australian flora. It is run by volunteers, and is well worth a visit if you are in the area.
On the ‘rest’ day many walkers enjoyed a tour of the local museum, which included a demonstration of an old steam engine. The engine was reluctant to get going, and had to be encouraged with much risky action by the volunteers! A fascinating morning steeped in local knowledge.
Happy hours were at the Caravan Park (apart from the first night), followed by signing-up for the next day’s walks and assigning drivers. On the last night a great time was had at the camp dinner at the local pub. Our numbers must have stretched the facility to its limit. The Coorong/Meningie camp was a great success, especially considering the organisers had to cater for such a large number of walkers!