2011 March 13 – Day 67 – Warnambool to Kingston, Australia

We had a longer driving day as we had hotel reservation in Adelaide the next day.  We drove 341 km (212 miles) of the 604 km (375 miles) we had to go.  Still we managed some stops to tour a sinkhole garden and another cave and an historic marker and route.  The sun we enjoyed at breakfast disappeared behind clouds that lingered the rest of the day.

We had completed the most scenic sections of the Great Ocean Road and the coastal views were much ‘tamer.’  The majority of our travels were a bit inland and halfway through the drive we crossed from the state of Victoria to South Australia and entered the Limestone Coast.  The area has a volcanic limestone base so is riddled with caves and sinkholes.  There are quarries too as the limestone is used for housing blocks.

By the time we reached Mt. Gambier we were driving through thick forests.  Trees as far as you can see on both sides of the road.  The pine trees have all been planted and the bottom branches are trimmed off to promote upward growth.  There was a large sawmill in Mt. Gambier and a big Kimberly-Clark pulp mill down the road in Robe.

Our first stop was the Blue Lake at Mt. Gambier, a volcanic caldera that filled up with water.  It was very reminiscent of Crater Lake in Oregon; only smaller. Also in Mt. Gambier we toured the Umpherston Sinkhole – Cave Garden which is a lovely garden in a collapsed cave right beside a large lumber yard.  It was originally the garden of a private residence and farm of that name back in the 1800s.  All the way around the rim of the sinkhole hangs long thick strands of ivy.  The path to the bottom circles halfway around the sinkhole under an overhanging rock shelf draped in ivy. 

There were rows and rows of Hydrangea’s that had finished blooming.
Right in the middle of downtown Mt. Gambier is another sinkhole. The grounds around the sinkhole are planted in roses that have been deliberately pruned to have a tree-like shape with other flowers planted around the base.  The idea, I guess, is that when the roses are not blooming there are still lots of colours from the other flowers. It was very tidy and pretty.  Our next point of interest was the cave at Tantanoola – one large chamber discovered in the 1950s by a 16 year-old boy hunting rabbits with his ferret.  He sent his ferret down a hole but the ferret never came back.  When he dug around the hole he realized there was a large chamber below the surface.  He went home for his brother, a rope and a flashlight and discovered the cave (and his ferret).  The boy’s family took out a lease on the property and operated it as an attraction until they turned it over to the state a few years before.  There were many fascinating formations to see. It will take years for these slow water drips to increase the length of the stalactite.

The cave entrance where the ferret disappeared is the narrow crevasse in the photo on the right.

At Robe we stopped at the Chinese Memorial which commemorates the 16,500 Chinese that came to Australia during the 1860s to go to the gold fields in Victoria State.  That government had imposed a 10 British pound per head levy on Chinese to discourage them from coming to search for gold, so they came ashore in South Australia at Robe and walked 200 miles over very desolate, dry country to get to the Ballarat Gold Fields. It was after 6 pm when we arrived in Kingston. We found a hotel right on the waterfront and after dinner we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset. 

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