Travelling Australia - Journal 2012
10 July 2012 - Mount Gambier to Bordertown
Weather in the morning for our departure from Mount Gambier was not too bad; some sun, no wind, no rain. We drove out of the caravan park and were soon, without difficulty, on the road north towards Penola and Narracoorte. Our destination for the day was Bordertown. Reaching Bordertown would bring us back onto our planned route before the diversion to Mount Gambier to fix the hot water system; the only change was that we had missed out on visiting Beachport.

The road north from Mount Gambier is the Riddoch Highway named after the founder of the wine industry around Coonawarra and Penola. This is an A class road (the A66) with an excellent driving surface, at least between Mount Gambier and Narracoorte. The Riddoch Highway joins the Duke Highway at Keith and is the preferred route to and from Adelaide for truck drivers (the alternative is via the Princes Highway through Meningie). Traffic was light with few heavy transports at first although the number increased later.

The Riddoch Highway initially passes through some grazing land (sheep and cattle) then enters pine forests north of Mount Gambier. While passing through these extensive pine forests we passed two plants milling the pine timber.

Before Penola we entered the Coonawarra wine area with several kilometres of vinyards and cellar door entrances fronting the road before we reached the town. The vines were dormant at this time of year which is pruning time, many vines were yet to be pruned. In Penola we stopped for a cup of coffee and a visit to the chocolate and lolly shop we had found here on a previous visit. Steady rain was now falling; but there was no wind and the temperature was tolerable provided proper warm clothing was being worn.

After leaving Pinola the Riddoch Highway continues towards Narracoorte retaining the pleasant road surface. The road runs along the lower face of the Narracoorte Range which is the remains of a beach dune once facing the ocean here. While heading north the slope of the Range is off to the right while to the left is flat grazing land. The Coonawarra vineyards do not extend very far past Penola but there are more vinyards as the road approaches Narracoorte which is far more into grazing and cropping than wine growing.

Beyond Narracoorte the Riddoch Highway continued on the lowest slopes of the Narracoorte Range with flat land off to the left. Road surface quality, unfortunately, began to decline and our speed dropped from about 90 kph to 80 kph or less to minimise bouncing. The slopes of the Narracoorte range had mostly been cleared of timber and converted to grazing land. They were remarkably green; this was not the green sometimes seen on improved pasture where the green colour ends at the fence with brown outside. This green was continuous from the edge of the bitumen road, across the roadside reserve and uniformly in all paddocks we could see. Cattle and sheep were grazing in numbers (and we passed one herd of deer). Farms appeared to rely mostly on rainfall but spray rigs were not uncommon; we wondered where the water came from for the spray, probably from underground.

We stopped for lunch at the corner of the Riddoch Highway and the road to Bordertown (confusingly named the Narracoorte Road). This was the B57 but the surface wasn't really up to B-class standard with several sections having a fairly poor surface.

Red Gum Grass and river red gums typical of the land for 50 to 60 kilometres before Bordertown.

For the next 50 kilometres (of the 66 kilometres to Bordertown) the road passed through moderately hilly grazing country; hills were neither high nor long but we seemed to be always going up or down. The number of sheep and cattle, subjectively more sheep than cattle, was an eye-opener. There were a lot. Most cattle were beef cattle, although we passed one dairy herd closer to Bordertown. Sheep appeared to be a mixture of sheep and meat animals; some were very woolly, some had been shorn recently, many paddocks had flocks of ewes with lambs at foot, other flocks were probably pregnant ewes. Several shearing sheds could be seen from the road but shearing sheds can remain unused for years without changing so a shearing shed doesn't necessarily confirm that sheep are still shorn on that property. In all probability sheep around this area are grown for wool by some graziers and for fat lambs by others.

Pivot spray Pivot spray. The whole spray rig rotates around the pivot at the far end in this photograph watering a large circular area.

Closer to the road there were also interesting changes. Banksias became common along the roadside reservation when they had not been seen along the Riddoch Highway; grass trees became widespread, and very common in patches. Parrot were also in greater numbers than before; crimson rosellas in groups of three to five were picking up something from the gravel perimeter of the bitumen road. There were other bird species I didn't recognise showing various shades of green in their plumage as they flew away. We speculated they were eating grain spilt from passing trucks but trucks carrying grain are usually enclosed so grain does not escape. Alternatively, many eucalyptus were in flower at this time of year and the birds may have been eating something released by nearby trees. Whatever the reason, rosellas and parrots feeding at the side of the road were interesting to watch.

About fifteen kilometres south of Bordertown grazing land began giving way to cropping land. Mildly hilly land was replaced by flat land and there were some pine plantations and olive trees as well as crops. We couldn't identify the crop being grown; most had not germinated and the most advanced was less than 5 centimetres high.

Entering Bordertown we made our way to the only caravan park in town and checked in for a couple of nights. After setting up we went into the Information Centre to collect local information. Bordertown has put a lot of effort into tourism and we gathered quite a bit of material.
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