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Oceania » Australia » South Australia » Naracoorte
January 5th 2010
Published: January 7th 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

Day 254 - Halls Gap (Victoria) to Naracoorte (South Australia)

Ever been woken up by an alarm that you’ve forgotten the reason for setting so switch it off? That’s what happened to me this morning at 6am but luckily Dar was awake enough and had remembered our promise of a walk with Zoe and Ken!

We did a quick pack away in the caravan while the kids were coming to terms with the early morning, bless Simone for reassuring Ken that he did want to wake up and it wasn’t too early for a walk. She was sure that he would regret it if he didn’t come.

Simone had packed the kids rucksacks the previous night for them and was now talking them through the various items such as a banana for a snack, plenty of water for hydration, stingose in case they get stung and then Ken piped up with a huge grin “Do we need the anti-dandruff?”! He is so funny and he’s only 9!

We were driven to the start of the walk, it wasn’t far to go but it’s early and we figured it was worth saving our energy for the anticipated rock
Whose poo?Whose poo?Whose poo?

It's not a kangaroo, maybe it's from an Echidna but it's poo we've not seen before!
scrambling when we get to the top.

The walk takes us up onto the Mount William Range and specifically to Boronia Peak, a rocky outcrop which should give us a spectacular view. It’s a steady climb through the Messmate forest and native pines. We turned at the sign posted intersection and continued upwards with Zoe and Ken taking it completely in their stride.

There were only a couple of drink stops and they were mainly prompted by me but each time we stopped we got an idea of the view we were heading for. It wasn’t going to be a disappointment.

We worked out the best track to take for the scramble up the rocky summit and found ourselves looking down on Lake Bellfield and across to the Fyans valley. It was utterly stunning and both Zoe & Ken seemed chuffed to be up there on top of the world.

Down below we had a reasonable view of the campground so I phoned Simone pretending to be spying on their slack approach to the clearing up! Darryl quickly spotted Mark returning from the toilets and soon we were looking at them looking at us albeit through binoculars!!

It was definitely time for a sit down and a snack while we watched a couple of lizards running around their mountain top playground. It was just beautiful even though we weren’t up there for long!

Trip leader Zoe took over the first stretch of the walk back and Ken took up the challenge towards the end being spurred on by Zoe pretending she was going to over take him and steal it back! We really enjoyed their company this morning, what great young people they are and just fantastic to be around.

Back down to earth and Simone was waiting with Beth at the car park entrance. Zoe and Ken had brought us back in one piece and there was just enough time for a shower back at camp before we set off in near opposite directions.

The Reeves are heading for home whilst we are heading for …. somewhere else, a destination as yet undecided.

We said our goodbyes to the Reeves and it’s nice to know that it won’t be long before we meet them again as we fully intend to invade their home and the surrounding area for at least a couple of weeks. We’re counting down the days already!

Getting our money’s worth yet again, we left the site seconds before 11am and drove towards Horsham where we figured we would find a big enough store for us to stock up on supplies. We find the local Safeway store and the trolley is soon going through the checkout pretty full. To our horror, but to our absolute relief we find the drivers door of the car wide open when we return to it in the car park. The honest people of Horsham have left it well alone and nothing has been disturbed. Mental note made to check all car doors are closed before going shopping in the future!

Turning off the highway to the supermarket has also given us the answer of where to rest our weary heads tonight. We see a sign for Naracoorte which is home to the only World Heritage listed area in South Australia, a series of caves dating back millions of years that are home to rather a lot of bats!

We crossed the state border into South Australia thus gaining an extra 30 minutes to our day, gosh, if only making time was usually that easy! The border crossing had us a bit perplexed regards the quarantine side of things and initially we thought our recent stock up on supplies was all going to be thrown in the bin. Worry not, it’s only grapevines and fruit that you must not carry across the border due to the risk of Fruit Fly. Luckily we were on a vegetable haul rather than a fruit haul so we were ok.

South Australia is world renowned for it’s quality of grape and therefore it’s wine but we hadn’t realised we were already hitting the vineyard areas until we saw the luxurious looking plots owned by none other Lansons, Stonehaven and Lindemans. I wondered if we should stop, just for a quick look around but the weather is hotting up and Darryl has already been stuck in the car for long enough so we motored through the glorious looking town of Padthaway which on the outside looks very worth a visit if only for it’s ‘neighbours’!

The Naracoorte national park site is out of the town but there is supposed to be a campground attached to it. Imagine our delight when we arrive and not only is there plenty of room but we don’t have to part with a penny….sorry, cent! Better still the amenities are fabulous and we have power to the caravan. Joy of joys, that’s the benefits of purchasing a holiday pass. So far we’ve accrued 3 nights in Lincoln National Park plus the park entry, park entry to Flinders Ranges plus 1 night with power here at Naracoorte for just $52. Not bad, not bad at all and we’ve more to come yet!

A quick trip to the visitors centre in the park reveals there is a tour at 8pm to see the bats and walk through one of the caves. It’s only 4pm now so we spend the afternoon relaxing, cooking dinner and blogging. There’s always time for a bit of a blog!

And so to the bat cave! Sorry, that must have been very predictable but we really are going to the bat cave tonight as part of the tour.

First, a quick explanation into what the Naracoorte National Park is all about. There are 26 caves within the park and for over 500’000 years they have acted as animal traps to create extensive fossil deposits of giant megafauna. The Wonambi Fossil Centre is a re-created scene of Naracoorte Caves 200 000 years ago with life-size models of the megafauna in habitat simulated to the era. Unfortunately we are being selective about our exploration of the park due to the cost associated with visiting the individual caves and the fossil centre, it’s not particularly cheap however given our ‘free camping’ tonight we are treating ourselves with a visit to what is considered a very special cave - albeit via infrared! The Bat Cave is the maternity cave for the critically endangered Southern Bent-winged Bat and they are our focus this evening.

We meet the other 27 attendees and our guide, Amy, outside the visitors centre and then set off towards the observation centre. I remark on what a terrific job I think Amy has and she tells us that she’s leaving at the end of January to move up to Darwin with her husband. So there’s a vacancy for a Bat Cave tour guide come visitor centre co-ordinator. Interesting, very interesting! If only!

With such a big group Amy does a great job of keeping everyone together and the kids entertained, they’re soon flying towards the bat cave like bats! Inside we sit around the edges of the room being transfixed by the images of thousands of little bats on the TV screens. There are 30 000 bats in this one cave, or so the bat counters say anyway. We wonder how on earth they can tell.

The group comes up with some great questions and we’re soon learning that the life span of a bat is around 15 years, bats are not blind their eyesight is actually magnificent and in addition to their sight they use an ultra-sonic sound to navigate through darkness just like that of a dolphin, they fly 50 kms at night in search of food, these bats do not always turn left when they leave the cave, bats do not lay eggs (but the Mums must be a good catch when they give birth!), bats are not mice with wings (!) they are part of a separate family called Chiroptera and that one of the major benefits about having bats around is that they consume insects equivalent to two thirds of their body weight per night and those insects include mosquitoes! Hurrah for bats!

We’re loving this insight to their otherwise secret world but this world is under threat and their population is in decline. Forty years ago there were 200 000 Southern Bent-winged Bats but now the estimation is only 30 000. What’s happened? Habitat degradation, loss of wetlands due to the lowering of the water table (mining causes this), the use of pesticide and the disturbance of the bats in their winter and breeding caves could all be partly to blame. This particular species of bat was declared critically endangered in 1999 but seems to have since been moved to the ‘Conservation Dependant’ list so we’re not actually sure which is worse. The current critically endangered listing for mammals is the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat, Gilbert’s Potoroo, Christmas Island Pipistrelle and the Bare-rumped Sheathtail Bat. Obviously if any of you have sighted these creatures we would love to hear about it!

While we’re waiting for the light to fade outside so we can all witness the mass exodus of the bats from the cave on their nightly dinner run, we leave the TV screens and wander to Blanche Cave where we can appreciate the type of beautiful environment the bats call home. We carefully navigate the rickety steps at the entrance and are shown through the cave inside which is available for hire as a wedding venue and where the community carols by candlelight is often held.

What a stunning setting, it’s absolutely beautiful and Amy does a terrific job of guiding the large group though and showcasing the beautiful natural decoration within the cave such as the ‘seahorse’. Used as a play area by the locals many, many years ago there are a few holes here and there but the stunning stalactites, columns and stalagmites are mostly intact and looking likely to wow visitors for years to come.

The time has arrived for tonight’s main ‘feature’, bats in flight. We all return to the darkness outside of Blanche Cave and Amy joyfully shouts ‘Everyone, to the Bat Cave’! Bless her, she doesn’t miss a trick.

When we arrive there are already people watching the first of the bats flying out, they are bat counting! How intriguing. The chap explains that software developed for NASA is being used tonight to count bats in and out of the cave. With the help of a hand held infra-red camera he is also
Early morning raidersEarly morning raidersEarly morning raiders

The kangaroos were in abundance at the Halls Gap campground when we got up at 6am
able to look around the cave, much as we did in the Observation Centre and get a better idea of how many are still in there. They are expecting the count to reach 30 000 tonight.

We stood and watched the bats for some time, none of them fly at us or even brushed too closely past us but it was a great experience and fabulous to see so many.

At well past 10.30pm we headed back to the campground having thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

From us and the Southern Bent-winged Bats of Naracoorte, good night!

Dar and Sar


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