Lynn, Outdoors, Roadtrip, South Australia

The Time We Really Went Down Under [Mount Gambier]

12 Apr , 2015   Gallery

The time we explored a ghost town by Las Vegas
The Time We Drove Down the Great Ocean Road

For our Australian 2013 Road Trip from Melbourne to Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, we made stops on the Great Ocean Road  and then Mount Gambier before we hit Adelaide.

The reason why we picked Mount Gambier wasn’t just because I really really wanted to sleep in a jail built in the 1800s but because there were actually a few things we had in mind….

The idea of not going down under when we are Down Under sounds a little ludicrous so we had to visit a crater lake, a giant sinkhole, and a couple of caves!

Blue Lake in Mount Gambier

The first thing we did in the morning was head over to the Blue Lake. Mount Gambier is an inactive volcano and the Blue Lake is one of the four crater lakes created when Mount Gambier used to be active. The Lake is famous not because it’s from a volcano, but because it changes colour. During December to March, the lake turns to a vibrant cobalt blue colour and during April to November, it is a colder steel grey colour. We went in March so the colour was starting to lose its vibrancy. Wikipedia tells us:

The exact cause of this phenomenon is still a matter of conjecture, but it is generally considered likely that it revolves around the warming of the surface layers of the lake during the summer months to around 20 degrees Celsius (70 °F), causing calcium carbonate to precipitate out of solution and enabling micro-crystallites of calcium carbonate to form. This results in scatter of the blue wavelengths of sunlight. During winter the lake becomes well mixed, and recent research indicates that during this phase of the colour cycle the lake is somewhat murkier due to the redistribution of tannins and calcium carbonate particles throughout the lake. Solar elevation has also been found to influence the perceived colour of the lake. The movement of planktonic life-forms within the lake during the seasons and during the day may additionally play a part in the colour change.

Blah blah blah….Did you read the above? I didn’t.  Here’s a picture:

IMG_1214 Blue Lake: not really that colbalt but with some editing it probably can turn that colour.


Umpherston Sinkhole in Mount Gambier

The Umpherston Sinkhole is also known as the Sunken Garden. It used to be a giant GIANT subterranean cave whose roof completely sank and became just a giant hole instead. Some dude named James Umpherston was tasked to turn it into a pretty garden, hence its name.

As Mount Gambier is apparently the second largest city in South Australia, we naturally ran into old retired people just hangin’ out in the sinkhole. One of them started talking to us, asking us where we’re from, etc., etc., and then commenced to tell us, after finding out we were unmarried, that we can hold weddings there.  

A part of me looked at this beautiful space and thought how magical and ultra rad it would be to hold a wedding here in South Australia in a giant sinkhole (I can just imagine my friends talking about how cool Lynn’s wedding is for decades to come) until I realized that if I really got married somewhere that requires an over 24 hour flight, my wedding would really be magical as only the possums would show up as my guests.

Why possums? Because the sinkhole is a gathering place for them! We even ran into one and I got to pet it. (after pleadingly looking at Waffles and watching all the other kids play with it first) (and by petting, I really mean borderline poking it with a single finger) (how i didn’t get bitten I will never know).


Tantanoola Cave in Tantanoola

Tantanoola Cave isn’t really that deep under and is one of the smallest caves in Australia, but it is popular because

It comprises an extraordinary display of cave decorations (speleothems) in beautiful shades of pink and brown, coloured by its dolomite base rock. The ‘Up and Down Rocks’ is a special highlight.

It is a single chamber cave that starts at the base of the Up and Down Cliff and takes you upwards around 500meters towards an old quarry. This was the first time I have ever been in a cave so the experience was quite fascinating. The cave is about 17 degrees all year round, well-ventilated and professionally lit so you can get the full effect of the hanging helictites.


Kelly Hill Conservation Park and Caves on Kangaroo Island

In sticking with the theme of really going down under, I’m skipping a bit ahead of trip to  when we were actually on the Kangaroo Island a days later and went into a second, and much larger cave that was way way deep under. Once you are done paying and you wait for the others to arrive to form a tour group, the guide begins to take you down about 50 deep steps into the bottom of the cave, or rather, caveS.

This network of tunnels and chambers were first discovered in 1880 by a farmer riding on a horse named Kelly. As they were going along, the dropped deep down into a giant hole. The farmer managed to get out and asked for help and people came back with him but they never found the horse…to this day! This is why the area is called Kelly Hill Conservation Park and Caves.

Since then, there have been many adventurers, groups of scientists, and explorers going around mapping the area. So far, about two square kilometres have been explored, but the guess is that is another 7 to 8 kilometres to be discovered. The guide will tell you many other adventure stories of brave explorers back in the days going in the pitch black underground and getting lost for weeks! When the guide turned off all the lights, we couldn’t see anything in there and it scared me just imagining being down there without knowing what is awaiting you in the dark!

The park also offers Adventure  Caving tours, in addition to the walking tour we did. The Adventure Tour is much longer and you explore more of the caves with headlamps in areas without lights! I don’t think I could do it since the thought of walking around in the dark already gives me panic attacks!

So there you have it, the times when we went down under when we were down under!

The time we explored a ghost town by Las Vegas
The Time We Drove Down the Great Ocean Road

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4 Responses

  1. […] drove straight to Mount Gambier afterwards in the […]

  2. […] There’s quite a bit of things to do in Mount Gambier too, so it’s definitely one of the places I recommend as a stop between Melbourne and Adelaide. […]

  3. […] spending 4 days in Melbourne, 2 days on the Great Ocean Road (GOR), then a day around Mount Gambier, we arrived in Adelaide at night and decided to just grill some steak and stay-in for the night, as […]

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