Day 52: Goodbye, South Australia!
We chose for our last full day and night in South Australia, the Naracoorte Caves campground near Bool Lagoon Reserve Conservation Park. A whirlwind tour through South Australia culminated with six packed days. Our friends from Adelaide took us as far as Port Wakefield on the north coast. Although we were in the outback for a day, it doesn’t come close to what’s waiting out in the “red center,” as the locals call it. Still, we’ll be back, and will take that region on another day.
For now, it’s back to Victoria and the coastal heath and woodlands. We had one more important stop to make - the Murray River mouth - before making our way south through four hours of grassland. Based on the floodwaters upstream on the Murray, we didn’t know what to expect. Accessing the Murray mouth requires crossing a bridge to Hindmarsh Island, and taking a looooong beach walk across the estuary to one of the many sinuous fingers that enter the ocean. If all the rivers in Australia are synonymous with veins in the body, then the Murray is the aorta. It’s the Australian equivalent of the Mississippi, the Amazon, or the Nile. This river is invaluable. At least 3.6 million people rely on the Murray for drinking, washing, farming, and irrigation (including the entire population of Adelaide), and tack on another 2.3 million people in the surrounding basin. The Murray is home to sixteen internationally-significant wetlands and 35 endangered species. Over 40% of Australia’s agriculture is dependent on the Murray, including 100% of rice and 30% of dairy. Not to mention, tourism brings in $11 billion a year. It’s a monster.
Elias and I found ourselves making the half-mile trek across one small slice of the sandy river mouth. Not many people were voluntarily out there, but we were two of the weirdos. The winds were so intense on the shore that it was creating waves of sand across our feet.
Fairy terns, great crested terns, and Caspian terns were diving into the water and enjoying the gusts. Red-necked stints and curlew sandpipers utilized what they could on the ground. On the sandbars, bar-tailed godwits, pelicans, and great cormorants leaned into the wind.
Fairy tern (above)
We didn’t find any whiskered terns - our main target - but the Murray River was impressive, to say the least. A family of emus walked along the most remote spit of land across the river, which made it feel all that much more authentic.