“Chilling” in Mount Gambier


We’re still in Mount Gambier and had planned on more exploring and taking the Legend into prominent areas. At 2am today, a change came through, bringing with it wind gusts of up to 100km/h, and I can tell you right now without checking a thermometer, that it’s definitely not 18 degrees Celsius outside! We’ve strapped the awning (which we hadn’t put up – thankfully!), to the Cub with ratchet straps, as the usual ties couldn’t handle the lift forces of the wind picking up the awning on the top of the camper. Because of course the wind is blowing from that side where the awning is tied when not in use!

The Limestone Coast Tourist Park has been fantastic in providing us with a powered site for three nights. All of their sites are ensuite sites (!!) so we feel particularly thankful that they are supporting our journey. On a day like today, at least we don’t have to run for the amenities block!

The Umpherston Sinkhole is very possibly the top tourist destination in Mount Gambier, aside from the Blue Lake. The cascading ivy, and stunning gardens are absolutely worthwhile. The kids loved it there, just sitting and breathing deeply the warm floral scented air, which carried resident bees in a gentle vortex, as they paused from their busy hive activity on one of the multiple colonies on the limestone walls. It’s quite strange to think that the sinkhole used to have water in it, enough that the Umpherston family back in 1886 actually had a boat down there for recreational sightseeing purposes. The Mount Gambier council has done a wonderful job in restoring the sinkhole to its former glory, albeit without the requirement for a boat now to enjoy the views.  

We decided to make the most of the warm weather yesterday, and take a drive to the coast, stopping to take a walk along the beach while Luna protected us from the incoming tide by racing up and down the beach in the water. A visit to Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park was purely to view the ponds, as you must have a permit and booking to snorkel here. You also need a full wet suit, so cold is the deep water. Diving is even more restricted, as you must be an accredited Cave Diver and be a financial member of that relevant dive body. That’s some deep cold water we’re talking about!

Ewens Ponds has similar diving restrictions, but no permit is needed, and snorkelers are free to be in the water, but no more than 6 people total at any one time. We timed our arrival well, with one dive team leaving, and three snorkelers packing up. We took a stroll around to the back of the pond, fins, masks and snorkels in hand. Kirstine braved the freezing cold water while Paul helped the kids get their kit organised. Initially the chill of the water took her breath away, the instinct being to either hold your breath, or take very shallow breaths. It took a few moments for Kirstine to take control and focus on her breath, before moving away from the pontoon to take a long awaited look through the crystal clear water. Looking down at the bottom of the spring fed limestone sinkhole took her breath away for another reason altogether. Never have we seen such a sight – like looking through a watery window at a sub-aqua garden. Kirstine tried a couple of times to swim down to the bottom, but even with fins it was not possible. The ponds are far deeper than they appear, and the cold water made it difficult to equalise the pressure in her ears, limiting her ability to swim any deeper.

The children came into the water one at a time, for only a couple of minutes, so they could look at the stunning view under water. Distracting them from the shock of the cold was easy, once they realised how far they could see. Despite the icy water, the warm sun soon had the kids raving about the amazing experience they had just enjoyed. Paul kept a close eye on Kirstine, who’d been in the water for nearly 45 minutes. Remember – he is a qualified rescue diver, so is aware of the risks of prolonged exposure in cold water. It did take a minute for her to get her “land legs” back!

Warming up in the sun on the barefoot grassy walk back to the Legend, we were thrilled by having been able to enjoy the experience of Ewens Ponds. Add a wetsuit to the equation next time, and we’d love to go back! That way Kirstine doesn’t have to experience the strange sensation of knowing exactly where the bones in her arms and legs were, as they felt as though they were made of ice! A hot shower back at the caravan park soon resolved that.

As wonderful as the Sunken Garden and snorkelling experience had been, the best part of the day? Hearing Paul exclaim what a great family day it had been. “Great” days are rare for Paul, so in Kirstine’s books, the day was a massive success.


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