The Mt Gambier camp, centred at the Blue Lakes Caravan Park was a great success. With attendance of just under 100 people, the camp offered a range of walks (B, C+, C, D) and the trial of a “Drive, Look & Taste” group for those who did not want to walk (or felt like a lazy day).
The walks took in a variety of terrains from circuits around the Crater Lakes area of Mt Gambier, a coastal walk at Pt MacDonnell, a climb up Mt Schank with a rim walk and for some a descent in to the crater, and walks along the Glenelg River. There were a number of other walks through various native forest reserves. The rest day offered the option of a cruise on the Glenelg River from Nelson to the Princess Margaret Rose Cave, with a cave tour. The cruise was well attended and we saw the quaint river shacks and houseboats at the various landings. Rest day was probably the worst day weatherwise, so we managed to stay pretty dry for the duration of the camp.
From a poll conducted at the camp dinner, the highlight of the walking was Mt Schank – an active volcano around 5,000 years ago. It was spotted by James Grant in 1800 and named after the designer of James’ ship the Lady Nelson, who was Admiral John Schank. There is a popular walking trail to the rim of the crater. This has recently been upgraded from timber to 1,116 Mt Gambier limestone steps, the first trail in South Australia to use this material. The new trail was laid by 3 workers who also had to haul the limestone up as required as poor weather meant that the original plans for a helicopter had to be abandoned. The new trail has removed a steeper section near the top, making the rim more accessible. The crater still has a collection of rocks at its base and those who brave the unmaintained track into the crater, generally reorganise the rocks into patterns that can be seen from the rim. According to locals, the most common arrangements are love hearts and phallic symbols. Our B walkers, left the letters “ARPA”, daring to be different!
As a newbie to ARPA Bushwalking camps, I was very impressed by the organisation that goes into the camps. I had not given it much thought until I was at the camp and got an understanding of how well planned each of the walks were, with the organisers having a trial camp in May with further surveys just before the camp commenced in October. Of course, best laid plans of mice and men often go awry with flooding and burn offs causing some last minute changes, again indicating the efforts and organisation of the camp committee. A big thank you to the committee of 9 who organised this delightful camp.