Far to the South East of South Australia is Mount Gambier, a region named after the volcano that erupted there about 5000 years ago. The geography of the area is dominated by volcanic activity and there are a number of impressive sinkholes, among which Umpherston is perhaps the most impressive.
James Umpherston created the garden in the sinkhole in 1886, leading to its other name, The Sunken Garden.
Originally a limestone cave, formed by the erosion of waves on rock, the top platform gave way to create the sinkhole and the topsoil is ideal for plants.
It’s depth and beauty are to be experienced, as capturing the dimensions is quite hard and the beautiful arrangement of the cascading ivy wall, rows of hydrangeas, palms and other foliage can best be appreciated from one of the many benches.
There have been a number of resident parish priests over the years and they have all ministered to a community that reached as far as Western Australia!
We have visited in both hot and cool weather, noticing that that this amazing structure is incredibly cool in 40C heat and snug during a 17C day. No excuses there!
The original building was extended over the years and currently the chairs are placed for COVID conditions. To the left and right of the altar it is also cut out, creating a transept, I think.
There are two other underground churches in Coober Pedy – the Anglican Church and the more recent Serbian Church. DO visit one of them if you venture into the centre of Australia, and maybe try your luck at opal noodling.
With a parcel of long service leave, a yearning for warmer weather and two State borders open to us, we hitched up the van and headed off. Our ultimate goal is the top of the tip – the northernmost point of Australia and the top of Cape York, but the Corona virus is seeing borders closing and opening with little notice, so we have to be flexible.
For those of you who are locked at home, or who might be missing us, you can travel with us as we go. Make sure you let me know if you want more or less information as we go and there may be a delay from time to time, as WiFi is hard to come by in the middle of nowhere.
Day 1 brought us to Lake Hart, a free campsite not far from a large salt lake. We had passed a lookout over another one, just out of Pimba and apparently there are many larger, but it was salt and the illusion of water, as far as the eye could see.
Evidence of an enclosure or jetty or some kind of structure using wooden posts, unlikely due to the original owners of the land, the Kokatha, as it is very European in design.
The rifts and lumps of salt made for good photos, as did the sunset, still oozing orange over the lagoon about an hour later.
The Ghan railway passes between the lagoon and the campsite and can be crossed by a pipe/tunnel or over the top. At 7pm the train went past, almost silently, and all campers came out to watch the dark shadow seeming to run on water.
Take plenty of water and choose free campsites near others, for safety.