Monday, August 6, 2012

Nakun Kungun Trail, Coorong

Looking. Listening. These are the catchcry words of the Nakun Kungun Trail, a 27km hiking trail through the Coorong.
SUMMARY - Nakun Kungun Trail, Coorong (sometimes spelt Nukan Kungun) - a two day weekend hike with the Adelaide Bushwalkers (ABW)
TrailheadsSalt Creek in the north, 42 Mile Crossing picnic area/campsite in the south
Friday night campsiteCampsites at the northern end of Loop Road, 1km from Salt Creek
SaturdayCampsite (near northern end of Loop Road) to free-camp near the southern end of Loop Road - 13km/5hrs
SundayLoop Road to 42 Mile Crossing picnic area, with sidetrip further out to Coorong beach (9.5km/2.5hrs + 3.2km)
National ParkCoorong National Park
Nearest townSalt Creek, consisting of petrol station
CampsitesOfficial campsite near Salt Creek (toilet in picnic area) and 42 Mile Crossing (toilets in picnic area). Free camping permitted along trail.

Saturday morning our walk leader, Kate, spotted a Mallee Fowl, or possibly, as she conceded, “a wild chicken”. It seemed most likely to be the Mallee Fowl, endemic to this area, there were plenty of interpretive signs about them. Tellingly perhaps, no-one else saw the encounter. Kate was, as a birdwatching expert, her own downfall. On the drive home she spotted a similar creature scurrying near the roadside, and upon consulting her bird book deemed it to be hen of some sort (she did know the sort, I just don’t recall it).

Invitations to explore one of the many large wombat holes to find their happy inhabitants were quietly declined. No matter, eventually we came across a shy wombat, who had curiously made its burrow under some timber decking at an historic site. It would seem not many people passed this way, despite this particular area being signposted from the bitumen road.

Later we spotted an echidna, who shyly crawled under a bush and curled into a ball.

We saw many birds, including hooded red robins playing on fences, but not being on the shore, few pelicans.

So our looking and listening did pay off.

What we didn’t see was much of the Coorong. Although the trail follows the Coorong it does so at a quiet distance, only at its very southern end does it venture near the sand dunes or the shore line. There it also makes its passage over the water via the 42 Mile Crossing.

On Saturday, after setting up our campsite near the southern end of Loop Road, we set off bush bashing to find the illusive Coorong shore. In windy conditions we found the body of water choppy, and far too wide to attempt to cross.

On Sunday, beyond the picnic area at 42 Mile Crossing we battled the wind and brief driving rain to cross the seemingly endless dunes to reach the coast. The waves were being lashed by the wind and the strong waves were eroding the beach. It was, as this beach often is, spectacular.

We were disappointed that following the trail meant we infrequently visited or caught glimpses of the Coorong and its distant sand dunes, but the looking and listening was rewarded with some great wildlife sightings. For the most part the trail passes between the main bitumen highway and the dirt Loop Road, with the Coroong water and iconic Younghusband Peninsula further west. Only infrequently did we hear or catch glimpses of the roads. The trail passes beside many shallow lakes, which are separate from the main Coorong water body. During drier times these would be dry salt pans.

The trail is reasonably well maintained, and is signposted, but isn’t well travelled, so occasionally we did loose sight of the trail. Doing so wasn’t unpleasant, the areas were often covered with fine green grass. Often when we misplaced the trail we followed the tyre prints from a recent ATV vehicle, presumably from a maintenance ranger. Without that I think we would have spent much more time wandering the scrub.

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Download KML file of the Nakun Kungun Trail (corrected) - view in Google Earth