In search of striking landscapes, AT reader and amateur photographer Jacqui Turner heads to the picturesque salt-scape of Lake Bumbunga, SA The perfect image of fluffy white cumulus clouds on a cobalt-blue background is mirrored in the water of the salt pan, mounds of salt forming the horizon. For a passionate photographer like myself it is something akin to nirvana, and we haven’t even left the city.
Heading north from Adelaide following the Gulf of St Vincent coastline, I’m on my way to see a salt lake, I just hadn’t figured on finding one such a short way into my journey. But for all its beauty, this reflection pool at Dry Creek on Adelaide’s outskirts is adjacent to the highway and has the smell of industry about it. So, after a few more photos, I jump back in my hire car and continue on to my intended destination, Lake Bumbunga.
Spanning some 3000-odd acres to the north-east of the town of Lochiel (which, legend has it, is home to Nessie’s reptilian cousin, ‘Loch Eel’), Lake Bumbunga is a fabulously accessible salt lake that is well worth a look. Here you will not find tourist buses, or resorts, in fact, there is nary even a place to eat. The town of Bumbunga’s only claim to fame has been the ‘Province of Bumbunga’, a now defunct, four-hectare autonomous British colony founded by keen monarchist and secessionist Alex Brackstone in 1976. With Lake Bumbunga only really used for salt production and occasionally for ‘land yachting’ – sailing on wheels rather than water – it’s not a tourist destination.
Lucky for me, I haven’t come for cafes and souvenirs. I travel to experience the new, to see what I can’t see at home. I’ve come, armed with my camera, to see nature in a most spectacular form, and here, she doesn’t disappoint.
I had expected to find a dry, white salt bed but I am surprised and delighted to see a shallow, shimmering liquid landscape courtesy of recent, plentiful rains. From the roadside viewing area, the colour of the water ranges from sky-blue to an incredible musky pink, with golden tones from the surrounding wheat fields highlighting the impressive palette. It’s a fickle vista that changes with light, season, drought or flood, a scene few city-dwellers would be familiar with, and that’s what makes Lake Bumbunga so exciting.
A short walk from the main road and I’m on the salt, standing amidst rose-coloured crystal formations, part of a breathtakingly beautiful landscape, feeling as if I am the only person in a stark and alien world. Nothing can live here – the carnage of hundreds of insects along the shoreline are a testament to the briny waters. But they are waters I can’t resist as they lap on the bank stirred by a gentle breeze, and I take off my shoes and wade in. It’s like walking on shards of glass and my thoughts turn to those rites-of-passage, like firewalking and tribal tattoos, as the further I go, the harder the crystals get, but (unlike those rites-of-passage) I just have to experience it!
Lake Bumbunga is exactly that – an experience. It is stunning and surreal. An easy day-trip at just under two hours’ drive from Adelaide, or 40 minutes from the wineries of Clare, I find it surprising this natural wonder flies under the tourist radar, but perhaps that is for the best. Part of the mystique, for me, is the solitude of the place.
Adelaide has a lot to offer, making it an ideal holiday break. In the short time I was there I became completely enamoured with its single-level, country-town feel, in a city that is buzzing with great restaurants and shopping. There is an energy, like being on the crest of the next big thing as it shrugs off the old ‘City of Churches’ moniker, but still maintains a wonderful sense of community. With natural surroundings like the wine-growing regions and the remarkable beauty of the coastline, you don’t need any more reasons to visit – just be sure to add the pink-salted Lake Bumbunga to your list of experiences when you do.