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Saunders Gorge, Come and Try weekend. May 2010. Words and Pictures by David Munday

Early on Saturday afternoon 1st May a convoy of 5 vehicles (a Land Rover Discovery 3, two Jeep Grand Cherokees and two Mitsubishi Pajero’s) set off on a “Come n Try” weekend heading for the campground at Saunder’s Gorge Sanctuary 17 km East of Mt Pleasant.

The route took us via Hahndorf, Verdun, Mt Torrens, Birdwood and Mt Pleasant. Rob and Shelley met us at Birdwood in their silver KJ and so the convoy of 6 arrived at the campsite around 3pm after an easy 70 minute drive.

It was a sunny mild day and the campsite was a very pleasant gum tree studded area alongside Saunder’s creek which runs through the approx 1360 hectare sanctuary formerly know as Clovelly Sheep Station.
Although the property owners Brenton and Nadine do still run sheep about one third of the property is now fenced off to preserve the native flora and fauna and keep out feral animals.

Having setup camp we all enjoyed sitting around for a chat. David M gave our only newbie Stuart K a few tips for the next day’s 4x4 track. It was soon “Happy Hour” and we were joined by Michael Wadey in his trusty XJ for a few drinks before dinner.
Following an early tea we all enjoyed the campfire chat and obligatory marshmellows, hot drinks and chocolate.

The following morning we were greeted by dark clouds and just enough rain to wet all the canvas- so our campers stayed up for the morning! We were soon joined by 4 more vehicles for the 4x4 track- Michael and Julia, John and Paula in their respective XJ’ Cherokees, Chris M in a Discovery 3, Dave & Di in their stunning Black Rubicon, and new comers Steve and Kate in a silver Mercedes ML 270. So we had 11 vehicles in the convoy with quite a mix of makes and models!

Having signed the obligatory legal waivers and paid our track and camping fees we set off around 10am and the first creek crossing involved climbing a rutted steep slippery climb up the far side which tested a couple of vehicles but there were no major dramas.
The first stop followed soon after at the old Gold mine dug into the side of the hill. Whilst everyone had a quick look inside no one struck it lucky!
Setting off again saw us climbing up the fairly steep Rocky Saddle Cutting, onwards towards Break Neck Hill and then Rocky Point Climb- the highest and arguably the most tricky part of the track. Everyone made it up fine.

Following a morning tea break we tackled the steep descent- low range 1st gear. As Brenton had warned us this was fairly rough, with deep ruts and numerous rocks requiring careful wheel placement. A few vehicle owners felt they could do with a lift due to the amount of noise coming from underneath but no major damage occurred.

The remainder of the track was a fairly easy drive some of which followed along the old stone boundary wall built by Scottish Migrants in the 1890’s for 1 pound per chain (22 yards)!
The later stages of the track take you back over the long ridge and down into Saunder’s Gorge. The last hill climb and descent gave us great views of the Murray Flats away to the East as well as Boundary Cottage- a restored original cottage now available as bed and breakfast accommodation.

Returning to the campsite we had lunch before packing up our camp and heading for home just over 70 minutes away.

Numerous people commented what a great place Saunder’s Sanctuary is to stay and whilst the 4WD track is often referred to as fairly tame we found it certainly has enough challenges to keep your attention whilst still enjoying the scenery and more than enough 4x4 experiences for a “Come n Try” adventure.

David Munday