About Kevin & Ruth Sheather

We are both parents, and grand parents, and will never see 70 again and recently cellebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. Ruth has retired and Kevin has done so partially but with an arrangement that allows extensive periods of travel in out Coromal Magnum off road pop top caravan towed by a 2001 3 litre turbo diesel Holden Jackaroo. We love the outback with its rugged scenary and wide open spaces but are a bit constrained by the need for regular internet to meet work committments. But we love the coastal areas as well. The purpose of this blog site is to keep interested people informed of our travels. We report in as often as we reasonably are able with recent doings. So stand by. The next trip is never too far off.

Not The Big Lap Again – Part 5: Clare to Home

It was Friday morning 20th April and crunch time!

We had to decide if we were to go on or go home. After further discussion we agreed that the only responsible course of action was to return home. So we phoned our friends in Quorn to advise them of the changed plans. We are disappointed, of course, but disappointment is part of life. We probably won’t have another opportunity do Western Australian but another attempt at the Flinders Ranges is certainly a possibility.

The Zest Cafe, where we have previously enjoyed coffee in Clare, is hidden behind the grape vines.

During our conversation, Graham told me that an on line acquaintance who we know through the ExplorOz web site and who Graham has met, works in Quorn. So before we left town Ruth and I called, met him and had a chat about matters of mutual interest. So another cyber contact has become a real person to us.

 

History is relived on this abandoned railway siding near Morgan, SA.

We departed Clare to the south, travelling through more vineyards until we turned east for Eudunda and then Morgan, on the Murray River. The run to Eudunda was mostly through more grain country with the area between Eudunda and Morgan mostly salt bush and Mallee scrub. At Morgan we crossed the Murray by ferry before following the river down stream to Blanchetown.

 

At the end of the ferry ride on the Murray at Morgan.

Crossing the river put us on the road that runs along the top of the river side cliffs. For much of its journey through South Australia, the Murray has cliffs on one side and normal river banks on the other. The cliff top provides great views of the river and surrounding agricultural areas.

 

 

The Murray at Morgan, looking up stream from the ferry.

 

Moored house boats at Morgan

Blanchetown is at the point where the Sturt Highway that leads to Mildura crosses the Murray. We turned east and followed it to another river side town, Waikerie, where we spent the night.

A view of the Murray River at Swan Reach

We plan to arrive home next Friday, so we need to travel about 300 km per day. So we set out for Euston, a small town on the Murray in NSW, travelling through the regional towns of Renmark, Barmera and Mildura.

There are areas of Mallee, fruit and grain, but grape production predominates. The facilities to process this huge harvest frequently appear by the side of the road. Some are large, with multiple storage tanks. I don’t know why, but the grape vines in this area are much greener than those even in the neighboring Riverland area of SA. It might be that the grapes here are different varieties. I believe there are more table grapes produced in the Mildura area, so that might be a reason.

Saturday night was spent in the Riverside Caravan Park in the small NSW town of Euston, just across the Murray from Robinvale.

Sunday produced another cool morning with heavy cloud cover in the west, but cleared to a brilliant sunny day with mostly light winds. The run today was from Euston to Narrandera. The Sturt Highway generally follows the Murrumbidgee River, but mostly at a distance.

Cotton growing beside the highway

We were driving through grazing country, much of which has been turned to cotton production. Hundreds of hectares of cotton were in bloom with more not yet reaching that point. Large areas of adjacent land had been prepared for planting. Sunday traffic was light, with westbound caravans outnumbering the trucks. We wondered how many of them were heading off on the clockwise trip around Australia that we had so recently abandoned.

The Open Road. No emus here!

It was a rather ordinary day’s travel but there were a few moments of excitement when we had an encounter with a suicidal emu.

We had just been passed by a small car when an emu ran across the road in front of it. The car slowed and just missed the emu. The bird lost its footing in loose gravel at the edge of the road and fell over. It quickly righted itself and started to run back in our direction, parallel to the road. But it saw one last chance at suicide and turned into our path, shied at the sight of the front of the car and ran into the side of the caravan with a loud thump. In the rear vision mirror I could see a mass of flailing legs and flying feathers.

We quickly pulled off the road and stopped to see if it had survived but when we walked back it had gone. It must gave regained its feet and run away. It gives real meaning to the expression “tough old bird”. I had to perform a minor panel beating task as a result of the impact.

Parked on the hillside at Lake Talbot near Narrandera

We finished the day at the Lake Talbot Caravan Park at Narrandera, overlooking a section of the Murrumbidgee River where ski boat owners like to play. One boat gave us a small taste of what it is like on a busy day. We have previously been in this park on a busy boating day. It is not a time during which you can take a nap.

 

 

Monday and the start of another week. The destination today was to have been Wellington, to take us off the main highway, but we changed it to Parkes at morning coffee time. At lunch time, now at Forbes, we decided to press on to Dubbo but changed that to the neighboring town of Narromine when we realised that Dubbo would be full of school holiday makers visiting the Western Plains Zoo. We noted that caravan park fees were markedly higher than normal as a result.

Our path today took us past Ardlethan and through West Wyalong, Forbes, Parkes, Peak Hill and Tomingley, a total distance of about 400 km. We will give ourselves an easier day tomorrow.

Irrigation canal at Narromine

Narromine is a grain and grazing town of around 4,000 residents. Our caravan park is located on the edge of the airport, not far from the gliding base and the flight museum. Fifty meters away from where I am sitting a levee bank marks one bank of an irrigation channel. A little further in that direction the Castlereagh River flows, having made its meandering way from Dubbo.

We have driven through grain and grazing country all day. Like so much of the country that we have driven through on this trip this area is also lacking rain. But the further north we come the more farmers are cultivating their land to plant the coming season’s crops. Tell-tale clouds of dust were a common site today.

Gold mining at Tomingley near Dubbo

At Tomingley we drove between two huge piles of dirt on either side of the highway. The Peak Hill gold mine has ceased production. Now a substantial open cut operation is under way at Tomingley.

 

Cooee Memorial and Information Centre at Gilgandra

 

 

Tuesday 24th April was Anzac Day eave. After leaving Narromine and passing through Dubbo, the first town on our journey was Gilgandra, home of the Cooee March Memorial. In 1915 a small group of men left Gilgandra to march to Sydney to sign up to fight in France. As they marched through towns along their route they shouted “Cooee! Come and join us!” About 260 men did join them by time they reached their destination. Other recruitment marches followed, in different areas, during 1915 and early 1916.

The Warrumbungle Ranges from the Observatory

We arrived at Coonabarabran at about 1.00 PM and booked into the John Oxley Caravan Park. We had decided to give ourselves time to visit the Siding Spring Observatory and the National Park. Time did not allow us to see the park, but we did make it to the observatory.

 

 

 

Another telescope at Siding Spring

Siding Spring is part of the Australian National University and associated with the Mount Stromlo Observatory in Canberra. The main telescope at Siding Spring is the Angelo-Australian Astronomical Telescope. There are 17 telescopes on the mountain, all with a special purpose. Many nations are involved, operating with a great deal of cooperation.

 

Looking up at the telescope dome from ground level

The first point of contact when you arrive at the top of the mountain is a visitor centre and a visitor car park. The visitor centre contains a series of displays that provide information to help visitors to understand what happens at the observatory and a shop that sells souvenirs and refreshments.

Behind the information centre, a path leads to the Angelo-Australian telescope, which is located at the very summit of the mountain. The dome covering the telescope can be seen from the Newell Highway south of Coonabarabran.

The Angelo-Australian Telescope

At the telescope, several flights of stairs, or an elevator, takes you to a viewing gallery where you can see and photograph the huge instrument. As it was day time it was not operating and the roof was closed. All observing is carried out at night. Daylight and artificial light are the enemies of the work that is done here and is a major reason that the Siding Spring location was chosen.

We returned to town to top up our food supplies and treat ourselves to fish and chips for dinner.

We spent ANZAC Day on the highway between Coonabarabran and Goondiwindi. There were more trucks sharing the road with us than the earlier days of the week, but most of the road today was over the plains of North Central NSW with much of it quite wide and easier to let faster traffic pass.

Pulled off the road for a wide load taking advantage of lighter Anzac Day traffic

We didn’t see any signs of ANZAC services as we came along, but Narrabri and Moree were very quiet, as you would expect on a public holiday. The day was a complete contrast to what we had originally planned. We had intended to be at the dawn service at Villers-Bretonneau in France until our plans were wrecked by my encounter with cancer. April 24th was the 100th anniversary of the taking of that town by Australian forces supported by the Americans. My father participated in that attack as a Lewis machine gunner.

We spent the night at the Showgrounds camping area in Goondiwindi. Warwick tomorrow night and home on Friday!

Coolmunda Dam

Thursday dawned sunny with a following wind for a change. This was the first morning for most of this trip where we didn’t need to use the heater in the van. Of course! We are back in Queensland!

The drive was unremarkable but we did leave the highway briefly to take our coffee break by the shores of Lake Coolmunda near Inglewood. We arrived at our Warwick caravan park at about 12.30 PM.

We had stopped for the night to visit Ruth’s eldest sibling, her Brother David and his wife Ann. We spent a pleasant afternoon and evening with them.

The last day was an easy drive. We arrived home at about 1.30 PM and set about the task of unloading the van and doing all of the other things that coming home entails.

We have arrived home about three months early with a sense of disappointment but also a feeling that we have definitely made the correct decision. We will do some other trips in Queensland during the winter months, probably to the north but not so far away that we can’t get to Victoria quickly. We won’t go anywhere, other than south, if Winston’s condition is seriously deteriorating.

Circumstances permitting, we will attend a gathering of members of the ExplorOz web site to be held at Kilcowera Station near Thargomindah in SW Queensland early in October. We may be able to combine another attempt at Flinders Ranges with that dstination. Blog readers will be kept informed.

The latest batch of comfort teddies resulting from Ruth’s knitting on this trip

As is usual, Ruth has knitted as I have driven. The result is as pictured, twelve new comfort teddies, soon to be on their way to HIV positive children in Papua New Guinea.

 

 

The Big Lap Again – Part 4: Adelaide to Clare

Sailing ship at Port Adelaide

Our first day in the Adelaide area started fine and calm but didn’t stay that way. We spent the morning in camp. The first job was to take in the awning in preparation for the wind. The blow started mid morning and continued until late. We went out to do some shopping after lunch. Heavy rain arrived soon after our return, but passed through in about an hour. Then it was wind and occasional showers until around dark when the rain ceased and the wind moderated. By 9.00 PM we had stars over the visible sky.

Lift bridge for access to boat harbour

On our second day in Adelaide, the morning was wet and windy. The rain abated at lunch time but the high winds continued. We took a drive.

We went west to Virginia, a route that took us past the Edinburgh Air Force base. This is very flat country, formally an area of small crop farming. Green houses abound but most look disused. Property developer signs are starting to appear at the roadside. At least one new housing development has sprouted in the middle of formally productive agricultural land.

Reg Spriggs’ petroleum exploration submersible module

We continued south to Port Adelaide. There has been considerable development since we last visited, some of it industrial, but some related to residential and leisure activities.

Glenelg has always been one of my favorite parts of Adelaide, so that was the next point on the drive. Glenelg is near to both Adelaide Airport and the mouth of the Torrens River. It has its own inlet from the sea, around which there has been a great deal of high value residential development, a marina and hotels. Of particular interest to me is the diving chamber used by scientist and petroleum explorer Reg Sprigg during his search for off shore oil deposits. Reg Sprigg developed the ecological resort at Arkaroola in the northern Flinders Ranges and was heavily involved in the launching of petroleum companies Santos and Beach Petroleum. He was also a close associate of South Pole explorer Sir Douglas Mawson.

The statue of Colonel Light, designer of Adelaide City. Colonel Light is said to have used this point to lay out the design for his city.

From Glenelg we drove into the City via the Anzac Highway. Even on a windy Saturday parking spaces in the city were hard to find, so we drove through, west to east, then turned north to find the Colonel Light statue and viewing point. There used to be good city views from this point but they are now partly obscured by the huge white canopies of the football stadium.

One of the joys of driving through Adelaide is the superb homes and public buildings built from local stone. They are best viewed on foot, but on a day like we were experiencing, we settled for viewing them from the car.

View of Adelaide City from the statue in North Adelaide

It was approaching 4.00 PM, so we sought coffee and found it with scones, jam and cream. Satisfied that we had made the best possible use of a bad afternoon, we returned to the caravan for the evening.

 

 

 

The roof on the football stadium now obscure some of the city views

New planting of grape vines

A wet morning greeted us on Sunday, so we stayed in for the morning, but ventured out after lunch to top up food supplies before we moved on from Adelaide. While out, we decided to have a bit of a run through the Barossa Valley between the rain showers. We drove through Gawler, Lyndoch, Tanunda and Nuriootpa before returning to base.

We called at a winery suggested by Briony, but it had closed by the time we arrived.

Post harvest grape vines

We did manage to stumble across Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop. The weather had kept most people away from the area, so the normal popular spots were quite. But Maggie had pulled a crowd. There was hardly a spare table in the coffee shop area. It just shows what a TV profile will do for your business.

On our way back we passed the huge Seppelt winery at

A Lutheran church among the vivyards

Seppeltsfield and saw the Seppelt family mausoleum, a large columned building on the side of a hill, at the end of an avenue of large palm trees. Most of the roads in the area are similarly lined with palm trees.

Regular rain showers swept over the area, one of them seemingly appearing each time that I wanted to take a photo. But there were some opportunities for photos, as the illustrations to this blog post attest.

The Seppelt mausoleum

Come Monday morning, we packed up amid periods of drizzle, but not too much wind. The wind returned later to blow frequent rain showers across the flat landscape through which we drove, the dark grey cloud appearing to brush the ground.

Ardrossan jetty

The area north of Adelaide and the top of the York Peninsula are quite flat. We stared out over the same flat coastal agricultural plain that we had driven through on Saturday, past areas of swampy salt bush country and finally into the grain production areas of the York Peninsula. We detoured to visit the town of Ardrossan on the upper east coast, before turning west to cross the Peninsula to our destination at Port Victoria.

Red cliffs along the shore at Ardrossan

We had camped at Ardrossan about 45 years ago. I remembered a long jetty that is still there, although it doesn’t seem to be as long as I remember it. A second jetty at the grain silos, which I don’t remember, reaches much further to sea to provide deep water access for bulk carriers.

The rain moved on to the east about lunch time. We arrived at Port Victoria to a cool wind from the sea and grey skies, but things looked up later in the afternoon with the sun trying to break through. Expectations for tomorrow are much brighter.

Hotel and general store at Port Victoria

Tuesday started overcast but improved as the day progressed. We didn’t set out on the day’s activities until after morning coffee. Some days require a slow start.

 

 

 

Port Victoria jetty

We took a gravel road nearer to the coast to reach Balgowan. This small town has been discovered by retirees, but in a limited way, as new land seems to be released sparingly, ensuring that it brings a good price and limiting growth in a small town with

Houses overlooking the sea at Balgowan

limited services. Like many towns on this peninsular it has a jetty, launching ramp, pub, general store and a caravan park. Largish quality houses occupy any high ground with sea views. The main leisure activity seems to be fishing. Some towns on the Peninsula have golf courses and bowling greens and, of course, an Australian Rules football ground.

 

The excursion train at Moonta mining site

We continued on the gravel road until almost to Moonta, our main destination for the day. Moonta is a historic copper town, the heritage of which has been retained in its buildings and a museum. Copper was mined there between 1861 and 1923 during a period when prices for the commodity were high. Wealth and growth quickly followed. Copper development in South Australia closely followed gold discoveries in NSW and Victoria, to where many local men had departed to make their fortune. A shortage of labour resulted.

The excursion train passes under an old mullock pile

The need for a work force in South Australia coincided with the closure of copper mines in Cornwall so almost an entire workforce immigrated to the South Australian mining area. Claims are made that as much as 95% of the Moonta workforce were Cornish men and boys. To Cornish people that area was known as Little Cornwall. The traditional Cornish pasty, a staple of the diet of the day, may still be enjoyed in eating establishments in the town, as we proved.

Part of the copper refining plant

It would not be difficult to spend a couple of days examining this town, but we had less than a day. So we decided on a tour on the narrow gauge railway that utilises the original railway station as its starting point. In the same area the original School of Mining has become an extensive mining museum, which time did not allow us to visit.

Copper was initially shipped from the area through the neighbouring port of Wallaroo, but later the area was connected to Adelaide by rail.

The old Town Hall in Moonta is now partly used as a picture theater

For almost an hour the train meanders through the mining area. It is a one man operation. Driver Ian not only drives but changes the points, collects the money and talks. During the entire tour he hardly stopped for a breath. But it was all interesting. He recited facts and figures, most of which we don’t remember, without hesitation.

The train stops at one point at the remains of the main processing plant where details of the very labour intensive process of extracting copper from the mined ore are set out on a wall in storyboard fashion. Stories included that of the discovery of commercial copper in the area being made by an alcoholic Irishman who drank himself to death on the proceeds. That seems to have happened in other places.

An old Methodist (now Uniting) church. Most Cornish miners were Methodists.

A partly eaten Cornish pasty with tomato sauce and cream

The tour completed, we drove back to town to lunch on the traditional Cornish pasty. Part of the ordering process was an explanation of this imported delicacy. We discovered that the traditional Cornish pasty is partly filled with meat and vegetables and partly with stewed apple, in about two thirds one third proportions. Ours were served with salad, tomato sauce and cream. I doubt that those served to the miners included these embellishments.

Houses overlooking the sea at Moonta Bay

With the day quickly ending, we visited the adjacent coastal towns of Moonta Bay and Port Hughes and found another coastal community that has been discovered by well healed retirees, with many modern houses lining the top of a miniature red cliff that seems to be a common feature of the York Peninsula coast.

We returned to Port Victoria on the sealed road, via Maitland.

The Red Devil with a replica model at the Captain Harry Butler memorial

The days were improving. Early Wednesday was a bit cold but developed into a great day for our trip to the southern end of the York Peninsula. Innes National Park was our ultimate destination, but first we travelled through Minlaton where we stopped to buy a National Parks pass and to view the memorial to Captain Harry Butler AFC. Butler was another flying pioneer who got his start in England during WWI as an Air Force pilot. Back in Australia and his home town of Minlaton, he was famous for his small aircraft called “The Red Devil” in which he performed aerobatics and provided joy flights. His memorial is at the northern entrance to the town.

A scene from the road in Innes National Park

The small town of Warooka is the only settlement during the 90 km between Minlaton and Marion Bay, the small coastal town near the National Park entrance. Initially the road runs through fields that produce wheat, barley, canola, legumes and other grains, but as you travel further south the terrain becomes rougher and scrub covered. Sheep and cattle appear at the roadside. The grain fields contain only stubble, as the time for planting has not yet arrived.

Another view of Innes National Park

Innes National Park is truly a beautiful place. The southern extremity of the peninsula is rugged with promontories, bays, islands and off lying reefs. Over every hill top and around every corner a new view of headlands, bays, beaches and blue ocean appear, while the hills are blanketed in a hundred shades of green. One day is not enough to see it properly. Just to complete the walks would take several days.

The remains of the sailing ship “Ethel” wrecked on this beach over 100 years ago

Cape Vincent lighthouse. There are about half a dozen lighthouses in the area

We drove as far as the fishing village at Pondalowie Bay before working our way back to the start via all of the points of interest along the way. It is an area well worth a visit.

Sunset at Port Victoria

For a partly different route home we detoured at Warooka to drive through Yorktown, finding there a substantial but spread out town and a couple of really pink salt lakes. At this point we turned for home, travelling via Maitland. We arrived back in time to see a rather magnificent sunset.

Overnight, Ruth and I had a serious discussion about the future of our trip. We are aware that if we continue to Western Australia we will be placing ourselves in a position where we would not be available should something happen to brother Winston before the end of July, the time that we plan to

Sunset at Port Victoria

return home. Additionally, I have developed some health issues that  need to be addressed by medical professionals. We have plans in place to fly back home for a few days for my quarterly endoscopy but we are now asking ourselves if it might not better to return home and see how things work out.

 

 

Later in the same sunset

Thursday dawned the best day for some time. We first drove north to look at the Port town of Wallaroo and the neighbouring town of Kadina. Copper ore from Moonta was originally shipped from Wallaroo before the railway line was built. The port facilities now handle export of much of the grain grown in the area.

 

 

Grain silos at Wallaroo

From Kadina we travelled east towards Clare. The road that we were on, called the Alt 1, runs through endless grain production country, countless hectares of stubble. We did see one farmer ploughing, a huge array of earth tilling equipment and a seed or fertiliser bin behind a huge farm tractor, with a trail of brown dust rising into the sky.

 

The pink lake at Lochiel

At the tiny town of Lochiel the road that we were on crosses the main Adelaide to Port Augusta Highway. The town is on Lake Bumbunga, one of South Australia’s pink lakes. Pink lakes are salt pans that have a marked shade of pink when the sun shines on them. As we had lunch we watched a succession of tourists walk onto the solid salty surface to take selfies with the pink salt in the background.

 

A vine covered arcade in Clare contains a rather good bakery and coffee shop

The vineyards start as soon as you top the hill driving into the Clare Valley. The town and its surrounds are most attractive. Many of the vine areas have achieved the russet colour of post harvest autumn and the deciduous trees are wearing their autumn outfits. We spent the night at the Clare caravan park.

The Big Lap Again -Part 3: Drouin to Adelaide

There was something to blog about in our family visit at Drouin. On reflection, I think our visit there should be recorded, as it is part of the experience of our trip.

Family group. Lest to right: Colin, Aileen, Ruth and Bernard

Our reason for coming so far south on a trip to South and Western Australia is the medical condition of my brother Winston. He has been assessed as terminally ill, with probably only months to live. We visited him in his nursing home and on the following day he was able to attend a family lunch at his old home. He is wheelchair bound and can only move to other seating with a great deal of help. But it was a happy occasion. He was able to spend time with his only grandchild, an eight month old girl, and other members of his immediate family.

We parted after we had delivered Winston back to his nursing home. As we shook hands we were both very aware that this might be the last time that we would see each other. We can only hope for a miracle.

The Noojee trestle bridge at deck level

The following day, in company with my sister Aileen, her husband Colin and my youngest brother Bernard, we drove into the hills to the north of Drouin in search of the restored Noojee trestle bridge. The bridge was part of the now long closed Warragul to Noojee railway line, built mainly for the transport of timber. The bridge was partially destroyed by fire many years ago. It has been restored as a tourist attraction. If success is to be judged by the number of people visiting it then the strategy has worked.

Trestles supporting the Noojee bridge

We had stopped for coffee at the Neerim South Bakery, another place enjoying a brisk tourist trade, visited the bridge and then drove into Noojee for lunch. We enjoyed a pasty at the general store, and then drove out to the parking area for the water falls on the Tooronga River. The walk takes in the Tooronga and Amphitheatre Falls during a brisk walk of a bit more than two kilometres. There are some steep parts and steps, but generally an easy walk.

Family group minus Ruth at Amphitheater Falls

Tooronga Falls

The river runs beneath rock falls in some places

Next morning we moved on to Melbourne, to a caravan park at East Doncaster, to visit long time friends Thelma and Joe. Our caravan won’t fit on their property because of narrow streets, so we commute from the caravan park. Short visits like this are mostly spent talking, catching up with news and the doings of family and friends. We did a very pleasant lunch with them at the Ringwood Club, near their home.

A street in Maldon

Planning the next move forward always includes keeping an eye on the weather. We were a bit shocked, after the cold weather we had experienced, to find our planned route would lead us back into southern summer like extremes. We planned to go to Castlemaine and then to Mildura, before following the Murray River to South Australia. But temperatures were forecast to be in the high thirties. Clearly it was advisable to stay in the south for a few days.

View from the mountain top. The water is Cairn Curran Dam

Keith and Lynda have a great spot for a caravan at the front of their house in Castlemaine. We had planned a one night stop over but, at their invitation, extended it to two. Again much chatting, but we did fit in a tour to the nearby gold town of Maldon, for lunch and a stroll along the historical streets. There are many fine restored buildings in streetscapes which preserve their heritage. There was no time to research gold rush history, but we did return home via the panoramic views from Mount Tarrengower and a park by the waters of the Cairn Curran Dam.

Parked in the guest space at Halls Gap

It’s Saturday 7th April and time to move on again. The plan is to do a short leg to Ararat for perhaps two nights, but we want to catch up with an old friend at Dunkeld, so we called ahead to her mobile. She answers it from her hospital bed in Geelong. She had a mild heart attack on Easter Friday. She awaits news of future treatment but meanwhile is bored. Know the feeling? After hearing our proposed schedule she suggests that we overnight at Halls Gap, where her daughter and son-in-law manage the Big 4 caravan park. I suggest that it will be booked out with school holidays and we say our goodbyes. Five minutes later, she calls back to say that she has talked to her daughter and they have a site for us. So here we are!

Update: Do has had two stents inserted into the troublesome artery. She is fine and will soon be back to normal. In her early eighties, she is planning another tag-along tour in a desert somewhere in Western Australia.

The park at Halls Gap was busy

To reach Halls Gap we passed through the larger towns of Maryborough and Ararat and some smaller settlements. We crossed the sheep country of the Moolort Plains and through some of the hills of the Pyrenees Ranges. Finally we drove the Great Western Highway from Ararat to Stawell before turning off to Halls Gap. The entire area through which we drove needs rain.

 

The Grampians on the way to Dunkeld

We left Halls Gap at about 9.00 AM, bound for Dunkeld, then Hamilton and on through the small towns of Marino and Sanford to Casterton. After lunch we continued to Penola and turned south west to our final destination. The quiet caravan park at Millicent, near Mt. Gambier, should be ideal to catch up on washing, blogging and general record keeping.

Brown farm land near Casterton in Western Victoria

The Autumn colours were appearing in Casterton

A lighthouse stands above Beachport

Sunday 8th was Ruth’s birthday and we had travelled all day. Ruth spent part of the day fielding telephone calls and Facebook posts. By way of celebration, we went to a local hotel recommended by the caravan park management and enjoyed a pleasant relaxing meal.

 

 

After lunch next day, with chores substantially complete, we drove the 35 km west to the beach side town of Beachport, located at the south eastern end of a chain of lakes that run just inside the coast to the north west to the better known holiday and lobster town of Robe. Beachport is an attractive town with a great deal of tourist accommodation. I suspect that many Adelaide residents find it to be something of a refuge during the summer heat of holiday time.

Beaches along the scenic drive

A scenic drive follows the rugged coast to the north west, with observation points that provide views of the rocky promontories and small sheltered beaches that reach up the coast and views back over the town and along the sweep of the beach to Southend in the far distance.

 

 

The barrier at the mouth of the drainage chanel

At the entrance to Beachport a drain reaches the sea, but its entrance is protected by a barrier to stop the entry of salt water. We noticed a number of such drains the next day. The area is very flat and near to sea level. It was drained to make it suitable for farming activities, many long years ago.

Weathered rocks at Southport

On the way back to Millicent, we did a detour to Southend. It is a typical seaside village with almost no commercial centre. But a does have a headland with interesting erosion patterns in the rocks, which seem to be of a material that selectively weathers. From the headland you can see back to Beachport.

With forecasts suggesting Adelaide weather returning to sanity, we left Millicent on Tuesday 10th, bound for Port Elliot and Victor Harbour. It was a 400 km drive into a strong head wind. Unpleasant conditions made worse when the caravan tyre that had been repaired in Orbost again went flat. So out with the compressor to add some air! We made the 15 km into Meningie before it went flat again. But this time it has suffered mortal damage, probably from a sharp edge to the pavement. Fitting a tube got us back on the road, but the tyre will have to be replaced before we go too far.

Views over The Coorong

The drive from Millicent is over very flat terrain for most of the way. It is mostly dairying and grazing country with both cattle and sheep. Pine forests can be seen in the distance to the right. The road was rather bumpy. The views are of brown land in need of rain. The highway joins the coast at Kingston SE. Soon after that a long strip of water enclosed within its own National Park, known as the Coorong, appears to the left and stays there for most of the 130 Km to the next town of Meningie.

The Victor Harbour to Goolwa steam train runs through Port Elliot

We turned left and took the ferry over the Murray at Wellington, travelling through the vineyards of Langhorne Creek and via Strathalbyn to reach Port Elliot. We set up at the showgrounds where a basic caravan park operates. You have to save money when you can. The tyres on an off road caravan are expensive.

 

 

A walking track follows the coast as Port Elliot

As we approached Port Elliot, Ruth phoned her long time friend Margaret who is retired, with her husband Brian, in the town. We found that her retirement village backs on to the Showgrounds. Brian was in hospital in Adelaide having a new knee fitted. Margaret was not visiting him the next day so we arranged to meet for coffee. We met in the street and did a short foot tour, walking up to the headland that provides views to Victor Harbour to the west and

Protected stone buildings in Port Elliot

Goolwa to the east. Brian’s forebears were among the earliest settlers in the area, so we heard some interesting stories before returning to the coffee shop/post office for coffee and a long chat, as Margaret and Ruth covered many years of not seeing each other very often.

The Granite Island horse drawn tram

The granite pile in the centre of the island

 

 

 

With coffee long finished, we took our leave and drove to Victor Harbour. One of the features of that fine resort town is the off lying Granite Island, which is linked to the mainland by a timber causeway. There is a regular and popular horse drawn tram service to transport tourists to the island. The alternative is to walk. And a pleasant walk it would be.

The Hindmarsh Island or “Secret Women’s Business” bridge

But we caught the tram. I ascended the wooden stairway to the top of the granite pile for the view and photos. Then we caught the tram back to the mainland. The island also hosts an under water observatory and, just off the island, a circular enclosure where you may swim with tuna, if that activity takes your fancy.

After lunch we drove back east to the old river port town of Goolwa, to visit the restored wharf area which includes the Goolwa station of the Victor Harbour to Goolwa steam railway. The train normally operates on Wednesdays but was dormant for our visit, probably undergoing maintenance in preparation for a coming busy school holiday schedule. As we stood on the wharf, towering above us was what I call the Secret Women’s Business Bridge.

Houses at the Hindmarsh Island Marina

Do you remember the kerfuffle when activists used the secret women’s business ploy in an attempt to stop the building of the bridge and a marina on Hindmarsh Island? The protest failed, as the completed bridge demonstrates. Accompanying photo illustrates that the marina, which was being protested at the same time, was also built. Where do the people come from with the money to buy all of the houses and units this far from Adelaide, I wonder?

The bridge and the old wharf

During our drive, Margaret called to invite us to dinner. So a pleasant evening was spent with old times getting a thorough going over. Margaret is a retired nursing sister, with most of her working life spent in the Northern Territory, but she has also worked in the United Kingdom and Zambia. There were some interesting stories. Oh, yes! Brian’s knee operation went well.

 

Thursday gave us a leisurely start. The appointment to get the new caravan tyre fitted was at 11.30 with check out time at the caravan park at 10.00, so we found a high spot with good views to spend the intervening hour or so. I had ground some coffee beans that morning, while we had power, so we enjoyed homemade cappuccino while we admired the view.

New tyre fitted, we set out for the northern suburbs of Adelaide, where we are set up in the Gawler Gateway Tourist Park for four nights. The forecast for our stay is for cool weather, with winds to 45 kph and some rain. That will be horizontal rain, no doubt. I will let you know in the next post.

The Big Lap Again – Part 2: Marlo to Drouin

Marlo Caravan Park

Monday 26th March. We are coming up to our second windy night in Marlo. Last night was rather wild. We had our awning out. That proved to be a mistake. The rafters that reinforce the awning fell out at about 12.30 AM with a loud crash. That got me out of bed in a hurry. I then had to wait for the wind to ease at about 4.00 AM to take the awning in. Not much sleep until then.

Marlo jetty in the Snowy River

We have spent a quiet day. Ruth did some washing and I completed my first blog for this trip. There is not much to see in Marlo. The town boasts a general store, pub, fishing tackle and coffee shop, a couple of caravan parks and a small motel.

The park that we are in is substantially empty. The tourist season is over. There will be a burst of activity for Easter and school holidays but that’s about it until next summer. Local businesses will be reliant on local people until tourist season comes again.

We have neighbors in the park. They are a young Swiss family. While we are rugged up and staying inside they are getting about in shorts, having their meals outside and playing with their children in the full blast of the cold wind. They don’t think that it is cold at all.

On Tuesday morning the first order of the day, as we moved on, was a call at Orbost Tyre Service to have a slow leak in one of the caravan tyres fixed. That, and a bit of grocery shopping done, we set course for Omeo. So we travelled west to Nowa Nowa, then to Bruthen for the start of the Great Alpine Road.

Tambo River near Tambo Crossing

Bruthen is on the Tambo River. The Great Alpine Road follows the Tambo Valley for much of the first 80 km, although the first 10 km of the drive is over a forested mountain range. The road re-joins the river after crossing the range.

Poplars by the stream

 

As the trip progresses the scenery becomes more alpine. Farm land occupies the valley floor and the lower slopes, the upper slopes covered in forest. Clumps of Poplars start to appear along driveways and the banks of the streams. The grass is green but there is no sign of any recent heavy rainfall.

There are a few named localities along the road and a couple of towns, the largest of which is Swifts Creek, situated on a creek of that name that joins the Tambo at that point. Road side signs advise that Easter Picnic Races will be held on Easter Saturday.

Omeo’s main street

Swifts Creek is at an altitude of about 350 metres. Just past the town the road turned out of the valley and over the next 10 km we climbed a further 400 meters to reach the tableland on which Omeo stands.

Autumn colours in the mist

 

The Omeo Caravan Park is located in a narrow valley with the park facilities built beside the stream, which runs along the foothills on one side. Steep hills rise from each side of the parking area. Well established deciduous trees provide summer shade and let the sun through in winter. It was quiet when we arrived but getting crowded when we left. The High Country is popular at Easter. Numbers also increase because of the Easter Saturday rodeo in Omeo.

 

A busy caravan park

We used Omeo as a base for two mountain tours.

The Blue Duck Inn at Anglers Rest is near to the turn into Bogong High Plains Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Wednesday we headed along the southern end of the Omeo Highway and turned into the Bogong High Plains Road, where a serious climb commenced. The winding road was lined in bright yellow paint with yellow snow posts marking the outside edge. The altimeter on our navigator showed 1,740 metres at the highest point.

 

Typical Bogong High Plains scenery

One of the features of alpine areas is dead trees standing above the green vegetation, looking at a distance something grey stubble on a green face. The impact of bush fires lasts for decades. Strangely, the dead standing above the living adds to the grandeur of the scenery.

At that altitude the weather was crisp and clear with some cloud cover. The wind was strong and cold and quite invigorating. Pity there was not time for a walk.

Caravans on the Bogong High Plains Road

The ski runs of Falls Creek were soon in view at a distance, becoming clearer as we approached. At one point four large caravans stood by the roadside. This is not easy caravan country. I’m glad it was them and not us.

 

 

Rocky Creek Dam and Falls Creek ski runs

An idle chair lift at Falls Creek

Visitor accommodation at Falls Creek. There is much more than this.

Mount Bogong from the Mount Beauty to Bright road

We had intended to have lunch at Falls Creek, but there was nothing open that we could see. Work was under way in preparation for the ski season. We continued down the mountain to Mount Beauty where we found a cafe attached to a bicycle shop.  Many businesses in that town seemed to still be closed from the summer season.

From Mount Beauty we crossed the range to Bright, famous for its

A tree lined street in Bright

autumn colours. We knew that we were too early in the season for the full Autumnal glory of the trees, but it is an attractive town at any time. We have not spent much time there. It is worth a longer visit.

 

 

 

A mountain view on the climb to Hotham Heights

With daylight hours reducing, we pressed on. The climb starts just past Harrietville and is steep, winding, narrow and about 30 km. Travelling east, as we were, we were on the outside of the road. I must confess, when safe to do so, I drove straddling the bright yellow centre line, staying left on approach to right and bends, of which there are many. I had much time to ponder the placement and scarcity of Armco protective barrier.

 

More mountain scenery

As you approach the 1,830 metre summit, the last few kilometres of road stretches above you, clinging to the scrub covered mountain side like a sloping shelf. Pre-winter road works added to the entertainment.

 

 

 

The western approach to Hotham Heights

But the mountain scenery makes it all worthwhile. As you round the final turn at the top, the first buildings of the Hotham resort comes into view, the remainder unfolding as you proceed along its main street. It has, unsurprisingly, substantially increased in size since we drive through many years ago.

 

 

Kosciuszko View near Omeo. Mount Kosciuzzko is the peak second from the left.

Another 100 km brought us back down the mountain to our caravan at Omeo.

 

 

 

 

Omeo from Kosciuszko View

A farm on the way to Hotham

The second tour, on Easter eave, fulfilled a long standing desire to drive over the Dargo Hugh Plains, from Hotham to Dargo. To do this, we returned up the mountain to Hotham Heights, making a short detour into the alpine village of Dinner Plain. This quintessential ski village is 11 km from Hotham, so provides access to the ski fields there as well as its own skiing areas. A number of businesses were open with signs of activity.

An idle ski lift at Hotham Heights.

We paused at Hotham, in a partially protected spot right under the summit, for the most elevated coffee ever, except for coffee in an aircraft. But airline coffee is not really coffee, is it, so it doesn’t count.

 

A view from our morning coffee stop

Part of the Hotham ski runs

Mount Feathertop viewed from Hotham Heights

View towards Hotham from the Dargo High Plains Road

The turn into the Dargo High Plains Road is 4 km past the summit on the western side. It commences with a short sharp and narrow sealed decline but soon becomes a gravel road, narrow on mountainous sections but quite wide in flatter areas. We stopped at the appropriately named Mount Freezout rest stop to reduce tyre pressures.

 

Dargo High Plains pasture land

The Dargo High Plains are more timbered than their Bogong counterpart. I have the feeling that driving over them does not reveal their extent. We initially wondered as we drove when we would find them, but suddenly we were driving through undulating pasture lands that reached to the fringing forest. There is evidence that grazing activity continues but it may be on privately owned land. Grazing in National Parks is a live political issue and tends to change with governments.

The road was in good condition generally, with speeds of 60 to 70 kph easily achievable, but some sections were pot holed and there were areas of exposed stone, particularly at the crowns of rises. The sealed road reaches 20 km north of Dargo, so the descent into the valley is on good sealed, if somewhat steep, winding road.

Historic Dargo Pub

Because of the number of people coming into the area for Easter the Dargo pub was doing a roaring trade. We satisfied ourselves with a picnic lunch in the park and an ice-cream from the general store, before starting our return journey to Omeo.

The plan was to take the Upper Dargo, Jones and Berrigan Roads directly back to base. We were about 16 km into the trip, on Jones Road, when we decided that we had not chosen well. The Parks Victoria officer has assured us that the road was good. Two wheel drive road, he said. The reality was a narrow ever ascending track, badly washed out and comfortable at no more than about 20 kph. That meant that we would still be on the track late in the day.

Dargo General Store – ice cream time

We continued until we found a piece of track wide enough to turn and made our way back to Dargo. We had two choices. Either to return over the High Plains to Hotham or go south via Bairnsdale and the Great Alpine Road. The latter is sealed all the way, so much the quicker route, and only about 20 km longer. It was no contest. Via Bairnsdale it was. We arrived back at the van at about 7.30.

Good Friday dawned cool and foggy. A heavy mist hung over the valley and lay in dense banks along the face of the mountains. We met many vehicles making their way into the high country for Easter and school holidays. There were a good number of caravans, more camper trailers and hosts of four wheel drives, pack racks piled high with camping gear. By the time they all arrived there would scarcely be a vacant camp site to be had.

But it was back at Bruthen, on the Princes Highway, that we really met traffic. You could almost have believed that Melbourne was being evacuated. The combination of Easter and school holidays sure had Victorians on the move. The continual strings of traffic, moving at near the speed limit, did not abate until we were approaching our destination at Drouin, quite late in the day.

We are taking a four day break here for some family visiting. Then two days in Melbourne with friends, so activities will not become bloggable again until we head out of Melbourne.

The Big Lap Again – Part 1: Home to Marlo,Vic

You may recall that last year we set out on a second circumnavigation of the Australian continent, but our plans were disrupted by medical imperatives. Expert medical intervention has either fixed or deferred the problem. Time alone will tell.

So on Monday last, 19th March, we set out again. Our initial objectives are Sydney and West Gippsland, albeit in an indirect manner, but the detail will be the substance of the story. Hopefully the track will lead to South Australia, Western Australia and those parts of Northern Territory through which we must pass to come home.

We have travelled, and blogged, the East Coast sufficiently to render another journey along it as no more than a commute, so comments about this early part of the trip will be restricted to the highlights.

We reached Grafton on the first day and pulled into the basic caravan park associated with the Grafton Greyhound Club. Monday night was a race night, so we arrived as part of a procession of greyhound trailers and vehicles with dog carrying capabilities.

The main street of Bulahdelah. I remember it differently.

Payment of camping fees entitled us to watch the races and use the bar and canteen facilities. Instead we went to bed. After spending Sunday packing the van and then finalising everything and driving about 350 kilometres today, we were bushed. Lights out was before the last race. We slept through the race calls over the PA and the departing traffic, much of which drove right past our camp spot.

Wade’s grocery store is now a real estate agent. Bulahdelah Mountain in the background.

We spent the next night at my old home town of Bulahdelah. We intended to stay at the free camp by the river but when we arrived it was packed out, so we moved on to the caravan park. Our arrival had coincided with the annual run to the top of the Bulahdelah Mountain. This is an annual event, apparently. It was only Tuesday but folk were already there for the weekend run. I always knew the mountain as the Alum Mountain, as deposits of alum were mined there long before my time in the town. We were always

told that it was the only alum mountain in the world, but I have no proof of that claim.

The weather forecast was ominous with heavy rain predicted. We experienced a couple of showers but the real rain started as we moved on towards Newcastle for a call for morning coffee with brother Ivan and his good wife. The sky opened and at times we almost needed to stop. The deluge paused for our social call but returned as we drove on to Sydney. But again it ceased as we arrived at our caravan park to set up for the night. Arriving and departing caravan parks in the rain can be a very miserable business.

Well satisfied after a sumptuous meal

Visits to Briony in Sydney usually involve a memorable dining experience and this time was no exception. We only stayed over night so met her in the City for dinner. She booked us into the Glass Brasserie at the Hilton Hotel in George Street, for 6.00 PM, because she knows that old people eat early. But the decision was influenced by the policy that bookings before 6.00 PM get half price.  And that helps, because it is one expensive eatery.

Despite the substantial discount, no short cuts were taken by staff. We were treated in the same manner as all the diners who arrived later and presumably paid full price. The service was superb and the food exquisite. My King fish sashimi entre and lamb loin main was beyond description. Ruth and Briony shared my opinion in respect of their meals. A cheese platter to finish ensured that we didn’t go home hungry.

Again, fine weather to pack up in Sydney but more heavy rain as we made our way to Wollongong. Briony has a school and current friend who runs a coffee shop in a suburb

Brown Sugar Espresso, featuring the barista

of Wollongong near the highway. We have been there once before and enjoyed the experience so much that a repeat visit was almost mandatory. The concept on which the place is based is “come into my kitchen for coffee”. The shop is one room with the coffee and serving facilities along one wall, the food is displayed in a display case on a table in the centre, with the clients seated around the walls or at part of the table. The locals love it. By the time we arrived at about 11.30 AM most of the food was gone, but what remained was of the normal high standard. The cakes are mostly sourced from home bakers.

We have known Lucy for almost as

Ocean view from the caravan park

long as Briony has so we did enjoy the visit.

More rain as we drove through the lush green countryside of the Illawarra area towards our still undecided destination for the day. At about 5.30 PM we rolled into Narooma and chose a caravan park with quite lovely views over the ocean. But it was a bit grey.

A view of Bega and the Bega Valley. The home of Bega cheese.

Day 5, 23rd March. We made a late start, fuelled up and headed on south. Our destination today was Bombala on the south east corner of the Monaro tableland. The shortest route would have been to turn onto the Snowy Mountains Highway just north of Bega, but instead we continued south to the coastal town of Pambula where we turned west into Mount Darragh Road. This alternative route provides a much gentler ascent of the Great Dividing Range and

Mount Darragh Road

delivered us to the very doorstep of Bombala. We selected a snug site under leafy trees beside the Bombala River. Lots of leaves also on the ground were testament to the season and relative to the predicted overnight temperature of 10 Celsius.

We have a planned activity for Saturday but it is rather weather dependent.

A quaint bridge near Bombala

The early morning sky was mainly blue with a rising sun reflecting on the edges of some scattered clouds. Mist drifted up from the river and lay in low areas.

The Deddick River joins the Snowy just upstream of McKillops Bridge

The forecast was for some rain but, with sunny periods and a top of 24C. So after a leisurely start we set off for McKillops Bridge, a drive of about 125 km to the upper waters of the Snowy River. The drive took us briefly into Victoria. Today’s trip is another in the “Things Kevin Did In His Youth” series. I last saw McKillops Bridge about 57 years ago. The trip took place before Ruth and I were married, while I was working in Morwell.

Part of the narrow Bonang Gelantipy Road

A work mate and I set off after work on a Friday afternoon, mounted on our step through Vespa motor scooters and loaded with food and sleeping gear for a long weekend. We camped late at night near Nowa Nowa and rode on to Buchan next morning. After looking through one of the caves we continued north on the road that leads to Jindabyne, but turned east before

reaching the NSW border, towards

Part of the narrow Bonang Gelantipy Road

Delegate and Bombala. It was on that road we discovered McKillops Bridge. We were amazed to find such a structure in the middle of the bush. A very substantial bridge was needed to span and withstand the Snowy River’s floods, to provide an all weather road. It remains a tourist attraction to this day.

McKillops Bridge from the banks of the Snowythis day.

Pioneer squatter George McKillop, crossed the Snowy River at the place where the bridge now stands, in 1835. He pioneered a cattle route that was used to stock new grazing properties in the Snowy Mountains. Cattle to stock other parts of the Colony of Victoria also travelled via that route. Construction of the bridge was commenced in 1931 and was completed by January 1934, in time to be washed away in record floods, before its official opening.

So back to the old drawing board!

About to cross the bridge

The concrete pylons were made higher and a new deck constructed. The rebuild was completed in 1936. The road and bridge were important links between Victoria

Down stream view of the Snowy from the bridge deck

and New South Wales.

The road that we took today is the same one that we travelled that day, as we continued our journey. It is the Bonang Gelantipy Road and intersects with the Bonang Highway about 58 km south west of Bombala. The road is in very good condition and a good width most of the way but has some narrow mountain side sections. On the way in we only met one vehicle in the 65 km of mostly gravel winding road. There was a bit more activity at the bridge, including four motorbikes that we had seen roadside on our way in. We met a few vehicles on our way out, but this is lonely country.

The photos will tell the rest of the story.

The Ambyne suspension bridge

We found another bridge of historical significance. The Ambyne Suspension Bridge was built in 1935, partly from material salvaged from the flood stricken first McKillops Bridge. It is now, after restoration, for pedestrian use only, but more importantly, to preserve an example of the construction method developed by the Victorian Country Roads Board for use in that state. The bridge was closed to vehicular traffic in the late 1970s.

The suspension bridge and newer road bridge from the near dry bed of the Deddick River

On our arrival back at the caravan, it was evident that a decent shower had gone through in our absence. Rain started again at dusk.

It rained overnight but again was fine for us to pack up. But our run of luck ended when we arrived at Marlo, the small town at the mouth of the Snowy River. As we drove onto our site at just after midday a squall blew through with strong wind and heavy rain. We took refuge in the van and had lunch while we waited for it to blow through. We are here for two nights. Cold wind and rain are predicted. But it is cold everywhere.

Main street, Bombala

Footbridge over the Bombala River in the bicentennial gardens

Hitched up and ready to roll at Bombala caravan park

Which is why we are here and not at Adaminaby, as planned. Overnight temperatures on the coast will be down to 10C for the next couple of mornings. On the other side of the range they are forecast to be much lower. And that raises the prospect of icy roads, not something that you want when towing a caravan. But we are not yet finished with the mountains. After a lay day here we will turn back inland for a couple of days. Temperatures are forecast to be on the rise. Possibly Up to 26C on Thursday.

Sydney 2017 and the “Big Birthday Bash”

We have just returned from a 20 day excursion to Sydney. A visit to Sydney for daughter Briony’s birthday celebrations (she likes to refer to it as her “f” birthday) had been intended as the first part of a rather longer trip, but circumstance necessitated a return to Brisbane for a few days. We hope to set off again around the middle of March, unless something else happens to derail the plan.

The foot bridge near the mouth of South West Rocks Creek

We left Brisbane on 27th January for Maclean, on the Clarence River, where we paused for a night to call on Ruth’s youngest sister Kathy and her husband Barry, who live in the area. We then had a couple of days set aside for the Gloucester and Barrington area but high inland temperatures persuaded us that it was much smarter to stay on the coast.

The result was two nights at South

The same bridge with the tide out

West Rocks, which increased to four nights when we saw how hot it was to be at our intended next destination, just to the north of Newcastle. So we opted for temperatures in the low 30s instead of the low 40s. We used the time to enjoy sea breezes, check out South West Rocks and the adjacent area of Trial Bay. We drove out to Smokey Cape where I climbed up to the lighthouse to take in and photograph the 360 degree views.

Dredging at the mouth of South West Rocks Creek

The actual South West Rocks at South West Rocks. The town’s name was derived from the instruction giver to early ships captains to “Anchor with the rocks to the south west”.

View over Trial Bay to the old prison on the point

The beach side caravan park. We were at a different park.

The old Trial Bay Goal, formally the home of convicts.

Smokey Cape lighthouse

Secluded bays to the north of the lighthouse are accessed mostly by walking tracks.

The view to the south of the lighthouse towards Hat Head

We spent the next evening parked in my Brother Ivan’s driveway at Woodberry while we enjoyed hospitality provided by Ivan and Marjorie, his wife. Next day, a lunch stop at West Wallsend allowed us to spend time with Ruth’s Sister Judy and husband Alan and one of Ruth’s cousins and husband. Then it was on to Sydney to our space at the Lane Cove River Tourist Park on the edge of the Lane Cove National Park, at suburban Macquarie Park.

Bennelong Restaurant at the Sydney Opera House

All this brought us to the day. February 3rd is Briony’s birthday. Don’t tell her that I told you, but counting this one, she has had 40 of them. This was a BIG one.

We made our way to Briony’s Erskineville unit, arriving just before lunch. With Briony and her house guest Tiani, over from Perth for the celebrations, we made our way into Sydney for a delightful lunch at the Bennelong Restaurant at the Sydney Opera House. Excellent food and service, outstanding views and the reason that we were there, made it an event to remember.

We had great views of a cruise liner from the restaurant.

Time then for a bit of a rest while the guest of honor visited the hair dresser and then it was time for the main event. Briony had booked an upstairs room at the Rose of Australia Hotel at Erskineville. The event was a cocktail party with finger food. The 75 guests, about 20 of whom travelled from Brisbane for the occasion, were adequately provided with both food and drink. For us it was an evening of meeting friends whose names we knew from Briony’s interaction with them on Facebook and renewing some old acquaintances. We met some of Briony’s Sydney friends for the first time.

The general restaurant and bar area at the Opera House.

The following day Briony had arranged for bare foot bowls and lunch at the Erskineville Bowls Club but the day was hot and only the hardy saw the game to its conclusion. I retired to the shade and a long cool drink after bowling only two ends. Ruth had opted to be a spectator.

 

 

The lighthouse on Barrenjoey Headland at the northern end of Palm Beach.

We then had two quite hot days to get through before we left Sydney to go further south. The first we split between lunch at a local shopping mall and a drive to Palm Beach. The air-conditioning in the car was almost as good as the cool of the shopping mall but had the additional advantage of the fantastic views of and from Sydney’s northern beaches.

Luxury homes overlooking Palm Beach

Our ferry at the Brooklyn ferry terminal.

On the second hot day, the Monday, we had booked a cruise with the Riverboat Mailman on the Hawkesbury River. An air-conditioned passenger catamaran fulfils the twin functions of providing an informative and scenic tour of part of the river north of Brooklyn and delivering the mail to a number of small riverside communities.

Naturally decorative rocks on the shore of Long Island Nature Reserve near Brooklyn

The tour lasts for three hours, includes morning tea and lunch and includes delivery and collection of mail to the small river communities whose only access to the outside world is by the river. Mario, the skipper, provided an interesting and at times humorous commentary about the history of the river and life upon its banks. The passage of the boat provided cooling breezes that supplemented the AC and made life on the upper deck tolerable, but only for short periods. The mercury was at around 38 Celsius.

The road bridges over the Hawkesbury near Brooklyn. The new highway bridge is on the left.

A small community on the river

A real estate investment opportunity at Marlow, the most distant mail drop of the day.

A derelict oyster wharf near the site of the former Sheather’s Wharf.

When the cruise finished at 1.00 pm we still had half of a hot day to deal with, so we went in search of Sheather’s Wharf. We had seen a photo in our local pharmacy’s calendar of this jetty. Not everyone has a wharf in the family. Naturally we wanted to see it. Alas, it is no more but appears to have been demolished relatively recently to make way for a marina and restaurant. I photographed its poor relation near by to give you the idea. If you want to see the real thing simply Google “Sheather’s Wharf” and you will see it in all its splendour. If I were to reproduce the photo here I would probably be breaching someones copyright.

Fog obscuring the view near Patonga.

Because I had never been there before, we drove on to Patonga. This small hamlet is located on a beach on the northern shore of the Hawkesbury. Glimpses of Barrenjoey Headland are to be had from the right spot. A passenger ferry service links the town to Palm Beach.

The surprise to me of the area was the thick banks of fog rolling in on such a hot day. There was not much wind so the fog was rolling in slowly, obscuring the scenery as it rolled.

Point Perpendicular would you believe? It is located just north of Kiama.

The plan had been to move on to Camden for three nights before heading home, but the weather intervened again. Temperatures in the low 40s were predicted for the days that we were to head back north so, as a compromise, we decided to stay on the coast and booked six nights at Shellharbour, just south of Wollongong.

 

Kiama harbour and headland

So on Tuesday we drove to Shellharbour. After packing up in drizzling rain we drove through a thunder storm as we crossed Sydney’s near western suburbs and then, at the top of the range before descending to Wollongong, we struck fog so thick that the road side warning signs instructed us to turn on our hazard lights. That has never happened to us before. It was a bit spooky driving down a very steep gradient with no visibility and have sets of flashing lights coming out of the fog behind us and disappearing again into it ahead of us. Thankfully we were on a divided highway.

The view from the Shellharbour Caravan Park.

The caravan park at Shellharbour is on a headland and rather exposed. On Tuesday evening a rain cell made its way up the coast from the south and tipped torrents of rain onto us for about three hours. There were reports of flash flooding next morning but we didn’t see any excess water as we made our way to Bowral.

Ruth’s youngest brother Wallace and his wife Ginny have been residents of Bowral for many years. We have visited them many times before but never via the Macquarie Pass. Bowral has an altitude of 680 metres while Shellharbour is at about 10 meters, so it is a sharp ascent. Part way up, the rain started again and the fog came down. No divided highway today but the winding road was mercifully quiet.

We spent a pleasant day with Wall and Ginny and many mutual experiences were relived. We than took ourselves off to visit Ruth’s younger half-sister Dorothy and her husband Peter, where we enjoyed dinner and the company of their two daughters and one boyfriend and spent the night in a comfortable air-conditioned room.

The Brackens are a working family so it was an early start to be out of their way as they commenced their day. Our next call was with retired friends who live in a retirement complex on the northern beaches of Wollongong. Marion is a friend from Ruth’s childhood. I have known her and Cliff, her husband, since their marriage. They stayed with us on their honeymoon trip to Tasmania all those years ago, when we lived in suburban Melbourne. Again much reminiscing! How good those old times were! That’s how we remember them, anyway.

Hampden Bridge in the Kangaroo Valley, inland from Kiama.

We now were faced with a hot Friday and weekend, before we made our way home. Friday was spent partly shopping, partly sitting in the sea breeze and the rest in the relative comfort of the caravan. On Sunday we opted for the AC in the car again and went for a drive. First to Kiama and then inland, over the coastal range to Kangaroo Valley and then up the escarpment to Fitzroy Falls. The walk to the falls, although short was warm, with the temperature around 38. I walked on another 800 meters to another

Fitzroy Falls up close …

viewing point for the falls and wondered part way if that was a wise move, but I made it back without harm.

We lunched and then returned down the mountain by a different road, calling in to an excellent lookout that provided views over the coastal plain around Kiama before returning to the van via the rather attractive rural town of

… and from a vantage point gained by a hot 500 meter walk in 38 degrees.

Jamberoo, with its streets lined with flowering trees and its quaint brick churches complete with square battlement topped steeples.

 

 

 

 

A view over the coastal plane near Kiama.

Formally a church, this historic building is now a restaurant.

This cliff foot Sea Cliff Bridge spans the breakers beneath.

The weather cooled on Sunday and was much more pleasant. Initially we drove north along the coast to Stanwell Park, past the many historic coal mining towns and over that stretch of highway built out over the ocean around the foot of the cliffs. We did that drive from both directions with the action video camera in operation. The results are attached for you to see.

Busy Manly Beach

From Stanwell Park we drove up to Helensburgh, parked the car and caught the train to Sydney. Circumstance had prevented us from going afloat on Sydney Harbour and we had never before travelled into the city from the south by train. The tip took an hour to Circular Quay where we caught the ferry to Manly.

Manly was a popular place that day. The crowd on the ferry was reminiscent of a morning commute. But the sun was out and so were the pleasure craft. Having sailed my own yacht on Sydney Harbour I derive much pleasure from watching the variety of craft on its waters.

Another cruise liner at the Circular Quay passenger terminal.

The beach was busy with a couple of surf related activities under way which partly explained the crowds. We found a vacant table on the footpath at a restaurant within view of the beach and within reach of the sea breeze, where we dined on good old Sydney sea food.

Lunch over, we made our way back by ferry and  at Circular Quay, took a walk to see the cruise ship “Voyager of the Seas” that was in at the adjacent cruise liner birth. Then we were back on the train to Helensburgh.

The south coast of NSW near Wollongong as viewed from Sublime Point.

On the way back to Shellharbour we called in at Sublime Point for that stunning view of Wollongong and travelled down Bulli Pass to remind ourselves why we do not use that road when towing the caravan.

On Monday morning we were homeward bound! We spent Monday night with my Brother near Newcastle to make up for the night that we had missed on the way south.

Although I had lived in the area in my early years I had never been on what was the Old Pacific Highway that ran through Gloucester and Krambach to Taree. These days, it is called The Buckets Way. So this time we did the detour. Much of the road needs maintenance but parts have been rebuilt. It is quite a pretty drive.

Two more nights spent one each at Old Bar, near Taree, and Ballina and we were home again, just before lunch on Thursday.

Here is the video of the drive along the Sea Cliff Bridge near Wollongong.

A Drive Along the Sea Cliff Bridge

West, Centre & Flinders – Video Page

I have started the process of turning our photographs and video clips into videos. The first is a compilation of the wild flowers that we photographed during the trip. The first shots were taken near Blackall in Western Queensland and the last between St. George and Dalby.

We loved the extensive blankets of blooms over so much of the country side so broad expenses dominate, rather than individual blooms. We hope you enjoy the beauty.

West, Centre & Flinders – Days 61 to 68 – Homeward Bound

 

We stopped for lunch near a flowering gum tree

We stopped for lunch near a flowering gum treeWe gave ourselves an easy day on Saturday with only 137 kilometres to the steam museum town of Peterborough. This reasonably substantial town is on the main Sydney to Adelaide railway line, which is also the line on which ore mined in Broken Hill makes its way to the smelter at Port Pirie. Peterborough was a major rail town during the days of steam. It now uses its heritage as a tourist attraction.

The day had improved by the time we had booked into the Peterborough Caravan Park but a chilly night followed. Sunday morning was overcast, but as we made our way to Broken Hill the clouds made way for real warmth from the sun.

The restaurant building at the Miners' Memorial.

The restaurant building at the Miners’ Memorial.

We booked two nights at Broken Hill to allow for shopping for the final days to home but also to allow us to do the tourist thing. We drove to the Miners’ Memorial at the top of the huge mullock heap that separates the town from the mining area. We were disappointed to find the memorial buildings closed. The restaurant and adjoining gift shop that was so “in” when we were last there, seemed completely closed and the actual memorial building was closed for renovations as well.

Roadside flowers on the road to Silverton

Roadside flowers on the road to Silverton

After lunch we drove the 24 kilometres to the historic silver mining town of Silverton. Not much remains of the original town but most remaining buildings have been restored and “reading desk” type information signs provide details of restored buildings and some other features. The amount of vacant space between the remaining buildings and relics

With new owners the Silverton Coffee Shop may reopen.

With new owners the Silverton Coffee Shop may reopen.

indicate that it was a substantial town. A coffee shop, still operating on our last visit, is now closed, although the building has been sold. The pub seems to do a good trade and the Mad Max Museum continues to pull in devotees. There are also two or three artists who work from galleries in the town.

 

Silverton's Mad Max Museum

Silverton’s Mad Max Museum

The approach to the Day Dream Silver Mine passes the old smelter flue on the hilltop

The approach to the Day Dream Silver Mine passes the old smelter flue on the hilltop

This visit we did the side trip to the Day Dream Silver Mine, where I did the underground tour. The mine is about 15 kilometres off the Silverton Road. In its day the mine was a rich source of silver with its own smelter sighted on a neighboring hill top to take advantage of gravity to assist the smelting process. The tour visited points of interest on the surface before we donned hard hats with miner’s lights for the underground portion of the tour.

Mining equipment under ground. Visitors can stand at the drill and gain some idea of what it was like to work in the mine.

Mining equipment under ground. Visitors can stand at the drill and gain some idea of what it was like to work in the mine.

The mine was quite deep, descending four levels. There were only a few steps, as the tour followed the sloping shaft that had itself followed the ore body into the bowls of the earth. The irregularities of the floor provided for secure footing and stout hand rails had been installed.

 

 

A display of mining tools in an area where the roof is supported by local timber.

A display of mining tools in an area where the roof is supported by local timber.

Mining tools, both manual and mechanical, were on display in appropriate locations throughout the mine. The guide was an experienced miner with a real gift for telling the mining story. To hear it all right where the underground activity occurred made it all very real. We finished the visit with a mug of tea and fresh scones, baked on the premises.

This photo was taken from the moving vehicle. There were no shoulders on the road to pull over.

This photo was taken from the moving vehicle. There were no shoulders on the road to pull over.

Tuesday was about making distance in an attempt to avoid rain and strong head winds. Cobar, yet another mining town, was our stopover destination for Tuesday evening. The only town between Broken Hill and Cobar is Wilcannia, where we stopped for fuel. After leaving Wilcannia the elevated roadway runs for several kilometres over Darling River flood plains, before entering low hills.

Massed floral displays between Bourke & Cunnamulla

Massed floral displays between Bourke & Cunnamulla

Generally the terrain is flat with only modest hills to provide some variety. Recent rain is evident from water lying beside the road and the abundance of greenery. And wild flower! The sides of the road were covered in masses of purple blooms. The purple is frequently interspersed with a variety of smaller flowers. Periodically the pastures are covered with masses of yellow and white. While watching such natural beauty, the kilometres and hours passed relatively quickly.

More roadside floral displays

More roadside floral displays

For the second day in succession we have driven past endless kilometres of road side gardens. Colours of white, blue, yellow, orange and shades of red have appeared like a planted garden against a background of the greens of grass, shrubs and trees. Periodically patches of white, yellow and red have run out of sight, between road side trees or reached in masses towards the horizon of the open fields.

The drive was between Cobar and Cunnamulla with a brief refueling stop at Bourke, a distance of around 415 kilometres. We saw the first evidence of the amount of rain that has fallen through the area. Up to now all we have seen, besides the rain, has been abundant grass and wild flowers.

Several streams had broken their banks.

Several streams had broken their banks.

The level of water in the Darling at Bourke was the highest that I have seen in several visits. North of Bourke, drainage channels beside the road were full of water. North of the Queensland /NSW border several streams had broken their banks and a few centimeters of water were running across the pavement in two places.

The remaining water over the road was shallow but had obviously been deeper.

The remaining water over the road was shallow but had obviously been deeper.

From Cobar to Burke we were on the final section of the Kidman Way. From Burke we had joined the Mitchell Highway that terminates where it joins the Landsborough Highway at Augathella. But it all seems to be part of the Matilda Way, but I’m not sure where the Matilda Way starts and finishes. But it is a busy road being a link between Southern capitals and both Northern Territory and Queensland and carries a lot of heavy traffic. We met several over dimensional loads, one requiring us to move right off the road.

The weather had been warmer, but the forecast is for rain and reduced temperatures over night and for the next few days. Fairly strong winds were forecast. When they eventuated they were behind us, pushing us along.

The swollen Warrego River at Cunnamulla. Water heading for the Darling River

The swollen Warrego River at Cunnamulla. Water heading for the Darling River

Before we booked into the caravan park at Cunnamulla we drove through town to check the water level in the Warrego River. The water level was well below the bridge but much higher than we had ever seen it before.

The forecast rain caught us at Cunnamulla but the greater part of it fell to the north of us. The rain had passed through by morning but we caught up with the last of it on the way to St George.

Water flooding over the weir on the Bolonne River at St. George

Water flooding over the weir on the Balonne River at St. George

Another 300 kilometres of flat road, some of it a bit narrow but most quite rough, due to periodic flooding, I suspect. The Weir on Wallam Creek, beside the road at Bollon, was overflowing as was the major weir on the Balonne River at St George. All of the excess water is heading for the Darling and the Murray Rivers.

The only disturbance to a peaceful night at the Pelicans Rest Caravan Park was the yapping of two dogs in the caravan next to us, whenever something disturbed them.

Flowering shrubs between St George and Dalby.

Flowering shrubs between St George and Dalby.

Dalby was our destination on Friday, which would have been another 300 kilometre day. But we were there by lunch time so decided to go on a further 100 kilometres to Yarraman. This very pleasant town sits almost at the foot of Bunya Mountains and has a caravan park atop a hill. We had been travelling in sunshine all that day, pushed along by a stiff but a cool westerly, that moderated by evening. But we still needed the heater that night.

On Saturday morning the easterly aspect of our overnight position gave us a brilliant sunrise and a promise of a day with temperatures in the mid twenties.  Saturday was the first day of a long weekend so the road was busy, particularly the lanes leading away from Brisbane. Traffic accumulating behind us made it necessary to keep the rig moving and to pull over occasionally to let our “tail” go by.

We arrived home just before lunch, to start the tasks of unpacking and cleaning and to deal with two months accumulation of dead gum leaves, blown down by winter winds while we have been away.

The promised temperature eventuated. I am back in shorts and all is right with the World.

So ends another trip, shorter in duration than originally intended but not much shorter in distance. We lost about two weeks to wet weather but the days that it did not rain were mostly sunny although sometimes kept rather cool by persistent winds. But we had a good time, saw some new places, met new friends and learned new things.

We can’t ask for much more, can we?

West, Centre and Flinders – Days 59 to 61 – Flinders Ranges and Rain – Part 3

The Quorn Railway Station serviced the Ghan and is now the end of the Pichi Richi line.

The Quorn Railway Station serviced the Ghan and is now the end of the Pichi Richi line.

We had decided overnight that we would go back to Quorn the next day, irrespective of weather conditions. The sun was shining between the clouds at Hawker but we encountered showers as we drove towards Quorn. We arrived in that town to a very wintry day, with cold south westerly winds and intermittent showers. We were sitting considering our options when I received a message that folk with whom we had earlier contact, who live in Quorn but had been away, had arrived home.

History in Quorn's main street

History in Quorn’s main street

Some of you know of my involvement with the www.exploroz.com web site. EcplorOz used to have a “birthday fairy” feature whereby on member’s birthdays a forum post would extend birthday greetings to all whose birthdays fell on that day. Members listed would usually wish each other a happy birthday. In that way I got to know Graham. When I learned that he lived in the Flinders Ranges I asked him questions about the area. It was always understood that when we visited that we would make contact. I had contacted Graham when we had arrived in Port Augusta, only to learn that he and his wife were in Western Australia. They travel around Australia more than we do.

Our meeeting place for coffee in Quorn, Emily's.

Our meeting place for coffee in Quorn, Emily’s.

We made contact that afternoon and agreed to meet for coffee the following morning. We met at an interesting bistro and coffee shop called Emily’s. This relatively new business venture has been established in what was previously a general store. Much of its charm is the result of many of the original fittings being left in place. The original grocery shelves occupy one wall and contain a display of grocery and other items from yesteryear. Some of the furnishings are of vintage, but solid, appearance and items such as mannequins, dressed for the period of the original store’s heyday, help to create the atmosphere.

Inside Emily's Bistro & Coffee Lounge. Note the old fixtures.

Inside Emily’s Bistro & Coffee Lounge. Note the old fixtures.

Refrigerators and display cases for food are new, with the normal paraphernalia of the modern coffee shop.  Behind the scenes is a very modern kitchen with bakery facilities. The output that we sampled, as we got to know Graham and Maxine, were excellent as was the coffee.

An empty cash transfer machine. A reminder of my youth.

An empty cash transfer machine. A reminder of my youth.

 

But the retained feature that caught my eye took me back over fifty years to my first job. The general store had used an elevated cash transfer system, known as a flying fox, that conveyed client payments to a central cashier, in small containers sent on their way by a rubber catapult arrangement.  I had used one of these contraptions all those years ago.

When I commented to the lady behind the counter on my experience with this old equipment, she asked if I would like to relive old times by pulling the handle to send a container whizzing along its wire. Of course I did! So I was taken into the original cashier’s enclosure and for a moment relived part of my youth.

Wild flowers against the background of the northern end of the Elder Range.

Wild flowers against the background of the northern end of the Elder Range.

During our discussion Graham suggested that we do a drive through Moralana Scenic Drive. The drive links the Hawker to Blinman Road with the Hawker to Parachilna Road by way of a gap in the ranges between the northern end of the Elder Range and the southern walls of Wilpena Pound. Having made that arrangement we parted until the next morning.

An elevated crossing of the road to Port Augusta by the Pichi Richi Railway. This was formerly the track of the famous Ghan rail to Alice Springs.

An elevated crossing of the road to Port Augusta by the Pichi Richi Railway. This was formerly the track of the famous Ghan railway to Alice Springs.

After a late lunch, we drove towards Port Augusta, through the Pichi Richi Pass, the gap in the mountains from which the Pichi Richi Railway tales its name. It is an attractive drive, crossing and passing under the railway line several times and with water washing over a normally dry causeway. As we reached the point where we intended to turn around we could see Port Augusta in the distance so we continued on to do some necessary shopping.

River Red Gums line the banks and stand in the beds of Flinders Ranges creeks.

River Red Gums line the banks and stand in the beds of many Flinders Ranges creeks.

At 10.30 the following morning, Friday, we set off on the 70 kilometre drive back to Hawker and the further 25 kilometres to the start of the Moralana Scenic Drive. The track had only reopened that morning but was not particularly wet, although the streams crossed were mostly running, but shallow. The track is, in reality, station tracks for Arkaba and Merna Mora Stations, through whose grazing land it passes.

Black Gap provides a hiking trail into Wilpena Pound.

Black Gap provides a hiking trail into Wilpena Pound.

The hills on each side were green with lush grass. Periodically, wild flowers decorated the road side, often running in a blanket of yellow or purple up a hill side or disappearing between the stands of native pines. The occasional kangaroo raised its head to look as us as we passed its feeding place.

A Bearded Dragon pauses to search the sky while drinking at a running stream - in the middle of the track.

A Bearded Dragon pauses to search the sky while drinking at a running stream – in the middle of the track.

 

There are two places of particular interest on this road, both near the half way mark. The first is a side track into Black Gap. The creek bed that forms part of the track was flowing with water from the recent rain and was fairly deep in one place. This part of the track was a bit interesting, as water obscured the rocky creek bed, hiding the small boulders over which we had to drive.

 

The hiking track into Wilpena Pound runs along the banks of this stream.

The hiking track into Wilpena Pound runs along the banks of this stream.

Black Gap is a hiker’s entrance into Wilpena Pound. The previously mentioned Heysen Trail passes through Black Gap. From the car park at the end of the track it is about a 12 kilometres walk across the floor of the Pound and through the main entrance, to reach the Wilpena Resort. The hills on either side of the track are lightly covered in native pines but were lush with grass. There should have been many happy kangaroos in those hills.

Rebuilt cueing yards are right beside the Meralana Scenic Drive.

Rebuilt cueing yards are right beside the Meralana Scenic Drive.

Back on the main track, we came to the second point of interest. During the construction of the Overland Telegraph Line native pine trees from the Flinders Ranges were used to support the wires where the line came through the adjoining area and further afield, where there were no suitable trees. The pine logs were pulled out of the mountains using teams of bullocks.

The information plaque at the rebuilt cueing yards

The information plaque at the rebuilt cueing yards

But the Flinders Ranges are mostly comprised of rock which badly damaged the bullocks’ feet. To protect the feet they were fitted with steel shoes, much the same as used with horses. But the bullock shoes were called cues and the process of shoeing was known as cueing. Yards that were used for the cueing process are beside the track by a stream. Merna Mora Station, on whose land the old yards were built and were falling into decay, have rebuilt them and provided a picnic table as well. We paused there for a late morning coffee.

The drive emerges from the ranges and leads over the Moralana Plain to its intersection with the Hawker to Parachilna Road. We completed the drive, through a few more creek beds to reach the sealed road and returned the 40 kilometres or so to Hawker, where we stopped at the Sightseer Café for lunch, before returning to Quorn.

Flood damaged bridge on the old Ghan railway.

Flood damaged bridge on the old Ghan railway.

On the way back to Quorn from Hawker we got the benefit of local knowledge. We turned from the main road onto a track that, after a couple of kilometres, brought us to a stream that had been bridged all those years ago to carry the line for the Ghan. But in 2011 the bridge that had stood for so long lost a pillar and two spans to the flood waters of that wet year. Stones used in construction of the fallen support pillar weighing at least two tones each, were tumbled down stream for hundreds of metres. One steel span was pushed onto the bank while the other was carried several hundred metres down stream as well.

Hugh Proby's grave is located near to the place where he lost his life.

Hugh Proby’s grave is located near to the place where he lost his life.

We then retraced our steps of about half a century ago, past areas where we had camped and visited. These included Warren Gorge and Proby’s grave. Hugh Proby, third son of an English lord, was drowned in Willochra Creek, north of Quorn, in 1858, after ignoring the advice from an Aboriginal stock man about crossing a flooded creek. The stock man and Proby’s horse survived and lived to see old age. The grave remains a tourist attraction because of the huge marble memorial stone that Proby’s family had shipped from England and transported to a sight near to the location at which he drowned. So the message is naw as it was then. “If its flooded, forget it!”

Not much fruit on this Quandong tree.

Not much fruit on this Quandong tree.

At one point we stopped beside a couple of Quandong trees to receive a lesson in botany from Graham. Quandong trees grow wild but can be cultivated. They are popular in the Quorn area and common in the gardens of residents. The berry is similar to a cherry but quite tart so apple and much sugar are often added to improve taste. Quandong berries are mainly used to make jam. Quandong jam can be bought almost anywhere in Quorn.

A view along a Quorn footpath.

A view along a Quorn footpath.

We said goodbye to our new friends over a cup of tea at their home. We then returned to the caravan park to prepare for departure the next day. We had decided to start making our way home. There was no sign of improvement in the weather. Rain fell again over night, with a minimum temperature of 4 degrees. The outlook for the next couple of weeks was more of the same.

The recent black out in South Australia occurred just two days after we crossed into New South Wales on our way home.

West, Centre & Flinders – Days 56 to 58 – Flinders Ranges and Rain Part 2

Monday dawned sunny, with a chilly breeze still blowing, but with the news that the road through Parachilna Gorge was open with caution at creek crossings. This made possible a loop of about 250 kilometres, past Wilpena Pound to Blinman, then to Parachilna with a return on tha Hawker Parachilna Road.

The Heyson Range from the Hawker Parachilna Road

The Heyson Range from the Hawker Parachilna Road

This is a very nice drive, through the mountains to Blinman, through the Parachilna Gorge, crossing and recrossing Parachilna Creek and then south, travelling beside the western ramparts of the range. First, the Heysen Range, named for artist and Flinders Ranges lover Hans Heysen, is passed and then the Elder Range appears. It is named for Sir James Elder, grazier in this area and founder of the pastoral company Elder Smith,

Carpets of colour beside the road

Carpets of colour beside the road

now known as the real estate operator called simply Elders. There is also a walking trail named the Heysen Trail that starts at Cape Jervis, opposite Kangaroo Island and ends at the road that runs through Parachilna Gorge. I believe that there are people who have walked its entire length.

The Elder Range from the Hawker Blinman Road

Mountains of the north wall of Wilpena Pound

 

At several points along the 107 kilometre drive to Blinman, observation points have been provided to view the wonders of nature. The road runs through the heart of the ranges and through the Flinders Ranges National Park. Not far along the way roadside parking areas provide good views of the Arkaba Hills and of the Elder Range. A bit further on, the road passes Rawnsley Bluff, one of the most prominent features of the area and part of the south eastern wall of Wilpena Pound.

The Wilpena diorama viewed against the background of some of the mountains that it depicts

The Wilpena diorama viewed against the background of some of the mountains that it depicts

We bypassed the turn to Wilpena as we had plans to visit it as part of another activity. Not too far further north the twin elevated lookouts of Hucks and Stokes Hill provide panoramic views back over Wilpena Pound with Stokes Hill also providing views of the Loves Mine Range and The Bunkers to the north. At the summit of Stokes Hill a bronze diorama of Wilpena Pound has been placed so that it can be compared with the real thing.  As a combination of ancient and modern, visitors may connect their smart phones to WiFi to listen to Dream time stories.

Part of the Great Wall of China near Blinman

Part of the Great Wall of China near Blinman

Nearer to Blinman, two hills are crowned with natural stone walls, known as the Great Wall of China, because their similarity to their namesake. A short drive along a gravel track leads to a couple of elevated positions from which good views are available. As a bonus, the mountains that are behind you as you view the Great Wall are also worth viewing.

The Blinman General store

The Blinman General store

Blinman is officially the highest town, in terms of meters above sea level, in South Australia. In its heyday in the 1880s, at the peak of copper production from its mine, it had a population of 1,500. Now it has a mere 18 permanent residents. Its focal points are the restored mine office and conducted tours of the underground copper mine and of course, the meat pies available from the general store. We tried a couple of pies for lunch. They are much larger than city pies and are full of chunks of real beef. With a cappuccino each, they went down a treat.

This old miners cottage in Blinman has been restored and is available for vacation rental

This old miners cottage in Blinman has been restored and is available for vacation rental

Blinman also has a pub, which is the most popular place for lunch. Four wheel drive vehicles, angle parked, lined the kerb on both sides of the road in its vicinity. Camping facilities are available in the national park, at private caravan parks and on numerous cattle stations, many of which offer four wheel drive tracks to their guests. So Blinman is a place to go for lunch and to top up supplies at the general store, which also offers a coffee shop. This is the source of supply for pies at Blinman.

A view of a mountain on the Parachilna Gorge Road

A view of a mountain on the Parachilna Gorge Road

Facilities at the north end of the Heyson Trail

Facilities at the north end of the Heyson Trail

Parachilna Creek was flowing as a result of recent rain

Parachilna Creek was flowing as a result of recent rain

The road on to Parachilna runs through Parachilna Gorge, following a creek if the same name. It is a pleasant drive on a winding dirt road that threads between spectacular hills and crosses the creek several times. On this drive the creek was running, but only a few centimetres deep. The road emerges from the gorge to run several kilometres across the northern Moralana Plain to reach Parachilna, located on the Hawker Parachilna Road.

The Prairie Hotel at Parachilna

The Prairie Hotel at Parachilna

The town is located on the old Ghan railway line. Remnants of the rail service are on display by the old station building. The Prairie Hotel now is the town. It has achieved notoriety for the signature dishes from its restaurant.  The FMG (feral mixed grill) includes camel, emu and kangaroo meat. I am told that the cost of these delicacies is $38 per plate. The luncheon pies at Blinman now sound even better at $5 each.

But we did award Parachilna the title of Fly Capital of Australia!

 

Part of the original Ghan railway station at Parachilna

Part of the original Ghan railway station at Parachilna

The drive back to Hawker is about 90 kilometres of good tar. A pleasant journey, with the ranges on the left, bathed in the afternoon sun. On the way, we passed the western entrance to Moralana Scenic Drive. It that had been closed but had been opened with restrictions. It couldn’t have been too bad as a girl riding a bike and carrying all her camping gear peddled out of the road onto the highway as we drove past.

On the opposite side of the road is the gate to Merna Mora Station, which has been offering accommodation to travellers for many years. It offers powered van sites and station tracks that allow access to Lake Torrens, among other drives. So we called in and booked for the next three nights, but with fingers crossed that forecast rain would not upset the plan.

The old Ghan railway station in Hawker is now a gallery and restaurant

The old Ghan railway station in Hawker is now a gallery and restaurant

But it did. Heavy rain next morning closed national park roads and station tracks again. So we cancelled Merna Mora and booked another night at Hawker to see what would happen with the weather.