9 Sept 2011 - Departure Day

Since I passed yesterday's blogging attempt, I'm back to write another, giving Gary a break. YES, we did arise very early this morning so we could say we did experience a beautiful sunrise over the Flinders Ranges.

We had just under 600kms to drive today so the early start was handy. Final goodbyes to Di and Dave and our second trip together came to a sad close. A different route home through Peterborough, Morgan, Renmark and on to Mildura. Along the way we encountered emus on the side of the road, a mob of kangaroos hopping across the road, and two stumpy tail lizards sauntering across the road. Pleased to announce all animals still alive especially the lizards who passed within centimetres of all our six wheels. Great driving Gary!

Our first stop was at Peterborough for petrol (200kms). Not far out of town we started seeing wind turbines along the ridges of the nearby ranges.We passed dozens and dozens of them, they just faded into the distance as we turned away from the hills. Later we found out that this was the Hallet Windfarm, currently the largest in Australia.

The Murray was an amazing sight and the town of Renmark was surprisingly large. A quick stop here for a much needed coffee before we headed off for the final 140kms.

The countryside was constantly changing, ranging from hilly to flat, wooded and salt bushes.Once again all fruit and vegetables had to be dumped before crossing the border. There were small rain showers on and off in the afternoon, with the road surface deteriorating as soon as we crossed into Victoria. Arrived in Mildura a bit after 4.30pm Victoria time (losing half an hour after crossing the border).

8 Sept 2011 - More Quorn please

Peter and Robyn left us this morning. This was our last day in Hawker today. We decided to drift down the road to Quorn for morning tea at the Emporium and a spot of shopping. (65kms trip to Quorn).

After coffee, shopping and a leisurely stroll around the town centre it was back to Hawker, with a stop on the way back at the Kanyaka ruins. It was the largest homestead in the district boasting staff quarters, doctors surgery, stables, wool sheds, post office, and of course, the cemetary. There are so many ruins and evidence scattered around of how harsh living conditions were. I can't help thinking of how easy and lucky our lives are today.

As the car passes all this superb scenery, we find ourselves once again snapping away with our cameras. Even though we have travelled this road five times in the past fortnight. I think I might take after my father! Upon returning to the caravan, we quickly get ourselves ready for departure the next morning. So the normal things of petrol in the car, last minute photos, gifts to buy and items to pack away were taken care of. Final BBQ for tea with Di and Dave and an early night, since we all decided to watch tomorrow's sunrise for our last morning here.
I couldn't resist this last minute photo.

7 Aug 2011 - Where eagles dare

Another sunny but fresh morning. Today we again hit the road in the 4x4s, bound for a dirt track that took us through the full length of Barachina Gorge, then on to Blinman for lunch.

But, before we left the Highway, we were fortunate enough to catch sight of two separate groups of Wedgetail Eagles.

The western end of Barichina Gorge is quite spectacular, with a small stream passing along the foot of towering walls.

The next track took us from Blinman, across to Angorichina Village and on through Parachilna Gorge, then to the tiny town of Parachilna itself. This area contained some species of wild flower that we hadn't come across before, as well as an opportunity to play in some water.

'Arvo tea was had at the Prarie Hotel in Parachilna. This place is renowned for it's "roadkill menu". Dave and Pete sampled the Feral Antipasto which consisted of, among other things, smoked kangaroo, 'roo mettwurst, and goats cheese. The rest of us settled for coffee and other standard fare. 

The day finished off with a quiet cider and a chat about the day's events.

6 Aug 2011 - Gettin' about town

Today we took in some of the history and culture of the town of Hawker by following the "Hawker Heritage Walk". This is a small booklet you can by from the local servo' that shows a map of the town, with each point of interest numbered. There's a description, and brief history, of each stop and the tour takes you from one end of town to the other, so you wind up walking a fair distance. Many of the buildings mentioned were built in the late 1800's, and range from private accommodation for one of the station families when visiting town, to several commercial properties that have seen many changes of use.

I was a bit surprised to find that the "Ghan" railway once passed by here. There are reminders of this in the old station and the purposes of some of the other buildings such as the boarding house and the mill.

Later in the day we visited the gallery of world renowned artist Jeff Morgan. The unique features of this gallery are the room that houses a 360 degree panorama, and another that displays three huge murals. The largest painting is 15 metres long, 5 metres tall and took 3,000 hours to complete.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing.

5 Aug 2011 - A different perspective

Today we (Di, Dave, Robyn, Peter, Sharon & myself) drove the short distance down some more dirt tracks to Jarvis Hill lookout, some 6.5 Kms East of Hawker. After a fairly hardgoing climb to the peak, we were rewarded with a panoramic view of the broad plains that spread out between the Flinders Ranges on one side, and an assortment of variously named ranges on the other.

View from the lookout with the Flinders Ranges in the distance.


On the way back to the highway, we spotted a Bearded Dragon
soaking up some sunshine.

Once back on the black stuff, it was another short drive north to a location called "five ways", an intersection of five dirt tracks, out in the middle of nowhere, amongst nothing but blue-bush. Here we found the old Hookina cemetary. There are only a handfull of headstones, but it's a stark comment on how tough conditions must have been back in the late 1800's as a large proportion of the occupants are either infants or children. 

The rest of the day was spent back at the caravan park, kicking back, catching up on some reading, and other idle pastimes. What's today? That's right, it's Monday, a "work day"......for some.

4 Sept 2011 - Happy Father's Day and.... A lesson learned

Last night was the first night away that we hadn't had our little fan heater on, but it did cool off to a fresh morning. The temperature stayed milder than yesterday's but was still warm and sunny, perfect for taking even more photos.

After I'd called Dad to wish him a happy Father's Day, I slipped on my runners and walked over to say goodmorning to the others. I noticed what I thought to be a stone in the tip of my shoe, so I took it off to remove the offending item. I tipped my runner up, but nothing came out so I stuck my hand in, got my fingers on something that strangely enough didn't feel like a stone, and extracted my hand to find I'd latched onto a Huntsman spider. Wikipedia cites: "They do bite if provoked..." but luckily this one didn't. I learned a valuable lesson, don't leave your footwear outside overnight!

Before leaving Wilpena, we'd jumped on the internet and pre-booked our tickets for today's trip on the Pichi Richi Railroad. This narrow-gauge, steam-powered loco pulls four wooden carriages 32km from Quorn to Woolshed Flat and return, travelling through some narrow cuttings, across open plains and over a variety of wooden, steel and stone bridges.

The pace is slow and steady, and gives everyone time to relax and appreciate the countryside and surroundings.

Railway Station at Quorn

On our return to Quorn Station, everyone decided it was time for lunch. A short walk brought us to a most curious eatery housed in an old Emporium (a store selling a wide variety of goods). Dave popped his head inside the door for a look and commented that the "house was full" so we figured this might be a good sign. We had to wait 'til a table came free, which gave us a chance to take in the decor. All of the original shelving, cabinets and counters were still in place, many of them containing items of clothing and wares that would have been sold there in the day. Something really different, and the food wasn't bad either.

3 Aug 2011 - Bound for Hawker

Without any surprise we awoke to yet another cloudless, sunny morning, a bit fresh, but promising another fine day.

Di, Dave, Sharon and I strolled up to the resort restaurant for a cooked buffet breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash browns and tomatoes (don't tell anyone but Davo also snuck a snag under his bacon). None of this was paid for up-front, it was left to our honesty to pay for what we ate after we'd finished.

Today was our departure day from Wilpena Pound so all three vans were packed, stacked and ready to roll in  no time at all. Quick look and stock up at the general store/cafe/souvenirs shop and we were off with a staggering 56km to drive today. What a hard life!

After setting up, and too early for lunch, we wandered over to the fresh fruit and vegie stall in the main street. It sets itself up every Saturday at the local petrol station. Oh what a joy to be able to purchase something fresh! Since the day was hitting 31deg we walked the block and a half back to the caravan park to prop for the afternoon.

Because of the temperature, "beer-o'clock" came early today.

2 Aug 2011 - Getting warmer

Today we awoke to yet another cloudless blue sky. The Bureau reckoned today's top will be 28 degrees, but unless we're acclimatising really quickly, I don't think it got quite to that.

After breakfast we headed down the road to Arkaroo Rock, where a fairly easy trek for a couple of kilometers brought us to an overhanging rock wall with some Aboriginal paintings. These were created by the local Adnyamathanha people.


Of course, on the way there  and back we took the odd photo or two of some wildflowers, rock formations and reptiles.

We've come to the end of our stay at Wilpena Pound. Tomorrow we pull up stumps and head back to Hawker for 6 nights. 
This place has impressed us and I would recommend it as a destination for anyone who wants to experience something different from the usual over-commercialised tourist traps.

1 Sept 2011 - A run into town and a trip back in time

Dave and I drove the 50 Kms into Hawker this morning, the nearest significant town to Wilpena, whilst Sharon and Di went for a walk out to the Old Wilpena Station. We went to town intending on getting the tyre repaired after yesterday's mishap. We left the mechanics to go to work on the tyre and went to sample the local coffee, and to check out the general store (one and the same establishment plus a Post Office to boot). Interesting place. There's a "Thankyou" plus signature scrawled on the wall from Miranda Kerr (supermodel and wife of Orlando Bloom).

After downing the coffee, we wandered down to the Big 4 caravan park as I thought we might as well go and check and confirm our bookings for the next phase of our holiday. Ironically, after keeping our eyes peeled for Sturt's Desert Pea wherever we've been so far, bugger me, there's a whole mess of the stuff right outside the caravan park office.

After what we thought was a reasonble time given to reair the puncture, we wandered back to Chris's Mechanical Repairs to find that there was too much damage done to the tyre, and a new one would be in order. That only took about 10mins to fit, so we were soon hightailing it out of town and heading for Wilpena.
As we drove into the park, we came across Sharon and Di walking along the road, coming back from the Old Wilpena Station, so we stopped and gave them a lift.

          Di and I headed off to the Old Station on foot via the main road. Unfortunately no walking track through the natural bush. Almost there when a group of emus were spotted on the roadside. Now you would have to say we are pretty brave whilst in the car but at this point we didn't have one of those. Lucky for us they didn't show the slightest interest in us.
The old station was an insight into how life would have been like, extremely harsh conditions. Di and I both agreeing it wouldn't have been a life for us. Especially reinforced when making a pit stop to the ladies and finding a large poster on the back of the door showing all the varieties of spiders that habitat the loos.

All the old buildings were simple constructions and with very little comfort.
One of the many owners has been buried there, living only to the age of 38, making me feel very grateful for our longer life span.
Most informative morning out and as well as being picked up by two guys on the way back!

31 Aug 2011 -Down and dirty.

Today's activities started with a trip out to Stoke's Hill lookout, where we were treated to a 360 degree view of the surrounding ranges.

Next we visited SA's version of "The Great Wall of China". While we were parked up here Dave and I took several shots of the unusual geological formations that make up the wall, whilst Di and Sharon were off like a pair of mountain goats, down the hill chasing wildflowers to snap.

On to the town of Blinman, whose main claim to fame is that it's the highest town in the Flinders Ranges (I assume they mean elevation). This sleepy little place has a certain charm, but not much else. If the road through the middle had've been dirt instead of bitumen, it'd almost be the preverbial outback country town with the pub in the centre, and the local mutt wandering to and fro, idly sniffing at passers by.
The wall of the public bar is covered in notes of all different nationalities and denominations and thousands of business cards. Don't know why, and didn't ask. The barman wasn't exactly busting to be BFFs after we traipsed in and asked for 3 Skinny Lattes and a Flat White.

We left Blinman and backtracked a few K's to the turnoff to Barachina Gorge, around 20 Kms down a freshly graded dirt road (hence the "Dirty" in the title). A short distance in over the dusty and shale strewn track, we pulled up for another photo opportunity. As I was about to hop back up into the rear passenger seat, I noticed a hissing sound coming from somewhere down near my feet. Unusually, after earlier stopping to take a shot of a snake sunning itself on edge of the bitumen, it didn't occur to me that it may have been something natural hissing at me. So I bobbed down to investigate. The sound was coming from the rear tyre, specifically, from a 1cm long shard of shale that was imbedded between the tread blocks (this accounts for the "Down" in the title). As it was deflating slowly at this stage, Dave decided to press on to the Gorge, where we sat and ate lunch. A quick squirt with the compressor before we set off again would keep us going for a while.

The countryside here changes so dramatically. Just over a rise, or around a corner and the terrain can be markedly different. Right next to a stunted bush, seemingly doing it tough, can be a mass of wildflowers, flourishing and full of life.

These next 3 shots were all taken within metres of each other.
Unfortunately though, there was no getting around the fact that the deflating tyre had to be changed as it was now going down rather rapidly. So it was out with the tools and after a bit of grunting and effort, we had the spare on and were back in business.

Thankfully we were spared any "plumber's crack".
After another 20Kms or so we were back onto the sealed road, and only a short distance from our camp.

30 Aug 2011- Doesn't get any better than this.......or does it?

It was another leisurely (I'll have to look up the Thesaurus for another word for leisurely) start to the day. Di and Dave had long gone and were off somewhere overhead, floating over the Ranges and surrounds in a hot air balloon. Peter and Robyn also took to the air, but they chose a light plane. Both parties returned very satisfied with their respective flights and will no doubt have some spectacular photos as a reminder. Sharon and I took a stroll down to the Visitor's Centre and General Store to see what was on offer. The store has most of the bare essential food items, a selection of wines and spirits, a bunch of basic camping stuff, and the usual souvenirs.

After lunch we piled into the 4WDs and headed down the (dirt) road a bit to Sacred Canyon. Here, we trekked and rock-hopped up a dry creek bed, through the narrow rock walls, to the end of the canyon to see the ancient aboriginal rock carvings.

On our return to the camp, plans were made for tomorrow's itinerary, then the big and little hands showed it was "beer" o'clock. I forgot to mention that Dave and I drove back to the store and bought a sack of firewood. So, we did the typical blokey thing and stood around a smokey pit, stubby in hand, and poked and prodded at the wood until we were satisfied with the fire. On went a few spuds wrapped in foil which we topped off with bacon and mushroom bits, sour cream, grated cheese and some coleslaw. Pete helped round of the meal with some apple crumble he cooked in the Bedourie (camp oven), accompanied by homemade custard.

The day finished up around the campfire with a good cup of coffee and a nice drop of Port. Don't reckon it gets much better than this.

P.S. this is the view out our door:

29 Aug 2011 - A view from the top

    We awoke this morning to another brilliant day. The curious birds that inhabit the area were making a ruckus and the crows were doing their best Graham Kennedy impressions. After a leisurely breakfast and a cup of  freshly brewed coffee, we all filled our water bottles, donned some headwear and took off on a walk to the original Wilpena Homestead some 3.3Kms out from the resort. The track takes you into the "Pound" following the Wilpena Creek, passing some towering rock formations on either side. At the end of the trail is the 150 year old Wilpena Homestead.
     There's a series of information panels that describe the history of the place, and the family that lived there. They certainly lived through some tough times. If it wasn't drought, it was flood that knocked them to their knees again and again.
     Up behind the homestead is a track up to the Lower and Upper Wangarra Hill lookouts. The sign said 400m to the first lookout, and another 400m further to the next, which seemed a bit optimistic to us at the top, but the views were well worth the effort.

Dada and his chicks, next to the Homestead walking trail.

We were all a bit weary by the time we got back to camp, so it was a very leisurely (there's that word again!) arvo.

Later in the day, at about "Scotch" o'clock, we received an inpromptu visit from a couple of the locals who hopped in to say gidday. Very friendly, not at all concerned by the human activity in the park. 

As the day drew to a close, we amused ourselves watching some of the newbies arriving, doing the obligatory "caravan cha-cha", trying to get their 'van in the optimal position on their designated site. We've all been there, so we're allowed to pass judgment.

Di and Dave are off on their early morning hot air balloon flight tomorrow (5:15am take-off), so they've already said goodnight. I don't think we'll be up too long either.