Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Catching Up (1)

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to post because I’ve been out of range, so this will be a catch-up. I have still used separate dates for different entries, but as I can’t seem to over-ride the post dates, they will all be under the same heading.

To make it easier to read, I will put the posts in one-week bites, a day apart – enjoy.

Day 80 – 02 Mar 09

Continued along the Murray Valley Highway. The country is very dry, probably the driest I’ve seen on the trip so far except for the Western Desert. It would appear that the rains have relieved the drought to a certain extent in Qld, NSW and Eastern Victoria, but haven’t had any effect around this area. Stopped for a break at Lake Boca, which was a base for the Catalina flying boats during WWII. I think they’d have a little trouble today, the lake is as dry as a bone.

Had a wander around Swan Hill. As just about everywhere else there is a “big” something here, in this case it’s the Big Murray Cod.

What are we going to do when we run out of “bigs?” I can see the day when we get to “Kickatinalong – the home of the small to medium goanna”. There are a lot of references here to the early explorers but there are very few of the old original buildings in the town. Like so many places, the buildings have been torn down and replaced and a sign put up telling what used to be there. It’s sad to think that we can’t make some effort to retain at least some of these historic buildings, such as Post Offices, Court Houses etc. Camped tonight at a roadside stop called Lake Charm, just east of Mildura.

Day 81 – 03 Mar 09

Today I did the Riverland. I have visited this area a number of times in the past, but never really taken the time to look around. Previously places like Mildura have always been just a town to drive through on the way to somewhere else or a stop to fuel up. It’s a pity it is so dry here at the moment, I’m sure that the Riverland would be really beautiful if conditions were better. I took the opportunity to go walkabout near the Mildura lock and weir. It’s quite interesting and well worth the time to take a wander.

Did a little shopping and headed out for South Australia. Just as I was leaving, about 10:30 am, the wind came up and started to howl quite strongly. If we needed any verification about the dryness of the country, this gave it – for hours and hours and hundreds of kilometres, visibility was down to a few hundred metres because of the amount of dust in the air. It reminded me of stories I’d read about the dust bowl in the USA when all the topsoil was stripped from the land and simply blown away.

Crossed the Vic/SA border and on to Renmark, another place I’d never stopped at before. Did the tourist thing and had a look at the paddle wheelers etc. I have noted down this area as one I’d like to return to and spend a couple of months poking around, I’m sure there will be a lot of little out-of-the-way places around here to explore.

Onto Overland Corner which was a stop on the old coach route through the area. The old Inn has been restored and serves as a historic link for the area. It was interesting to note the sign almost up to roof level showing how high the flood of 1956 came. I took a walk from the Inn to the river and it was about 2 km away! Must have been some flood. Another spot to come back to in the future.

Then on to Morgan, still on the Murray River. Just had to take a ride on the punt, seeing it was free. Didn’t bother with the vehicle, just rode across and back. I remember when I was a kid, (back in the Middle Ages) there were punts all along the Murray at Blanchetown, Kingston, Tailem Bend etc. I think this one at Morgan must be just about the last. In our frenetic rush to get from place to place we can’t be bothered with something like this, we just throw a bridge over instead. Morgan is so small that they haven’t bothered pulling down the old places and renewing them, so there is a strong sense of the past here. Took the road from Morgan to Burra and camped off the road about halfway.

Day 82 – 04 Mar 09

Burra was delightful. The historic trail is well worth following. Burra seems to have made a deliberate effort to resist modernisation. Oh, there’s a supermarket etc, but so much of the town and area has been preserved. I came across this building and thought “Gee, I know this from somewhere”. Do you recognise it? It was the Redruth Gaol from 1856 to 1894 and then a Girl’s Reformatory from 1897 to 1922. What made it so familiar was that it was the location for the fort in the film “Breaker Morant”.

Burra was a mining town mainly for copper and the sight of where the early miners lived, literally in holes dug in the ground, was an eye-opener for me. If you are in the area, don’t miss a chance to explore.

Onward, ever onward. Through Peterborough and Orroroo to Hawker. Again I took the opportunity to do the tourist walk. Again, unfortunately most of the landmarks are gone and only signs remain. At least they had a sense of humour in the old days. A local character named Pope had a house there and what would you call a Pope’s House? Just out of town however, there’s a feature called Castle Rock. It’s a bit of a climb to get there but it is a very interesting rock formation (if that’s what floats your boat) and there is a great view of the area from the top. Recommended.

I know I’m covering a bit of ground recently, but I am looking forward to the Flinders Ranges and I’m impatient to get there. On from Hawker and although I’m still in wheat country, I can see the southern foothills of the Flinders ahead.

Camped tonight off the side of the road on the banks of a creek. I’m about 50 kms south of Wilpena opposite a feature called Rawnsley Bluff. It’s close to the road, but there is very little traffic.

Day 83 – 05 Mar 09

It’s so beautiful and peaceful here, I have decided to stay for a couple of days. The neighbours don’t seem to mind. Note for future – If you’re going to chill the tinnys, remember to take them out of the freezer. It took me ages to clean up the mess.

Day 85 – 07 Mar 09

Packed up this morning and headed into Wilpena. If there was ever a tourist trap, this place is it. I remember a couple of years ago coming through here just with a swag. I asked them how much for a camp site and they wanted $25.00 – Just to unroll a swag. Got some bread and milk and took off again.

Just north of the turn-off into Wilpena is a track on the right to Sacred Canyon. DON’T MISS IT. It’s a pretty rough track, the Penguin made it, but I doubt that a caravan or motor-home would unless you have made some serious off-road modifications. It’s about 15 kms in (and you have to come out the same way). The gorge is terrific. I walked the whole length, about 1200 metres and back. There are several places where you need to scramble over rocks, but if an old bugger like me can do it, so can you. There are some interesting aboriginal rock carvings deep in the gorge, quite unusual and unlike the ones I’ve seen in the Western Desert or the Pilbara, but I suppose that’s to be expected.

On to Blinman which is the jump off for the Parachilna Gorge which if where I have been aiming. Just a brief stop for a coffee and into the Gorge. Had a look at one of the local residences. Can’t figure out where you’d put the games room – probably have to lump it in with the home theatre – what a bummer!

I can see the start of the Gorge ahead. The road is getting fairly rugged but I see they have taken the trouble to install nice solid safety barriers to stop you going off the edge.

It is as awe-inspiring as I remember it. Oh, it’s no Grand Canyon, but the gorge walls, the huge River Red Gums and the peacefulness are incredible. I found a likely spot for a campsite at the second bend of the creek and I’ll stay here for a while.

Day 86 – 08 Mar 09

Had a nice sleep-in today. Up at the crack of 10:00 to the carolling of Magpies in the Red Gums. Took a walk along the creek bed. Like so many other parts of the country, the feral goats have invaded. I must have seen a dozen or so just in the first kilometre. I walked back to the first bend of the creek and then up onto the wall of the gorge. I’ve never been here when the creek is running, I wonder how different it would look.

Continued in Section (2)

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