Thursday, May 21, 2009

Catching Up (2)

Day 88 – 10 Mar 09

I was planning to stay here in Parachilna Gorge for about two weeks or so, but I have had to leave early because I’ve come over queer. I woke up about 4:00 am and was incredibly dizzy. The whole van was whirling around, so much so that I couldn’t stand up. I tried to go back to sleep and every time I would roll over, I would get another dizzy spell. It felt like the bed was tipping up and I was going to slide out. I got back to sleep and woke again at about 8:00 and every time I would move, everything would start spinning. I seemed to be all right when I was sitting still, but it’s worrying me quite a bit so I thought I’d better pack up and find a doctor.

Packing the van was a nightmare. Every time I bent or turned, round and round it would go. Took me about 2 hours instead of the usual 20 minutes.

Refuelled at Parachilna and they told me there that there was a hospital at Leigh Creek so off I headed. The hospital at Leigh Creek was an eye-opener. It looks brand-new and has every mod con. I described the symptoms to the doctor and he knew straight away what the problem was. It seems it was an attack of “Benign (I was pleased to hear that word, let me tell you) Positional Vertigo”. Evidently some of the calcium particles in the semi-circular canals of the middle ear become dislodged and float around, touching the hairs and making the brain think it’s off-balance. He said it was quite common and would go away by itself in a couple of days (which it has). I must admit I was a bit worried for a while. At my age you start thinking of strokes, and such like.

I can’t see any sense in retracing my steps, so I will head onwards and leave the gorge for another time. I had a look at the mine workings at the coalfields. I can remember from my schooldays, that the “Walking Dragline” at Leigh Creek was the wonder of the age. It seems so antiquated when we think of the mining equipment of today.

I pulled in to Farina, about halfway between Leigh Creek and Marree just to have a look around. Farina was at one time the head of the rail line and as such was quite a busy place. All the local stations would bring their cattle in for shipment to the city and of course, all the provisions for the area would be distributed from there. There were evidently about 400 houses here at one time. When the rail line was extended to Marree, the town died and there are quite extensive ruins, which was the reason I stopped.

I noticed a sign saying “Campground”, so I thought I’d have a look. The area is maintained by the owners of the sheep station on which it stands and they have slashed out about 10 or 12 sites. It’s very basic, but there is shade, the creek was flowing when I was there and there are hot showers (providing you are prepared to gather some firewood and light the donkey). At $3.50 per night, there are a lot worse places I’ve stayed, although I have seen better places to locate the Visitor's Book.

Day 89 – 11 Mar 09

I have decided to stay another day at Farina and have a poke around. As I said the creek is flowing due to recent rains and the campground is only a kilometre or so away from the old Ghan line. There are quite a number of remains around from the old rail line. and even some evidence of the original line which seems to have run alongside the alignment of the old line, It is certainly inhospitable country unless you’re farming rocks, in which case I think this crop is about ready to harvest!

A couple of kilometres from the campground is the old cemetery. In retrospect, I should have driven out to it. It is stinking hot and the only shade around is what I’m casting. At least I remembered my hat. The cemetery is interesting (if that’s your sort of thing) but I was curious about some graves that seemed to be by themselves right over in the far corner of the site, so I wandered over. It seems that these were the graves of the local “Afghans” (most of them were actually what we would call Pakistanis) and it wasn’t considered proper to bury them in the same place as “civilised” people. Does it really matter when you’re all dead?

Day 90 – 12 Mar 09

On to Marree. A lot smaller than I had imagined and very few facilities. I guess this is because of the removal of the rail line. I imagine it would have been a lot bigger and busier when the Ghan still ran through here. I enquired at the road house about the water in Lake Eyre, but it seems the water hasn’t gotten down into Lake Eyre South yet. Probably another month according to the bloke I spoke to. Can’t see any point in waiting, so off along the Oodnadatta Track. Crikey it’s dry and barren out here.

The track (quite a good gravel road in fact) runs along the alignment of the old Ghan line and every so often there are the ruins of an old siding. Many years ago I worked out on the old Trans-Continental line on the Nullarbor and it was interesting to note that the fettler’s quarters along here are totally different. Along the Ghan line they are all build of stone in a single block, whereas on the Nullarbor, they were two-man dongas build of weatherboard. Maybe these were older???

At one point the road virtually touches Lake Eyre, but I have to say that from this aspect it looks just like any other salt lake you might see in your travels. It was interesting to stand at the location and realise that you are 12 metres below sea level, but I formed the impression that the only way to appreciate Lake Eyre would be from an aircraft. – Maybe one day.

Came across a very strange location where somebody has created sculptures from wrecked machinery. There is no settlement anywhere near, just these macabre figures by the side of the road in the middle of the desert.

There was some evidence of the recent heavy rains up in Queensland. You drive hundreds of kilometres where the area is bone dry and all of a sudden come across a creek which is flowing a banker. Weird to think that this water came from rains over a thousand kilometres from here.

Half way to William Creek was a sign to “Mound Springs". These are worth a look, they’re only 10-12 km off the track. There are these rock mounds, about 10 or 12 metres high in the middle of the plain, and there are springs on the tops of the mounds, with fresh water bubbling up from below.

A little further on was Coward Springs which is an Oasis, for want of a better word. Quite extensive campground, but I don’t think it’s worth $10.00 an night. There wasn’t even any decent shade and there were no showers or toilets that I could see. I think the fact that there was not one vehicle there, and no sign of any having been there for some time was a bit of a give-away.

Next stop William Creek. I’m going to treat myself a little. Have a few beers and a powered site for the night. Outsmarted myself I’m afraid. The beer was cold, but very expensive. $18.00 for a feed of fish and chips which were obviously frozen with a pretty ordinary salad, and the showers are all untreated artesian water. Impossible to get the soap to lather and as soon as you dried off you could feel to salt on your skin. Had to have a rinse-off in the van with fresh water. Oh, well – experience.

Day 91 – 13 Mar 09

Off again on the Oodnadatta track. The road is still in very good condition, well graded and level. Stopped for a stickybeak at Algebuckina Bridge, (part of the Ghan line) Quite impressive when you consider it was built in 1892 and is the longest single rail bridge ever built in South Australia, even longer than the bridge over the Murray.

Arrived in Oodnadatta about midday and, after an obligatory stop at the Pink Roadhouse, decided to push on. I enquired at the roadhouse about the road to Mount Dare and was assured it was in good condition. “It was graded last year” I was told, which is supposed to mean something, but the information was given to me by a German backpacker with a ring through her nose so I have some reservations. The roads to Mt. Dare and Dalhousie Springs are well travelled, so maybe they are OK.

Looks like there has been a fair bit of rain around recently, there are some boggy bits of the road but they all seem reasonable. I can either get through them or get around them. Although my poor old van is getting covered in mud.

About 150 kms from Oodnadatta is Eringa, a permanent waterhole on Lindsay Creek. Evidently it was the location of Sir Sidney Kidman’s first property. The waterhole is huge, 500 metres wide by a couple of kilometres long. It would be a great campsite, but I want to push on. The water is across the track, running about half a metre deep, but the bottom is firm and rocky so I can get through alright. About another 30 km and the road forks, left to Finke via Abminga Ruins and marked as “4WD only” or right to Finke via Mt. Dare. I’ll take the Mt. Dare road

The conditions are getting a lot worse. I’m striking washaways about every kilometre or so. Some of these washaways are quite large and as the ground is very muddy, I’m not prepared to take the chance of getting bogged in the middle of one, so I am taking quite wide deviations around them. Luckily the ground is very flat and quite hard away from the water so it’s just a matter of taking it steady.

I’m Stuffed. I’m at Blood’s Creek, only about 35 kms from Mt. Dare and I can’t get through. The water is about knee-deep but there is about a foot of soft mud under that. There is a channel stretching left and right as far as the eye can see. I’ve walked about a kilometre upstream and the same down, but I can’t find a spot to cross. I MIGHT get through if I’m lucky, and if I was with another vehicle I would try it, but if I get stuck, I could still be there at Xmas. I haven’t seen another vehicle all day, so I am going to err on the side of caution. I’ll set up tonight and see what it looks like tomorrow.

Can’t complain about the sunsets around here.

Day 92 – 14 Mar 09

Well, the creek doesn’t seem to have dropped at all overnight and seems to be flowing quite strongly, so I don’t think I have any option but to go back to Oodnadatta. A pity, because a) I hate going back over ground I’ve travelled and b) it’s a lot of extra kms. Better than being stuck for who knows how long however.

Boring, boring, boring, all the way back to Oodnadatta and refuelled and then off to Marla on the Stuart Hwy. Even this section, which is the “Main Road” has a number of washaways. There must have been a fair bit of rain and fairly wide-spread

Reached Marla, decided to get a bottle of go-juice to mix with the Coke and they asked me for my driver’s licence. My first thought was that it’s a long time since anybody thought I was under 18!!! Then I realised it’s because of the indigenous liquor restrictions. It seems that anybody who buys booze has to produce ID. Seems a bit over the top to me.

Camped tonight at a roadside stop on the highway. Place called Marryat, no facilities but very pleasant. Quite strange, there are picnic facilities and a water supply, but no toilets, not even a long-drop.

Day 94 – 16 Mar 09

Decided to take a day off yesterday and recharge the batteries (mine, not the van’s), so I stayed the day at Marryat. Got a chance to get a bit of dust out of the van and wash a bit of the mud from the Kia. Those Greenies who carry on about washing a car with a bucket have got rocks in their heads. Washing is OK but trying to rinse off is a nightmare.

Headed up the highway to Kulgera and refuelled. Those of you who have been paying attention, will remember that I was here in late December and was going to run through to Finke but couldn’t get through because of floods. Well, now’s my chance. I’m going to go to a spot called Lambert Centre, which is (one of) the Geographic Centre of Australia. Evidently there are several ways of calculating this, most distant from any coastline, combination of lines from North and South with East and West, but this place is the “Planimetric” Centre (whatever that means) and is the only one that I can find which has vehicle access. Along the Kulgera-Finke road and about 35 kms from Finke drive 20 kms along what appears to be a creek bed and you come to a flagpole in the middle of the scrub. The sign says 4WD Only and it is a bit rough in places. Several sand dunes and some REALLY deep ruts, but the Penguin made it. No sign of recent visitors and the most recent entry in the visitors book was about three months previous, but very easy camping. Plenty of shade (except during the day) and nice flat level dirt. Stayed overnight and the night sky was magnificent.

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