Saturday, May 30, 2009

Catching Up (6)

Day 136 – 27 Apr 09

Hughenden seems to have gone even more dinosaur-crazy than the others. Everywhere you looked there was some reference to a dinosaur.

I must admit some of the sculptures done by local artists out of junk were very imaginative. Reminded me a bit of the sculptures on the Oodnadatta track.

Starting to get into some hills now, first since the Alice, if you don’t count those pimples coming in to Isa. Stopped for a break at White Mountains near Pentland. White I’ll go along with, but whoever called them mountains needs to get out a bit more. Looks like there could be some good bushwalking there however.

On to Charters Towers. It never ceases to amaze me that when you look at the buildings in the centre of town, you feel like you’re in a big town of 10 or 12 thousand people, and yet it is actually a very small town (although I understand is has a considerable non-urban population). I guess it is because it once was a very large town during the gold-mining days, and, unlike some towns which have simply withered away, CT has retained the prominent buildings in its heart.

I was looking for a likely area to camp between here and Townsville and notice in Camps 5 a spot called Fletcher Creek about 42 kms north of CT on the Greenvale road. The thing that struck me was that “camps” states that you can camp here for 30 days! Thinks: that sounds like a good idea to me. What a great spot.

Toilets, showers (cold) a broad, fast flowing creek which is spring-fed, so it’s permanent, plenty of shade, plenty of dead wood in the surrounding area and plenty of room. It’s perfect, think I may stay here for a couple of weeks.

Day 158 – 19 May 09

Oh dear, how time flies when you’re having fun. I’ve been here at Fletcher Creek now for 3 weeks and it only seems like yesterday that I arrived. I’d been here for a week, set up right on the riverbank, when along comes some wally from the local council, complete with Stetson and high-heeled riding boots, (you really need them when you’re driving a Nissan Patrol) and tells us all (there were about 8 or 9 campers) to bugger off. It seems the EPA doesn’t want people camping on the riverbank in case they do wee-wees in the water. This completely ignores the fact that there is a mob of about 50 brahmin-cross steers who wander across the creek each morning and you can imagine what they do in the water.

People are evidently only allowed to camp outside the line of posts 25 metres or so from the riverbank. Someone at one time has pulled a couple of posts out of the ground (probably for his campfire) and it looks like an access point to the riverbank, so obviously people use it as such. It seems that it is more efficient to drive all the way out here and tell people to move, than it would be to replace the posts and put up a sign or two.

I did the right thing and moved outside the posts, but seeing I’d been disturbed I thought right, well I’ll have to start again and have another week. After about 3 days it came over all cloudy and we had a bit of drizzle each night. I thought this was grossly unfair, to rain while I’m having a holiday and determined that I wouldn’t move until the weather improves. That took another week and by this time people had started camping on the riverbank again, but it’s none of my beeswax.

I suppose I should think about moving on again. Let’s see, today is Tuesday, and I don’t want to get to Townsville on a weekend, so I think I’ll stay here until the weekend and pack up on Monday to move on.

Catching Up (5)

Day 122 – 13 Apr 09

10 days, and still no sign of the parts for the Kia. Good thing I’m not in a hurry. I checked the RACQ road conditions and it looks like there are still a few road closures in place up in the gulf, so I probably need to kill a bit of time anyway. This really is a pleasant site for a caravan park, price is reasonable at $28.00 a night, especially with the 10% discount for being a Top Tourist member (although that has run out due to the $25.00 maximum) and the “stay 7 days, pay for 6” which works out to a 14% discount as well. The facilities are top-class, great showers with plenty of water pressure, place is pet-friendly although there are very few pets in evidence. The place seems very popular, it has been chokka several times, although I would have expected more kids, it being the school holidays and all. Maybe kids don’t like the Mt. Isa area?

Day 129 – 20 Apr 09

Finally, the parts have arrived and they can fix the Kia. I could probably have taken a few side-trips like Lawn Hill or similar while I was stuck here, but I didn’t want to take the chance of the vehicle giving up the ghost somewhere out the back of beyond. I love automatics, but if you can’t start them with the key, you’re absolutely stuffed. No push-start with these blokes.

Now that I’m mobile again, I can think about moving on. Staying in a van park has its good points, but it can become expensive after a while. It’s not that I’m stingy, but the money has to last. I know that a lot of people work here and there while there on the road, but I don’t want to work unless I absolutely have to. To my mind, that’s what being retired is, not working. The couple in the van next to me are Kiwis, about 30-something, and they pull into a place, stay at a van park and get jobs. She’s cleaning at the Irish Club and he’s delivering Pizzas. Evidently they got their jobs the first day they hit town and plan on staying for a couple of months. Good on ‘em, but I’d rather sit on my duff and do nothing.

Day 130 – 21 Apr 09

On the road again. Departed the Isa this morning and took a run out to Lake Moondarra.

Very nicely set up, the lake is a dam on the Leichhardt River to supply water to the Isa and the mines, but they have taken the trouble to make it into a good recreation area as well. Nice lawns, shade, picnic areas etc., but also opportunities to take a good walk up the hills and so forth.

One thing I have noticed since getting into Queensland is the number of hawks around. They seem to be everywhere in quite large numbers. Must be the good conditions have increased their prey which has in turn increased or at least concentrated the number of hawks.

On the road back to the Isa from Lake Moondarra. I don't know what these blokes were drinking or smoking, but it must have been good stuff!

I remember coming through this way in 1973, stopping at Mary Kathleen for a break and a cold drink. The last couple of times I’ve been through, I couldn’t find any sign of the place. I know they pulled it all up and moved some of it to Cloncurry, but I couldn’t even find where it has been. This time there is a sign leading in to the townsite. It’s only a couple of kms off the road but the road itself is in a real bad state.

I had some old photos of the place from ’73 and it was interesting to try to identify the same locations now.

My understanding is that one is not supposed to camp there, but there are no signs anywhere saying so, so I’m going to plead ignorance and stay for a few days. The old hardstanding surfaces make an ideal van site and there is plenty of shade. There are another couple of semi-nomads already here, so we can plead ignorance together.

Day 131 – 22 Apr 09

I’ve walked for miles today. There’s a hill just to the east of the townsite and you can get a wonderful view over the whole area from there. It’s a bit of a scramble getting up and wouldn’t you know it – after stumbling and scrambling through the Spinifex to get up to the top, there are the remains of an old dirt access road which I could have walked up. The deterioration shows here too. The bottom part of the road, where it runs down the hill has become badly eroded by rain running down the track and has turned into a mini-gorge all of its own.

There is a bitumen ring-road which runs around the whole townsite and it was a good 5 or 6 kms right around. Great for a bit of exploring and trying to work out what the various locations were. The road extends through into “Private Property – Trespassers will be burned alive” sort of thing, but I couldn’t resist having a stickybeak. Again, not all that much to see, but I suppose the property owners are entitled to their privacy.

Day 132 – 23 Apr 09

Took a side-trip today, just in the Kia, down to what is fancifully named Clem Walton Park, more properly Corella Dam. It’s only a few kms from Mary K and only 4 or 5 kms off the main road, but it is a fairly rough track in. It is obviously accessible because there was a standard 18 foot van at the campsite, but I reckon you would want to take it r-e-a-l easy going in, in anything but an off-roader. It was quite pleasant at the camp, lots of shade, room for 10 or 12 sites, toilets, but not much else. The campsite is on the over-flow from the dam and I bet there would be lots of mozzies. Took a walk up to the dam wall. Nice walk – dozens of dead turtles everywhere for some reason. More hawks around – could be connected. Site would probably be worth a stop for a few days, but I don’t feel like packing up just to move a few kms, maybe next time I’m through this way?

Day 133 – 24 Apr 09

Packed up this morning, but before I hitched up, took a run out to the actual Mary K mine site. I’m glad I did, the view is spectacular. The mine is a semi-open-cut. They terraced the hill and then continued down into a pit. They mined for uranium, but it is obvious that there is a lot of copper in the ground. The water has been coloured by the copper sulphate leaching out of the ground and is the most vibrant blue colour (looks like those high school chemistry classes weren’t a complete waste after all – thanks Mr. Tindale). I wouldn’t have ever thought I would see anything bluer than the Blue Lake in Mt. Gambier, but I have now.

The couple at Mary K have said that Wal’s Camp at Cloncurry is worth a visit, $10 a night, hot showers, but no power. Sounds like a good deal to me, think I’ll stop there for a couple of nights.

Day 134 – 25 Apr 09

They were right, it’s not bad for what you pay for. Not a lot of shade, so pick the direction you park to make the best use of your awnings and the shade provided by the body of your vehicle. There’s an on-site refrigerated trailer just outside the camp and the sound of the bloody thing kicking in and out all night is a pain in the bum.

Went into town this morning for the ANZAC service, wasn’t too bad for a little town this size. I still can’t get used to troops using these Steyr rifles. They look like the plastic toys kids used to play with, and when they present arms with them it looks ridiculous. I think there’s a case to be made for continuing to use the SLR for ceremonial purposes like this. The troopies simply stood with the weapons slung during the service because it’s obviously impossible to perform “Rest on your arms reversed” with this weapon. Takes something away from the solemnity of a memorial service somehow.

In the afternoon , I went out to Chinaman Creek Dam. It's a very lovely spot, only 5 or 6 kms out of town and a great spot for a picnic or a day out with the ankle-biters.

Due to the recent rains through the area, the dam is chokkas, right up to the top of the wall and the movement of the boats on the dam were sending the water over the top of the spillway.

There is a (pretty rough) track leading from the back of the spillway and out along the retaining wall, that leads to some very picturesque spots on the upper reaches of the lake. Don't know about camping, couldn't see any signs and nobody seemed to know one way or the other - might come under that "30 kms from town" blanket restriction.

Took a spin up to the Ernest Henry minesite north of town in the afternoon to have a look at the big pit. Waste of bloody time, there’s no public access, and nowhere that you can get a view of the pit. Oh, well, more experience.

Took a deviation to Fort Constantine on the way back, thought it sounded interesting. Evidently whoever named it was reminded of the forts in Constantinople. Couldn’t see anything that was faintly reminiscent of a fort. There is a very picturesque crossing at the Cloncurry River, – More hawks, and a very flash set of station buildings, but no fort that I could see.

Day 136 – 27 Apr 09

The road from Cloncurry to Charters Towers has certainly changed over the years. I first travelled this route in 1969. There was 30 kms of bitumen east of Cloncurry and about 1 km each side of Julia Creek, Richmond and Hughenden, then it started again at Torrens Creek. The rest was dirt and washaways. Still very green everywhere with knee high grass as far as the eye can see.

I had a wander around Richmond and all I can say about these outback Queenslanders is that they seem a bit careless to me. On the historical walk, there are several signs stating what used to be there, including in many cases photographs of the original buildings. If there were any which hadn’t been destroyed by one fire or another, I couldn’t find them. Either somebody was very careless with matches or there were some great insurance scams going on.

Camped tonight at Marathon, just a roadside rest area but quite nice.

Catching Up (4)

Day 105 – 27 Mar 09

I’ve spent the past week just doodling around the local sights like Flynn's Grave and catching upon my reading. I should have taken the opportunity to get this blog up-to-date, but to tell the truth, it just seemed like too much trouble at the time. This relaxing really takes it out of you let me tell you. Awake at the crack of 9:00, out of bed by 10:00 at the latest, walking all the way to the outside of the van to sit down, reading till lunch-time and then having to climb all the way back into the van to make a sandwich, eating the sandwich, reading for a couple of hours and by then I’m so exhausted I have to have a nap to recover. What will I have for tea? Decisions, decisions. Cheese and bickies and a drop of the good stuff at 17:30 and by that time it’s time to make dinner. Watch a video and it’s 9:00pm already and I fall into bed exhausted. It’s a hard life, but I guess somebody has to do it.

Day 106 – 28 Mar 09

Well, enough of this sitting around, it’s time to get on the road again. Today it’s the East MacDonnell Ranges. Out from Alice to Emily Gap.You would not believe the bloody flies! I usually have a quiet chuckle when I see the tourists with their fly-veils, but I tell you what, I’m seriously thinking of getting one myself. I know that if you go bush, you get flies, but these are beyond a joke. On to Jessie Gap,

Then on to Corroborree Rock,

what is supposedly the world’s largest Ghost Gum,

and to Trephina Gorge. There is a great walk along the rim of the gorge with some spectacular views,

but the walk back through the gorge itself is a killer. The sand is deep and really soft and is really hard going. One thing that is very noticeable about all of these tourist attractions in the area is the number of signs, do this... don't do that... go here.... don't go there, (especiallythe No Camping signs) but the best example of stating the blindingly obvious would have to be,On to Ross River Resort which sounds very posh, but is just a collection of dilapidated shacks and doesn’t look very salubrious at all.

Back through the Alice and out to the West MacDonnells.

First stop: Simpson's GapLook, these gaps, chasms, gorges, what-have-you are very picturesque and peaceful, but after a while they all look the bloody same. My advice is pick one, spend the day there and move on. The really annoying thing is, they are such beautiful locations, but you’re not allowed to camp there. I would think that waking up early (ish) in the morning at one of these spots would be delightful, but no, no, no says Parks and Wildlife.

Stopped at Standley Chasm. Now that really is spectacular, even if you do have to pay to look at it. Again, stopping there for a day would be great, the differences in the chasm in the early morning, at noon with the sun shining straight down in the cleft, and sunset would be very interesting, but what would you do in the intervening hours?

I spent that night at a roadside rest area about halfway between Standley Chasm and the Ellery Big Hole, high up on top of a hill about 500 metres off the road. What a great little stop. Just the usual – a couple of shaded picnic tables and a water tank, but what views. The local cops pulled in just before sunset, watched the sun set and took off again on their patrol.

Day 107 – 29 Mar 09

Ellery Big Hole was quite impressive because of the amount of water in it. Seems to be quite a popular spot for swimming, seemed to be a lot of families with kids there, although admittedly it was a Sunday. I stopped at the Ochre pits and it was interesting to see the different colours of ochre all in the same location. The site had an absolutely enormous parking area, but not a soul in sight. Must have been in-between tour buses. A bit different to Kata-Tjuta, there was a different bus full of Japs every 15 minutes. I gave Serpentine Gorge a miss. First it was about 15 kms each way of pretty rough track and secondly, I’m about gorged-out.

OK, one more. Went into Ormiston Gorge. Yep, It's a gorge alright.Headed on to Glen Helen. Now that’s impressive. Worth the whole trip by itself. Suggested itinerary for travellers to the West MacDonnells – Leave the Alice at such a time as to get to Standley Chasm just before midday, so that you can see the sun shine into the chasm at noon. Then on to Glen Helen, watch the sunset and back to Alice in the morning. Give the rest of them a quick squiz on the way back.

I hot-footed it back to Alice, fuelled up and headed north along the Stuart Highway. Passed Aileron and Ti-Tree and pulled up for the night at a Rest Area opposite Central Mt. Stuart.

Day 108 – 30 Mar 09

Diesel was 1.29 a litre in Alice. I stopped at Barrow Creek for a coffee and happened to glance at their pumps. $1.48 a litre. Good Luck to ‘em I say, hope they get it.

Stopped for a break at Wycliffe Well, supposedly the “UFO capital of Australia” The roadhouse seems to have taken the title to heart.

Pulled into Tennant Creek to do the bread and milk thing and ran into a couple of motor-homer's that I’d met in the Flinders, so called around to the caravan park and shared a couple of coldies. Pretty ratty-looking park to tell the truth. The town has got that look that is common to a lot of towns with large aboriginal populations. Bars or security mesh on every window in sight. I was surprised when I first saw this sort of thing in Wilcannia about 5 years ago but it seems to be becoming more common.

Back down to Three-ways and across the Barkley tableland. I was planning to camp at the first rest area, about 60 kms from Three-ways, but there was an old falcon there with a couple of indigs, so I kept moving to the next rest area at TW bore a further 70 kms on. Got there just before full dark. The first time I have travelled this late the whole trip so far. Good little spot, lots of shade and plenty of water from the bore – can’t drink it but.

Day 109 – 31 Mar 09

And so to Mount Isa. I must have travelled the Barkley 7 or 8 times over the years and I have never seen it looking like it is. It is bright green from one end to the other. The grass was about 500-600mm high. I stopped for a break at Avon Downs and not only was there plenty of water in the creek, the creek was full of water lilies. I tell you what, if beef prices don’t come down in Queensland in a year or so, there’s something funny going on. I reckon you could graze 10 million cattle out there at the moment.

One good thing, that stinking one-lane road from Camooweal to Isa has finally been upgraded to two lanes all the way. I can remember being absolutely terrified driving that section. The road is very undulating and you could only usually see as far as the next rise 500 metres ahead. You would come over a rise and there would be a road-train doing 100 kmh bearing down on you 100 metres ahead. These guys are pretty fair, they only use 50% of the road, but the trouble is, they take their 50% out of the middle.

Standard Operating Procedure was: 1. Come over rise, 2. See Road-Train, 3. Head for bush, 4. Sit for a while until heart-rate returns to normal.

I’ve been to the Isa a few times since the late ‘60’s and it never seems to change. It never gets any bigger and everything looks exactly the same as it did in the 60’s except I think there is an extra chimney at the mine spewing out sulphur dioxide.

I’m having a little trouble with the Kia. Every now and again I turn the key and nothing happens. I can hear the starter motor turning, but the engine doesn’t turn over. This happened just after I bought the vehicle, and got to the point where the vehicle wouldn’t start at all, so I’m going to put it in before it gets any worse. I was planning on spending a week in Isa anyway.

Booked in to the Top Tourist caravan park. Wonderfully shady sites. Every site has got lovely shade trees all around. Got to be the world’s smallest swimming pool however and there are no rubbish bins!!! Everybody has to walk all the way to the front of the park to use the skips.

Day 110 – 01 Apr 09

Down to the Kia dealers this morning and they are looking at the vehicle. Took a wander around town and did some rubber-necking and shopping and went back in the afternoon. They confirm that there is a problem with the starter motor, but report that the ring gear on the flywheel needs replacing as well. All under warranty luckily. The bad news is it will take ten days to get the parts from Sydney to Brisbane, to Townsville, to Mt. Isa. Oh, well I’m ahead of schedule anyway so I’ll book into the park for another week. It will give me time to catch up on my afternoon naps which I have been seriously neglecting lately.

Catching Up (3)

Day 95 – 17 Mar 09

Back out to the main track and on to the township of Finke. What a rat-hole! It would appear, despite what the literature indicates, that it isn’t a town, it’s an aboriginal community. And not a very pleasant one at that. I determined not even to stop and look around, but to head straight for Alice.

First of all, I took the wrong road. After bumping along for about two kms, I realised that instead of the road, I was following the embankment of the old railway line.

I found a spot to turn around and bumped and thumped my way back to the point where I had gone wrong and headed out along the road. Plenty of signage, as the route is used for the Finke Desert Race. Well they can have it. Rough! I’ve gone cross-country with no track at all and it was better than this. Two kms was enough for me. I’m starting to wonder if the railway embankment was actually the right road. Anyway, despite my hatred of back-tracking, back to Kulgera and the bitumen.

Pulled up for the night on a roadside stop on the banks of the Finke River. Bone dry. I have spent two days slogging through bogs and the largest river in Central Australia hasn’t got a drop. It just don’t seem right somehow. Lovely spot, some great walking along the banks of the river, but only 5 metres from the highway, could be a noisy night.

Bloody Hell! The cable has snapped again, the same one which let go near Port Macquarie. Oh well Alice Springs tomorrow and there will be a Jayco Agent to fix it. That’s twice in 5 months, I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come.

Day 96 – 18 Mar 09

A short side trip to see the Henbury Meteorite Crater - Not all that impressive, I guess we've been spoiled by movies and expect to see some monsterous crater a la Deep Impact. The road to the crater is also the back road to Palm Valley, the crater is about 10 kms along it and that was more than enough. What a rotten road! Worst corrugations I've ever seen. I reckon your fillings would all fall out if you tried to get to Palm Valley on this road.

Booked in to the Heritage Caravan Park near the Gap. Bought a membership for “Oz Camps” so I could get a discount. I was planning on staying a week, so the discount paid for the membership. The park is a “Pet-friendly” park. Now, I don’t have a problem with people travelling with pets, although some I’ve seen, travelling with three Shepherds or two Husky’s need their heads read. I think almost everybody in this park had at least one dog, and it was fairly obvious that most of the dogs didn’t like each other, and the rest didn’t like people walking past their territory. I tell you, it was bedlam, all night, every night, bark, bark, bark, yap, yap, yap. Apart from that it was a very nice park, lots of shade, well grassed, swimming pool etc. I thought the boss-lady was a bit tough however when she pointed out that I was set up THREE INCHES over the boundary between my site and the next one behind me and made me move. Especially when the next site was empty.

Day 99 – 21 Mar 09

Took a run down to Chamber’s Pillar today. The road is really rough, didn’t need 4WD, but I was really glad of the extra clearance. There’s a little store at Maryvale Station, just before the Pillar and the people there were really nice. I stopped to get a cold drink and ended up yarning for about an hour. They let me know that they maintained a listening watch on such-and-such a UHF channel, in case I got into trouble, asked what time I expected to get back and so on.

Chamber’s Pillar was very impressive and worth the drive (or so I thought at the time). Some nice shady shelters, free gas barbecues etc. I walked out to the Pillar and at the top of the slope leading to the Pillar itself, they have installed some steps and a platform allowing access to some of the 19th century graffiti by various explorers and pioneers. It was about 40 degrees and I thought I was going to die on the spot. I reckon I lost 5 kg doing that little trip. Note to self: take a bottle of water with you, you bloody idiot!

Driving back, got about half-way back and thought the steering seemed a bit sloppy. Got out to check and sure enough had a flat left rear. I thought I’d be smart and re-inflate instead of going through all the trouble of changing the tyre. Got it pumped up and spotted two very ominous bulges in the sidewall, so had to change it anyway.

Back in town, round to TyrePower and “how much for a new 245/65-17 A/T?” I ask. $320.00 the lass replies with a smile – and it’ll take a week to get here. I tell you what, the car dealers make a big point of telling you that your new vehicle has got 17-inch rims instead of the ordinary 16-inch, but wait till you have to find tyres for the bloody things. My advice – stick to standard. Turned out to be a fairly expensive trip out to the Pillar.

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.

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