A Travellerspoint blog

April 2019

A return to the Flinders Ranges

...wouldn't it be good to come again!

sunny 30 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Return to complete the Lap on SteveJD's travel map.

Loaded up and ready for our 576km drive

Loaded up and ready for our 576km drive

And, as usual, we had a back seat driver

And, as usual, we had a back seat driver

Last time we went to the Flinders Ranges, we travelled through the Barossa Valley and then on to Hawker. This time we let Gladys guide us and 'she' took us to Port Wakefield which has to be one of the least inspiring drives we have had. The drive on from there to Quorn was little better but it did gradually improve as we neared Hawker (for any new readers, 'Gladys' is our Garmin satnav and has such a prissy (male) voice that we nicknamed it Gladys).

The town of Hawker was proclaimed on 1 July 1880 and named after George Charles Hawker, an early settler, Commissioner of Works and a member of the South Australian Parliament 1858-1865 and 1875-1883 (thanks to Wikipedia and Aussie Towns).

The old Ghan (railway) line ran through Hawker and I had hoped to find where this ran but we were running out of time, so continued on into the Flinders Ranges. We were here in March last year but this time, although it is still magnificent country, it is much drier and animals and birds appeared to be less obviously abundant, although still enough to keep us happy.

We stayed at Skytrek Willow Springs Station which is excellent, with several good walks and a long 4WD trail which we did not really have time for and, in any case, were not game to undertake the drive in our hired vehicle in view of the constraints in the hire agreement! We stayed in the Overseer's Cottage which had been used for the School of the Air and was well equipped and very comfortable. On our last trip, we visited the ruins of Appealinna Station Homestead and have now found that Willow Springs Station is part of that original station, giving a sense of continuity.

The entrance to Skytrek Willow Springs Station

The entrance to Skytrek Willow Springs Station

We arrive at the Overseer's Cottage

We arrive at the Overseer's Cottage

One of the original radios used for the School of the Air

One of the original radios used for the School of the Air

On our first full day based there, we headed up nearby Stoke's Hill (the only place we could get a 'phone signal) and Judith was able to post
a Facebook entry from there just to keep in touch. We then revisited Wilpena Pound where we had a picnic lunch and then cruised back, stopping at Wood Duck Pond where we hauled our chairs out and relaxed for the afternoon, watching birds come and go and wallabies coming down to drink.

The mast on Stoke's Hill which we needed to get near to check emails¬

The mast on Stoke's Hill which we needed to get near to check emails¬

A view from Stoke's Hill

A view from Stoke's Hill

Wilpena Pound in the far distance with a relief map of the pound in the foreground on Stoke's Hill

Wilpena Pound in the far distance with a relief map of the pound in the foreground on Stoke's Hill

Wallaby startled by a family of Grebes interrupting drinking time

Wallaby startled by a family of Grebes interrupting drinking time

Whistling Kite perched in tree by the pond

Whistling Kite perched in tree by the pond

Whistling Kite soaring over the pond

Whistling Kite soaring over the pond

When we got back to the cottage, we ran the tap for a cuppa but after a short time, our water then stopped. We reported this to the office and just about everyone on the station turned out to trace the problem and then dig up the pipe where the blockage had occurred (calcification). In the process, one of the guys managed to puncture the pipe so they had to charge around finding a long enough but thinner hose plus reducing joiners and we had water back on tap shortly after sunset.

Some of the guys waiting for the reducing joiners to be found

Some of the guys waiting for the reducing joiners to be found

On our arrival, the owners had kindly made bookings for us for the mine tour at Blinman followed by lunch at The Prairie in Parachilna. On the way to Blinman we pulled off to see the massive rock formation known as the Great Wall of China.

The drive up to the Great Wall of China

The drive up to the Great Wall of China

Part of the Great Wall of China

Part of the Great Wall of China

Panoramic view of the Great Wall of China

Panoramic view of the Great Wall of China

The mine tour took us underground where we could see the old workings and the conditions under which the (mainly Cornish) workers laboured - obviously H & S did not exist back then! The town grew to about 1,500 people at its peak but after the mine closed as being no longer economical, the population dwindled to around 200 and is now about 18 (although there are 20 on the Progress Council as two local station folk have been co-opted).

A band of malachite, a copper compound, in the mine

A band of malachite, a copper compound, in the mine

View from underground to open shafts

View from underground to open shafts

We drove from Blinman through Parachilna Gorge to get to lunch. This gorge is another very attractive and interesting drive with more lovely river red gums lining the route. My favourite is still Brachina Gorge but this was most enjoyable.

River red gum in the gorge

River red gum in the gorge

View through the gorge to the ABC Ranges with our vehicle parked on the side

View through the gorge to the ABC Ranges with our vehicle parked on the side

Once through the gorge, we left the ranges behind and drove through very flat country to get to Parachilna, where we enjoyed a shared platter of 'feral' mixed grill - kangaroo fillet, emu burger and camel sausage, the latter being surprisingly good.

The Prairie at Parachilna

The Prairie at Parachilna

Aboriginal art in the dining area of the Prairie

Aboriginal art in the dining area of the Prairie

Our feral tucker - already carved by Judith for us to share

Our feral tucker - already carved by Judith for us to share

Having relaxed for a while in this rather odd place, we drove down to Brachina Gorge where we enjoyed the drive just as much as last time, although there was even less water at the Aroona River crossing than there had been last year. Nonetheless, it was a good spot for birds - it would have been even better if it weren’t for the Easter traffic! The camp grounds in the gorge are understandably very popular.

On our way into Brachina Gorge

On our way into Brachina Gorge

A Wedgetail Eagle soaring over us when we stopped at the Arooma River crossing

A Wedgetail Eagle soaring over us when we stopped at the Arooma River crossing

It has been great to get away from 'city lights' and have a good view of the sky at night. Just now, we have had an almost full moon so although we have seen the stars more clearly, we haven't yet had a clear view of the Milky Way.

Having reached this far, it is now time for an update on why the road travelled is called the Explorers Way. The invention of the telegraph led to the next bout of exploration, including Burke & Wills' tragic attempt. In 1859 Charles Todd had the dream of an overland telegraph which would cross the continent from Port Augusta in South Australia to Port Darwin in the Northern Territory. This could then be linked to existing submarine cables to reach the rest of the world. At this time, it was taking several weeks for messages to be transmitted by sea. Various explorers had set out to find inland rivers, or dreamed of pastoral land, north of Adelaide, including Stuart's first expedition under the leadership of Charles Sturt. Stuart's second expedition, his first as leader (not counting various surveying missions that he had carried out), started in 1858. On one of these he had come across promising country north of the Flinders Ranges and his patron, James Chambers took out a holding which became Oratunga Station; it was from here that Stuart set out in 1858, financed by William Finke, with a squatter named Foster and an Aboriginal companion. On this trip, they travelled to the west of Lake Torrens and progressed for a considerable way before turning back when they were near Coober Pedy and could not find a source of water.

The following year, Stuart again headed north, this time with William Kekwick as his second in command, in search of a safe stock route. This time he travelled to the east of Lake Torrens and reached the site of present day Marree. He continued northwestwards finding more springs near the site of today's Oodnadatta. We are now headed for Marree (formerly known as Herrgott Springs, named after the artist who travelled with Stuart)

Posted by SteveJD 02:17 Archived in Australia Tagged mountains wildlife south_australia flinders_ranges arid_country Comments (1)

We are off again

England to WA and on to SA

28 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Return to complete the Lap on SteveJD's travel map.

Before leaving Brexit-mad England, we had another great trip with the East Suffolk National Trust Association to Sissinghurst Castle and Garden in Kent. Typically, the weather was not marvellous but we were able to enjoy a ramble through the estate, finding primroses and bluebells in flower and, when the rain let up again, we explored the more formal gardens. The famous White Garden was lovely although of course not up to the full white blooming state that we have seen in the past in the summer. Others areas open onto different vistas and wild snake-head fritillaries looked just as beautifully strange growing among daffodils and tulips as in a wildflower meadow. As we are now in Australia, the photos we can access are low quality and few but, take our word for it that if you are in Kent, this is a 'must visit'.

Tunnel-like view along a walk around the estate

Tunnel-like view along a walk around the estate

Primroses and bluebells on small embankment

Primroses and bluebells on small embankment

A solitary snake's head fritillary

A solitary snake's head fritillary

This time we chose to fly with Cathay Pacific and had one of our best travel experiences to date. Their premium economy seats are very comfortable and although the food was 'airline' food, it was very tasty and enjoyable. Although we want to enjoy our time in Australia, we are actually looking forward to the return flight!

In our short stay in Perth, we caught up with our old friend Len and then stayed with Sue, the wife of Judith's former employer. Mac, unfortunately had to be moved to a care home where we visited him and found him in quite good spirits. Thus far, our cameras, certainly mine, have barely seen daylight but this will soon be remedied.

We had a good flight to Adelaide with Virgin and, after a short panic, found our hire car and made our way to West Beach Parks Resort where we have a lovely roomy cabin - not quite as good as the beachside villa that we had here last year but we were a bit late booking and they had sold out. On our first morning in SA, we had a very tasty breakfast at Deep Blue Cafe, Moana, a few km south of here, with a friend of Judith's from England who now lives here with her partner.

Deep Blue Cafe, Moana SA

Deep Blue Cafe, Moana SA


Vanessa and Judith after a lovely breakfast

Vanessa and Judith after a lovely breakfast

Last time we were in Adelaide we had run out of time to see the old Adelaide Gaol and the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Both were well worth the visit although the old gaol wasn't quite as interesting as the old (transported) convict establishments we saw last time around.

Entrance to Adelaide Gaol

Entrance to Adelaide Gaol

One of the wings in the gaol

One of the wings in the gaol

Inside the 'new' cell block (late 1800s)

Inside the 'new' cell block (late 1800s)

The Hanging Tower and the gap between walls where some prisoners were buried after execution or dying in prison

The Hanging Tower and the gap between walls where some prisoners were buried after execution or dying in prison

The Botanic Gardens were interesting and very well laid out with plenty of shade and a number of water areas. Although our bird watching thus far has been quite sparse compared with our last visit, we have seen a few as we have moved around Adelaide.

Probably one of the birds seen most through Australia, a Peewee or Magpie-lark

Probably one of the birds seen most through Australia, a Peewee or Magpie-lark

Australian White Ibis - especially for Terry!

Australian White Ibis - especially for Terry!

Victoriana water lily in flower

Victoriana water lily in flower

Blue water lily in the lily house

Blue water lily in the lily house

Wood Duck preening

Wood Duck preening

Little Pied Cormorant looking the wrong way for food!

Little Pied Cormorant looking the wrong way for food!

Australian Grebe

Australian Grebe

Blue Skimmer Dragonfly

Blue Skimmer Dragonfly

Cycad fruit

Cycad fruit

Some of the masses of flower/seed bunches on Koelreuteria tree

Some of the masses of flower/seed bunches on Koelreuteria tree

Adelaide really is a lovely city and it would have been great to have more time to relax and visit the wineries and many other attractions at leisure but, unfortunately, we have a limited time - and budget! We stayed again at West Beach Shores Resort but on this occasion the lovely villa we had before had already been booked so we had a holiday cabin. This was very comfortable and roomy so we would again have no hesitation in recommending this as a great place to stay.

Pelicans on a water pipe near the resort

Pelicans on a water pipe near the resort

Sunset over the Gulf of St Vincent from the resort

Sunset over the Gulf of St Vincent from the resort

Since internet connections have been erratic, at best, since leaving Adelaide, I will try to get this one posted today (in Marree). We have just had a great flight over Lake Eyre but more of that later. The following is just some background for those interested in why we are travelling where we are - following in the footsteps of early explorers. At various stages of this blog, I shall refer to 'discoveries' and these references are to discovery by Europeans, most if not all, already being familiar to the various Aboriginal groups. Once again we shall be travelling in the footsteps (approximately) of some of Australia's early explorers. Last time our route covered ground explored by Edward Eyre, Thomas Mitchell and, of course, Burke & Wills but also touched on many other explorers' discoveries, not least Charles Sturt who discovered and named Lake Alexandrina which we saw behind the Coorong when we visited the area on the last trip. The foremost explorer on our route this time is John McDouall Stuart. On our last trip, when we were in Glen Innes, NSW, I picked up a copy of "Great Australian Explorers" by Marcia McEwan and I have used this since then as my main source, backed up, of course by Wikipedia and the excellent Aussie Towns website. In the Flinders Ikara Ranges we shall be covering ground that both Edward Eyre and Stuart covered in their explorations. In 1839, exploration had only extended about 120km north of Adelaide and Eyre, with his overseer, John Baxter, and their party pushed into the Flinders Ranges before turning back and followed the Murray before crossing back to Adelaide.

From Adelaide, we head north to the Flinders Ranges, partly as we loved the area when we visited last year but also as it is a good waypoint on the way to Marree from where we cross the Oodnadatta Track and William Creek Track to Coober Pedy and points north.

Posted by SteveJD 22:20 Archived in Australia Tagged england flights western_australia perth adelaide kent south_australia cathay_pacific sissinghurst Comments (2)

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