Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The end of the road – for now

Well we made it back home safe and sound as did all our fellow travellers with a hard disk full of photos for Di to choose from to scrap book (we still haven’t done last years expedition yet or New Zealand). There is no rush I will just have a look every now and then at our photos. This has been our second trip with Gaz and Shaz and Pete and Robyn’s first(hopefully they enjoyed the trip as much as we enjoyed having them along) and I think everyone enjoyed the company and the sights. Di and I certainly did. The sharing of some of the things we have seen, our thoughts and perceptions makes for interesting conversation (except when alcohol effects the lips then it’s weird). The trip has yet again given us a thirst for more adventures, an insight into the diversity of this great country and an appreciation of how harsh and difficult our predecessors had it to get us where we are today. I have talked endlessly to anyone who shows the slightest interest in our trip with the things we saw and did; hopefully I didn’t bore them too much.  I have been looking for a picture and words to sum up our trip and have selected these.
Quote from Gaz and Shaz  So, at the end of the day, the driving is over, I've gone as far West as I've ever been, made it to the edge of the outback, and copped a hint of what amazing scenery, history and natural beauty this part of Australia has to offer. Looking forward to tomorrow”
And the picture was a toss up between the wedge tails and Di’s sunrise but the sunrise won by a short half beak.

Next trip is in the planning and may be the Eyre Peninsular but first for us it’s back to work to earn the $$ to head off again.  There are also some more reno’s for the Janyce the Jayco but more of that another time. See ya on the road Di and Dave

Oh by the way for the Dougal watchers there are 14 starting from Day1 Bendigo to Renmark

Friday, September 9, 2011

Day 15 The road home Hawker to Renmark

Well it was up early today we wanted to try and catch the sunrise before we left. We managed this but it wasn’t as spectacular as yesterdays.
Sunrise over Hawker photo 1

Sunrise over Hawker photo 2

We have the packing up down to fine art now and it only takes us about 30 to 45 min to be ready for the road. Breakfast came and went and we rolled out of the Hawker van park about 8am which was the time we wanted to be on the road. First 15 minutes were ok from then on to Renmark we had rain, wind squalls, strong winds and more winds mostly either cross winds, head winds or front quarter. It was a shit of a trip; our little van is quite light so it got thrown around a bit which made my job a little harder. As a consequence there isn’t a lot to tell. We managed a break in the weather as we came into Morgan and got a picture of the “boot tree” which I guess is similar to the thong tree in Qld.
Boot tree north of Hawker

We followed Gaz and Shaz as far as Peterborough. They are heading to Mildura and had a bit further than us to travel so wanted to keep going. Tomorrow will be much of the same I think, we will drive from here (Renmark) to Bendigo. So our trip is all but over and with the weather we have had I can live with today. We have had a fantastic time all round and Gaz, Shaz, Pete and Robyn have been good company and we have shared many things on this journey. We are now starting the planning for the next one, maybe the Eyre Peninsular I have to get the fishing rod in on the next trip. So watch this space and come and join us if you dare. Life is too short to sit and wait. 
Sunset over Murray River Renmark

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Day 14 Last Day at Hawker

Sunrise over the camp

Well we woke this morning to our first overcast day (well Di did I was still snoozing). I had been up at 6.30 (toilet stop) and as I was returning to the van noticed the sunrise first one I have seen these holidays if you don’t count the one when we went in the hot air balloon.  It was not cold just overcast.  Pete & Rob left us at about 9.30ish.  We headed of not long after for Quorn it was to be our last shop and I had requested a visit to the drapery for coffee and cake (Emily's Bistro Great Northern Emporium)
Kanyaka Homestead Ruins

On the way home we stopped at the ruins of the Kanyaka Homestead. The old homestead which must have been magnificent in its time and quite large.  There were other out buildings, also men’s kitchen, overseers’ quarters, toilet etc.  Like most other settlements it had its own  cemetery.  By all accounts people did not have a long life back in the 1800’s so we need to be thankful for our lives now and how luxurious and easy our lives are today.  This afternoon we decided where we would be staying on the way home and how long. Gaz & Shaz have decided to go onto Mildura and spend a couple of nights.  We are heading to Renmark and then straight home which will give Dave a couple of nights in Bendigo before heading back to the big smoke.
Main House

Dougal we have to go home

Just in case some of you were wondering what Dougal was up to yesterday we decided he could try the new trend of ‘planking’ in the national park. No Martin he did not have a “wedge tail”.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Day 13 Feral food, wedge tail eagles and rock wallabies.

Wedgie in full flight
Last night we planned today’s trip with Gaz, Shaz, Peter and Robyn and after much discussion it was decided a 9am departure would be good with the prospect of lunch at the Prairie Hotel at Paranchilna a spot in the middle of no where which is, apparently, one of the top 100 restaurants in Australia. Our trip was north on the Leigh Creek road to the Geographic Trail then east to Blinman, back west to the Parachilna, along the Gorge rd then back down the bitumen to Hawker. We figured that we would end up at Parachilna for a late lunch. Wrong!!! We had figured that as we had already done half of the Geographic trail in an earlier drive then that would be a drive through. Wrong!!! About 40 kms into the trip, on the bitumen we came across 2 huge wedge tail eagles feasting on a recent road kill.
They were absolutely magnificent and so majestic our cameras were going off like fire crackers. We spent a bit of time there just watching them. Back into the vehicles and off we head again. Not 20kms on we came across 3 wedgies sitting gracefully in a shrub about 10 mtrs off the road. So we stopped again more photo’s, more watching and the we headed off again. Once we turned east off the Leigh Creek road we had about 8kms of bone jarring, teeth rattling corrugations up to the entrance of the National Park.
From here the next section to the Bunyeroo Gorge road we had not been on so we stopped many times to photograph Brachina Gorge, the hills, wild flowers, trees etc etc. Part of the beauty and intrigue of the Flinders Ranges is that it changes so rapidly and even when you have seen or been to a place and you approach from a different angle its completely different. Consequently we didn’t even make Blinman for morning tea, instead we opted for lunch.
Creek Brachina Gorge

Refreshments concluded we head out of Blinman to the Parachilna Road this would take us west to Angorichina Village then onto Parachilna though Parachilna Gorge. Again the scenery and its variety were amazing changing constantly as we progressed through. We passed and were passed by a fair number of off road campers etc and noticed many had taken up residence in many of the camp areas along the road. At a water crossing we had stopped to photograph, a Subaru and off road camper pulled up to tell us of a couple of emus and chicks were up ahead. The occupants of the car were 2 ladies in there early sixties heading for a free camp site in the gorge. It just shows you the diversity of people you met on these travels. Go ladies! Along this road is where we also came across (we think) 3 yellow footed rock wallabies. Gaz managed a couple of pictures before they took off. Onward through the gorge, back out onto the plains and into Parachilna we went arriving at 3pm. So much for lunch. Here is this amazing pub in the middle of no where with such a reputation.

Prairie Pub Parachilna
At the rear  of the pub a fairly new accommodation area has been constructed, whilst the inside of the old part is adorned with indigenous art and craft. Peter and I tried an antipasta plate of roo, goats cheese and a few other niceties and it was a very pleasant surprise. Di had Belgian waffles and vanilla bean ice cream none of which was left. After that we pumped up the tyres (we had been advised if we didn’t want to destroy another tyre then run 28lbs in them over the rough stuff) and headed back down the bitumen to Hawker. It has been another wonderful day full of surprises and fun with all of us tired. I am truly amazed by this place and this has been a fantastic 2 weeks. Peter and Robyn are heading off tomorrow homeward bound. This is their first outing with us and I think they enjoyed “tagging along”.    
Sign at the approach to Parachilna

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Day 12 Walking the streets of Hawker

Hawker has a little book which you can buy for $2.50 which is a self guided tour of the historical points of the Hawker Township so Gaz, Shaz, Di and I headed off on the walkabout. Peter and Rob had other plans for the morning. It was a fair sort of walk with a number of interesting sites and information about the history of the Hawker Township and its surroundings. We, of course needed to be suitably fed and watered before we headed off, so we tried the local general store who served breakfast which we had been told was a beauty. We were not disappointed – nothing flash but very nice and plenty of it and didn’t cost the earth. Followed by a very nice coffee and we were ready to tackle the trek. A couple of the stand out points for us were the old Hawker rail station (now a gallery and bistro), the old Hawker Hotel, a couple of old guest houses and churches. The buildings all have a rich history with some in need of some TLC. One house of interest was built using compressed straw, chicken wire and plaster for Dalgety's, story has it that they had a lot of difficulty building it because the cattle would come and eat it!

Hawke Rail Station

There is an interesting anomaly in this region and it centres on maps. It seems to us that they struggle to actually get them right. On the tour at one of the sites the map was half a block and a street out, this was not an isolated incident we have had the problem our whole time up here and on the occasions we tried to proof them using the topo maps, well that did our head in. (editors note; on this occasion the problem did not appear to be the map but someone who is geographically challenged)  On our travels we picked up the Paj all fixed now with all its wheel studs in place and not too big a hole in the pocket. I must say the people have been very friendly, down to earth and helpfully. Chris from Chris’s Automotive was easy to deal with and given the amount of work in and out of the shop provided a pretty prompt service. He seems to attract RV’s in trouble like bees to pollen.

Compressed straw house
After lunch (well not really as after breakfast no one was all that hungry) we headed back into town for a look at the emporium and the art gallery to see Jeff Morgan’s panorama of the Wilpena Pound. Jeff’s gallery, and particular, his panorama and “Outback on Canvas” are phenomenal. Words are really not capable of describing the images you see. The panorama is 30 mtrs in circumference and 4 mtrs high. It took 4000 hrs (or about 13 months) to complete. It is housed in a circular building and you view it from a raised platform in the centre, not unlike going up to a lookout. It is a fantastic assault on your senses and the visual impact stunning. From there we went into the “Outback on Canvas” paintings. These are 3 large individual paintings of various locations in the Flinders Ranges. One in particular titled “Ron’s Creek” took 3000 hrs to complete and is 15mts x 5mtrs, but the most astounding part is the way the landscape changes as you walk along in front of it. These words do not in any way do justice to the works if you come here then you must have a look at it.
Part of Jeff Morgan's Panorama

Monday, September 5, 2011

Day 11 Jarvis Lookout and 5 Ways

This morning we had our first real look around Hawker when everything was open. We all went to the general store, had coffee, brought a few trinkets then meandered around a couple of streets to get our bearings. We decided to purchase a self guided tour of Hawker for the princely sum of $2.50 which we have decided to do tomorrow while the car is being fixed. Next stop was the “I” centre (information centre) to check out a couple of 4by tours and also a couple of other spots we wanted to check out. This was on the recommendation of the dweller of the art gallery. We haven’t done the artist studio yet but its on the list as we believe the panoramic painting of the Flinders Ranges is fantastic. We did however meet the resident who habituated at the gallery, an incredible bubbly person. I don’t know what she was breathing but I want some and she was very helpful to boot. As was the lady at the “I” centre which Gaz and I had headed for while the girls ordered coffee. They also were pretty helpful only problem we encountered here was the lady helping us didn’t have an on/off switch so by the time we extracted ourselves, politely, our coffee was nearly the iced variety.

With our booty in hand we headed back to the van for a powwow to decide what we would do. The six of us decided we would head for Javis lookout then from there to a place called 5 ways.
Jarvis lookout looking east

Jarvis lookout is about 6kms west of town on a relatively easy stretch of dirt into private property. The owners have allowed tourist’s access at no charge in conjunction with the local council.. From the car park its is about 250 mtr assent, along a very difficult, steep and rocky track. The trip and the destination offer some fantastic views back along the plain into Hawker and west into the ranges. From the summit we decided that we would take the easier path back (so the sign said). Now the path up was not all that well marked but was a 4 lane highway compared to the return, which after descending about 100 mtrs we were llost completely. So we became mountain goats and forged our own path across the slope until we came to the original track. Robyn and Peter elected to come back the way they went up and nearly beat us to the car park having started their decent 10 min after us.

Cairn at lookout

From there we headed back out on the Tenant Creek road to a place called 5 ways( because 5 roads meet). They are all dirt and the area was supposed to have some very interesting scenery where creeks had gouged huge tracks through the country side. It was a real good drive and again presented us with a different perspective on the land and life in these parts. The group shot was taken at 5 ways the dray in the back ground was just sitting in the scrub. We also came across a cemetery in the middle of nowhere with a few headstones in it. On reflection, looking at the head stones and the country, we have it pretty easy. A number of the graves contained children of varying ages but all were very young.
The merry band of travelers at 5 ways

On a lighter note the bearded dragons were everywhere to day and quite cheeky too.
Cheeky dragon
Head stone at 5 ways

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Day 10 Quorn and Pichi Richi Railway

Fathers day today and our day we had planned for sometime which was a trip on the Pichi Rchi Railway which ran from Quorn (spelt with Qu not C) to Woolshed Flat and return. I say we had planned for some time because the train is very popular and is limited in the days and times it travels. The train departed at 10.30am and returned at about 1pm so we left Hawker around 9ish  in convoy (Pete, Robyn, Gaz, Shaz Di and myself to make sure we gave ourselves enough time. Today Di and I are being chaffeured. The rail station has been restored and looks a treat, it also has a rail fan shop attached for the enthusiast.

We arrived around 10 so we had a bit of time to look around and inspect our mode of transport. Our loco seemed to be much “later” model compared to other steam trains we had been on and had a much more modern appearance. Apparently in SA they were still building new steam loco’s around the late 50’s early 60’s. The rolling stock was a different story. All 6 or so carriages came from a different vintage between the early 1900’s to about 1930. Our particular carriage was built around 1906 and had a number of functions over its life including and infant welfare carriage and hospital carriage (it contained 32 beds) to name a few. The volunteers have done and re still doing a marvellous job retaining this part of our heritage. The journey out and back was very relaxing and went through some great country – always changing as it seems to do up here. There were a number of cuttings through hills that were only just wide enough for the train to pass through and would be a bit of a shock to you if you had your head out the window, that is if you woke up. Our conductor on the return journey told of a story of an ABC radio host who was made keen on trains and recorded the sound of the wheels on the track. Normally the bogies (thing that attaches the wheels to the train) have 4 wheels but on this occasion they had 6 wheels and made quite a distinctive sound. He was trying to figure out how to record them when he disappeared. They found him some time later in the toilet with his recording mike down the toilet chute recording the sound. And for those that don’t know in the old days the toilet was just a chute that dropped the contents of the toilet onto the tracks as the train went on its merry way.

One of the cuttings
The town of Quorn is very quaint and has many old buildings in very good condition. On our return from the train trip we ventured into the town looking for lunch. We came across this place, which from the outside was not all that appealing, but once we ventured in had character, charm and intrigue. On first impressions Di thought we had walked into Lucas’s in Maryborough where her mom worked. The food was good and we spent a fair bit of time just looking around the place. It was also appeared very popular which you would not have known from the outside.

Inside the "emporium"
After lunch (by this time after 2) we decided we should return to Hawker and relax – maybe think about what to do tomorrow – or just sit an soak up the vitamin B. Ah the decisions one is forced to make. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day 9 Wilpena back to Hawker

Another great day dawned and today we move from Wilpena Pound back into Hawker. It is only a short trip (about 50 kms) so there is no rush. We wandered up to the resort for breakfast we as had decided to treat ourselves this morning. Jillaroo breakfast all round (eggs bacon, toast, hash browns and coffee) all very civilised and pleasant to start the day with. Then back to camp to pack and move on to Hawker. We have become quite proficient at packing and setting up and so it was no time at all before we were ready to leave. Which brings me to an interesting point (maybe a concern) as over the last few days we have observed many of our fellow vanners or RVer’s trying to manoeuvre their rigs and to be frank it seems to me many of them should not be let loose with a tonka toy let alone 30ft (4 tonne) of car and caravan. In some cases they are down right dangerous and the team work which is required is sadly lacking – its bloody amazing they can arrive at their appointed destination set up and go about their merry way with out killing each other or some other poor soul who just happens to be near. It has, however, provided us with some amusement.

Sturt Dessert Pea
The trip from Wilpena to Hawker was not that pleasant as the wind had picked up and was gusting up to 50kph but we made it. Reverse in the team sprang into action and not long after we are sitting down to lunch and a relax. The wind stayed around most of the day and was a northerly so the temperature went up and topped at 31.9 so we had a warmish day. We had a trip out to Blinman early in the week chasing Sturt Dessert Pea with no luck. As we pulled into the caravan park here in all its splendour were multitudes of them. We also located them in tubs in the main street of Hawker.
More wild flowers
Old log dray

We had a wander into Hawker before lunch as we had discovered that every Saturday a vendor brings fresh fruit and veg into town and that was to good an offer to overlook. To be honest there wasn’t much left and anything that was left was disappearing fast. It seems this is a very popular attraction on a Saturday but we did manage half a watermelon, mandarins and a few other vegies so it was not all a loss.

The town itself has some wonderful old buildings and nick knacks which we will be investigating over the next few days.

Have you been remembering to look for Dougal?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Day 8 Last day at Wilpena Pound

You know there are some things that are just bloody annoying like having to get up at stupid o’clock during the night to go to the dunny. It must be an age thing because everyone our age seems to have the problem but it doesn’t matter how you change your habits the bladder clock will go off anytime between 1am and 4am – every night. I don’t mind a romantic walk in the moonlight but under no circumstance could the nightly dunny walk be considered that. Anyway today was another beaut day and the expected top was about 28deg so we figured the best time for our planned activity today was morning. The 4 intrepid travellers headed of for Arkaroo Rock which is about 25kms south of Wilpena. Pete and Robyn have gone in a different direction guess we will find out where on their return.

The walk from the car park is about 2 hrs return and takes you out to an indigenous cave painting area. I have said on numerous occasions how this place amazes me and it continues to do so. The landscape seemed to change regularly, with an abundance of wildflowers. I must say the usual abundance of fauna was not there to day. We managed to se a few bearded dragons sunning themselves but none of the other usual animals we are used to. The path was rocky and relatively steep in places but wasn’t to difficult. The path raises 100 mtrs at its highest point from the car park. We found the cave and sat for a while quietly soaking in the area. I mean no disrespect but the cave drawings are lost on me, maybe because I don’t understand what they represent especially to their creators. It would have been good if there had been like a story board to explain what we were looking at.  After a while we set off on our return journey, which was much the same as the out bound one. Di and Sharon have just gone crazy on the wild flowers and they seem to be enjoying finding the next colourful flora to photograph and discuss.
This afternoon the girls are doing a bit of scrapbooking while Gaz and I go out to the Solar/Diesel hybrid electricity site for a look. There is a short walk into the area from which you view the facility. There are 76 solar panels which provide electricity to Wilpena resort. These are supplemented by diesel generators. The set up produces enough electricity to power about 30 normal houses and has reduced the environmental impact significantly.

I enjoyed our walk today and thought of young Max he would love the lizards, emus etc.  Not sure whether or not Miss Darcy would be quite so happy.

Well Shaz and I completed a small task with our scrapbooking and by then the boys were back.  So I decided afternoon tea was in order.  Pete & Rob also returned so we made the trek to the cafĂ© , which was quite enjoyable watching the parrots and having our Lattes.  Gee it is a hard life.  Sandy I am sure you would love it up here the flowers are really lovely. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Day 7 Lazy Daze

Old Homestead
Well this morning another beaut day and the boys headed off to Hawker to have the tyre repaired.  So Shaz and I decided to visit the old Wilpena Station.  It was a 2.3km walk to the Station which we managed quite well.  When we arrived the map was wrong yet again surprise, surprise!  We spent about an hour or so meandering through the paddock looking at the old blacksmiths home & workshop, cemetery, stables, general store etc.  We make it to the homestead only to find we are unable to wander through as they use it for ‘administration’.  However we decided to visit the loos before heading back and on the inside of the toilet door there is a placard with different spiders you might find!! We were almost back to the pound when we were picked up by a couple of strange looking blokes in a blue commodore so we reckon we would have walked about 5 ks today not too bad an effort. 

This afternoon has been very relaxing took a stroll down to the information centre/shop and treated ourselves to coffee and cake. 

As today is Thursday I am missing my Ruby fix but Trace has been good to me and sent me a photo.

Gaz and I had a trip to Hawker as Di has mentioned it turns out the tyre was stuffed – still had the rock in it so we had to buy a new one. I must say I was reasonable surprised I reckon the tyre would be more expensive than at home but this turned out not to be the case. Only other incident for the day was we snapped a wheel stud putting the tyre on – shouldn’t be a big problem got 5 more but will get it fixed back in Hawker next week.

Day 6 Blinman and Brachina Gorge

Today was leisurely with no urgency to do much. We decided that we would pack a lunch and head (with Gaz and Shaz) out to Blinman and then work our way back via the dirt tourist road – if we could decipher the maps! The previous evening Sharon had given herself a headache trying to work out the route. It seems up this way that no two maps are the same and even when they are, there wrong. Any way we set off, picnic in hand, to Blinman. There were a number of photo opportunities on the way, including Stoke’s lookout.
Stoke's lookout
Great wall of China

We negotiated the short, but rough, road up to the lookout and were not disappointed by the panoramic views of the surrounding hinterland and ranges. The lookout also incorporates a diorama of the Flinders and surrounding ranges. From here we had a short drive to the Great Wall of China and again we are amazed at the variety and intrigue this land scape has to offer. The rock formation, for all intensive purposes, mimic’s the Great wall (not that I have seen it). I should also mention that along the way we have stopped and looked at, photographed and marvelled at a huge range of wild flowers. We actually had a mission today and that was to try to locate a Sturt Desert Pea. We arrived at Blinman in time for coffee and whilst there is not a lot  there it is still a interesting place. With mostly old buildings and a mine tour, art gallery, historic cemetery and coffee.

Duly refreshed we head back towards Wilpena to find the Geological Trail to take us out to Brachina Gorge then south to Bunyeroo Gorge. The road is about 40kms all up of dirt and brings you back onto the bitumen about 10kms north of Wilpena.
Old House Blinman

Entrance to Brachina Gorge

The gorges were not what I expected in that we actually drove through them along the creek bed. We had lunch at a spot about half way through the Brachina gorge then head off to Bunyeroo. We were continually amazed at the changes in vegetation and land as we drove along today and it seemed at every turn we were presented a different aspect. I guess that’s the attraction here. The rock formations and rugged landscapes change constantly.  We got to do a bit of off road driving although the road wasn’t all that bad. Only negative for the day was a puncture early on heading for Brachina Gorge and I think it was my fault (too fast and too much air in the tyres). A lot of the rocks on the road are sharp and pointed and my combination of speed and to much pressure punctured the tyre. We didn’t find a Desert Pea but what the hell we had a great drive.  Also we all treated ourselves to the Bistro for dinner very nice I must say.

Lunch Brachina Gorge

Brachina Gorge