Flinders/Strzelecki Track 2003

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Flinders/Strzelecki Track 2003

Post by slunnie » Tue Mar 07, 2017 10:41 am

Flinders Ranges 2003

Monday 30th June 2003
The King’s School – Westleigh

It is the last day in preparation for the big trip. The shop has been done and the Disco is now packed to the roof. I’ve borrowed Graham Bartlett’s power inverter, Simba knows what’s going on and is nervous about being left behind. She seems to know something big is going down and is either waiting next to the 4WD or sulking on her bed. The 4WD is loaded to the roof in the boot and not far from it on the back seat. I don’t know how Dad’s stuff is going to fit, and the Dog and fish have taken their positions in the vehicle. Up to Mum and Dads and the rest of the gear is packed. Macca’s run then into bed by 11.45pm.

Tuesday 1st July 2003
Westleigh – Deniliquin
768km trip, 768km total

Wave Mum off to work and back to bed.
Up again for the second time a quick breakfast before bidding Simba farewell and we are Deniliquin bound. There was a bit of traffic down to Carlingford. We picked up Diesel at Carlingford and were on our way again, and the traffic had cleared nicely. Heads down and we moved it on with a drama free drive to Yass were we had our first McDonalds rest break. Shortly after we were back on the road and bound for a Gundagai drive bye. Literally that was it. We pulled in to see the Dog on the Tucker box and we had not stopped when Dad said he’d seen enough. On we went. The weather was fine, about 15 degrees outside, about 23 degrees inside and the sky’s were overcast. There didn’t appear to be too many madmen on the roads today either.

We pushed on to Wagga Wagga where we had greasy KFC for an afternoon lunch and filled with diesel. No it wasn’t bio-diesel from greasy KFC, it was the proper fossil stuff from Mobil. As we continued on the surrounding green vegetation was starting to take on a rather water logged appearance, especially between Collingullie and Jerilderrie. There were an amazing number of new dams that had been dug, and I would presume these were as a result of the recent droughts. As we exited Jerilderrie the deluge that we had so far managed to avoid dumped on us and the spray from the leading road train challenged our minds, vision and basic survival instinct as we followed into Finley. When the truck a turned for Deniliquin the sun dropped. It was heart in the mouth and foot on the floor as we cleared past the mist with an on coming vehicle. The rain continued until we reached Deniliquin.

After a quick reconnaissance of Deniliquin we found the hotel and settled in for the night. A Veal Parmagana dinner in the Bistro then it was time for showers and bed.

Wednesday 2nd July 2003
Deniliquin – Echuca – Deniliquin
158km trip, 927km total

A slow start today and we we’re off to see the sights of Deniliquin. After a quality Macca’s lunch we had a self-drive tour to see the sights. It seemed that there was a lot of water around and the river levels were looking normal. We ventured past the Hospital down to the Caravan park beach on the Edwards river, we then had a look at the Mulwala Canal to the south of Deniliquin and Lawson’s siphon where the canal passes under the river. Back up into Deni we then had a look at the state forest where I used to run Simba and her infamous black-mud and the “hill climb”. We had a look at the Peppin heritage center and then visited the High School where I once taught. Walking through the town reminded me of the good old country hospitality that I really missed. Just the little things in life that make life so good. Ah to be in Deni again.

Visiting the school was fantastic. Firstly I caught up with the administrative staff including Di Stubbings. All the news was interesting, though it still seemed like the same old Deni I used to know. Many new staff and many old staff. Moving on, it was also great to catch up with Mark Richards, Steve Julian who was most surprised and Steve Stubbings. All seemed happy and busy keeping new minds in endless knowledge and good welfare. Speaking to Bernie Roebuck the Principle was interesting and the town has had 2 lean dry years. The resulting green from the rains is the best it’s been looking for a long time and rose garden is now being planned for the new front entrance. It was also great to see an entrance memorial for Marg Fawns (HT - Home Economics) who was tragically killed in a car accident on the way to Sydney in 1999.

On the way out to Echuca we stopped and photographed the largest rice mill in the southern hemisphere. It is a shame that the mill has terminated 50% of its staff due to the droughts. No water, no rice, no jobs. The Rice Mill in Echuca has been closed permanently.

It was good to see the docks of Echuca again. We browsed the main street where we had a late lunch and later perused the docks proper. It was interesting to see that everything still centered around River red gum that is so prevalent in the area, as has been for many years. Steam power still also ruled supreme. We visited an Ag shop that had recently been taken over by a local aboriginal fellow. He let me test out the “do not touch” Didgeridoos, and was really impressed by my playing ability. He actually thought I was better than him as I hit the notes so quickly, though this may have been a feel good line. I had seen the Didgeridoo’s from a distance and was in to buy, which I did after testing quite a few out. He also explained the stories behind aboriginal art that was amazing. It is more than just animals and dots, as everything has a purpose and meaning. White dots are white man, brown dots black, yellow the lads, intertwined is the compounding influences of cultures, the Lizard the wife’s tribe, turtle his own and the Kangaroo taking his kids on a journey through life. Aboriginal art is soulful to the artist and animal dots to the masses. It’s brilliant to understand even just a little of it.

After the purchase it was off for a paddle steamer ride up the Murray on the PS Pevensey. This was an old wearing paddle steamer run by a few engineers for tourists. It featured in the film “All the rivers run” from back in 1983. It was a great old load-carrying vessel that was powered with a wood fire charged boiler and probably still using more oil than steam. It was interesting to see that the captain only physically had control of the steer, and communication with the “fireman” was through a bell system, with the “fireman” not only controlling the boiler, but also the forward/reverse and throttle. Teamwork was a necessity here.

On our return we had a look at the old Tech College that Dad was accepted to, though which he turned down. He was keen to have a look and we latter found it had subsequently been turned into a back packers hostel. The college has since been redeveloped onto a new site twice over.

Back in Deni we had KFC dinner to top up the grease levels and off to catch up with Steve Julian at the RSL. It was great to catch up with him and talk about what we have been up to and so on.

Thursday 3rd July 2003.
Deniliquin – Berri
551km trip, 1468km total

Another good late start this morning. We were up and had another McDonalds breakfast. I seriously think that I will be sick if I eat McDonalds again. Fill with fuel in the Deniliquin main street VP fuel station, check the oil, fill the tyres and we were off. We headed up to Pretty Pine along the Hay Rd and passed the pub owned by one of the Deniliquin HS staff. Veer left and we were bound for Balranald. A quick splash of fuel in Balranald and a stiffer shock absorber adjustment then we were off again heading for Mildura via Euston.

Euston was a nice little town with a modern and spectacular sports club. We enjoyed a bistro lunch at the club that backed onto the Murray River and enjoyed the views. At the rear was a nicely maintained and log bordered grassed area that rolled down the edge of the Murray. The river was wide and slow flowing, lined with gums and floating ducks. We went down to the buoyant pontoon and took some great photographs using a range of filters to accentuate the natural beauty.

The next sight for us was “Lock 15”. Just out of town we crossed an old wooden bridge that was being repaired and down through a caravan park to the Lock. It was an interesting sight as the Locks are used to maintain water in the Murray River by using a series of mini dams. These dams control the flow of water down through the river. If there is a drought the water can be retained, maintaining the wildlife. The Locks have sidings to allow boats to travel up/down the river also. The Boat stops in a bay, where a huge gate closes behind it. The water level is then equalized with the other side of the Lock, the next gate is opened and then the boat continues on its journey on the Murray.

Mildura was a quick Coke stop and then it was on to Berri.

As we crossed the border into South Australia we were inspected on a border station for fruit. Being in a fruit (fruit fly) exclusion zone they wanted to see in the Esky and glove box and check for illegalities. The inspection is a good thing no doubt, though not impressive at the time.

At about 6pm we found our hotel in Berri and checked in. We quickly escaped to the local water tower lookout for some views of the local area. Much of it looked surprisingly modern for an outback town, or perhaps we are coming in too close to the coast again. It was sunset and we were able to see the town with its lights on in the dim light, yet still view the surrounding areas. It was a fantastic moment for photographs.

We returned to the hotel to unpack the 4WD, and headed next door for a Chinese diner. Anything was better than fast food! Tomorrow’s accommodation was booked in Hawker at the foot of the Flinders Ranges at long last!

Friday 4th July 2003.
Berri – Hawker
444km trip, 1912km total

Another good sleep in. I really appreciate these you know. Not being able to face fast food we opted for a meat pie and Coke breakfast. Ah, now that almost hit the spot! We filled with diesel and hit the road. Around the Berri area was interesting as it was full of vineyards. These initially were mainly grape vineyards, though Orchards then became prevalent as we continued our journey westwards towards the coast. We were not sure if the vineyards were wine grapes or something less extravagant, though it seemed that citrus fruits were all the rage in the Orchards. There were enormous silo like vessels for holding or processing the local produce.

Just out of town we also visited a lookout over one of the bridges and what appeared to be a flooded part of the river judging by the grove of semi-submerged and deceased eucalypts. In time they will develop into snags and driftwood, though there memories were immortalized with a few reflective photographs.

No long down the road and off to the side was a lake that is apparently one of the more choice locations for bird watching. We drove down and walked out to the viewing hut that had been set up, though unfortunately either the wildlife was sparse or we scared them away. There were a few distant swans fishing, ignorant to our presence.

A long way behind schedule we pressed on to Waikerie and up to Cadell. To our surprise we were shipped across the Murray by barge before continuing our journey to Morgan and then Burra.

The road between Morgan and Burra was one of the straightest and flattest I have traveled in a long time. It was probably only rivaled by those such as on the Hay Plain. It seemed to go on and on and on, 115km/h was fast though seemingly slow as the other end took a long time coming. It was on this road my thoughts turned to the significance of man. On one hand he is such a small insignificant creature in comparison to the Universe, yet on the other hand so significant on a global scale in engineering when looking at cities and other social structures. Perhaps we are “a disgusting virus on the face of the Earth”. (Mr. Smith, Matrix: Reloaded). Perhaps as individuals we are insignificant, and collectively like an evolving virus. Never the less, the landscape was green, luscious and spectacular despite its plain (plain?) nature.

When Burra turned up we stopped for lunch. After a quick survey of the town and a visit to the town information/tourism center we agreed on a counter lunch at the local pub. The Publican was keen to shoot the breeze over a drink and was a frank and genuine guy to talk to. He reminded me a little of myself in the way he loved the bush lifestyle. A little scary, but I seemed to understand him. Veal Schnitzel for lunch and I was full.

Leaving Burra behind and a brief barney over the navigation and we were heading for Peterborough, then Orroroo. I had to laugh at Orroroo’s name as I did with Barty this time last year. It reminded me of Don Bourke on “Bourke’s Backyard” and his parting customary words. I had never been into the town before and when I saw the huge Orroroo sign I had to do a U turn and take a picture for Barty. I’m sure he will love it.

We arrived at Hawker, our final destination for the day at about 4.15pm. The man at the desk asked if we had been here before. He also seemed surprised that we didn’t know where we were going. Reflecting on the scenario I now understand his surprise and fail to understand my own at the time. He gave us a few pointers, pamphlets a room and we headed for the hills to a nearby lookout.

The views from the mountains over the vast plains were fantastic, especially (funnily) with a mountainous backdrop. The final walk to the lookout was a tricky one for those that have not done much bush walking, though Dad eventually made it and happily posed for a picture or two. Suffering from a little vertigo he retreated back down to the 4WD. On the way down we came across a little wallaby that bounced its way down before us.

Back to the hotel and a short though electric sunset we refueled and headed to the pub for dinner. We were too early for a feed, and so we returned to the hotel for a little trip planning instead. After some good map / bookwork and a grumbly stomach we returned to the hotel for dinner and was surprised by how busy the place seemed to be. No problem, we order and ate a typical bistro meal where the quality of meal just continued to amaze. Needless to say we aborted the meal and went back to the hotel for a little more trip preparation.

Saturday 5th July 2003
Hawker – Rawnsley Park Station via Arkapena.
241km trip, 2153km total

Well we spent the night in what could only be described as a budget hotel, where if you rolled too close to the edge of the bed you would kiss mother earth like you’ve never kissed her before. The passion would be outrageous – or would that be the outrage would be passionate! A well-deserved sleep in, any excuse will suffice such as a poor bed and hard water.

We hit the road bound for Wilpena today, though part of the agenda was to stop at Rawnsley Park Station and book today’s “Arkapena Scenic Adventure” drive. As it turns out we also ended up arranging a flight for tomorrow morning and accommodation in an on site caravan for the night.

We took maps, advice and a key for the Arkapena Scenic Adventure (ASA), and the lady serving us was kind enough to give us some additional directions to a washing site halfway through the route. A spectacular site it turned out to be.

Following directions we ventured through the plains at the foot of the Chace ranges we admired the spectacle of the lined mountain. The cliffs were red, sharp and thinly vegetated though reeking of a harsh unforgiving environment in stark contrast to the rolling plains below with soft green grasses and thin pine tree stands. As we continued the terrain became steeper and creek crossings sharper and we climbed producing some spectacular views of the region. The fence line tracks turned into some great boulder strewn climbs and descents.

After the ASA intersected the side road, we set the GPS and used the directions supplied by the lady from Rawnsley. About15km down the road you will cross the Bedourie River (sp?) and about 1km on you will see an unmarked track to the left at about 45 degrees. Follow that for about 3-4km and you will find the wash baths. We did this and it was such a scenic location. Mountains are fantastic, but add running water and you will generally have a winner in my books, and this was fantastic. This was a quiet spot to return to one summer’s day with GPS in hand and beach towel in the other. Sadly there was a swing begging to be used.

We returned to complete the ASA, and the GPS let us know when to turn back onto the right track.

From here we climbed into the ABC ranges and found some fantastic views. The terrain was becoming fairly steep and required the use of low range. The environment had turned from grasslands into thin pine plantations and incredibly rocks soils not unlike that found in the Gibber Plains. We continued up a few steep pinches to the highest point on the route being at Prelinna Lookout with fantastic views of Wilpena Pounds southern perimeter and Ulowdna ranges.

After the ASA we continued to Wilpena were we booked our pass for tomorrows trip around Arkaba’s “Wonderland” trek, and bought a Wilpena rugby jersey. We checked the accommodation and facilities for camping and will probably stay there for the next few days.

On our return to Rawnsley I decided to check the spectacle of the Moralana scenic drive while the sun was still up – just. It was a pleasant drive around the southern face of Wilpena Pound and probably on the Arkaba property. We followed it along as the sun blinded us and enjoyed the views between trees, hills and creek crossings. As we became increasing blinded by the setting sun, the spectacle continued to improve. The red hues became such a photo opportunity and the polarizing lens was working hard bringing out the hidden colours within the photographs. The sun continued to drop and the now necessary need to use the tripod continued to slow us. Dad was nervous and wanted to turn back. We pressed on until I thought the sun was gone, when we rounded a bend and there were the grassy plains, the mountainous background, the setting sun and the bold windmill. Tripod, 300mm zoom and a bronze filter will have hopefully produced one of “those photos.” Feeling sorry for a cranky father I turned back home and cooked dinner.

A warm swag on the floor of a caravan and life’s good. My happy thought for the night was waking up in the morning, in a swag whilst camping in a remote area and bright for the new day. A caravan will do though.

Sunday 6th July 2003.
Rawnsley Park Station – Wilpena Pound via Arkaba.
82km trip, 2235km total

An 8:30 rise, I guess this is really a typical rise these days. We had breakfast and packed up the caravan. Sleeping in the swag was a welcome addition to the flinders experience, and one I hope to see more of. After the 4WD was packed we headed down to the shop and tried to fill with diesel. They were using some of the really old bowsers that still had dial faces and required the twisting of handles to operate it. Finally I gave up and had to ask the lady in the shop how to operate them. Firstly I had to turn the power point on that was located on the shop wall, then turn the small knob on the bowser to clear the last fill, and the big handle to crank it up. Now we were filling with diesel.

At 9.45 we arrived promptly at the airport ready for the flight over Wilpena Pound. The flight was with 2 other folk from Swan Hill in a little Cessna with a single engine and overhead wings. The flight went over and around Rawnsley Park Station and Wilpena Pound and demonstrating it in all its cloudless glory. The geological formation was breathtaking, almost like it had been formed by a meteor strike or something similar. We also viewed the Heysen, ABC, Elders and Chace Ranges. The geometry of everything almost makes it one of the world’s wonders.

Aboriginal dreamtime tells of the Pound as being the results of 2 snakes coming down from the north and crossing an initiation ceremony. The 2 snakes circled the initiation and spun faster and faster forming the pound.

The flight was enough to spark an interest in obtaining a pilots license.

After the flight again headed south for a journey along the Arkaba Wonderland. After a brief wrong turn we became stuck behind a large tour group for a short while. They quickly turned off down a different track as we continued along. This track was a good track, though I didn’t feel it had the same spectacle that the Arkapena track had. We spent a fair amount of time along the track, and had lunch neck to a waterhole backed with an aggressive and almost shear angular sedimentary cliff. The winds picked up especially for us during our time there. The views along the rugged southern edges of the pounds exterior were good.

After the Arkaba Wonderland trip we hit the road back to Wilpena pound and came across the Arkaroo Rock walk this was a 30min bush walk up to the side of Wilpena Pound to a cave full of Aboriginal paintings. A good walk on the way up also. This is where we came across the Aboriginal dreamtime story of the way Wilpena Pound was formed.

After the Arkaroo rock walk it was back into Wilpena Pound to book Skytrek for tomorrow and set camp for tonight. Another crisp clear night, and at last it would be under canvas.

Monday 7th July 2003.
Wilpena Pound – Wilpena Pound via Skytrek.
123km trip, 2368km total

A great day spent traversing and exploring along “Skytrek” as produced and maintained by Willow Springs Station. Willow Springs station is a large sheep station located to the eastern side of Wilpena Pound and today a good return is being made from the tourist industry and people taking advantage of their renowned “Skytrek” self guided 4WD tour over their property, including the adjacent reserve for the Rock Wallabies.

The tour started at the homestead and they predicted a journey of about 6 hours. In addition to this they suggested a trip out to Skull Rock before returning to the Homestead. The fellow serving us seemed to be one of the station hands, a great fellow and experienced in sending people along the “Skytrek”. Its funny how you speak to the tourist people and ask them a question that they have been asked a million times before, and they respond happily though in a scripted like manner. Surely they must be bored mindlessly.

We started Skytrek along the low regions of Willow springs, admiring the country and taking in the spectacle of some Aboriginal rock engravings. Over such a long period of time the engravings have faded and no doubt with more time will completely disappear. It was amazing to notice how the rivers would be so mild on one bank, yet carve such aggressive cliff lines into the sedimentary rock. The red angular layers of rock were impressive.

It was interesting to find out that what at first appeared to be pine forest plantations is actually a naturally occurring feature of the Flinders Ranges. The plants all appear to be uniform in height and distribution, but this is due to the natural regeneration of the plants, only occurring during unusually high periods of rainfall.

During the Skytrek journey it was interesting to see a few of the old Shearer’s huts that were now in ruins. Its funny how it is only ever the chimneys that survive the test of time, whilst the rest of the hut comes crumbling down. There was one particular hut that the Nissan Patrol Club restored and was looking quite – authentic.

We came into an area that had been set aside for the conservation of the Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby, which was known as the Bunkers Reserve. Bunker’s is the name of one of the close by mountain features.

From here on, and after dodging the emus we were into low range. Up through the reentrants and the shale hills were making things rugged. We came to the top of one hill and viewed the working Barytes mine. There were also some great views looking back through the hills, over the plains and in the distance with the mountainous backdrops.

We continued up the hills and came into the sharp needlelike Spinifex, though this Spinifex was coloured unlike that I remember from the Simpson Desert. Shortly we were into the hard and unforgiving rock. I’ve got no doubt wheel spin would have caused cut tyres and flexed axles, though we powered through listening to the shocks pfsssst, pfsssst over the bumps trying to control the vehicle. We were up at Mt Caernarvon trig point at 920 meters. Absolutely sensational 360 degree views from the highest vehicle accessible point in the Flinders Ranges. Great views were presented of Wilpena Pound and anything else remotely in the area. Looking down the landscape remained to be as rugged as ever and the gibbers unrelenting.

After a quick decent it was of to Skull Rock via a slight detour. Skull rock is a rock formation that has taken on the appearance of a skull (or a face with jumbo ears). Just up from Skull Rock was an old disused mine that had the holes covered over. It would have been fantastic to get down there, though Dad was already peaking out and the removable grates were there for a reason.

It was interesting to notice throughout Willow Springs, and in particular on the final leg home that so many of the tracks cross over the water courses. One track between two steep hills literally was the watercourse before reaching for higher ground after several hundred meters. Signs like these indicate that rain is sparse around here.

We started to head back to the Willow Springs homestead and then Wilpena Pound deciding that Skytrek made the other tours look pretty ordinary. We admired and shot an electric red sunset by the side of the road, then continued along a kangaroo littered road.

It was really pleasant that our neighbours from the campsite next door came over to shoot the breeze with us for quite a while. One was a Lucerne farmer from Tocumwal, the other a network designer with Telstra from Adelaide (ex Sydney).

“Fang” the resident arachnid living over my head in the 4WD has moved on. I’m not sure if he has just moved on, or if things are a little more permanent.

Tuesday 8th July 2003.
Wilpena Pound – Arkaroola.
294km trip, 2652km total

We packed camp this morning with reasonable hast as the forthcoming clouds had begun to spit. Breakfast was put aside and the swag and tent came down very quickly. I assured Dad a wet tent is a miserable tent. With everything away, showers complete and breakfast consumed we headed north to see the nearby gorges, though not before visiting “The Sacred Canyon”. This was an interesting place, not only because of the aboriginal carvings in the canyon, but also the rich red gorge made of rock and the “cave” at one end. Somebody had also used their imagination and turned a dry riverbed root into a snake using some rocks for eyes and a head.

We continued towards Parachilna and saw the Yanyanna Hut that was some very neat accommodation for those hiking the Heysen trail. There were some nearby stockyards that had been left though looking almost as spectacular as the views of the mountain ranges in the distance.

We moved on to Razorback lookout and were amazed by the “grain” patterns and direction in the land. There must have been some very serious geological activity to form this hill.

Driving through Bunyaroo and Brachina gorges was interesting to look at, though they were a bit of a let down after all of the hype that was generated about them. Looking at some of the rock formations around the Brachina gorge showed what must have been a massive tectonic movement. The “seems” all appeared to have a big kink in them of about 1 metre.

From here we scurried to Parachilna for a drive by viewing of the pub, across to Blinman and through to Arkaroola for sunset.

We were lucky enough to book room accommodation for the next two nights in the resort, though we could not get onto the ridge top tour for another day. We retired to our room and cooked dinner in the car park just outside our door. For a change we had French Chicken – again. We made our plans for the next few days in Arkaroola and for the return trip home via the Strzelecki track.

Thursday 10th July 2003.
Arkaroola – Arkaroola.
29km trip, 2766km total

Today we rose early and did the Ridge top tour. The tour was lead by the Arkaroola staff and our guide was James. We sat in the back of their Land Cruiser ute with seats and an open top and it was freezing whilst down low in the valleys.

Our first stop was to a lookout tower that gave us some good views over the Arkaroola village. James then gave us some information about the local geology. It was an interesting talk as apparently the Flinders ranges is an enormously old range and the Himalayas is a comparative baby despite the height difference. The Flinders was formed when the tectonics in the area opened up a huge crack as the crack continued to open the surrounding areas then had a lot of soil etc wash into the resulting hollows and filled the area again. Shortly (a geologists “shortly”) after the huge crack then began to close again and the resultant fill was causing some huge compression issues. The crush resulted in the buckling of the soil layers and ended up producing what are the Flinders ranges. An excellent example of the buckling is actually Wilpena Pound and the surrounding ranges. Apparently the Flinders ranges has been proven to have been higher than Mount Everest by examining the layers, though I’m not sure if this was necessarily its peak height due to erosion. Within the Flinders ranges is still a fault line where the sedimentary rock is still being squeezed and the line is actually about 8m wide made of white marble type metamorphic rock. On layer of sedimentary rock has crashed into another and the resultant heat/force/time has produced the run of marble type soil that runs across the Flinders. There is still seismic activity in the area and the sensors have been placed on the fault line. The Richter scale machine sits inside the shop and you can see all of the activity in the area. The first day I saw nothing on it, though the last 2 days has shown activity, and apparently there is a fair amount going on. Apparently there are a few tremors per week, and they like it that way, as the alternative is to have nothing and then all of a sudden the ground just lets go with a bang!

The region is also known to be rich in radioactive material, and Dr Oliphant who was a good friend of Reg Sprigg and was involved in the development of the Atomic bomb searched the area for such material. There were some radioactive mines on the property that operated on and off depending on the prices at the time. Even as recently as this year there are companies coming in looking for varying materials, though the earlier explorations groups spent 30years looking. Camels did much of the supply work and transportation for the miners.

Reg Sprigg set up Arkaroola as apparently it was like a museum for geology. As a result he turned the area into a conservation park so that people could continue to come and visit the thing that he loved. Reg died lecturing overseas.
Mt Gee on Arkaroola is world heritage listed, though underneath there is thought to be gold and a mining company has been taking samples this year. Apparently they can mine under it but not destroy the mountain.

There is a lot of Spinifex in the area that apparently like to grown in soils rich in silica. They bring the silica to their foliage needle tips, and as they consume the soil, they grow out leaving a dead core.

Another interesting topic of conversation on the way up was about the Euro. The Euro is not a Kangaroo or Wallaby though it looks unmistakenably like one. Like Skippy that was a Euro, it has hair and not fur, with its hair more ruffled in appearance. The euro also has oval ears and not pointed ones like the Kangaroo. Most of the “Roo’s” in the area appear to be Euro’s.

The final destination, Mt Painter gave us great views of the plains in front of us from the mountains that we were in, and also lake Frome off to the side. We stopped here for a donut, tea/coffee, a few pictures and a chinwag.

On our way back we stopped right beside a lazy euro and caught some great pictures before it hopped away.

After lunch back at the hotel room we once again mounted the trusty steed and 4WD’d off into the hills. We initially took off up the Spriggina trail after a quick navigational disagreement and came past the fossil replica known as “Spriggina”. I thought it was a navigational aid for the aircraft until we got to the top of the Spriggina lookout. The fossil replica was a fantastic work of rock art and would be interesting to view from an aircraft.

Pinnacles were the next spectacle and after the final bit of rough 4Wding we took in the beauty of the rocky stands that formed this feature.

Bollabollana Springs appeared to be a waterhole rather than a spring. It was set into creek bed, though was running. The area was very rugged and some of the boulders in the creek huge. One of the boulders I ended up climbing to take some pictures. A Euro was at the spring at the same time and taking what appeared to be the mother of all drinks. This thing must have been dry because it wasn’t too worried about me as long as it was drinking. I was able to get so close to this thing that I could take some good full frame photographs while it drank and looked around or at me.

Bollabollana Copper smelter (est. 1870) was our next stop and was in ruins. One of the buildings looked like some type of hut with a primitive design or a furnace.

Nooldoonooldoona Waterhole was a great gorge that contained 2 waterholes. The rocks that formed the riverbeds were just amazing with such an array of aesthetic quality. Some green multi coloured, others bright silver and highly reflective and in fact many of the rocks would reflect the sun in speckles. Some are coming home for the fish tank.

Tonight I sent a few really quick emails on the Internet machine here.

Friday 11th July 2003.
Arkaroola – Lyndhurst.
380km trip, 3146km total

This morning we packed up to leave Arkaroola after a fantastic few days. It’s a place that would be nice to come back to for a few relaxed days of bush walking. We stopped in at the shop and checked for return emails, with the incredibly slow connection taking basically 15mins to log in and read 1 email from mum. Great work Telstra! We also bought a number of souvenirs and a book “DUNE, a four letter word (and so is Spinifex)” by Griselda Sprigg. It should be a good read after “Tandia”.

On the road out we stopped at the old shearing shed and looked at some of the old equipment that they had on display. They had what appeared to be an original SWB Land Rover that I assume Reg Sprigg used, wind turbines, windmills, tractors and tow graders.

We also returned to the lookout that we saw the previous day, though were blinded by the sun. Now at a different time we could see through Paterson’s Valley quite nicely and look over the Arkaroola homestead area.

Next stop was at the Lake Frome NPWS office for a quick talk to the Ranger. A really nice Aboriginal fellow told us a bit about the local Aboriginal tribes and some stories from the Dreamtime. He also spoke of intertribal marriages in the traditional and current environment. The Ranger was one of the local Adnyamathanha people (pronounced Adnamatna). After some directions we set off for Lake Frome, traversing an Aboriginal hunting ground that is still used today – we had to be out by 3pm.

Outside we once again met a nice family from Victoria that we had met in the Wilpena pound area a few days prior.

We journeyed down some narrow fast tracks to Lake Frome following fence lines, the gas line, dodging bull dust surrounded washouts, and crossing the electrified section of the dog fence. The Bull dust at the washout was so thick that the just about completely filled with dust. Every time we put the windows down for the rest of the day the dust just about choked us, and that was even later on the bitumen. To look out a side window and not be able to see literally 2meters from the 4WD was how thick it was – I mean that literally! We weaved through some shallow dunes before arriving at the salt encrusted Lake Frome that led out onto the horizon, and then probably even further.

Lake Frome had some sparse vegetation, and probably the only bush that could tolerate such high levels of salt in the soil. It was spirit level flat and apparently fills every 100 years or so. The track looked like it was used enough to maintain it, though it wasn’t a tourist hot spot. I would assume that most would see Lake Torrens on the other side of the ranges and a lot closer to the main highway that flanked the western side.

On our return trip we whipped it through the Flinders (Gammon) from the east to the west back on to the main north/south route. We were on a mission to get back to Parachilna for one of their famous (infamous???) FMG’s that we had heard about. The Feral Mixed Grill was literally that, and for all we knew could have been Feral Road Kill! The girl at the pub assured us it was an award winning restaurant, the food was good and not to worry. Well I have to say a serving of Kangaroo, Goat, Pig, Camel, Emu and veggies was quite something else. I had not yet acquired the taste for Kangaroo, though the rest of the food was fantastic eating and worth the taste test. Perhaps one day it will be cuisine just the same as frogs and snails are to the French (no, not the peasants either). The girl who worked the bar had a wacky hair dye job, but she was really great to speak to. She was one of those people that seemed like you had known them for ages, even though the discussion was about such basic things as what are you doing and where are you from.

On the way back north to Lyndhurst we managed to get reception and spoke to Mum briefly which was good. Simba has picked up and is getting a dog wash on Sunday after a good oiling. Not long after the phone call the Police for a breath test pulled us up for a breath test. He showed me my breath was good and he seemed good-humoured. It’s so good to see Police like this that maintains good relations and doing good things. I said to him that I couldn’t work out why I was being pulled up, as I didn’t think I was speeding. He laughed and told me I was doing 113km/h, but he didn’t care and wouldn’t tell anybody. I said I wouldn’t tell anybody either!

We arrived at Lyndhurst and booked some accommodation for the night at the pub, then filled up with Diesel. The disco was dripping oil from the differentials and transfer case in fantastic rover style, and now brimful, carrying almost 160l of diesel ready for tomorrows trip up the Strzelecki track and across to Tibooburra. The lady at the service station was a fantastic local who was born on the Birdsville track and daughter of “Bell”, one of the local Cattle Kings and member of the “Great Seven”. She also gave us some really good information about the Strzelecki track and its condition and timings to Merti Merti.

Back to the pub for an AMG this time (Aussie Mixed Grill) with Sausages, chops, rissoles and a side of cow with veggies. We spoke to the fellow on the next table that was about to do the nearby Birdsville track and head across to Haddon’s Corner for a bit of a look before heading back to Brisbane. He looked like he was going to have fun also.

It was now shower and bedtime for an early rise.

Saturday 12th July 2003.
Lyndhurst – Tibooburra via Strzelecki Track.
579km trip, 3724km total

It was an early rise for what could potentially be a long, long trip today. We kicked off with Bangers and Toast at the Pub in which we had stayed the night. We packed up and checked the 4WD. The oil leak under the diff was still leaking, so I assume there is still oil in there somewhere. I think the oil that had sprayed all under the car was still coming from the front diff and transfer case. It was hard to tell as the dust seemed to have plugged them up. If anything seizes under there Land Rover will get one cracker of a bill as they replace the drive train from the transfer case to the wheels. The tyres are holding air still and bear a few blemishes though are still in good condition. We stopped at the Shell petrol station and for some Coke induced sustenance if required.

The first 50km were Boney (Stoney) as the locals and Santos / Moomba crowd like to call it and has a reputation for doing some fantastic tyre damage. As we pulled out a Pajero that had come down from Marree pulled in with a bare rim on the back door, and I assume the tyre must have disintegrated along the Birdsville or Oodnadatta track by the looks of them.

As we began the Strzelecki track it was rocky, though nothing that was too horrific by my standards. I tended to think that it wasn’t really the actual surface that did the damage to all of these tyres, but rather the odd feral rock that lay on the surface. A muddy or bias ply would probably spit these rocks out, though a highway tyre would come apart pretty quick in the sidewalls.

Not long after the track smoothed out into smooth marble stones with tracks through them that were good for about 80-90km/h, then these shortly gave way to good clay top that sustained and easy 110km/h. As the track was the main access route now for Santos and the Moomba oil fields closer to Innamincka, the road was in fantastic condition and maintained by regularly by Santos. Like most of the outback roads though, during rain it would be closed to prevent extensive damage.

As we continued up the Strzelecki to Merty Merty we passed from the mountains of the Northern Flinders ranges into the undulating county so typical of the “rougher” parts of the outback. As we entered the Strzelecki NP the surrounding environment surprisingly gave way to Sand Dunes! The Dunes appeared not long after the Arkaroola turnoff at Mt Hopeless.

Not long after we had entered the Strzelecki NP we pull up at ????? Bore about 7-800m from the main track. Magnificent. This is the only word that could be used. Set in dunes is a fantastic camp spot, and an absolutely spectacular water hole being fed nice warm water from the bore. The water hole looked like it had been dug to produce what could only be described as a round and deep swimming pool. The waterhole would have been great swimming, despite the warnings not to consume the water, or to do so at your own risk. The water has rising up through the bore from the Great Artesian Basin just like the waters form Dalhousie springs and Purnie Bore in the Simpson Desert. The overflowing water would then spill out from the northern edge of the waterhole and lower down though adjacent was a fantastic bore fed wetlands. The wetlands were significant and the water clean unlike that seen in many others. The vegetation consisted of relatively dense scrub flora and hundreds of finch type birds. It’s amazing because you mainly see Corellas and Wedgies around waterholes, though bores and springs always seem to have finches and Willy Wagtails. A pair of Wedge Tailed eagles spiraled and there way over the bore and continued on their way looking for prey. A must return to camp location.

As we continued up along the Strzelecki track the dunes gave away to undulating gibber plains again and the NP concluded.

After a 4+ hour blast up the Strzelecki track we had come to the well sign posted turn off at Merty Merty to head east again to Cameron Corner. This was the track that would take us on a roller coaster ride.

We stopped just adjacent to the Merty Homestead and drove up onto the dunes. Looking to the east we saw a barrage of parallel sand dunes and to the west the plains we had just traversed. After driving back off the dunes we were passed by a group of 4Wders heading in the same dusty direction. I grinned and Dad grumbled.

We continued the roller coaster ride along the track to Cameron Corner (3 states intersection) cresting dune after dune along the slippery road. Bull dust rained supreme in many sections and red marker flags were in place as warnings to the unsuspecting. If you hit the bull dust without some care you will land on your roof in no time at all. I guess if the road is bad you have to drive faster to get off it quicker – not. Drive it slower and enjoy the conditions – hehehe.

The rains had had a significant affect in the area and they must have been recent. There appeared to be a lot of new dams in the area since I had been though last and they were full. Many of the inter-dune plains were flooded especially as we neared Cameron Corner and there was water in some parts on the trackside. There were many areas with wet weather track damage. The area was looking spectacular. Some of the vegetation was in flower and most areas were green. Oddly enough we did come across on flat that was like a great big mud bowl with a parched cracked hard red barren surface. Perhaps it was the remnants of a once flowing river.

We passed the big yellow Double Decker bus on the way through that was once used as a shelter many years ago, though now significantly damaged by the passers by and a tourist attraction.

Cameron corner was a whistle stop as we took a few quick photos on the border for 3 states before passing through the dog fence. A shame really as there was a bit to see there like the shop but Dad wanted to press on. We both had a photo standing beside the marker with the Queensland dingo fence and service roads running beside them. Sadly, after passing through the dog fence on the way out I read a sign on the service track stating that travel along the service road was forbidden and subject to significant fines. I suppose I can strike that off the to-do list then, though it would have been soooooo much fun. Brings memories back of the move called “Rabbit-proof fence”.

After Cameron Corner and the dog fence we endured an incredibly slow 60km/h zone for 22km in the middle of the desert (Sturt NP actually) we had a good run, though at times sheep and Kangaroo littered run into Tibooburra. Coming into Tibooburra we caught a sunset to photograph, though by no means one the quality found in the Red Centre of Australia. We filled with diesel and used 77 litres of diesel from Lyndhurst to Tibooburra (579km).

We found some accommodation through the Service Station, though didn’t expect any in such a small town. It was good to have a solid shower in soft water and was the filth and bull dust from my hair. It was hard work lathering though when washing the grit out of my head, I’m sure the water had turned a earthy shade.

Sunday 13th July 2003.
Tibooburra to Westleigh via Bourke, Nyngan and Dubbo.
1250km trip, 4974km total

This was a seriously possessed run! It took a lot of diesel and twice as much Coke! The run to Bourke was all fast dirt, and a little marbly at times. The run from Bourke into Nyngan was amazingly straight, probably about 100km true without a bend in the road. Arrived at Dubbo for dinner, and after living at Wellington I decided we were too close to Sydney to park for the night. So we hit the road again. The run started that morning at about 9.30am, and finished with a surprise for Mum at about 11.30 that night. Don’t try this one at home folks!


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