Burra, Vic Silo Art, Grampians and Echuca

After the excitement of Kati Thanda and the Flinders, we were hard pressed to be excited about the trip home.

So we spent a couple of days in Port Augusta, keeping the Flinders in view. Turns out the town is pretty pleasant after all. We visited the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens and took a few tips for the future, after all Orange is now on Level 5 water restrictions and maybe some of our plants won’t survive.

We also spent a morning at the impressive and comprehensive multi-award winning Wadlatta interactive display at the Tourist Info Centre there – all you need to know about history of the region: geological, Aboriginal dreaming, pastoral, industrial, etc etc. Lunched At Barnacle Bill’s then returned to Arid Lands to have a stroll, and cuppa looking at the mountains, again. By the way, we had explored the fossil trail in Brachina Gorge years ago with one of our kids – do it if you are there!

Day 1 (once we got going)

Still hadn’t decided on trip home by the next morning , so went to Port Pirie Information Centre to visit Shakka the Shark exhibition although not brave enough to do Virtual Reality cave dive ($5!). Picked up brochures on Adelaide as mood so undecided! Read those brochures and they were so razzy we decided to go back to plan x-1.

For once we pulled into Burra mid afternoon to stay overnight in the caravan park there – very nice!! Short stroll, over bridge, through the town square (well, triangle) to St Just Cafe for delicious, highly nutritious carrot cake and good coffee, then back via butcher for lamb chops and pulled pork Filo parcels for later date.

Brilliantly restored and maintained Cornish mining town (mainly copper), very picturesque, and next time through we are going to stay a few days and do the key trail of historic sites, buildings, etc – looks brilliant and reviews concur, pay fee and hire key from Visitor Info Centre.

As the plan was to head for silo art trail in Victoria, I was looking for a road less travelled to get there and found Worlds End Highway!!! Gotta do it! But first! Headed back across the little bridge into town to the Gaslight Cafe/book store/antique shop to buy Cornish pasties for the road. Wow! Large, flavourful, meat and veg -superb! Try their Tiddy Oggie – Traditional Cornish Miners main meal – pastie 2/3 meat and veg, 1/3 apple! Sensational! Pricier than some but amazing! We shared one for late brekkie and one for lunch!

Moving on, the Worlds End Highway was well made easy Highway driving. We detoured onto great gravel road into Worlds End Reserve/Burra Gorge where there is a lovely campground with longdrop loos and the largest river red gums, by a long chalk, that we have ever come across- incredible! Must be many hundreds of years old and still flourishing despite fires, floods and droughts. The area is so named because the Goyder Line passes right through the property.

Next stop was Eudunda, a thriving little town that is probably on the edge of the Barossa region. Their rest area park is so well designed and utilises unique tiles to illustrate their history- so well done – I must talk to people I know in Orange’s History Society about the idea!!

We then zigzagged S and E across through Truro, Blanchetown, Swan Reach and across finally to Loxton where we stayed in a CP on the banks of the Murray- v pleasant. Had we got there earlier we may have found the free camp on an island in the river.

All the way through this area was green and damp looking and there were plaques to remind us that we were mostly travelling on the right side of that Goyder Line – We do keep coming across mentions of the work of that very talented surveyor! And across ruins resulting from government and other hopefuls trying to prove him wrong.

Day 2

Next day was another long one. Heading South, landform appeared to be about 100km of ancient E-W sand dunes stabilised by mallee and now taken over for agriculture – although sandy soil the crops were doing well. At Pinaroo we found its well curated museum of agriculture (sooo many types of wheat from around the world), farming machinery, and printing presses (although we have both been involved in the industry, we still learned a lot more on the history).

Then East into Victoria and almost across to Ouyen (mallee scrub alternating with healthy looking crops, running parallel to Murray Sunset NP). Turned south to wriggle our way along the Silo Art Trail – magnificent art works. Google Victorian Silo Art to see pictures and where to find them. We visited the silos at Patchewollock and Lascelles that day and got in late to Hopetoun CP. In the morning we realised that had we arrived in daylight we could have driven in a little further to lakeside camps and very funky mini silo cabins the Council are constructing!

Day 3

Following day we worked our way through the final four silos ( the trail is about 200km long, doable in one day if the first one doesn’t start in Loxton😉)

We then made our way toward Halls Gap and the Grampians. The crops, mainly barley, were doing incredibly well. Again it is sandy soil, no doubt from the erosion of the sandstone ranges around here, including the Grampians. They have had rain from lots of cold fronts moving through southern SA and Vic. We were told that the long time farmers down this way know that when Lake Eyre fills, the following winter and spring brings good rain to this area.

Chose to stay a little way out at Lake Fyans Holiday Park – what a setup and views! Got in early!!!! Made good use of the laundry facilities, got into bread making and finally baked and relished the pulled Pork parcels from Burra. Yum!

Day 4 – The Grampians

After a couple of cloudy days (perfect for silo viewing) we scored a brilliant day for our first visit to the Grampians. Our choices of which way to go around there were a bit suss but it all worked out in the end.

We did drive up Mt William but only walked the first 200m of the 1.8km final assault UP to the peak – sensational views anyway!

We did find the Wartook Valley and watched a stunning lenticular cloud forming. That was not in the brochure!

We did go to Mackenzies Falls lookout and Broken Falls lookout – the sound of so much water falling is something we have not heard for a long while! The sight was pretty good too.

We ran out of time to go to Reeds Lookout and the walk to see the Balconies, but we figured we were probably looking at them from Lake Fyans.

Before the sunset we did make it to Boroka Lookout for gorgeous views across Halls Gap and the plains beyond.

We also found the Bakery in the morning and the pub in the evening for the pork roast dinner!

After a few detours etc, it turned out to be a good day. Glad we came but not desperate to hike around it – way too much up, down and loose surfaces!

Echuca

With a series of impending cold fronts looming, we decided to skip our visit to Sovereign Hill, Ballarat and head a bit more north-ish to Echuca which we had visited about 25 years ago, and one son and his family had really enjoyed recently. Echuca is a large and bustling city, including large modern Law Courts!

The weather held apart from light drizzle on the second day. We loved the Historic Wharf precinct – went for a ride in the coach pulled by Shire Horses, dawdled through the discovery centre including the reconstructed many storey wharf to accomodate Paddlesteamers and their barges At greatly varying river heights, hung out in the Penny Arcade and played the antique machines, and enjoyed lunch at the Star Hotel.Must revisit the TV series All the Rivers Run!

As the freshwater pump in the bus had finally died the night before, we popped into the Caravan supplies shop there – oh joy! Could spend hours and a small fortune in there as they have all the things it would be nice to have! However they did actually have the correct pump!!! So we returned to the bus and very skilled hubby was able to switch out the old one and install the new one – so useful to have around!

The weather forecasts are becoming increasingly dire for a series of massive cold fronts coming through so we are calling the trip done and heading north, hopefully collecting the dogs from Dubbo and getting back to Orange before we get snowed in, or is that out?

PS The countryside through northern Vic and Riverina has benefitted from this winter’s rain and all looking good, but becoming noticeably drier north of Narrandera. We also came across many signposts to The Long Paddock and found a notice in Deniliquin – it ran from Wilcannia to Echuca and was of great importance! Another time, although rings of droving tracks through NT and Qld we have come across and I had read about.

New location for our trip reports

Seeing as how I overdid it on the photos last year and can no longer add them to reports in this blog, I have set up a new blog for future trips. So it will be at greywanderers2.home.blog (WordPress made that up). We have a few “shorter” trips in mind for this year, so if you get bored in the next few months, check it out.😉

Wandering West 2018 – what goes west, has to go east eventually…

Time to head back, and with some pretty hot weather forecast later in the week (it is late October after all!) we determined that we needed to be in the shady caravan park site in Ceduna within four days so we could hunker down with the aircon if necessary, and drive us all to the park down the beach front and walk in the shade on the cool grass a couple of times a day.

Days 1 to 5

It is a long way back! Doesn’t seem any shorter like some trips do, it is just a long way! Free camped the three nights coming across. The eastern end doesn’t look like a major transcontinental Highway but then again, as Wikipedia says “The Eyre Highway, which connects Norseman in Western Australia to Port Augusta, was carved across the continent in 1941. At first it was little more than a rough track, but was gradually sealed over the next thirty years. The last unsealed section of the Eyre Highway was finally sealed in 1976.” Previously there had only been a hazardous track that followed the East-West Telegraph Line. Bit like the case of the Stuart Highway to Darwin from Port Augusta, the approaching threat of WWII was catalyst that caused the roads to be put through.

Before the highway went in, the trip between WA and “over East” involved a boat trip across the Great Australian Bight plus or minus Bass Strait, a train journey over many days and changes of trains and track gauges, or in the 1930s airplanes did hop across the continent about three times a week.

Made it to Ceduna at lunchtime on the fourth day with the mercury hitting 38.6, two degrees hotter even than forecast. First stop the shady park down by the water’s edge. Our favourite campsite had been reserved for us, and cool showers were wonderful. Then joy oh joy, we experienced a series of real summer storms, westerly busters in this case, just like the southerly busters we had grown up with in Sydney. Warm winds from the east, while storm clouds built up in the west, then sudden squally wind with lovely big warm rain drops, bit of thunder and lightning and then they would roll away, leaving everything refreshed. Dropped 10 degrees, which was a lovely warmth, and more storms meandered through during the afternoon and evening.

Pottered around Ceduna the following morning before the heat set in. A new estate called Ceduna Waters to the eastern side of Denial Bay has really lovely homes. Funky gravel gardens, but appropriate. We played on some of the beaches with the dog. It was so warm, shallow, humid, bit mangrove-y that it felt like Roebuck Bay at Broome, but without the crocodiles!

Day 6

Two days later we returned to Kimba where the roses and flowering gums were in full bloom. We noticed a bit of activity in the wheat fields and a couple of grain trucks unloading at the silo.

Day 7

Next day was NE to Iron Knob ( inhabited but oh so tiny and desolate looking in the lee of the huge spoil hills) and then battling the wind off the Spencer Gulf and the uneven road through to Port Augusta which was awash with jacarandas blossom.

Over a cuppa, we finally made the decision to return the same way we had gone – via Mildura rather than Broken Hill – a couple of degrees cooler, more quarantine considerations, equal fire risks, but the clincher was more options in the routes to follow and places to stay departments.

What a difference 5 weeks have made!

The highway from Port Augusta to Port Pirie was its normal ratty self, and there are still hay trucks heading east, but once we turned east onto the Goyder Highway things became very different!

The pretty, quiet town of Crystal Brook includes two wheat handling facilities and they were flat out with grain trucks bringing in their loads , from fields which were being reaped asap with rain forecast for the next few days and downy mildew warnings being broadcast by the BoM. All hands on deck!

Day 8

Consequently the next day’s drive through to Burra and beyond featured mostly fields of stripped wheat stalks and once over the range and the Goyder Line, the brown, dusty, harsh and “how do the farmers grow anything out here?” appearances returned. SA is a tough gig! So glad we saw a softer side on the way west!

At Morgan we enjoyed a break by the Murray, then decided to take the ferry across and explore the south side of the River on our way to Cobdogla Station CP – with a name like that, and great Wiki Camps reviews, we just had to check it out!

The road through Cadell, Ramos and Waikerie wanders along past various loops and bends of the Murray R, and cliffs indicating the routes of the current and much earlier river paths abound, as do dried/drowned/salt damaged river red gum skeletons.

The evidence of the value of irrigation (and we suspect soil improvement) is evident in the various vistas of have and have not areas!

Enjoyed the green peacefulness of Cobdogla and its lagoon, it would be a very pleasant base for exploring the region on another trip.

Heading East, retraced steps to Hay and then cut NE across more of the Hay Plain along the Mid Western Highway to Goolgowi where the Council has a small CP with good facilities – key from the RSL or Council about 100m away.

The Hay Plain really is depressing – give me the Nullabor any day! At least on this stretch there were irrigation canals going somewhere, and mobs of sheep and of emus. Also a water pipeline being constructed towards Goolgowi.

Final day toward home was wet!!! Rain, showers, hints of green, some crops starting to show, skinny sheep picking on what they could and our own garden up in Orange was amazingly lush! A quick check of DPI drought map shows that we are still in drought and nearby areas still in intense drought, but the fact that it has been raining lifts spirits. Keep those hay trucks and other support rolling!

Well that is 2018 trip done! Amazing finds, lot of distance in relatively short time – about 10,000km in 6 weeks. Now to gear up for Christmas and look forward to catching up with long lost school friends in the not too distant future.

Wandering West 2018 – Part 7 – Esperance

We bailed out of Hopetoun CP and decided it was time to head home, so made for Esperance. We had visited there some 13 years previously, visited Cape Le Grand NP, been on a wildlife cruise, visited the fish skin leather factory ( so fine and glorious), and an aquarium that is no longer there. On that occasion we also saw a whale shepherding her calf around the harbour infrastructure, it was July I think. Loved it! Went to book in for one night, but the manager’s spiel on the place and a reliable dog kennel providing doggie day care swayed us so we stayed for three!

The first day was washing, minor repairs, etc in the morning and then a trip around town and suburbs to see how well the town is doing. Very comfortable place.

The second day was off to doggie day care then to Esperance Stonehenge – a faithful recreation of the UK, for size, placement, etc, even works for local solstices! Just made from our favourite stone – glorious pink granite from a quarry nearby – instead of bluestone and sarsen stones. Exceptionally powerful yet calm feeling inside it, and the acoustics were astonishingly even, non- echo-y, clear, within and without the circles. Massive achievement with modern machinery and methods, mind boggling for the ancients’ efforts!

Then returned to Cape Le Grand, with a wild flower mission. We did find many but the geology overrides everything, and defines it too! We had driven through the Granite Belt of WA (and SA) with the many granite domes popping up everywhere, with their watercatchments, “wave” erosion features, protruding into wheat fields,etc but Cape Le Grand features granite domes of fantastic proportions and in fact they seem to be part of the one enormous intrusion of magma into the earth’s crust at some vast geological time ago. Apparently to end up with such large granite crystals, the magma intrusion would have stopped many kilometres below the then surface and cooled extremely slowly.

Millions of years of erosion later, the resulting granite is being exposed and itself eroded and decomposed to the incredibly fine white sand found in the region. Scientifically proven to be the finest and whitest in the world – hence the stunning beaches, Turquoise waters, and squeaky sand that behaves like extremely fine corn flour when damp.

(Got a bit carried away with photos in earlier posts, and hadn’t properly set parameters, so no more photos until we work that out – whoops!)

Wandering West 2018 – Part 6 – Fitzgerald NP

Pleasant day travelling south through Lake King, Varley and onto Ravensthorpe. Usual wildflowers popping up along the road side, crops, and the CBH bulk wheat,etc handling bins.

First thing of note driving in to Ravensthorpe is the funky stylised (we thought) silo art depicting the life cycle of banksias. Stunning!

Then travelled onto the very dated but very beachside caravan park at Hopetoun. Stayed a couple of nights, enjoying the beach and the takeaway shop in town while awaiting the return to town of the dog sitters. In the meantime we found the local most unusual banksia which does look like those on the silos.

Fitzgerald NP

The morning came to visit Fitzgerald NP with its incredible geology and even more incredible and unique endemic plants, some of which only exist in an acre or three of the entire planet – awesome!! Humbling!! Mind boggling! Put it on your bucket list people!!!!

We only visited the western end of the National Park, another trip we may visit the other. We also only stayed on the roads and short walks to various points of interest. Hardier souls/soles can explore much more.

Trying to select a few photos is sooo hard.

The most extreme and photogenic rare plant is the Royal Hakea – classifying it must have been a hard call, but we did eventually find some Hakea like seed pods.

The geology revolves around extreme folding and pressure as various continental drifts and collisions forced part of the land down to an estimated 25 kilometres! Turning humble sandstone into stunning quartzite of practically pure silica, folllowed by assorted upheavals, etc.

The evolved plants are very specific in their nutrition!

Wandering West – Part 5 – Perth and Wave Rocki

Having found some wildflowers and the Indian Ocean, we headed to Perth where we knew we would find a school friend and wildflowers galore in Kings Park.

On another VERY windy day we dropped in at the bakery in Jurien Bay as promised, then checked out Lancelin and Ledge Point – both smaller but growing dramatically towns that were dog unfriendly. Nice coast line, just couldn’t go near it.

Headed inland toward Gingin and it’s very productive orchard and vegetable growing areas. Then Southbound on the Great Northern Highway that we last encountered at Dalwallinu – goodness, lots of traffic, road trains, strong winds, not fun really. Closer to Perth there are major roadworks underway.

Perth

Banksia Tourist Park at Hazelmere turned out to be in the Swan Valley and close to Perth Hills area. (Close to airport, major shopping centre, major highways and industrial estates west of those too, but they could be ignored). Highly recommend the park and it’s gardens – gorgeous!

First day in town we pottered around with washing, shopping, and driving across Perth to track down all important seals for the porta loo – enough info on that! All good now.

Second day we headed to Kings Park where we met my school friend and her husband. The day before we left home on this adventure I received the high school newsletter, noting that it is our years’ 50th anniversary and that there was to be a reunion in Sydney on the very day we were catching up in Perth. So, not having heard from anyone else in 25 years, several emails ensued and we were to send a photo of us at Kings Park to the gathering, and they would send photos back to see if we could recognise anyone – hmmm, reckon we scored a few ticks. I will try to attend their next get together.

Anyway, job done, we wandered off around the park. I had been there briefly a couple of times in the past 50 years, but I can safely say that now it is magnificent! The wildflower gardens are brilliant and established by geographical areas of WA. The Perth skyline is changing rapidly, even since our visit last year around the Quay. We really enjoyed our time there, even the light misting rain during our picnic.

Then we decided to go for a drive to City Beach (which we overshot while chatting too much) and Scarborough Beach. The latter is amazingly developed, not only for accomodation but with parks, built hills, skate bowls, eateries, etc. And dog friendly, but not on the beach itself which is fair enough.

Then back to their place for dinner and more catching up! Great day!

Hyden and Wave Rock

A few phone calls convinced us that if we wanted wildflowers (and can find a dog sitter) then the place to be is Fitzgerald River NP and the Esperance area. A check of maps and Google indicated that the best way to get there was via Hyden ( and therefore Wave Rock). Bonus!!

Another hairy, windy and windy drive ensued – tailwind so fuel consumption down 4L/100km!

First part of the journey is through the Perth Hills which were lovely this year. We crossed near the head of the Bibulum Track which follows the forests for about 1000km in about 10 sections from Kalamunda near Perth to Albany on the southern coast. One of the great walks by any standard I would think.

Gradually we were back into wheat areas, The Southern Wheatbelt this time, heading pretty well east.

Pulled into Tressie’s CP just west of Hyden where the owner gave us lots of info on the area and convinced us that two nights at least were needed – we didn’t take much convincing as we had long wanted to visit Wave Rock. Lovely spacious park with long views over the countryside. They also have a well organised museum with tours morning and afternoon.

We loved Wave Rock and even scored some time with it without selfie obsessed others! The pink granite crystals are enormous, well over 1cm indicating a long slow cooling of magma several kilometres below the then surface level. The wave part is a tiny part of the whole, at just on 100m long and 15m tall. The colour banding is caused by the same bacteria and algae as occurs on the beehive formations at Purnululu Bungle Bungles.

The early settlers constructed a stone wall around part of the dome of the whole rock to channel rainwater into a dam at one end of the monolith- a technique we had also seen at Merredin Peak last year. It is still part of the local water supply, although Hyden receives water from Harrissmith Lake

We then walked further around to Hippo’s Yawn formation, again arriving in time to take our own pics, and enjoying the rock itself and the weathering processes as we went.

Had a lovely fresh salad lunch at the cafe there then drove another 16 kms to The Humps granite outcrop which we walked around a bit, and also viewed Mulka’s Cave. The Aboriginal legend surrounding Mulka embodies many law-related facets. There are some 450 hand stencils and other drawings, some of which are easily seen but as visitors are requested not to crawl through the cave, most are not obvious.

Then back to the cafe for some excellent vanilla slice and a visit to the Lace Museum there. The collection is exquisite- some beautifully preserved pieces dating back to 1700s. The fineness of the needlework is beyond my comprehension of the patience, eyesight, knowledge and skill required! Didn’t think to take a photo, too enthralled!

I went to the Tressie’s museum tour in the morning, which they were happy to run for one person but by the time I asked a few agricultural questions and we rambled off on all related topics, I figured I had learned enough for one morning.