Saturday, September 28, 2013

Menindee and Ivanhoe

Broken Hill to Menindee and Kinchega National Park, was just over an hour in travel time. The National Park is on the lake system created by the Darling River as it travels inland. It is a birdlife sanctuary in an area curently stricken by drought.

Kinchega previously was a pastoral lease, so boasts a truly magnificent old shearing and wool shed.

The park had some lovely campsites besides the Darling River, but it was a little too early to set up camp for the day. We didn't want to sit amongst the flies for eight or so hours, so toured around the park noting suitable sites for a future occasion.

Our intention had been to go to Mungo, but we are tired and it's time to head for home. So we headed off to Ivanhoe on some more dirt!

We were very unimpressed by this town. The publican was dour and grumpy and closed the doors at 7:00pm to attend a birthday party. Local people unfriendly. Nothing else was open.

In the morning the ladies showers were stone cold!!

Gundagai tonight - home tomorrow!!!


Friday, September 27, 2013

Broken Hill

The camping in and around Broken Hill looked cramped, dusty and tired, so we decided to head for a bit of luxury and rented a deluxe room in the Outback Lodge Motel for two nights. We really wanted to see the artwork and galleries, for which Broken Hill is famous.

The Post Office, central Broken Hill.
Memorial to lost miners, as seen from the centre of town.

Broken Hill Court House, a very dignified building.

We were unaware that Broken Hill runs on South Australian time, so we kept on being half an hour early to everything! The Regional Gallery wasn't open when we arrived so we took a trip to nearby, Silverton.

Silverton, was one of the first silver mines in Australia, but now most of the old buildings have either disappeared or fallen into disrepair.

An interesting town, that boasts the makings of makings movies there than any other town in Australia; Mad Max, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, A Town Like Alice, just to name a few. The ABC was in the town whilst we were there, making a mini-series called The Code.

We visited the local galleries, but found little really original artistics works that captured the vastness, the fragility and beauty of this desert region.

We took the turn off to visit the Sculpture Consortium in the desert as well as the Living Desert flora and fauna sanctuary. The colours are not captured by camera. They appear dull and dreary. The reality is that smoky grey bushes contrast dramatically with red dirt and cobalt blue skies.

We LOVED the sculptures. They all spoke about the land and the people who made them. Sculpters from all around the world were commissioned to create them, so each sculpture reflects the artists' emotional responses to the desert and the artists' strong attachments to their homelands.

The ancient rocks leading up to the top of the hill had their own naturally formed carving, formed by heat and wind as seen below.

Close by we spotted this desert dragon.

A visit to the Pro Hart Gallery was interesting. The gallery contained examples of Pro's work from the 1970's through to the 2000's, including the dragon he painted on the carpet for that ad.

The Broken Hill Regional Gallery had a wonderful collection of Australian art.



We left the Northern Flinders and Gammon Ranges to visit the Central Flinders Ranges, which we hadn't been able to see due to the fog and rain, on our last trip.

Parachilna Gorge
Brachina Gorge. The road is signposted all the way with the ages of each rock formation. Most range from 570 - 580 million years old, but still very young in comparison to Arkaroola, whose rocks date back to 1.6 billion years ago.

Bunyeroo Gorge was the most spectacular in the central Flinders Ranges with steep red cliffs and sandstone folds in red and ochre.

We avoided Wilpena Pound, as everyone and their dog headed into the village area!

Our stop for the night - Carrieton, a very small town struggling for survival. The old primary school, has been purchased by the local community, when the school closed a year ago, and made into accommodation and camping.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Alpana Sheep Station

We drove through Chambers Gorge; on the side of Mt Chamber and still in the Northern Flinders Ranges, hoping to find somewhere to camp, but the only designated camping area had lots of people already ensconced there. It was also a bit early in the day and we didn't want to sit amongst the flies for the rest of the day, which are at plague proportions in this area at the moment, due to the rain!

Another pucture occured on the road to Alpana Sheep Station From Arkaroola, only we didn't notice until we reached the homestead, where we heard a wind escaping noise and realised the tyre was deflating!

Everyone on the farm was out, so we took the opportunity to change it while we waited. David, the farmer rocked up just as we had loosened the wheel nuts and kindly lent us his pneumatic jack, making the job much quicker and easier.

Here we decided a private ensuited site would be a luxury. So a delightful place, set in the desert, beauty all around, serene and peaceful.


Here we met artist Denis Clarke, who was staying for a week to paint.



The weather prediction from the day before proved to be extremely accurate! The wind continued to increase all day. What started out as a clear day, rapidly became more and more dusty. By the time we arrived in Arkaroola, we could barely see the hills! The wind and dust continued to get worse, so camping now seemed like a very poor option! We gained protection from the elements inside the reception area!

As Arkaroola had been recommended to us as a "must see" place, we reluctantly decided to find a bush camp for the night, rather than retreating to somewhere else. Eating dust with dinner cooked at the camper was not a pleasant thought, so having found our spot for the night, we walked back to eat at the restaurant.

We awoke to clear blue skies, no wind - the perfect day!!

We had booked the previous night to do the Famous Ridge Top Tour, hoping that we hadn't wasted our money! With weather like this it would have to be brilliant!

At this moment, my camera ran out of battery and no electricity with which to charge it! So photos from Peter's camera will be added later. We were priviledged to be driven in four wheel drive vehicles up mountain slopes and over ridges on a road that is inaccessible to the public. The scenery is breathtaking. Sheer drops, red, brown, gold, purple colours of rock and plantlife that clings to life with the occasional rain.

The four wheel driving is extreme! A set of tyres only lasts 3,000klms! The tyres on our vehicle looked battered and worn! We drove over huge boulders, up extremely steep gullies, along hair thin ridges and up to mountain top lookouts with sheer drops on all sides.

The vehicles are cleaned before every trip to ensure no invasive seeds are able to be spread into this pristine place. Regular feral animal clearing is done, no mean feat in this inaccessible place. Often done by helicopter and dropped baits!

It is the greenest in Arkaroola for ten years, so botanists were actively marking and taking measurements of plants thought to be on the edge of extinction! One such plant two years ago, the botanists counted approximately 20, today they had counted over 600!

The plants kill off their extremities in order to survive the conditions out here! So often you think they are dead.

This day in Arkaroola will stand out as the highlight of this tour! Spectacular, scary, awe inspiring! We both loved this wild, fragile, living museum.

Arkaroola is home to one of the very few mobs of Yellow-Footed Wallabies left anywhere, as well as many frog, reptile and flora species. The property, a pastoral lease, is a strange shape, has dispensation not to carry cows and is on average 70klms x 10 klms. It has been a conservation area since the 1960's, before conservation was a name, purchased by the Spriggs family. Sir Douglas Mawson and Sir Mark Oliphant loved the place, for its amazing diverse collection of mineral deposits. It's a living museum for geologists, botonists and zoologists alike.

We were lucky enough to see two Yellow-Footed Wallabies, one at night near our camp, and one on a steep ridge close to our vehicle on the Ridge Top Tour!


Leigh Creek

Very well designed

Leigh Creek is a coal mining town below Maree. Leigh Creek was moved from its original location, about thirty years ago, so it is very well planned and set out and has much the same feel as Canberra.

We arrived on a Sunday to find not much open, not even the fuel station. Fortunately the pub was open and we were directed to the community-run camping area. We needed to stay to be able to re-stock with fruit and vegetables and to re-fuel.

The flies were awful, so the camp kitchen was a great place to which escape. We ended up having dinner at the pub - a delicious meal of Moroccan Lamb Salad!

The woman behind the bar told us that the Flinders Ranges were the greenest they had been in 10 years and because they had had so much rain, the flies had also become impossible.

The camp host, later that night went around to each camp with a severe weather alert for strong winds!



Whilst the Birdsville Track was generally in very good condition and being upgraded in places, the washouts contained very sharp stones. The track had been chopped up by the Birdsville Races traffic a very localised rain of up to one inch! Shortly after crossing one such floodway, we heard a strange flapping noise and stopped. Sure enough we had a puncture! We had pulled over to what we thought was a relatively flat spot and took all the tools out. This was a very hot, arid area, in the midst of drought - no shade to be had!

The fun started when we tried to loosen the wheel nuts. A compressor had obviously been used to attach them and there was no way we could shift them! We had a proper wheel brace, which we both pulled and hauled. We tried jumping on it, jacking up the brace - all to no avail! A spot of silican spray was tried and then a longer lever! Not a soul came passed! Finally brute force won the day and the wheel nut loosened!

Then we found that the jack did not lift high enough to be able to remove the wheel. I went to look for some rocks, wood, anything to place under the jack to give us more height. Peter thought more laterally and dug under the wheel with the spade so that there was enough wheel clearance.

We were just tightening up the nuts having now changed the tyre, a truck and then a farm ute came passed, both offering assistance. Their main concerns were that we had enough water!

We pulled into Mungarannie Pub further down the track, because we knew they did puncture repairs. Sadly the tyre was a write off as the rock cut was too long to repair. We were however able to purchase a new one, which we did even though we had another spare. We had seen too many other punctures and blow outs besides our own!

The Mungarannie Hotel was a delight. It is the local watering hole for the stations in the area. When the station hands have any time off they come here. Dinner was great, typical hearty steak, but with untypical delicious Mediteranean salad. The owner was keen to yarn to anyone and everyone, so it was welcoming and friendly.

A campsite beside the artificial billabong was a great spot for the night. A warm Artisan spa (fairly manky!) was fun! And a big plus was the plethora of bird life.

The stars were a delight - no light pollution!


Sunday, September 22, 2013


More aridness and grey- yellow ground. Lots of roadwork.

Here is an artisan bore pouring water into a pond for the road crew to use on the roads to make them more hard wearing.

The water creates an oasis in the desert, which is frequented by many and varied birds.

Close to the Birdsville track are many ruins. Some of the buildings were old homesteads and others old stations that were on the old Ghan Railway.

Famous along the Birdsvile track are Waddi Trees. This is the notice from Boulia about these trees.

But the biggest remaining stand of these trees is sixteen kms north of Birdsville.

Not much was open in Birdsville when we arrived. The bakery served the most extraordinary range of pies, including rabbit stew, lambshank, kangaroo in port wine and curried camel. Peter and I both chose curried camel, which were delicious.

A visit to the famous Birdsville Hotel was in order.....

Peter wanted to be able to say at he'd had a beer in it!
We stayed in the Birdsville Caravan park, which is beside a man-made billabong. The town electricity is supplied through geothermal power station. After being used through the turbines the water is then pumped through to the town water supply. The excess wate flows through a bore drain into the billabong.
The billabong is a haven for birds and mosquitoes alike!