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Welcome to the first of my reports from a five week trip that I recently completed. It was done in three parts, the first was with Jen when we drove to Darwin, the second was when our daughter Kristie joined us there and we drove to Broome in Western Australia and the third was my 6.5 day 5,600 kilometre drive home.
We left Melbourne early and not long after the sun had risen, came across this mechanics hall stuck out in a farmers paddock. This one was built in 1918 and is located near Inglewood Vic.
When we arrived at Wedderburn it was still early so stretched the legs by walking around their Holy Trinity Church, itís foundation stone was laid in 1866.
Jen new it was coming, a couple of times I had mentioned that we would be going to Darwin by as many dirt roads as possible. She didnít bat an eye lid when we hit this, passing some lovely rural scenes along the way.
A place I wanted to visit on this first day was a remote ruin located in the far North West of the state. Before we got there we stopped at what is known as the Long Plain Tank. Built in the 1870s it is unique in itís construction as it has two rows of Cypress Pine posts sunk into the ground to form two circles (an inner and outer). Between those soil mixed with lime was compacted (possibly by horses) to form a dam wall.
Built on a slight rise in an otherwise flat area, water was pumped by a steam engine (and later by a windmill) from surface dams into it, this was then gravity fed to troughs for the livestock to drink from.
From there we drove along more bush tracks towards the remains of the Taparoo Homestead.
There is not a lot left of what would have been quite an extensive set up stuck out in the middle of nowhere. First settled in the late 1800s graziers battled for many years before finally having to abandon it as drought and the realisation that the land just wasn't suitable for grazing livestock.
There were remains of a number of buildings in various stages of decay along with a number of cars scattered around the site.
We now drove through Burra, stopping only long enough to visit a couple of sites. The Red Ruth Gaol built in 1856 was our first stop.
No razor ribbon when it was built so to deter escapes broken bottles and glass were imbedded into the top of the walls.
The Burra railway station was completed in 1883, it has now been converted into a B&B.
A short distance from there is a hand/man operated steam engine turntable, Iím sure those old steam engines weren't light so It would have been a tough job pushing them around!!
Only a few ks north of Burra is whatís known as the Midnight Oil House, it was featured on the bands cover of their Diesel and Dust Album. It has become one of the most photographed ruins in Australia and I couldnít help but add my name to those who have stopped to capture this iconic old house.
Often over the weeks ahead we would comment about the contrasts of country that we were driving through in comparison to the green fields we saw in this area.
The Booborowie Pub which is over a hundred years old closed for the final time in May this year, a sad event for the few locals that used it but it didnít have enough patronage to keep it going.
We drove further north passing through beautiful landscapes which were punctuated by modern technology harnessing natures resources, helping with the power requirements of todays society. Although they can be seen to be an eye sore, the alternatives are far worse for mankind.
We took a cabin in the Jamestown Caravan Park that night as it had been a pretty long day (950 ks driven) and with an early start the next morning, making camp somewhere was not something either of us wanted to do.
Baroota Ruins was a place I had wanted to visit for some time so before we arrived at Port Augusta, that was our first stop for the day. The Baroota Run was first established in 1851 and the homestead built soon after, around it were some sizeable trees.
At Port Augusta we had breakfast, a short stroll from where we had that, was the next thing I wanted to show Jen, Iíd mentioned a few times as we drove along that I would show her the ruins of a Viking Long Boat. She thought Iíd lost my marbles as this was something she didnít expect to see. When I got to it boy was she disappointed, (as I was) as it didnít resemble anything like one. No matter how hard I tried to tell her that on a low tide thatís what it looks like, Jen said for once I had over sold and under delivered, which at the time I agreed with.
The scene we saw that morning and then the same boat I photographed last year.
Our next stop was at the Woomera Cemetery, the final resting place of possibly the last of Australiaís celebrated explorers, Len Beadell. Len was responsible for the creation of over 6000 kilometres of tracks across Australia, mostly through parts of the outback that had not be traversed before. He was an artist an author of many books and a superb bushman, a real character.
A short distance north of there are some ruins. Nearby Philip Hiern discovered a number of natural hollows (around 1870) that held water for some time after local rains. They were later called Philips Ponds, soon after a Hotel was built near them which in time (after itís demise) became known as the Philip Ponds Ruins.
Across the road from there a number of graves tell the story of hardship and loss at a time when this area was on the edge of a vast wilderness, a pretty rugged and sparsely populated area even today.
On the Oodnadatta Track we stopped at a unique location beside the Alberrie Creek, a spot called the Mutonia Sculpture Park. A former motor mechanic from Victoria Robin Cooke has been going there each year to install some of his unique sculptures made from recycled materials. After 20 years they make up quite a quirky display.
There were so many amusing, unusual and unique pieces, here are just a few more of what we saw. A clock tree and a near 3 metre high figure.
A giant mosquito and another thingy type bizzo!!
Crossing the creek itself we spied an interesting form of early outback transport, unique to this area I would suggest!
Over a hundred years ago, Alberrie was a railway siding on the old Ghan Railway line, it then became a pastoral station but on average this land couldn't support livestock in any profitable way so in time was abandoned.
Our next stop was at the Kati Thunda/Lake Eyre lookout beside the track. No water to see which is the norm, the surface of the Lake is 12 metres below sea level being the lowest place in Australia. If climate change continues to cause rising sea levels I hope like anything that some sort of action is taken, for if the waters get here, we really will be in the poop Ha!!
Beside the interpretive boards this Shingle Backed Lizard tried to blend into itís surroundings.
Iím sure it was saying, mate Iím a rock, so bugger off and leave me alone, Iím just a rock!!
Along the track at fairly regular intervals are the remains of railway sidings. These were used to refill the steam engines with water so they could continue their journey further north, maintenance teams also lived at some of them to help maintain the track as required. This is Curdimurka Station which is the most intact one of itís type left on the old line, it was built in 1888.
Out the front was this coat of arms, probably built to make those who embarked here feel that they actually were still in part of Australia!
At most of the sidings water tanks and desalination towers/plants had been installed. They were needed as most of the water extracted from bores or springs along the track was too salty to be used by the steam engines.
One more thing to see there was this memorial to John McDouall Stuart.
It was Stuarts discoveries of water in an otherwise arid part of Australia that allowed the telegraph line to be put through from the southern to the northern coast in the late 1860s and 70s. It then also was the approximate route the Ghan Railway took in the late 1880s.
Our next stop along the track was at Margaret Siding.
Not only the construction of these significant buildings in such a remote region would have been fraught with difficulty, but even sourcing the materials and getting then to site would have been one helluva job!!
This next spot was one that I had really looked forward to showing Jen for it is truly unique. This region is very very flat and so these mounds stood out from many kilometres away. They have been formed over hundreds of thousands of years, as deposits from the mineral rich waters that percolated to the surface were deposited around the natural springs.
This spring is called the Blanche Cup and is located in a fairly new reserve called Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park.
You can see how these mounds would stand out as the surrounding area is basically featureless.
The water that finally makes itís way to the surface from the Great Artesian Basin at these springs has risen from aquifers over 3000 metres below the surface, those waters have been estimated to have fallen as rain between 1 and 2 million years previous!!!
A short distance on from there is another spring called The Bubbler. You could see the bubbles and the occasional pop as the water and some air would break the surface.
Jen did think how interesting it was and then we were treated to quite a show as the ďBubblerĒ decided to put on a show.
And then things settled back down and the show was over.
It was hard to believe even for us, but we had only left Melbourne the day before so it was time to head into Coward Springs where we would camp the night. That and the next part of our trip will be shown soon.
Regards Col and Jen.
The worst day above ground, is a whole lot better than the best one under it. Live life to the fullest while you can.