Published: May 15th 2012May 15th 2012
A big week. We’ve driven about 1,000km, stopping overnight in Elliston, Cowell and Hawker. We left the caravan in Hawker, had 2 nights in Arkaroola, and are now back in Hawker. We try not to do overnighters as the aim is to see things, but don’t want to waste time either.
From Coffin Bay on the SW tip of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, we drove up the west coast to Elliston. Coffin Bay and Elliston are small seaside communities which grow during the summer, but had a sort of closed down feeling to us. Lots of closed up houses and “shacks” as they call baches over here. Out of season? The coast is a mix of long white sandy beaches and spectacular cliffs. They have made a coastal drive on the cliffs, and have placed some sculptures on the cliffs.
After we left Elliston, we drove clear across the peninsula to Cowell, a distance of just over 200km. The attraction at Cowell was the Wednesday night pub dinner of spit roasted pork, potatoes and salad for $10 each. It was well worth the drive!
From Cowell we drove through Whyalla, Port Augusta and Quorn to Hawker.
It was the 4th
time through Port Augusta, and we got fuel at the same servo (petrol station) three times. Quorn is another declining rural town that reached its peak early in the 20th
century. As most buildings were built of stone, many have survived and Quorn has many well preserved examples.
SA opened up lots of grazing land in the 1860’s. Unfortunately it was near the end of a prolonged wet spell, and, after a few years, they had a prolonged dry spell with the result that lots of graziers walked off their properties and handed the leases back to the Government. By the way, wet equalled annual rainfall in excess of 10 inches! Yes – annual.
Hawker was once a stop on the railway and now has only about 300 people, but it has two good caravan parks. In a lot of SA to date, we’ve been traveling through wheat and barley growing areas, so it’s easy to tell when you are getting near to a town because silos come into view. Now we are into the desert country, its harder to see a town, but as the scrub is only 2 to 3 meters high,
The light on this was superb
a group of big trees indicates a settlement of some kind. Sometimes past and sometimes present.
Hawker is at the southern end of the Flinders Ranges, so we went north along the west side of the ranges for 150km to the next town Leigh Creek. Leigh Creek is a mining town where they mine brown coal for power stations. Due to the impending carbon tax, the mine is probably going to close down and the town will die.
A couple of kms north is the old town of Copley, where we had lunch at the Quandong Café. Quandong is a native peach, small and not especially tasty. However, it makes great jam and is good on icecream. It was here last year that our Unforgettable Expedition had its only breakdown, so was a small bit of nostalgia for us.
Then it was 130k of gravel road to get to Arkaroola. Arkaroola is a 630sqkm wildlife sanctuary. They have removed the sheep, minimized the goats, reduced the dingoes and are now farming tourists. The land is spectacular and really harsh and is a very special example of Australian geology. It was searched from end to end for uranium
Fish climbing (salmon of course)
during the war, and eventually commercial quantities were found out on the nearby flood plain. There is a hot spring on the property which is heated by radioactivity, and no, we didn’t go for a swim.
The property is also famous for its Ridgetop 4wd Tour. This is a 42 km trip mostly along impossible roads built by the Americans during their search for uranium during the war. It culminates in a climb to Sillers Lookout which is adrenalin producing!
We also did some walks there which were quite strenuous with walks/climbs over pretty rough terrain.
The Flinders are part of the “Adelaide Geosyncline” which was a gap of 1000km long and 300km wide that opened up. It was gradually filled with sediment in various layers and then it substantially closed again, making amazing uptilts and contortions. St Mary Peak is SA’s highest peak at 1171m. Check it out on Google Earth – “Wilpena Pound” is good. We are talking 500 million years ago!
After 2 nights at Arkaroola, we drove down the east side of the Flinders by gravel road for 140km to the town of Blinman. Blinman’s claim to fame was copper. There’s lots
Pattie and the pig (I took the photo)
of copper in SA. Sometimes its called SA’s gold! Copper was discovered there in 1859 by Robert Blinman, a local shepherd. He needed 10 pounds to file a mining claim, which represented a year’s wages as a shepherd, so he took in 2 partners to finance the fee. Two years later, without doing any digging, they sold the claim for 70,000 pounds. His share represented 2,300 years’ wages! He bought a pub and later died a pauper.
At its peak Blinman had a population of 1,500 but it’s now 22. We went on a one hour guided tour of the mine which operated for about 40 years until 1907 and then closed. It has never reopened. Our last drive was Blinman to Hawker and the change from serious desert with nothing higher than a meter to stands of small cypress trees and gums in the (dry) river beds.
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13 May 2012
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