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Published: March 7th 2015
Ring Necked Parrot
Apex Park Walgett. There are 5 sub specie of the ring necked parrot. I think this is the Mallee Parrot which has softer colours than the cousins.
1500ks, 3 States, 2 Camels, 3 VW Beetles, and a swarm of locusts
From Hahndorf, we headed north east to Murray Bridge and then followed the river northwards to Waikerie and Moorook where we camped overnight by the river, then through Loxton and to complete the Murray River run, to Wentworth.
Interestingly, in two days we travelled through three states, starting in South Australia, crossing into Victoria and then into New South Wales. But where this gets confusing is that the fruit fly exclusion zone does not follow the state borders, so it is very easy to have banned fruit and vegies on board that require dumping in the quarantine bins. (or pay a $600.00 fine) As they don't check stomach content, we ate up our contraband and should we have been stopped, all offending fruit flies were digested.
The journey travelled through quite varied agricultural land ranging from almost useless through to brilliant vineyards and amazing plains where wheat had been harvested.
Grape picking was in full swing and we saw mechanical harvesters shaking the grapes from the vines for wine making, and hand picking whole bunches of grapes for
Living Desert Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, 9ks out of Broken Hill
the table grape business. The local seedless grapes were delicious.
We passed two huge wine making enterprises, one a little south of Moorook, and another at Loxton. There were huge tip trucks lined up waiting to unload grapes ready for pressing. When we were driving west from Loxton there was a continuous stream of trucks and trailers delivering grapes.
There are photos of the Loxton Winery, and they do not do justice to the size and number of vertical storage tanks at this site. Moorook was about the same. For each row you see in the pictures, there are another 6 or more rows behind the street front tanks.
The grain harvest in this area would have been all over by late December. One farmer was working ahead a little readying his fields for the next crop by scarifying the land. That news spread quickly to the emu population who rocked up to get the bugs disturbed by the farmer.
So far we have travelled about 80,000ks around Australia, but it wasn't until we were driving beyond Broken Hill that we came across camels grazing at the road
Destination Lightning Ridge
Ready to do some not serious opel mining.
side. I would love to pretend that these were wild animals, but I rather think they were well domesticated. Having posed for a photo, one crossed the road to poke his nose into the motorhome to see if we had a spare carrot or two. My co-pilot was a little un-nerved by this approach so we moved off before the critical contact just in case it gave us the traditional camel greeting of a spit in the eye.
A few more kilometers down the road we arrived at the mining ghost town of Silverton. It is hard to imagine that this town had over 3000 people, most living in a tent city. A very good silver mine operated here for a number of years, and then typically shut down and the township and its people dispersed.
There are several buildings still standing, but none other than the pub are still functioning as originally developed. This is a great spot to visit if you like fine art. Several really well known artists have their studios here, and there is a great opportunity to browse, sip a latte, or sample the fine beverages at the pub.
One studio is named 'Beyond 39 Dips.' Until you drive out to Silverton you will not appreciate the origin of the studio name. I wont spoil that for you just in case you, like us, have this quaint town on your must visit bucket list.
Silverton has also been used for filming a number of movies. There is a great variety of props and some of the vehicles used in those movies such as Mad Max. If you are into movies and their history, there is another reason to visit Silverton.
In the evening, we drove to The Living Desert Flora and Fauna Sanctuary a little ahead of sunset. High on a hill top within the reserve are twelve massive limestone sculptures placed to be enhanced by either sunrise or sunset. The good news is that the sealed road leads to a generous car park only 30 meters from the sculptures. The interesting news is that the last 200 meters of the road are really first gear steep, supposedly two way but only about 2.5 meters wide. Not sure how people get on passing. We didn't strike any traffic heading the
opposite direction and landed at the top safely.
One of the sculptures has a hole bored through and on the day, this lined up nicely with the setting sun. You can see the resultant lens flare in the photos. The only trick is, unless you are 6 feet tall, the hole is not conveniently place. Marg, 5' 2” gave up and passed her camera to me so she had one too.
We stopped overnight in Broken Hill, and then headed east camping in Meadow Glen free camp for the night. We have camped here twice before and found the camp chocker. Not so this trip - we camped alone.
The drive to and around Broken Hill required a lot of concentration. We had a heavy wind hitting the drivers side of the Motorhome which gets accentuated when road trains rush past at break neck speeds. Add to that a combination of excessive camber to get rid of water quickly and very poor road maintenance, made for discomfort and a lot of shaking. Broken Hill may have a rich history of silver mining, but little has been invested in the roads except
Loxton South Australia
the main shopping street which was OK.
From Meadow Glen we drove to Cobar where we topped up with fuel and headed further north hoping to use one of the rural free camps a little south of Walgett. We discovered that we would not be camping there alone had we stayed as a herd of around 200 Hereford cattle had already settled in and expressed their displeasure that we might be sharing their space. Cobar is an historic copper mining town, and maybe next trip we will take the time to look around this busy town.
I have read about and heard friends talk about locust plagues in the outback. Marg was driving a narrow and challenging back country road that Tom Tom had specially selected for her, when we drove through a swarm of these little beasties. As bugs go, they are not unpleasant to look at, but they can utterly destroy farmers crops. They also make a very sticky mess on the windscreen, and we found that it took much more than the window washers to get the screen clean. I also had to pick and flick them out of the grill.
Luckily, they hadn't got as far as the oil cooler or radiator as many have found. The Merc seems to have a progressive shield system that stops bugs this size from getting too far.
So we drove to a little free park on the edge of Walgett where eventually three sets of travellers set up for the night and we all enjoyed plenty of traveller's stories.
The town of Walgett has received bad publicity over the years with social problems. We haven't seen anything that would support that view. The two single ladies in their motorhome next to us have camped here five times now, and not had any issue or scares from those seen to be socially different. The local Police Officers seem to have done a great job of working with the elders to set boundaries that have reduced past problems.
Where we camped at Walgett there is a small pond/puddle, probably from a leaking pipe as the area is in drought. At sunset, the ring necked parrots came down for happy hour. Initially they didn't like me or my camera, but the desire for water exceeded their fear, so I was able
to get some interesting shots of these birds drinking from the pond. There are about 5 sub species of the Ring Neck, and after looking in our bird book believe this is probably the Mallee Ring Neck. The colours are softer with pastel yellows and soft aqua blue tones, but darker on the wings.
The final leg of the journey from Walgett to Lightning Ridge was only 75ks, but took nearly an hour due to the poor quality of the sealed road. Edges crumbling, deep ruts either side of 90% of bridges and culverts. The only plus was that the gusting winds had abated even further.
This north western corner of New South Wales has had virtually no rain this summer. It could be 2 years since they had good rain, so there was limited harvesting in the region this year according to a local we talked to at Walgett. The land really looked dead, gum trees dull with drooping leaves. Streams and rivers were generally bone dry. The Murrumbidgee River was just puddles. Other rivers had some water, but green, and in some places, weed starting to cover the surface which is bad
Emus in field
South west NSW
We arrived at Lightning Ridge and were surprised that there was so much green. There is bore water available here for the town and some seem to use it on their lawns and gardens quite liberally.
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