There's Nowhere Cooler than Arkaroola

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June 27th 2013
Published: July 2nd 2013
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Say that when your pissed
Thursday 27 June 2013

There's Nowhere Cooler than Arkaroola

Waking up in a new place is always a great experience, partly because the view from the window in Gypsy changes and partly because there are new things to go out and explore.

I played my cards well last night by leaving the washing on the line, it turned out to be a warm night and when I checked the washing just after breakfast it was almost dry, though I left it anyway as the sun was up, no clouds in the sky I knew it would benefit from staying on the line for the rest of the day.

Once we were ready for the day ahead, flask of hot water and some lunch packed, we headed up to reception to pay our dues for another night and get a cup of coffee. Andy also purchased an hour of internet time.

We find a girl at reception called Katie, she is from the Isle of Wight, which is just a short trip by boat from Southampton near where we used to live. She explains briefly about her adventures and how she came to be at Arkaroola sadly she is only at Arkaroola for another two weeks as she will soon be heading back to the UK as her years working Visa is up.

When we find this out, we say that we have been told that you can get an extension of time for about 1 year, (To your Visa) if you work remotely and she tells us that Arkaroola is not classed as a remote location as far as the Department of Immigration goes.

Katie tells us she has been advised that she would have to do some work in the Agricultural industry, in a remote location to qualify, but we think that the advice she has been given is incorrect.

We new people working in Derby, being Barista’s, Derby is as remote as is Arkaroola and serving coffee is not Agricultural, So we think as usual the department of Immigration are not being consistent with their advice, which is a shame.

What makes us laugh, is the Departments, Tag line is “People Are our Business, what they should say, is People are our Business and we always give good advice.

We sat in the bar and drank our coffee, both of us still full with cold, Andy eventually logged onto the internet, but it was so slow he gave up. We have been told that the internet worked until the National Broadband Network was installed and it seemed to now have a technical problem, which is trying to be resolved. We just figured that perhaps it was nice to still be in a technology vacuum for a while longer and just enjoy the solitude that it is giving us.

Geoff stopped by to speak with us, we met him last night while we were doing the laundry, we found out that he has his pilot’s licence and popped up in his plane, from where he lives, in Border Town, to see his Dad and Brother who both were doing a small job at Arkaroola, so he is helping them out while he is here. He said he would see us for a chat in the bar later.

We headed out toward Barraranna Gorge, and the many sights to see along the way, our first stop being the Ochre Wall, it looked as if it had gradually been worn away by many years of rainfall to reveal this beautiful colour and pattern.

You are not allowed to fossick here, this is must be a haven for Geologists. I satisfy myself by having a rummage in the dirt, there is a lot of rock here that sparkles, I take photos of the rocks in the hope that I can find someone later so that I can ask questions. The ground is also pretty rich in quartz and they generally say that ground rich in quartz means there is gold.

Remember “all that glitters is not gold” and the ground all around us sparkles in the sunshine. I pick up some small pieces, to look at but it seems to be a soft flimsy opaque type rock which we have seen before but I am curious as to what it is.

Moving on to a sign pointing us in the direction of Lively’s Find, we find a derelict building and wonder who Lively was and what did he find? Taking a wander we find his little mining site, there are a few rather large holes, one significant area that has been shored up and some remains of what was probably a pulley system allowing Lively to move the soil to the creek for washing or vice versa.

We wonder how long Lively lived here and was he alone? Did he have to share his find? So many questions that we may never know the answers to.

Continuing past the Jasper twins, two giant rocks that look as if they fell years ago and are just standing like two giant sentry posts. There is a 4wd track that we take for a bit of fun, not too challenging but enjoyable all the same.

Finally we arrive at Stubbs Waterhole and Barrarana Gorge I know I keep saying about spectacular scenery, but it really is and our drive today has been nothing short of wow moments as we top each brow and look into the pounds below us.

We see some hikers and Andy asks if they want their water bottles filled up, but they say they had plenty and on we went.

Eventually we find ourselves back at camp, while it is quiet I take the opportunity for a shower, I had a hot shower yesterday and it was so lovely but the shower head was a little clogged so today I chose another one and found one with a better flow of water. I know it may seem such a minor thing to most people but when you are reliant on grabbing a shower when one is available then you need to feel the benefits.

At around 3pm with a cup of coffee each we jumped back in the truck and headed out to the Arkaroola Waterhole, with the promise of seeing Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies and as today had been a lovely day we had high hopes of seeing a few of them.

We go past a stone cairn, that has a plaque to the late Sir Mark Oliphant, my Grandpa (Rollie Joines) 1894-1980 used to work with Marcus Oliphant in the Physics Department at Birmingham University, between 1937 and 1950, working on the Cylatron, which I believe was the predecessor to the (LHC) The Large Hadron Collider in Cern Switzerland.

My Mum, told me stories of Marcus Oliphant, and she has a copy of a magazine when the Physics department all had their photo taken for the cover of a magazine which I think was called Life or maybe Time and still has that copy to this day, she can remember as a little girl going one Saturday morning with Grandpa to have his photo take.

I was puzzled, I knew of Sir Marcus Oliphant, but not Sir Mark Oliphant, when I got back to Arkaroola, is asked Doug Sprigg, if the Observatory was named after Sir Marcus Oliphant and asked why the plague said Mark Oliphant, apparently Marcus changed his name from Marcus to Mark as he considered Marcus to Pompous

Mark Oliphant, left the UK in 1950 to go and work for the University of Canberra, then later when on to be the Governor of South Australia, he is buried in Canberra.

Doug Sprig said he Knew Sir Mark pretty well, he used to come to Arkaroola even in to his early 90’s and used to go walking on his own, when he got back from his walk, his staff used to ask where he had been and when he used to tell them where he had been his staff would say, you shouldn’t have gone their it was to far, or to rocky and Sir Mark used to say, “That’s why I didn’t Tell you where I was going, or else you wouldn’t have let me go.

We arrived and parked the truck, but the best thing to do is to get out and walk so that you can get further into the gorge, we notice that someone is already there, so we head off in the same direction.

We are not disappointed it is not long before we see one, it stops to look at us for a while, and we sort of have a staring competition before it bounds off.

Eventually we catch up with the other people and stop for a chat. Grant has his 3 children with him and tells us that he came out to this area to pick up an old Toyota that he was going to restore and while he was here thought they would stop at Arkaroola for a few days to enjoy the sights.

Whilst talking we continued to spot the Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies, the sun was going down fast so we had to make our way back out of the gorge again, on the way spotting more wallabies. Getting a photograph was the hard part as by now it was really too dark, so we headed back to camp to get some dinner.

Although the day had worn me out and I did not really feel like sitting in a bar drinking, we went down to the bar anyway, well it would be warm in there and hopefully we get chance to chat to some of the people we have already met while here at Arkaroola.

We are greeted at the door by Katie, it is her night off so we join her at the bar and gradually we are introduced to some more people who are working there, Carla, another Katie from the Isle of Wight, Geoff (the pilot), who does not work there but he introduced us to his brother Andy and his Dad “Rabbit”.

We had a terrific evening, swapping stories of England and Australia, but all too soon it was time for bed.

Our second full day on Arkaroola we saw some campers were leaving this morning but were in no doubt that there would be plenty more taking their places by this evening. The caravan park here is not full by any count, but it still seems very busy up here in this wilderness.

After breakfast we headed out to “the place beginning with N” which not many people seem to be able to say, but after a bit of practice I manage it perfectly “Nooldoonooldoona” try saying that after a couple of pints of beer (or wine, well maybe not a couple of pints of wine, just a couple of glasses!)

On the way we stop at the Pinnacles, very unlike the Pinnacles of Western Australia, but nonetheless more fabulous views across this rugged landscape. We take a walk up some of the rough slopes to get a better view and once again we are rummaging in the dirt to look at the fascinating rocks in particular the ones that shine.

Further down the track we find an old copper smelter, this would appear to be right on the border of the Gammon Ranges National Park. There was a beautiful and preserved building with a domed roof, it seemed quite perfect in amongst the dereliction of the remainder of the smelter, that had long since fallen down. We had a good walk around and Andy walking ahead of me came across a grave, the grave belonged to the old smelter manager.

Reaching Nooldoonooldoona Waterhole, we ventured down into the dry riverbed and up the other side, clambering over rocks as we went. There is plenty of evidence of the Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby lying around, but for us it is too early in the day and the sun is too high and warm. I photograph more of the rocks, they are really quite intriguing and I find that I am eager to learn more about them.

After a while we head back to camp, on the way we find some people walking, they have abandoned their car a short way down the track as they cannot get over the rocky surface into the river bed as they do not have high enough

Looking for anything that sparkled
clearance, a very sensible move.

Back at reception I spotted Doug Sprigg and whilst I had this opportunity I grabbed him for a chat about rocks. I must add at this point Doug is very personable and so easy to talk to. I show him my photographs and he immediately launches into an explanation as to what they are. In particular one of them is mica, this is a material that was used in the “old days” to make windows, as the mica is clear. I think this is the one that I have been finding all over Australia, it sparkles in the sunshine, we have seen it sparkle in river and creek beds, it could have been a gold panners dream, but this is far from gold.

Andy appears and the conversation deepens, we discuss Arkaroola and the achievement of Doug and Marg’s parents in being the first people to cross the Simpson Desert in a motorised vehicle, which happened to be a Nissan G60, 50 years ago this year. The wheels were tiny, normal cross ply tyres and very slim, which is a far cry from the Mickey Thompson’s and Cooper’s etc. that we use nowadays. They would not have had anywhere near as much of the equipment that we are using today, it would have been a massive achievement back then.

Doug makes us a coffee and we continue to chat, he is so interesting and very knowledgeable on a number of subjects, including astronomy, somewhere along the way we decide to do the observatory tour that evening and book in.

After dinner we head to the bar for a quick gin and tonic and await 8pm when Doug appears with the bus to take 7 of us on the tour. We all eagerly clamber aboard and driving through the village up a slope and with some skill (we think he has done this before) reverses all the way up to the observatory, not missing a beat, whilst the rest of us on the bus were holding our breath.

Let me tell you it is a cold night! We are all wrapped up warm, with hats and gloves. Doug deliberately took us to the slightly smaller observatory so that it would be warmer with the small number of bodies, but of course the roof would be open anyway.

I won’t go into explanation of the whole evening, but wow, how fascinating, despite the number of times Andy and I have been star gazing with the professionals, we still manage to learn new things and of course reinforce some of our knowledge from previous experiences.

We see a number of shooting stars whilst the roof is open, these we do know are created by particles of dust (space debris) entering the earth’s atmosphere, amazing to think that such a small particle will burn so bright.

Doug explains that a U2 spy plane was converted and used for 12 years to collect meteoric debris and what was collected during that time was enough to cover the top of a pinhead.

We are on this tour for a good 1 ½ hours but finally it was time to get back on the bus and back to camp. Being so cold Doug puts the heater on in the bus for us, but decides that we should go and see some of the Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies who come out near the village, so as we do this the heater has warmed the bus up for which we are truly grateful, not just for the heat but for the fact that we saw 2 of them!

Doug dropped us all off in our respective places, Andy and I drive back down to camp. We put the heater on in the trailer just to take the chill off and relieved that we can slide into the warmth of our bed (the hot water bottles were done earlier!). I am pretty sure that I sausage rolled myself into my side of the bed very quickly before dropping off into peaceful slumber.

There is an awful lot more to do here, and we have only merely scratched the surface, probably not helped by the fact that we have both been feeling unwell, but nonetheless it leaves plenty to do on the next visit, including the famous Ridge Top Tour and the Echo Back Track.

We have not decided if we are moving on tomorrow or not, that decision was waiting for the morning, but perhaps we find that circumstance may help us make that decision.

Additional photos below
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