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Published: July 15th 2013
Just North of Lyndhurst South Australia
Monday 8 July
As promised I never wrote a thing yesterday and today was going to come pretty close, but I do need to get one or two things down.
We had a great day yesterday, getting reorganised, lounging around in the sunshine and having an afternoon nana, well Andy did that, I spent the afternoon downloading photos and reorganising files, please don't send messages of hate when we say it was about 25 degree's.
It was a great day and Andy got the donkey working so that we could have a nice hot shower and with the camp fire on the go we had beef stew for our dinner, oh yes the only real problem of the day were the flies, there were hundreds of the dam things around and they would not leave us alone, in the end we had to sit with our fly nets on and it is a long while since we have had to do that!
We watched other campers pack up and leave throughout the morning, there were plenty of them last night and that left only a few of us for the day.
It has been our plan to wait here for some friends of ours who were coming this way via Birdsville after having done a trip up to Alice and the surrounding areas.
We had a leisurely breakfast, the sun was up, the flies were not as bad today fortunately, we pootled around camp and finally just after lunch we had a message on the sat phone to say that our friends had just left Marree, some 57 Kilometres away, and there estimated arrival, was pretty well imminent.
Not long after we see Josh and Erica appear closely followed by Dan and Lorena. I noticed that we were all in danger of standing around chatting for the rest of the afternoon before anything got done, so with the kettle on they all set up camp.
A hearty chicken and sausage curry was made (we pooled resources) and sizzling away in the camp oven, we all enjoyed being round the camp fire, which incidentally was double the size that Andy and I have been used to recently.
For a change we all managed to stay up until 10pm,
it was a slightly warmer night, the clouds were coming over and covering the stars, but we were all tired and went to respective beds.
Tuesday 9th July
We awoke to a warm morning, no sunshine just cloud cover. Andy bounded out of bed at 7.30 thinking that the others were all up, but no he was first, with me as a close second.
We had some consideration to our plans last night and we had decided to head off today, but instead of continuing our journey North, we decided that we would head to Arkaroola with the Dan, Josh, Erica and Lorena they were staying for a couple of nights before heading home, so as it is not really that far away, and we have the time, then so be it.
It would also be good opportunity to slip into Leigh Creek and restock on provisions.
by 9.30 we were packed and ready to leave, we put our camping money in the honesty box and headed South.
Before we got to Leigh Creek we stopped to see the stunning colours of
the Ochre Cliffs, that said I think the colours may have been more stunning if the weather was sunny, that cloud is still hanging around. We drove past this the last time and I just knew it would have been the best Ochre Cliffs that you could see and so glad to say that we stopped this time and it was worth a look in.
Back in Leigh Creek our first stop is the caravan park which is also the public launderette, I telephoned Peter to just confirm that we were there and that it would be ok, with both washing machines on the go, we drove up to the town centre topped up with provisions, grabbed a coffee, some lunch and headed back to the laundromat to finish the washing.
Once the washing was in the tumble driers we ate lunch, it took a while to dry but it was the best option, especially as Andy and I had put our bed linen in and that needed to be dry so that we could put it back on the bed tonight.
I estimated being at Arkaroola for 4.00, it would
not give us a lot of time to do much when we got there, but that was ok as the important bits were done.
On the way we were joking around on the UHF, somewhere along the way, Josh became the Grey Stallion and Dan was Crazy Horse, I hope nobody was listening to our weird conversations, we picked up some firewood, had a comfort break at Balcanoona and we were also lucky enough to get some more of those coveted Eagle shots.
At Arkaroola, we were met with a few surprised faces "you're back!" So we explained what we had been up to and why we had come back. Even Doug looked surprised when he saw us.
Anyway, we all booked in and headed off to find a suitable area for all of us to camp together, it was not long before we were all set and I was keen to get a shower. A lady said that they had been off all day and the showers were all fixed again, but what she didn't tell me was to leave it for a while as the water would still be
Our Driver on the Ridge Top Tour
Nonetheless I managed a very lukewarm shower and believe it or not I felt warm afterwards. The guys had got the camp fire on the go, Erica and Lorena had got some rissoles and sausages ready, we even thought we would have a go at doing some chips (fries) in the camp oven, they managed to cook but they did not get crispy so they were finished off to perfection on the griddle plate over the fire.
We could not resist popping up to the bar for a drink, as much as we like sitting next to the camp fire, the bar would be warmer and it was really only a 5 minute walk which would be good to help dinner go down.
The bar was fairly busy, we grabbed some drinks and sat down, not long after Doug appeared, he beckoned me and Andy over, he has his family in tonight and a special guest that he wanted us to meet, so he briefed us and took us over to introduce us to another great Australian - Dick Smith.
Yes The Dick Smith! We chatted for
My view from the rear of the landcruiser on the Ridge Top Tour. Looks scary!
a short while, and let both Doug and Dick get back to their dinner, they were ordering desert! Dick had flown in for a couple of days, we saw his plane down at the airfield when we came past, What a great guy and so easy to talk to. No, I didn't embarrass myself by asking for his autograph!
We all had a terrific evening chatting and planning how to spend the day tomorrow, we could either go out on a 4wd track on our own or we could do the Ridge Top Tour. Andy and I missed out on this last time as we were not feeling well and decided that we should do it this time, it is not cheap at $120 per person, but I think Josh summed it up well when he said that you could easily spend that if you blow a tyre when you are out on your own. It was a good point, so we all booked in, it was going to be a busy one tomorrow, with two trucks going up.
Bedtime was calling, it had been a busy day so we rugged up
Sillers Lookout - View
from Arkaroola across to the Beverley Mine and Lake Frome
to walk back to camp, the problem with doing that was that by the time we got back I felt wide awake and found it difficult to sleep, needless to say that Andy had no difficulty in this matter.
Wednesday 10th July
Despite the weather forecast saying it would be cloudy with potential for showers the day started out really sunny. This is good for the Ridge Top Tour as we were worried that with cloud it would be cold and we would not see much.
We had a pancake breakfast which was closely followed by Dan and Andy fixing the chainsaw which had broken down the day before, basically, the pull start string had snapped so it was fortunate that we had collected wood for the fire. They were tinkering with it for ages, but did have some resounding success as it started perfectly, but not keeping it running as it would not be allowed here.
Later on in the morning we all walked up to reception to grab a coffee and lounged around on the big sofa's up there, it was lovely and relaxing, but time
Sillers Lookout, Ridge Top Tour Arkaroola
was ticking and we needed to have lunch before we went out in the afternoon for the Ridge Top Tour, we were all looking forward to it, especially as it had been raved about so we were hoping for the best experience.
Two Landcruisers were parked out front, they are cab chassis with a specially designed tray back to take 10 passengers, 5 each side, it was partially open, the roof was obviously designed to act as a roll cage and there were seat belts for each passenger.
Phil introduced himself to us, he is our driver for the afternoon, we all hop in and as I did not want to be sitting at the back, I jumped in first and got comfortable, but by the time all 5 of us were in we were wedged in, so no chance of falling out anywhere along the way.
I noticed that the rear window of the Landcruiser had been taken out, but Phil was still able to speak to us through the PA system wired into the UHF. If we wanted to ask questions Phil was still able to hear us through the missing window.
The first vehicle moved on and we soon followed, Phil explained that they had a bulldozer working on improving some of the tracks, we were lucky as he had worked on the most difficult section yesterday, which meant that it should have improved access. In my mind I was glad that there was a vehicle in front of us so that they could test the track first!
These tracks had originally been carved out back in 1967 by the Exoil company, who were looking for Uranium and needed to access these parts of the ranges for men and equipment..
When this area was assigned as a wilderness sanctuary, the Sprigg family had an almighty fight, trying to stop mining campaniles from wanted to mine in the North Flinders Ranges, that is Arkaroola.
We turned off the public access track onto a gated private track, I am pretty certain that Phil would have engaged 4 low for this section as we hit our first steep track and at that point I grabbed the roof bar to stop myself from sliding onto everyone else.
The lady sat opposite me had obviously not been 4 wheel driving before, as she sat there with her eyes closed and face screwed up at times and then said "the things you do for love!" Her husband was sat next to her grinning like a Cheshire Cat.
We stopped at Coulthards lookout, we could see Arkaroola Village, if you really look hard at the photos you can just make Gypsy out in the camp site, well I can, but you wont be able to get that much of a close up. We see an injured kangaroo up here, it seems to have a broken paw but is getting around ok, it was in fact spotted yesterday, someone will come up and see if they can catch it and do anything for it.
Back in the truck we make our way across some of the most spectacular scenery, we see Mount Painter, the Armchair and just acres of mountainous terrain. The track takes us up and down some steep and some rough slopes, you can feel the twists and turns in the vehicle as the 4 wheel drive is in motion. I wondered if Toyota would consider fitting Jesus Bars to the roof of the cab so that passengers can have something additional to hang on to.
Of course on the journey up to Sillers Look Out, we would lose sight of the first truck and then as if by magic it would appear as a tiny dot on a distant slope so we could then see where we had to go.
As I was sat at the front, there was a particularly steep slope and as we came up, it appeared that there was nothing below us, it took my breath away and then Phil turned to the left and continued down the track.
Andy and I have done this kind of 4 wheel driving before, and in some cases more challenging and the reality is that they wouldn't do this if it wasn't safe, and Phil has been doing this for at least 5 years and said to us that he has driven giests up over a 1000 times, so we knew that we were in good hands.
Eventually we see the bulldozer, it is parked just below Sillers Look Out, we see the track that he has worked on and it is a bit loose, but despite this truck not being a V8 (we didn't rib Phil too much on that point), this truck just made light work out of the track, bumpy but we got up no problem at all.
We stopped just below Sillers Look Out, the first truck had arrived, Phil explained that he would wait for them to turn around and then he would drive up. Gulp! I took a look at the track, it looked steep and not to mention the sheer drop down to one side, in my mind it looked like we were going to try and fit two ant's on top of the pinhead, I felt quite fearful of this, although I knew I would be ok once we were up top and could get out and take photos.
Before we drove up, Phil said that it was not as steep a track as it looked, once I jumped out and looked back down the track I concurred with that comment.
Phil told us where to stand as he too had to turn the truck around, I was quite relieved that we were not in the truck when he did this. As soon as he was turned and parked Phil and Peter (the other driver) broke out the hot drinks and Lamington's.
Whilst drinking tea and admiring the views, I should stay stunning views, across the remainder of Arkaroola and out toward the Beverley Uranium Mine and Lake Frome. We are told that the uranium is mined by injecting water into the ground and it washes it out, maybe called hydro excavation. To date $500m worth of uranium has been pulled out in 12 years and is the largest uranium deposit found to date. A lot of the area is radioactive at low level, uranium is not radioactive until process and they call it it's half life. 4.5 billion years which means that the higher the half life the less dangerous it is, for example plutonium has a half life measured in hours.
The lamington was probably one of the best that I have eaten since moving over here, it was so light and fluffy, Phil admits that it was not made at Arkaroola.
Shadows were being cast across the mountains as the sun started to slide down to the West and it was time to head back to the village. We all piled in, belted up and this time rugged up because it would be cold on the way back. Luckily for Phil, he could have the heating on in the truck, but no such luck in the back except that I realised where the window was missing I could stick my hands into the cab and keep them warm that way.
Following the same track back, we all sit on the same side that we were on when we drove out, this way we got to see a different view on the way back, another difference this time is that we got to see some wildlife, we saw a Walleroo and some Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies.
We arrived back at 5.30, it had been quite an afternoon and as much as we wanted to get back to camp to get the fire going for dinner, we stopped for a quick drink in the bar, not especially to calm the nerves.
The girls all showered while Dan and Andy sorted out the fire, but by the time I got back, Andy had chopped all the vegetables and the joint of lamb was already in the camp oven cooking up a treat!
Knowing that it would be nearer 8pm before we got dinner, it was worth the wait, the lamb was done to perfection, we had cooked potato, onion and red pepper in with the lamb and the flavours just tingled those taste buds, topped off with gravy. I used a drop of marmite (the English stuff) in with the gravy for just a little bit of extra flavour, which went down exceptionally well, I did not tell Dan, Josh, Erica or Lorena until they had sampled it, not wanting to upset an Aussie by telling them they ate English Marmite. Josh who does not normally like gravy, actually enjoyed it.
No one was late to bed, we were tired from the afternoon's events, tomorrow would be another day and a parting of the ways.
p.s just to say again, that lamb roast was delicious!
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