Journey Around the Eyre

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September 22nd 2007
Published: August 10th 2008
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Cleve Centiannal ParkCleve Centiannal ParkCleve Centiannal Park

Most towns in the Eyre have a small park featuring old birghtly coloured farm machinery.
Up at 4:30AM to catch the ferry which runs from Wallaroo to Lucky Bay Cowell on the eastern coast of the Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. The Eyre Peninsula was named after Edward John Eyre (1815-1901) who with his aboriginal friend, Wylie, was the first to cross Australia from east to west.

Leaving Lucky Bay I drive inland reaching Cleve. What is there to say about Cleve, that is has a park with painted farm machinery, a dunny not initially recognized as a dunny and murals depicting pioneer history. But the mural that caught my attention was was the one that appeared to be painted in the same style as the creations of May Gibbs. May Gibbs (1877- 1969) , perhaps an Australian version of Beatrice Potter, created the Gumnut Babies, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. Born in England, she lived in the area during her early years. The Gumnut Babies is a series of childrens books about the adventures of SnugglePot and Cuddlepie and their troubles with the stories villians, the Banksia men. The physical descriptions of the characters and their dress is based on eucalyptus nuts and flowers.

On the road again, down a road I have never
Mural at CleveMural at CleveMural at Cleve

These murals are painted in a style that remind me of the the drawings of May Gibbs.
been, a road that I have travelled hundreds of kilometers along. A road lined on both sides by mallee and wire fencing, separating road from farm paddocks. The town of Lock, located in the middle of the Eyre appears, with its wheat silos, railway station, painted pioneer farm machinery and historical cafe, and is in the rear vision mirror a blink later. Road and farms continue, sometimes the fields have a crop of rocks rather than wheat or barley. Sometimes pine replaces the mallee. The road terminates in the coastal town of Elliston.

Elliston, population 380, lies on Waterloo Bay a coastal inlet partially protected by a reef. Its economy revolves around farming, sheep grazing, fishing and tourism. Tourism in turn is based on reacreational fishing and water activity in Waterloo Bay. It boosts a heritage listed jetty. The 1,389ft jetty originally built by the early settlers has been restored. It is one of the few screw pylon structured jetties which is still in use. I set out to work along its length, but as the drizzling rain was effectively soaking my clothes I returned to the comfort of the car. Yes, very whimpy of me, I know.
Wheat SilosWheat SilosWheat Silos

Being a farming area, growing mainly wheat and barley means silos are a common site.
Elliston's town hall is distinquished by its 500 sq meter mural telling the story of the town's history. It is said to be the largest mural in the Southern Hemisphere. Such claims I do not care about, what is stopping any one from painting a mural that is (500 + X )square meters.

Leaving Elliston the following morning, the plan is to drive to Streak Bay via Venus Bay and Point Labutt. Venus Bay, a town of upmarket holiday shacks and a small commerical fishing port, is the sort of place I could spend a week or two, walking along the beach and jetty, doing some fishing, taking some photographs and writing up my experiences travelling in other parts of the world. Near I photograph the rugged coastline typical of the western Eyre and the eastern edge of the Great Australian Bight.

But on this trip it is a two hours before I leave for Murphy's Haystacks, which are not haystacks but a series of granite outcrops called Inselbergs. Inselbergs are formed by the weathering of crystalline rock, the fractured sections wearing faster than the unfractured sections. Pink rock is Hiltabe Granite which probably formed about
Waterloo BayWaterloo BayWaterloo Bay

Located on the western Eyre, Waterloo Bay is a popular reacreational area. You can make out the town of Elliston.
1.5 billion years ago. Their present form was established a mere 100,000 years ago. Focusing on these Inselbergs I imagine aborigines having corroborees here, thousands of years before the arrival of the white man. But turning only slightly, my visions of pre-European corroborees are brutallly destoyed by a shed, a paddock, a cylindrical concentrate toilet and in the distance, another wheat silo.

Point Labutt boasts the only colony of endemic pinnipeds on the Australian mainland. It is also the only site on the mainland where sea-lions breed. These sea-lions are very rare and are Australia's most endangered marine animal. To protect them the reserve was established in 1973, consisting of a prohibited area which extents from the cliffs to one nautical mile out to sea. Visitors go to a platform at the top of the cliffs. To get good views and photographs of the sea - lions binoculars and a camera with a powerful tele-photo lens are required. Though I have neither, I did see a few sea-lions. Sea-lions differ from true seals in that they have a flippers which can be turned forward allowing them to lift their bodies off the sand and walk on their wrists.
Elliston Town HallElliston Town HallElliston Town Hall

This mural depicting pioneering scenes is supposely the largest of its type in the Southern Hemisphere.
Males, recognised by their cream coloured neck and head and dark brown bodies can grow up to 400kgs and 2 meters long. Females which are coloured grey, yellow to cream below can grow up to 120kgs.

Driving along the dirt roads I see many sleepy lizards ambling across the road unaware of obvious dangers. Intentionally I arrive in Streaky Bay around 4PM. The day was the journey, not the destination. The destination on this glorious cloudless day, appears almost deserted with most of its attractions now closed. Like most of the small towns on the Eyre it has its murals. Further decoration is provided mosaic covered seats and totem poles. After completing the obligatory and pleasant walk along the foreshore and jetty I retire to the hotel for a meal, a very nice peppered T-bone steak.

Today, the third day into Eyre Peninsula tour the plan is to interrupt the drive to Whyalla, by stopping at various granite outcrops. More Iselbergs, but hopefully not just repeats of yesterday. Pildappa rock, near the town of Minnipa, is the first. It is also known as wave rock because from some angles it does look like a wave. The
Rugged CliffsRugged CliffsRugged Cliffs

Some of the rugged coastline near Venus Bay on the western coast of the Eyre Peninsula.
wave like shape is caused by the weathering below the surface being faster than that above the surface. This is because above the surface water is evaporated. Over aeons the ground eroded away exposing the concave surface. Its surface is covered with features such as small pool basins called gnammas and water worn grooves called rillens. Exploring around the area and climbing to the top, I realize my old friends the bush flies are still with me on this hot day. Looking at the rillens and gnammas made me realize that this would be much more spectacular after a heavy rain storm.

Mt Wudinna, oddly enough near the town of Wudinna, is supposedly South Australia's largest exposed monolith, the second largest in Australia after Uluru (Ayer's Rock) in the Northern Territory. Here there is a 1.5 km walking trail which can be traversed in a very leisurely hour. Along the path is signage guiding the visitor to the native fauna. Trees such as the box-wood mallee, which grows 8-10 meters high with pale green leaves and white flowers and the native apricot (Pittosporum phyllraedodides) so named because of its small orange fruit which resembles an apricot. However they are
Murphy's HaystacksMurphy's HaystacksMurphy's Haystacks

These are actually Isebergs which are formed by the eroding of granite which is then exposed.
bitter and can be poisonous to humans. But not so to wattle birds and honey - eaters.

Leaving Mt Wudinna and arriving at Kimba I am supposely 1/2 way across Australia, half way between between Sydney and Perth. The spot is marked by a galah, a big galah, the biggest in the world, no doubt!!

With a population of 21,000 Whyalla is the biggest city on the Eyre Peninsula. Unlike other centers which are farming, pastural, fishing or tourist based, Whyalla is an industrial center. Its industry is STEEL. Originally called Hummuck Hill it was founded in 1901 by BHP to ship iron ore, mined in the nearby Middleback Ranges, over Spencer's Gulf to the lead smelters at Port Pirie. Renamed Whyalla in 1914, its main industry become shipping iron ore to Newcastle, approximately 500 kms north of Sydney. In 1939 a blast furnace was built and a ship building industry commenced. The first ship to be launched was the HMAS Whyalla in 1941. After World War II the yard built commercial ships but was forced to closed in 1978 due to Japanese competition. There after the peak population of 33,000 reached in 1976 declined. The
Rural SceneRural SceneRural Scene

An Eyre Peninsula toilet. Note the provision of air conditioning.
decline of BHP's iron and steel industry also further depressed population. In 2000, BHP sold parts of its steel industry into the newly formed OneSteel. Today OneSteel is Australia's sole supplier of railway track and sleepers. It also exports iron ore to China. Because of the booming mining industry, Whyalla's population is currently increasing.

Whyalla's other claim to fame, is cuttlefish, or more particularly the Giant Australian Cuttlefish (Sepia apama) which can grow up to a 60 cm in length. Between May and September each year they descend on the coast to the north of Whyalla for the purpose of spawning. The female attaches her eggs to the underside of the rocky ledges. The males then fertilise the eggs, which hatch a couple of months later. But alas both sexes die soon after 😞

South, along the Lincoln Highway are a number of small towns, almost villages such as Arno Bay, Port Neil, Tumby Bay which because of the mild climate and long stretches of sandy beaches are popular for swimming , boating, fishing and generally chilling out. And I do chill out, leaving Whyalla at 6am and making several stops I take most of the
Streaky BayStreaky BayStreaky Bay

Late in the afternoon.
morning to travel the 250 odd kilometers from Whyalla to Port Lincoln.

With accomodation pre-booked Port Lincoln can wait as I first I make my way to Whalers Way. Whalers Way is a 14km scenic drive along the coast at the very southern tip of the Eyre Peninsular. As it is on private land a fee and a key is required and food and water must be taken. It is a rugged coastline of crevasses, blowholes , caves and very tempting rock pools. However swimming in some of the rocks pools is not recommended. Here on the edge of the world, with no land farther south until Anartica is reached, sea swells can come in unexpected and totally scour out everything in the rock pools including unwary swimmers. I see a few emus but as expected no kangaroos as they generally do not come out until dusk, by which time I was in Port Lincoln.

Port Lincoln is located on Boston Bay (shown in the Panorama) in the south of Eyre Peninsula. Partly because of its deep natural harbour is was once considered as a site for South Australia's capital but was rejected because of inadequate
Pildappa RockPildappa RockPildappa Rock

Is known locally as wave rock because it resembles a wave.
supplies of fresh water. However that did not stop it from growing to a center of 14,000 people boasting more millionaires/capita than any other town or city in Australia. The main reason for this wealth is the Southern Blue Fin Tuna, a fish about 1 meter long, smokey black and capable of swimming up to 70kms/hr. The market is Japan. The Japanese are willing to pay thousands of dollars for sushimi - grade tuna. Tuna are fished using long lines but in recent years more aquaculture farming has become more prominent. The aquaculture industry was a response to declining tuna stocks. Because of fish quotas it was decided to value add. Fish are caught between December and March and transferred to specilized tow platforms. They are then towed back to farms located near Port Lincoln at the rate of about 1 knot/hr. On arrival they are transferred to pontoons 40 -50 meter in diameter where they are fed a diet of sardines six days a week, twice a day. You like me, can, if you wish swim amongst the blue fin tuna. Tours are run from the Marina. We are taken out to one of the ponds and allowed to
One Steel Steel WorksOne Steel Steel WorksOne Steel Steel Works

One Steel steel works viewed from Hummock Hill.
swim amongst the tuna. Another tour available which I didn't take was an opportunity to get up close and personnel with the Great White Shark. The Neptune Islands just a few miles of the coast from Port Lincoln have great whites in presence year round. This makes it idea for day tours. The willing don a wet suit and get into a steel cage with is lowered below the water allowing the great whites to be observed in their natural habitat. They have been known to 'nudge' the cage on occassion.

Last stop before returning to Lucky Bay and the ferry is the nearby town of Cowell. Cowell is noted for its jade deposits, among the oldest and largest in the world. It is a deposit of high quality nephite jade (traditional chinese jade). Nephite Jade can vary in colour from white, yellow, green, brown to black depending on the amount of iron present. Cowell jades vary from the common green to the rare black. An important property of jade, in addition to its colours, is its toughness which allows it to be delicately carved.

Additional photos below
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Water based sports such as fishing, boating, snorkelling and diving are popular on the Eyre Peninsula coast.
Idylic Rock PoolIdylic Rock Pool
Idylic Rock Pool

Tempted to go for a swim, to find relief from the heat. Well DON'T!!!
Tuna BoatsTuna Boats
Tuna Boats

Moored at the Marina, the largest commerical Marina in Australia. Blue fin tuna is the reason Port Lincoln is a very wealthy town.

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