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Published: July 12th 2013
Witchelina - Gorge
Beautiful - not much water
We must have slept for a solid 11 hours! I struggled to open my eyes, I felt really sleepy still and trying to come out of a heavy slumber.
It had been a fairly warm night and this morning was not too cold, but of course by the time we got out of bed the sun was up and warming the day.
Once I had a chai on the go, Andy cooked our breakfast of Wombat Eggy Bread and Bacon, with a side of HP sauce. What a great way to start the day, although by the time we started our day it was really brunch.
The last 2 days had been long and pretty full on, but any hope of a quiet day today was out of the window. When we stopped for coffee with Chris and Maria at Witchelina 2 days ago, we said we would be back, so when we were ready off we set on the dirt track that had Witchelina signposted at 27 kilometres.
The track was drier than it was on Wednesday and much easier to traverse without Gypsy in tow,
so we made pretty good time and turned up at Witchelina just before midday.
Maria appeared closely followed by Chris with some friends of theirs, Helga, Douglas and Oliver. It was lunchtime for them, but although they offered us some lunch we declined as we were still full from our very late breakfast.
We all sat on the veranda drank tea and chatted whilst they ate lunch, then Chris said he would take us out on a tag a long trip around the property, although I just need to remind you that with 1 million acres (4270 sq kilometres) of property here, we would only be seeing a tiny part of it.
There were 3 vehicles, Chris was with Helga (Tooey took his pride of place in the tray), Douglas with Oliver closely followed by me and Andy. Chris proceeded through the homestead, showing us the "dump" explaining that it probably still had every single vehicle ever worked on the property still here, there was an awful lot of rubbish, rusting away and begging to be moved from here. The track took us past some interesting rock formations where Chris called
Driving through the gorge while Caroline walked through
them "wave rock" saying that this rock and where we are driving now, all used to be the sea bed.
I followed our track on the Hema Map and set a breadcrumb trail to see how closely we followed it, it was virtually spot on, with the exception of a trip through the gorge. Chris spoke about key things on the journey through the property so it was very informative, explaining how the trust would monitor the vegetation, the reintroduction and recovery of existing species of flora and fauna, pointing out a distressed Mallee, which was on it last ditch attempt of recovery, all around it were examples of Mallee which had already perished or completely recovered.
Just before the gorge, Chris stopped and pointed out a huge Eagles nest to one side of the gorge, it had the sun right above it so it was difficult to get a decent photograph, but it was huge, explaining that he has seen it with a lot of chicks peering over the side and a lot of skeletons of dead creatures at the bottom of the tree.
We had already traversed a few
creeks (dry) with steep climb outs where we thought that the tow hitch would drag, and now we were driving on the creek bed through the gorge, the scenery was astounding, all the passengers got out to walk through the gorge so that we could take photos and take it all in. I left Andy to do the drive through, fairly rocky in places but really straightforward, there are patches of water here. I asked Chris when the last water came through here and he said it was about a month ago and went on to say that there would be no way we could even get down here let alone drive this track as the water would be 2 metres deep in places.
The track took us past red gums that would be about 300 - 400 years old and then up to Mount Nor West, which is an old homestead, this also needs renovation, but again that depends on money coming into the trust. In the meantime it has been cleaned up and it is being used by a gun club who come in to terminate some of the feral animals that are eating the
We are shown some bores, the old pumps that would bring the water up from the bore, a large stone was thrown down one of the pipes and you could hear (eventually) a little splash as it hit the water!
The old shearing shed up at Nor West is so badly in ruins it is beyond renovation, Chris talks us through and shows us some of the old equipment used by the shearers, there is even a large tank that was used for water, it still had water in it and Chris explained that they rescued two King Browns from what would have been certain death had they stayed in the tank (just a reminder to some of our readers, this is a nature reserve and it is their own territory).
The afternoon wears on, we have seen some fascinating things, which I have not explained all and we have had an awesome drive around the 4wd track (not all of it though) and with so many wow moments as we turn each corner or top every brow, this countryside is amazing and would be very unforgiving if you
were not prepared for it.
We are right to do this trip around here at this time of year (winter) as the summer months would be too hot and most definitely way too hot to be walking around a gorge.
The ground here is covered in quartz, everywhere you look there is a good example. Again this territory is a geologists dream.
A quick stop at the homestead and off to "Bubble rock" just South of the homestead. Even more amazing stuff, Chris tells us that they need a geologist to come in and explain the rock formations, I was hoping to tell you in simple terms what it is but not sure that I can be that accurate, but it could well be lava that has bubbled up and enveloped other rock, erosion has occurred and one bubble has revealed a hollow inner, if you put your finger in there to some white substance, it feels like talcum powder, some bubbles don't appear to have the hollow, whilst others have not been weathered enough to reveal the inside, yet.
We see the billabong, which is very empty, actually bone
dry at the moment, when they have good rainfall it does fill up, unlike other homesteads Witchelina does not have a "house dam", so when it is full they put a pipe in and pump the water out to feed the house.
Back at the homestead we have a quick drink with everyone and look through some photos that Chris has, we also discuss the trust that has been set up and how Witchelina hopes to make some money out of tourism in order to keep it going and preserve the property.
Although Chris has flown over the property he has not had opportunity yet to get to the most Southerly part that borders Lake Torrens, it would be a couple of days drive to get down there and there are no formed tracks in one area. They also need to check about 50 kilometres of fence line, they have no idea what condition it is in.
Chris and Maria have taken their turn this week in doing things around the property that need doing in order to get it open to tourists, Maria has been busy painting the old shearers
Not much left here and it probably is too far gone for renovation
quarters that they hope to let out, but plenty of work still needs to be done.
There is a working bee at the beginning of August and they hope for 50 volunteers to spend a week at the property basically doing whatever needs to be done in order to get the property ready to take guests, whether they are camping or lodging in the shearers quarters. It will all take time but I am pretty sure that they will get there along with some help and good funding.
The 4 wheel drive track is already open for business, if you go to the hotel at Maree you can obtain a key to the gates. I think it is about $80 per vehicle (don't quote me on that though) for access, however you would be in for a treat that I think is well worth it, with the spectacular scenery and it would be an all day round trip on Witchelina.
Maria has been busy cooking an evening meal, we had been invited to stay but we do have 27 kilometres to head back to camp and we wanted to do it
whilst it was still light, especially because of track conditions and to make sure we don't hit any wildlife.
It has been another full on day, tomorrow maybe the same with the plans that we have, we arrive back at camp exhausted, but the fire is soon on the go, water heated up for hot water bottles, washing up and some hot coals for a jacket potato.
It is a much colder night tonight and though we are wrapped up and sat next to the fire, I am typing this with fingers that I can barely feel, so on that note, I will bid you all a goodnight, so that I can warm my fingers up from the warmth of the fire.
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