Leigh Creek and Lake Eyre


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Oceania » Australia » South Australia » Leigh Creek
August 13th 2016
Published: September 6th 2016
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Thursday 11th August 2016



We departed from the Pound area at about 9.30am and drove south to the town of Hawker. Here we refueled and looked around the little town before setting off north again and getting to Parachilna at about midday.



Some of the group couldn’t resist buying quondong pie dessert from the hotel, the rest of us waiting whilst a call was made to our next exploration site. This was at Nilpena homestead, about 20kms further north. Fossils were found on this property in 1946. This area had been a seabed about 550 million years ago and the fossils found were of soft-bodied creatures, the first found in the Southern Hemisphere. “The fossils preserved in the ancient sea-floor at Ediacara record the first known multicellular animal life on Earth that predates the Cambrian. This diverse and exquisitely preserved community of ancient organisms represents a significant snapshot of our geological heritage.”



All three units traversed a 14kms dirt road to the homestead, the fine dust sending plumes into the sky. Our vehicles now look as if they have travelled over some very remote areas.



A young scientist from the University of Texas, Matt Dzaugis, who majored in Marine Ecology, has been coming to this location for the last 15 years, uncovering thousands of fossils in different areas. He met us as we arrived and spent nearly 3 hours telling us about the significance of the find, showing us many of the different fossils to be found there, and generally explaining how they were formed all those millions of years ago.

This first form of life, from which we evolved, was here in Australia, yet it is only in Texas that it is mentioned in school curriculums.



We “free camped” that night by a dry riverbed several kilometres from the highway on the recommendation of the station owner. Here, under a beautiful starry sky and no breeze, we had our first campfire. After dinner and looking into the hot coals of our fire with a wine in hand, the idea of cooking a damper came up. Rags pulled out his camp oven and in no time at all we had the makings in the fire. This was much too hot but the blackened outside still tasted good covered in quondong jam. Life is wonderful!





Friday 12 August 2016



Leigh Creek, about 40kms north was our destination for today, David needing to sort out some battery problems and everyone wanting to wash some clothes. The caravan park manager, “Scotty” does not have a good reputation according to Wikicamps, but Rags was very diplomatic and enthusiastically greeted Scotty’s dog, Foxy Lady when we arrived. This put us into his good books immediately and he couldn’t have been more helpful or pleasant to deal with.



Great little caravan park, run by the local community group, good facilities and well set out sites. We set up our camps and did our chores; David seemingly has solved his problems.

No-one seemed keen to go out and explore, instead the afternoon was spent in the park.





Saturday 13th August 2016



Today was our big day of exploring; a flight over Lake Eyre. Elna travelled with us, Mark stayed behind to do some work. Our first stop was Lyndhurst where we read the information signs about the town and then drove out to see the work done by Talc Alf. He was a dutch-born sculptor, artist poet and bush philosopher. He did many carvings out of talc stone from the Mt Fitton talc mine. Nobody was around so we had a look the work on display in his yard before heading off.

It was a good dirt road and several places to stop on the way. One of the highlights was Farina, an ghost town on the old Ghan track. This is gradually being restored and made into a tourist destination. In 2009 a caravan group took on the job of restoration and now it is an annual event. Apparently, if we had come a week earlier the bakery would have been open. We drove past the start of the Strezlecki Track (would love to do this another time maybe but we'd need an outback caravan). We arrived in Marree with plenty of time to spare so had time for a sausage roll and a wander around the historic displays and buildings in town. The town was quite small, the roadhouse and the hotel across from it were the two most substantial buildings.



Six of us crammed into a twin engined Cessna and we spent the next 90 minutes or so flying over the arid landscape at 5500ft dropping to 500ft over the lake. Fascinating scenery and we took many photographs. Unfortunately, the pelicans and other birdlife, which had been there, had left the area about 2 weeks earlier.



The pilot did take a little detour on the way back to the strip and we circled what remains of the Marree Man. This picture of a man was drawn in the scrub by somebody many years ago and it was so large that it could be seen from space. No-one admits to having drawn it and there are many theories on why it was done. Now that it has become less distinct there is talk of it being renovated as it was an interesting tourist attraction.



The drive back to Leigh Creek was a little nerve wracking as it was getting late and there was not only stock on the road, but also the odd emu and kangaroo trying to commit suicide. Luckily both cars made the distance without mishap and we returned to a welcome hot meal of spaghetti bolognaise prepared by Mark.





Sunday 14th August 2016



Everyone seemed to have different ideas of what to see and what time to leave this morning so after waiting for 30 minutes past the agreed time made last night, we left without the van and drove the few kilometres out of town to see Aroona Dam.



This dam was completed in 1955, built to supply water to the coal mining towns in the area. It looked very peaceful there, with clear reflections of the surrounding hills in the mirror-like water. The dam was sited there as the valleys were narrow and deep, thereby having a reduced surface area to minimise evaporation, but even so, it was much larger than we had expected. Swimming and boating is forbidden here, as they have a system of aerating the water making these activities dangerous.



About 50kms south, along the road back to “Porta Gutta” (David’s invention) we diverted 14kms east along a dirt road to the abandoned town of Beltana. It was once a bustling centre for the copper and goldfields there, but now is a semi-ghost town in a rugged area, with a few inhabited houses, surrounded by the remains of other buildings.

We spoke to an owner, a real character, of one property who told us she had lived there for over 30 years. She was an artist and had much of her work on display in the adjoining house. We met her pushing her walking frame toward her "gallery" and Rags helped her out by going around the back to open the front door. We browsed her paintings and art work but were soon on our way exploring the rest of the town which she told us had increased in population considerably in recent years.

We reached the town of Hawker for a late lunch and caught David and Helen as they were leaving. They continued on to Port Augusta and we followed some time later after our lunch.

We passed through Quorn on the way but after a drive around town couldn’t see anything to make us want to extend our stay. We set up our campsite in PA at the same caravan park we have stayed in on previous visits before going shopping for supplies at the local Woolworths. This was a rather large shop as we won’t get to any reasonably priced shops until we reach Alice Springs.





Mark and Helena turned up later in the afternoon and the evening was spent as a group in the Murray’s caravan with a tasty meal and samples of the Wolf Blass wines bought in town.


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6th September 2016

Jealous
I'm so jealous!! That all looks gorgeous! I have teacher friends in Alice ( used to be at Punmu and Kunawarritji Well 33 Ragsie) so a pity you will have gone thru by now. Bush-mechanic-tech-head too. You guys would have got along well. Ha ha. All sounds soooooo good -esp the damper and red wine around the fire. Bliss. Travel safely. Xx
7th September 2016

OUTBACK AUSTRALIA
WELL YOUR CERTAINLY IN THE "OUT BACK" OF AUSTRALIA. !! I FOUND IT ALL VERY INTERESTING AND I LOVED THE PHOTOS. I TRY TO KEEP UP WITH WEATHER REPORTS IN THAT PART OF AUST. BUT I CAN'T SAY I HEAR TO MUCH, SO I PRESUME THERE IS NOTHING EXCITING ON THE WEATHER FRONT. I DID HEAR SOMETHING ABOUT DARWIN HAVING A 40C DAY JUST RECENTLY AND THOUGHT THAT PERHAPS YOU WERE WISE TO GIVE DARWIN A MISS !!! SAFE TRAVELS. LOVE MUM.

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