Freeling to Roxby Downs

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November 15th 2016
Published: December 9th 2016
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Stage 2 South Aust and Birdsville

Monday 14 November 2016

We waved our travelling companions the Cathcarts goodbye on 23 October as they were returning to Brisbane earlier than us. From then until 14 November, we caught up with many friends and relations around Freeling and Adelaide as well as prepared my 91 year old Dad’s unit for sale. He had gone into an Aged Care facility in Freeling and unfortunately had his licence cancelled so his car was on the market as well.

We parked our van in the front of Sheryl’s home which was wonderful. From there we did all our visiting as well as doing things with Sheryl such as going to the gym twice a week, had lunch with several of her friends at a lovely restaurant in the Barossa Valley and had a G&T as well as dinner with one of Brian’s cousin and wife.

It was also great attending Tom’s sister’s birthday party where all the Ushers came to her place. Later we attended Tom’s older sister’s 50th wedding anniversary. We also helped my sister to spread 9 cubic metres of mulch which made her new garden look fabulous.

I visiting my Dad as much as possible in his new home. It will take him some time to adjust to his new situation, particularly without access to a car.

We were anxious to get going on the road again even though we had thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity of being around the family, including my 2 aunties who are 93 and 95 as well as my Dad and several cousins. We even caught up with a couple of friends who we hadn’t seen for many years.

On the Monday morning 14/11, we pulled out from Sheryl’s home, waving a sad goodbye but knowing we will be back in March next year for my niece’s wedding.

We headed past Templers (Sheryl, Ben and Sarah’s farm) straight up to Port Augusta for the night. We looked through the Wadlata Centre as we hadn’t completed our visit in October when we went through the town the 1st time. It’s a Centre that is worth spending time at as it tells a detailed history of land formation through to the establishment of the city.

We stayed at the Caravan Park and the next morning before leaving, we visited the Arid Botanic Garden which has a spectacular range of plant species from the Gawler Ranges, Flinders Gangers and South Australian outback regions. There is also a very impressive café and souvenir shop which sells excellent coffee and Quantong icecream!!!

Tuesday 15 November 2016

From Port Augusta we drove 173km drive up to Woomera which is a purpose built town designed by the Long Range Weapons Board of Administration to provide an isolated experimental ground for testing rockets. It is located in the middle of a desert terrain where the average annual rainfall is only 190 mm. We entered Woomera via Pimba which is little more than a rather old style roadhouse, pub and service station near the railway line. The old rolling stock and age of the roadhouse give Pimba a rather antiquated appearance. It looks a bit like a machinery and car grave yard though.

Woomera, which is the word describing a short stick used to launch a spear in the language of the local Aborigines, came into existence in 1947. At the time, it was preferred over a site which had been nominated by Canada. In 1946 the Australian government received a formal request from Britain to establish a rocket range 1600 km long and 300 km wide. This was possible given the vast wastelands which existed in north-western South Australia.

The decision to build a rocket range was made in the postwar environment when the world was still recovering from the slaughter of World War 11.

In June 1946 the first Dakota landed on the first temporary airstrip. A regular RAAF courier service was inaugurated which provided travel, food, mail and supplies for people who were building the range.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s a number of rockets were launched culminating in the launching of the Prospero satellite in 1969.

Today there is a real feeling of decay as you enter the town. At its peak Woomera had a population of over 5000. Today it has a population of a little over 1900 and probably half of those people are US military personnel working at nearby Nurrungar.

At the moment Woomera is a base used to support Australian armed service and the US Air Force. NASA and West Germany are launching a series of sounding rockets to gather data from the Supernova. This is part of a ten year cooperative agreement between NASA, The Department of Industry, Technology and Commerce.

The main attraction we saw in Woomera is the excellent Lions Club of Woomera Aircraft and Missile Park and the Woomera Heritage Centre.

Outside the building are well preserved examples of most of the rockets which were launched at Woomera.

There's the Black Arrow, a large rocket which was launched four times from June 1969 to October 1972.

There's a superb Meteor Mark 7 a British jet aircraft which was used against German V-1 rockets. This trainer aircraft joined the RAAF in 1951 and in 1960 joined trials at the Woomera Range.

Woomera Village initially operated as a "closed town" between 1947 and 1982, when the facility supported the operations of the Woomera Rocket Range during the Anglo-Australia Project. Since 1982, the general public has been able to visit and stay at Woomera.

We had a quick lunch at the Green park which used to have many birds and animals in cages but there are only peacocks and several cockatoos now.

Next was a drive up to Roxby Downs which is a mining town which has a highly transient population of around 4,000 people, almost one third of whom are under the age of fifteen.

Roxby Downs is often referred to as the most 'modern town of the outback and it has many leisure and community facilities including swimming, cinema, cultural precinct, community radio, shopping centre, schools, TAFE, cafes and sporting club and facilities.

The town of Roxby Downs was built in 1987 to service the Olympic Dam mine and processing plant, located 16 kilometres north of the site of the town. Roxby Downs was officially opened on 5 November 1988. The opening was celebrated with a "town party" held on the main oval and sponsored by the then owners of the operation Olympic Dam Project (O.D.P.).

Water is extracted from the Great Artesian Basin and desalinated by the operators of the Olympic Dam mine. It is then supplied via pipeline.

We visited the fantastic Visitors Centre and watched a movie on the Olympic Dam Project as the tours out to the Mine stopped running in October.

From there, we decided to drive out to Andamooka with the thought of staying there the night but we decided to drive back to Roxby Downs. The name Andamooka is derived from a salt lake, named from the Aboriginal 'Andemorka', by which the locality was known to Europeans as early as 1866, well before opal was discovered.

Opal was discovered there in 1930, and the town developed out of the scattered miners' camps which established in the area. The road into Andamooka was sealed in the 1990s, but the remaining roads in the town are still unsealed.

Until recently, Andamooka had to rely on water supplies trucked in from Roxby Downs, or above ground cisterns for the limited rainfall of the region. A pipeline to the township has since been built, although water continues to be trucked to the town's water tanks.

After staying at Roxby Downs, we drove further north along the Stuart Highway to Glendambo. Glendambo is a town about 254 kilometres from Coober Pedy. It has a population of about 30!!!!.

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