Kimba to the Gawler Ranges

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July 1st 2019
Published: July 11th 2019
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Well, we made it! Say that because at one point I really wasn’t sure we’d made the right decision………

After handing back the key for our power padlock to the Visitor Centre this morning we took our leave of Kimba. We had intended going a little further down the Eyre Highway to Wudinna and accessing the Gawler Ranges National Park from there, but Red and a couple of his sidekicks at the Museum suggested the Buckleboo Road. “Take it easy and you’ll be fine” they said. And it was; sealed road to Buckleboo then the Stringers Highway – although gravel – was graded beautifully. We had reached the entrance to the National Park.

It was then that we came to the bit of road leading us to Paney’s Homestead. We found ourselves travelling at walking pace because the corrugations were so bad we thought we would never get to our intended campsite.

John had estimated that the 60km of gravel road would take us about an hour, but that turned out to be 2.5hrs. What we didn’t reckon on was that in some places, extending for 200-300m at a time, the drop into each corrugation was 20-25cm deep. It was a case of rolling into and out of one and then the next – painful in more ways than one. In retrospect, we should have gone to Wudinna but, as they say, “hindsight is a wonderful thing”.

Still we got here in one piece and the cupboards and their contents in the van, opened VERY slowly mind you, were all as they should be.

Before leaving Kimba we purchased our Nat.Park Pass - $8 entry fee and then $38.50 for 3 nights camping (how that divides by 3 is a mystery, but I expect there is a booking fee involved somewhere).

Waganny Campground – a bush camp, its only amenity a long drop toilet – will be home for the next 3 nights. Quite a big camping area just for us it seems, as there are no other vans around. In fact, we commented that we appear to have the entire National Park to ourselves! Possibly – or probably – it is the wrong season for the majority of tourists, but we are seeing it lovely and green which is a vibrant contrast to the rich red soil. We did see a couple of Park staff as they were cleaning the toilet area, but they don’t really count.

Because of our late arrival we didn’t want to go exploring too far from camp this afternoon, so we went on a relatively short drive along the Old Paney Scenic Route to look at the stone dam wall and Old Paney Homestead, an old stone cottage that in its day was home to 3x adults and 11 children. It was quite large and the rooms were fairly spacious – 2 bedrooms, a sitting room, kitchen, bathroom and a laundry/wash room and it would have had an outdoor toilet – but we couldn’t imagine how so many could comfortably live in it. We were able to wander through and it looks like they are doing a little bit of restoration as there was evidence of a bit of new lime wash on some of the walls. The rooms had a little furniture and a lot of dust.

Plenty of kangaroos to watch out for, but for the most part they appear to have some road sense and would bound away into the scrub as we approached. Emus, on the other hand, have no road sense whatsoever – large bird, small brain. They thought it quite fine to run down the middle of the road never mind there is a Landcruiser with bull bar “almost up their backside” (to quote John). Eventually they got the right idea.

Once back at camp John got our little fire box burning; sitting outside with a glass of wine for an hour or two will be quite pleasant until the day is done. As the last of the sun’s rays caught the underside of the gum leaves it looked as if someone had strung fairy lights – very pretty.

Despite some cloud cover we got our first glimpse of a starry night. Our little camera is not powerful enough to capture the night sky, but it was a remotely tranquil ending to a nerve wracking day.

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