Trails of the Unexpected

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July 3rd 2013
Published: July 8th 2013
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Farina to Roxby Downs

Trails of the Unexpected

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Andy was out of bed early, I am not sure if perhaps I had guilt tripped him into it, but he seemed to be on the ball today, my chai was made and brought to me in bed and before I knew it, the awning was down along with the annexe and both put away before I had even opened the door.

I was up at around 7.30 and started prepping the inside of Gypsy for departure, it was porridge for breakfast, quick chat with the neighbours and we slid off to the town of Farina (ruins) where we could get 2 bars of internet and at 9.05 we hit the dirt track toward Witchelina Station and ultimately Roxby Downs.

We had considered leaving the trailer at Farina and doing a day trip, but all things considered there is a small risk involved in leaving the trailer in a location like this and that is "Will it be there when I get back?" Peter and Rose said they where here all Wednesday, but what if we didn't get back in time, they would be in a state of limbo, feeling responsible for Gypsy and justing disrupting there plans, also we knew how many kilometres we needed to do I had already studied the track on my maps, it would be a long day out, we did not know the track conditions so it was best that we took our bed for the night with us, just in case..

At the start of the track, I notice a sign saying that it is $25 per vehicle to cross Mulgaria Station, we have to suck that up, it would probably cost us more in diesel to take the long way round. Fortunately the tracks are fairly dry with some damp patches and some deep ruts so we just take it nice and steady. Andy said we could stop for a cup of tea at 10.30 which sounded awfully nice and I looked forward to it.

We stop at Goyders Baseline, this is

For Goyders Surveying assesment
a survey mark that takes you to Termination Hill to the South and Twenty Mile Hill to the North. The base line was re checked some ten years ago and it was found to be spot on, not bad considering when it was originally done.

The wind was blowing and despite the lovely sunshine, the wind was very cold, so we jumped back in the truck to head off again, once our photo's where taken.

We see a vehicle, the same as ours, that is heading our way and it pulls in at the entrance to the turn off for the monument, a Kelpie is busy in the back barking at us, we both thought, oh dear, perhaps the station owner has come to give us some grief. Although there wouldn't be any need as we were still on the defined track and it did not say that we were not allowed here.

We pulled up, opened the window and the driver and passenger both said "g'day" and said that the dog saw us first and started barking, then went on to say that they were just putting the kettle on and would we like to join them for a cup of tea. Of course we are not one's to refuse and opportunity like that and these opportunities do not come every day.

I know some of you may be thinking "are you crazy?" But you do have to take these things on gut feel and this felt right.

The man said "follow us" and we drove behind them in through the gate to the homestead which is right next door to the monument. We chuckled to ourselves as we wondered if perhaps they did not see many people come this way and were glad of the company.

Anyway, inside the lovely homestead, we all properly introduce ourselves of course to the lovely Kelpie "Tooey" who wants just as much attention from us as all the lovely farm doggies do at Woodstock.

Maria gets the kettle on and Chris sits down and starts chatting, we find out a very different story to the one that
The ReidsThe ReidsThe Reids

At Witchelina Station
we were expecting. Chris and Maria are only here for a week and went on to explain that they volunteer their time and services to the Nature Foundation South Australia and have along with many others, spend time here on Witchelina Nature Reserve helping to renovate the property which had fallen into disrepair, One of the first things that needed doing was to get the homestead habitable to ensure that people would be comfortable to spend time up here to manage the property and in order to raise funds for ongoing management of Witchelina they intend on opening it up to tourism so that the beauty of this place can be shared with the public.

Amongst many other things, the existing tracks have to be graded, some need to be reinstated entirely, the shearers quarters are currently being painted, there is a 4wd track already established to the North East quarter of Witchelina, of moderate difficulty and can be completed in about 4-6 hours. This is done in conjunction with the Marree Hotel, where you can pick up the key, the tour is called "4WD the Willouran Ranges" at a cost of $80
Witchelina HomesteadWitchelina HomesteadWitchelina Homestead

Witchelina Station, 1 Million Acre's, 4270 Square Kilometers
per vehicle.

Witchelina is about 680km North of Adelaide and the 1 million acres (4200 Km sq) sits to the South West of Marree and borders the edge of Lake Torrens. A property of this size is hard to comprehend, even when Chris shows us on the map and explains that they have not begun to look at the section of property to the South and the edge of the lake, we are talking about outback country that would reach near 50 degree temperatures in the summer and would not be possible for people to access unless they are fully kitted out with supplies and plenty of water.

Chris said in this country, only two days without water and your dead, he recited the situation when an Austrian backpacker, who we believe happened to be a doctor left her vehicle and perished, he said it shouldn't have happened, the husband was still with the vehicle and the hubs had not even been locked in, it just smacked of poor perpetration.

There is a working bee
Caroline Caroline Caroline

On Gate Duty
scheduled for the first week in August, they are hoping to get 50 people up to the property to spend time doing all sorts of jobs that basically just need doing so it could be anything, an evening meal will be provided to all participants for the duration of the working bee.

I ask Chris about the track conditions through Witchelina to Mulgaria, he tells us that the track through Mulgaria, is not so good, and it may take us 3 or 4 hours to get through. I mentioned the $25 charge per vehicle and Maria says that it should not be charged, the land is owned by BHP Billiton and leased back to the chap who originally owned it, explaining that the sign should have been taken down, though it is thought that he leaves it up just to deter people from using it.

We have plans to come back this way and Chris and Maria suggest that we should stop in again and perhaps they could show us some other parts of the property, which we would be interested in doing.

Setting off down the track, by now it is 11.30 and nearly lunch time, a while later we stop at a place called West Mount Hut, which is very derelict apart from some solar panels and what looks like a radio arial, Andy puts the kettle on and I make a sandwich, but it is way too windy and the kettle is taking an age to boil, so we give up, eat our sandwich have a look around the property and then move on, I also just want to point out that this is still on Witchelina property so we knew that it was not a problem to have a look around.

The track conditions start to deteriorate, it looks like we have crossed the boarder in Mulgaria Station, sections of this have not been graded in a while, there are clearly some really muddy sections that people have managed to bypass, so we just pick up the bypass tracks, other areas we are not so lucky there is no bypass track so soldier on through the mud and ruts.

It seems
Did a bomb go offDid a bomb go offDid a bomb go off

No, the rough road tossed all this about, in Gypsy
to be fairly slow going, but just before we get to the homestead, I wanted to take the top track to the West, but a sign directs "all traffic" to the homestead. I switch maps and find that the top track is marked private road, Chris also told us to take the top road, but I was not sure at this stage which would be the best way, so we follow the track through the homestead and toward the South West and Andamooka.

There are vehicles at the homestead but we see no one, until we reach the track on the other side and see another vehicle coming toward us. It is a small car towing a trailer. We stop to chat, he tells us that he camped up here last night, he had battery trouble and had to get the battery going with the generator which took him a while.

I asked about the track conditions and he tells us that it is slow going, it took him 3 hours and he bottomed out on a couple of the sand dunes. I did not like to hear that word sand dunes, we had not expected that at all. That said, looking at the size of his vehicle and the fact that he was towing, we should not have too much of a problem.

I am tracking us on my Hema Map on the IPad, we are sticking to the track like glue, we do not really want to wander off the beaten track, some areas are very damp and rutted, we drive across dry salt beds, some are quite crusty to drive over, Andy was confident of the drive and fully in control, every now and again we had to make a turn to pick up a different track, there were some very poorly marked sign posts but I was confident with my map.

It was slow going, some parts of the track had clearly been washed out with recent rainfalls, there are very deep washouts, but we manage them with no problem at all, bearing in mind of course we are still towing Gypsy and that always has to be the consideration, there is no way we want to risk having this rig topple over onto it's side, so some areas were taken with exceptional care, of course she is built to do this kind of work, but I really don't like it when I cannot see her in my wing mirror! It really would not matter if we had to pull off the track and camp for a night here.

I was wondering about the top road, but even then Chris said it would take a few hours to do that one, so figured it may not have been that much better, that said it was a slightly shorter track and that would have meant completing the last 50k's (approx) on the Borefield Road which would be in a whole lot better condition.

Eventually we came across the sand dunes, there were too many to count, and probably not that high, the first one took us 3 attempts, but reversing back and reviewing, we made it over, after that Andy was well into the swing of things and tackled each dune no problem at all.

Coming into Andamooka, we were really over this journey by then, the track was still rough in places but we could at least get a little bit of speed up, the terrain changed and we would see huge piles of spoil across the landscape, of the Andamooka Opal Fields where the Opal Mining was taking place. Large signs forbid people to access them, it is prohibited to enter someone else's "claim" other signs warn of large shafts and "dont walk backwards"

We had realised it had taken us nearly seven hours to do about a 160 Kilometers.

It had so far been a long and exhausting day, but we decided to punch out the last 27 k's to Roxby Downs and find a caravan park, the internet told me that it was $50 per night for a powered site, however when I went in she told me she could do me a site for $34, that suits me so we booked in and parked up.

I opened Gypsy with some intrepidation, expecting a cascade of our belongings to fall out of the door, I was met with a big pile on the floor, some bits had jumped out of the sink, some tubs had come out from under the cupboards (that would be expected), and some bits had even come off the bed.

The fridge was probably the worst, the entire contents seemed to have turned upside down! The marmalade jar had lost it's lid which was not helpful as that was upside down too, including the egg box with 10 eggs in it, fortunately we only lost 2 of them. Not too bad considering the road conditions we had just endured.

Both exhausted, we felt that we earned pizza for our evening meal tonight, I had already been told about Chives restaurant, so off we went and ordered 2 Mexicana's and stocked up on beer and wine and headed back to camp for our well deserved evening meal.

The pizza was delicious and would thoroughly recommend Chives if you are in the Roxby Downs area. The only thing was neither of us could finish our pizza, we really could have got away with only one, never mind that sorts tea for tomorrow night too!

The night is warmer here, it is due to get down to about 5 degrees, the lady at the reception desk grumbled about how cold it would be, I told her that 5 degrees would be bliss considering some of the temperatures we have experienced so far on this trip.

We sit in the warm camp kitchen and watch a film on Foxtel until bedtime beckoned, we were tired and tomorrow was going to be another long day.


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