I have now moved to https://citizenmo.blogspot.com.au/ (that’s if you are remotely interested of course:)
I have moved back to Blogger at https://m-stephens.blogspot.com.au/ See you there 🙂
Here we sit, awaiting Balranald’s finest and only mechanic to return from a funeral across the border in Swan Hill, bringing with him the part that Nitro Nellie Nissan requires to restore her to health. As luck would have it, the boot and general shearer’s wardrobe store had a sale on Redback Boots this was fortuitous as my own ever comfortable and sturdy pair have sat close to one too many campfires and walked one too many miles and are ready for retirement as their blessed but melted soles squeaked with the sound of split soles.
sue was also able to purchase a mighty fine ‘Hilltop Winter’ proof coat – no doubt developed for shearer wear.
Our buddies and loyal comrades have forged a path towards home ( as we are only really 800 km from home on blacktop).
Shades of 2012 with five relaxing but dusty days in Birdsville, but with one important difference – we should be driving out not flying , this time.
This gives us the opportunity to walk Balranald’s street – which we have done – and to learn about the heyday of Balranald. There as a time when the bars were filled with shearers, the wharves filled with Merinos and the Murrumbidgee chocked with paddle Steamers carting wool, livestock, supplies and people throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s. The town was first gazetted in 1851 but has a much longer history as part of the Mutthi Mutthi Nations.
The first telephone to be used in Australia was installed in the nearby Yanga Homestead. James Cromyn, nephew of Alexander Bell installed it with instructions from his uncle, to allow communication between the homestead and the shearer’s quarters.
Burke and Wills crossed the Murrumbidgee here on September 15th 1860 and set up camp XX just outside of (what is now) town. A mere 20 years later, the town was a riotous throng with a population of 400 so uls, 5 stores and 6 hotels.
More later …….. should we remain…………
Yesterday we completed the Oodnadatta track – refuelling & gassing up at Oodnadatta as the Branding championship was over. Steve cabled tied his sullage outlets together and we elected not to replace the gaping hole in the dash created by the non-compliant UHF mic holder.
As we cruised south, stopping only to salute the cairn to Ernest Giles, attempt to resurrect a reclining Old Telegraph Line pole and trace the footsteps of the fetters along the old Ghan for a bit, we made camp at Coward Springs. Here we enjoyed a dip in the balmy, opaque mineral waters of the Great Artesian Basin as the popped up to say hi. In the water it was divine – exiting had two challenges however ;1) the mineral water provides an awful lot of buoyancy which is only really evident when attempting to climb out on narrow ladder rungs – this is when one’s body mass and gravity come together to play a cruel trick; and 2) the water is wonderful – the kind of temperature that you get at the end of a perfect bath – but as you drag your great mass up the ladder and back into the wintering South Australian desert – the wind whips in bringing icy tendrils which wrap around every damp part of you. Some time later, following a beer, hot shower and a successful fire creation project – all was well. The setting sun, moon and stars once again provided an amazing astronomical backdrop. We headed to Marla and then Hawker the next day, stopping to pay our respects and gaze in awe at Lake Eyre – some folks never see water in her but we have had the privilege of seeing this spectacular sight twice.
At Hawker, a very cute and old town with 490 residents, we learned that schooners are really pots and pints ( which are metric and not pints at all) are S.Austtralian for schooners. We worked it out and embraced the local culture!
Today we enjoyed a day trip in the Northern Flinders, taking in Gorges, chasms, Emu bath time.
The ancient ( as in 5-600 million years old) rusty red rocks speckled with bright green foliage rise above the grey boulder end river beds guarded by tall white glowing ghost gums.
Tomorrow we return to bush camping on the banks of the mighty Murray at Overland Corner, then onto the banks of the beautiful (Murum) Bidgee at Hay and then Jugiong.
Having made camp at Agnes Creek on a large and flat expanse of dirt dotted with Mulga, we cooked snags on the fire and enjoyed the warmth as the air temperature made its way to zero. Wiping ice from the cars, we headed on south and turned left at Marla onto the Oodnadatta Track and aired down. The track was in good shape with rocks and corrugations in places but largely smooth. We bush camped again at Kathleen Creek – the creek was dry but lined with trees – an oasis in the desert as you wouldn’t need to dig deep to find water. There were deep ruts in places and some pooled water just off the track – evidence of the recent heavy rain and difficult track conditions.
Steak and Jamie Oliver Chicken, cooked on the Biji as he probably hadn’t imagined.
The sky was amazing – vast and dotted with a million stars or more. The sliver o f new moon sat close to Venus and sank quickly beyond the horizon. The night was cold and the temperature dropped below zero again. . Happy that we were in vans with gas central heating, we slept well.
Next day, closing in on Oodnadatta, we were privileged to see two Wedge Tailed Eagles having a mid morning snack. We watched them for a while and moved onto the Angle Pole. This bent piece of Mulga wood is a memorial to the pioneers who built and maintained the telegraph line from Adelaide to Darwin, allowing ‘rapid’ communication to London and opening up the centre. Ernest Giles, John Forester and Stuart passed this way.
We filled up with fuel and tried to get gas but the National Bronco Branding Championships were on and the Gas Man was there – so no gas.
We pass back this way in two days when the event is over so we will try again.
We now sit relaxing in the afternoon sun at Ackaringa Station. The station stretches out over 2,745 square in and can house 2100 head of cattle – we saw 14 of them but some may have been counted twice. The landscape is desert with little for the cattle to snack on – although there were patches of green thanks to the recent rains. The drive here took us through stunning vistas – the landscape a 360 degree painting that we had stumbled into as if through the wardrobe and into Narnia. The Painted Desert is an ancient inland seabed with hills and mesas rising from the desert adorned in brightly coloured cloaks of orange, red, yellow and white.
This triumph of nature comes about as the top layers of soil dry out, erode and reveal their rich and colourful under coats – more undies than cloaks I suppose.
Once again, like almost sprightly three legged mountain goats we crawled, clambered, slipped and slid over boulders, gravel and rocks to enjoy the magnificent views at the top.
We made camp at the Ross River Station campground. A wonderful setting on the Binns Track. Nestled among Ghost Gums and guarded by the East McDonnell Ranges, the setting was peaceful and perfect. A roaring fire each night, damper and the strains of didgeridoo- so called when Barkley first heard the sound – thi s is not the Aboriginal name for the instrument. Our neighbour here was a man from the far north of Arnhem Land who is a maker of the instrument.
We gorged again – first driving along river beds, through wet and dry creeks and across rocks to N’Dahla Gorge and then we retraced our steps back along the Binns Track to Trephina Gorge. Deep red cliffs rising high above the white sand floor – the river forging a path over millions of years with ghost gums standing both tall and crooked, lining the route. We walked through the gorge and fought the sand as it grabbed our feet. Then someone had the bright idea to return via the gorge rim. Off we set like mountain goats – clambering – on hands and knees at times – up, down and across the rock face that guarded the gorge.
We gazed at the majestic 300 year old Ghost Gum that had its own signpost.
We visited Ruby Gorge – so called by the early miners who were extremely disappointed to find that they were worthless garnets. The miners headed west to Arltunga where gold had been found. This desolate mining community struggled and worked to eventually provide a reason to develop a settlement in the Northern Territory of South Australia – Alice Springs.
The road to Ruby Gorge started with corrugations and progressed to rocky paths, large rocks, and sandy river bed. The River Hale provided much of the route and we floated along on the wide sandy bed, dented mufflers on the large rocks as we climbed over them and lost an antenna on the low hanging branches – a big day out taking in 150+ km of tracks and wonderful, stunning vistas. We saw very few people and loved it. This side of the ranges is far less visited than the popular west.
We are now heading south again, and will be off the bitumen and into the Oodnadatta track tomorrow.