Adelaide – Sun 15th March
An early start today, time to see the city. Jumping on the train at Marino its unnerving to see the carriage looks identical to the London commuter trains we gave up 10yrs ago, with the exception the seats are 2:2 to squeeze more standing passengers on. Alighting at the main Adelaide station is like a timewarp, lots of grandeur and too few windows, giving it a sepia feel like a Chicago gangster film
Our destination. St Peters, takes us under the [Festival Building]; on top it has shades of the Opera House, underneath it’s all concrete brutality. St Peters however is a delightful building, with an intricate reardos. It also has a wonderful combined boys / girls choir, rare to see a strong choral service in Aus.
Time for tourist mode. Jumping the tram to Glen Elg its interesting to see the suburbs roll by; but what a disappointment at the end the line, all overpriced tat and bad food.
Later in the day its great to catch with a friend from years ago in the UK, and get a local view, before catching a great sunset over the water
Clare Valley (via Barossa) – Mon 16th & Tue 17th March
Now we’re talking, a couple of the great wine regions of Australia. Sadly its just a flying visit, you could spend days in each place, but best bring a driver.
The Barossa is not as easy to navigate as Coonawarra, the wineries are scattered all around the place. Sadly this meant Henschke missed the cut, too far off the beaten path. Happily Turkey Flat was close by, with some great wines. Chatting away it appears the current harvest is the earliest on record, with a very short period to boot, courtesy of a cooler Jan which allowed the vines to continue to work rather than shutting down in the heat.
With a short detour to see the historical buildings at Jacobs Creek it was time to head for the Clare Valley, and a change of focus from red to white. Along the way the road passes through Kapunda, the oldest copper mining town in Australia, athough its not the oldest copper mine; thats Noarlunga
The Clare Valley is hillier than the Barossa, and has the vineyards either side of the road running north / south. By happy coincidence our camp, in Leasingham, is next door to O’Leary Walker. I’ll go out on a limb and say to my mind their Rieslings are as good as Grosset, but without the hype, and at half price are great value.
Mount Remarkable NP – Wed 18th March
At the northern end of the valley, Clare is the main town of the region. It also has a Parks SA office, which allows us to buy a 2mth parks pass including camping, at $80 this should pay itself back many times over the next month.
For navigation, as well as a paper atlas, we are using a HEMA HN7. This is a great device but, as we found in the Otways, can choose some interesting routes. Based on its advice we elected to travel inland to the east of the park, rather than along the coast; someone somewhere at HEMA must be watching and laughing, the camp was on the east side. On the plus side the change in landscape heading to the coast is astounding, from arable country to barren plain dotted with saltbush.
Mambray Creek is a pleasant campsite with all the facilities within a bush setting. It does come with a local emu though, much to the girl’s excitement
Mount Little Station – Thu 19th March
With a forecast 38c day plus strong winds this was a driving day, a retreat to the air con of the car. Passing through the gap at Pichi Richi the landscape continues to get bleaker, with the distant ranges just visible above the heat haze.
Stopping in Quorn reveals the old Ghan used to run this way, which may explain why a town that size has 3 large hotels alongside each other.
Midway to Hawker there are the ruins of Kanyaka station, a fascinating look at how the homestead was laid out and an interesting place to stop for lunch. Given how dry the place is, the original owner was rather unlucky to drown during a rainstorm.
Mount Little Station is a working cattle farm covering c.28,000 acres just under the Elder Range at the base of the Flinders NP.
According to the owners the farm relies on winter rain, but also summer thunder storms for water. However with the storms not coming this year the whole area is parched, so much so there was no water at the camp – instead they put us up at the old homestead, which was wonderful of them.
The farm also has its own gorge, which after a short drive has several water holes; perfect for a birthday suit swim to cool off.
Copley – Fri 20th March
Our original plan was to have a couple of days in the Flinders then go north to Arkaroola. However a total park closure means Arkaroola comes first. The Parks SA website delicately calls it a “pest management exercise”, or as the ranger at Mambray Creek bluntly put it ‘’shooting goats’’.
It’s a bit far for a single run, with Copley about half way. The upside is a chance to see Parachilna Gorge, with lunch at the Prairie Hotel, home of the famed feral mixed grill.
Beating us to lunch were the local Wedge Tail Eagles, seems road kill emu is just right for them
Not much to say about the site at Copley, pleasant enough but a bit rich at $40. Strangely a group of horses wandered through just after a lovely sunset.
Arkaroola – Sat 21st March
Heading out of Copley its straight onto the dirt and into Vulkathunha-Gammon NP. This is beautiful country in a hot, arid, dusty way. The road itself is not too bad, but crossed continually by floodways with masses of loose stones in their base.
Now talk over dinner in Copley was tyre pressures. Go on a 4WD course and its “lower pressure”. There was some debate over whether, given the stones, that exposes the sidewalls – however once the bumps started I lowered a couple of psi, not as much as I would normally. More on this in a bit
Passing through the Italowie Gap it is startling just how green it is, courtesy of rains in January. Especially striking is Lake Frome in the distance, a glistening white salt pan over the green.
About 10km 30km from Arkaroola is Balcanoona, a great place for lunch and a look around the old shearing shed to show the girls how it worked.
Now back to tyres. Pulling into Arkaroola we were greeted with a fast deflating tyre on the trailer. A very dusty tyre swap later and it was clear a stone had punched through the sidewall. Seems lower pressure may not be the best approach after all
More on Arkaroola, and its yellow footed rock wallabies next post