SUNDAY 23 MAY COPLEY
John got up at 8.30, me half an hour earlier.
After breakfast, John checked over the van and filled the water tanks. I washed the van floor while he was outside, and packed a sandwich lunch.
Chores completed, we set out to drive to Beltana, some 30kms to the south. Got fuel at Leigh Creek – 84cpl.
Rather than go back down the highway we’d come north on, we opted to turn off some 10kms south of Leigh Creek and take the old road, through the Puttapa Gap – this was pleasant and interesting, on an unsealed road.
Beltana was a settlement that dated from the 1870’s and the copper mining in the area. It was boosted by the Overland Telegraph being built nearby, likewise the northern railway (that became the old Ghan rail), and the road north. But the copper mining declined, technology rendered the telegraph obsolete, in the 1950’s the railway line moved, and the road was moved further west in the early 1980’s. Leigh Creek had become the main service town of the area and Beltana became a ghost town, almost. Today, there are some residents, and some upkeep of certain old buildings.
Beltana was not as intact as I had expected, but there were some interesting old stone buildings, and bits and pieces lying about. Didn’t see any signs of life, though.
After we’d driven around and walked and looked, we decided to continue on to Sliding Rock, 24kms to the north east, along a reasonable gravel road. The road crossed the wide and dry Sliding Rock Creek, and we stopped to eat lunch there, amongst some beautiful old red gums.
Copper was discovered at Sliding Rock in 1869 and mining began. The prospects were really promising, and smelters were built. A township was established there – Cadnia. But by 1901, the problems of water in the mine proved too much, and the mine closed, and the place was abandoned. A lot of investors lost a lot of money at Sliding Rock.
We found the ruins of the settlement and mining activity fascinating, including a big, square, smelter chimney and a round mine one. The stark, stone building remnants were evocative, in this setting, with the huge, grey face of Sliding Rock behind. We thought it much more special than Beltana.
Around the old smelter area there were lots of pieces of slag residue, some with a greeny copper residue on. We collected a couple of bits of this, as a memento.
Drove further on the same track, to Warraweena Homestead. This had been mentioned to us by a Melbourne friend, who had been there, pig shooting, in recent years.
At the Homestead, the lady of the managing couple was home, and seemed to welcome some company. The house is in rather poor condition, with the front rooms termite and ant ridden. They sleep in an Atco hut. This property ceased being a sheep station in 1996; I think it may be intended to become a conservation area.
The lady said we could try to drive towards the Angapena diggings. She gave us a station map to use and some directions. She was not sure whether the tracks connected up to the ones we were on the other day. I don’t think they have been there for long – she was rather vague about it all. John was hoping that there was a through track and we would be able to see where we had gone astray the other day.
We found our way alright, through some picturesque country. Drove nearly 18kms from the homestead to the property boundary. It seemed that, although tracks might be running parallel on each property, there was no apparent connection through Warraweena. And, as so often happens to us, with our late starts, it was getting a bit late to keep wandering about exploring.
So, we had to backtrack. We took one wrong turn, but despite that, the GPS was really useful, for retracing our route.
We called back in at the Homestead, to let the lady know that we were on our way out. We do not want to be the subject of any false alarm searches!
It was dark by the time we got back to Beltana, and almost 7pm by the time we got back to Copley, having driven 166kms today.
Had a tea of soup, chicken with water chestnuts stir fry, rice, followed by yoghurt.
It was an early night to bed – all this exploring is hard work!