WEDNESDAY 16 MAY COPLEY
It was a fine day, with some cloud about.
M and I both rose at a respectable hour. While John slumbered on, we each did a load of washing. The chores had been neglected for a while now. You know it is time to act when you have to start inspecting the used undies in said washing basket to find some that could be recycled!
Once John was up and breakfasted, and had pottered about for a bit, we went for a walk to explore Copley, in part because we had time to fill in before going back to Leigh Creek.
It did not take long! We bought an early lunch at the bakery, which was reputed in travel write ups as a must patronize place. John had a pastie. I had a sausage roll – which turned out to be still semi-frozen in the middle! I would not be recommending the place!
Drove to Leigh Creek to stock up on the fresh produce, which came in on Wednesday mornings. There was a much better selection of fruits and vegetables now, plus fresh bread (which the bakery didn’t have).
Took our bounty back to camp, then turned around and drove to the Heritage township of Beltana, some 35kms south of Leigh Creek.
A few of the buildings here were still occupied, but others were ruins.
The town was a thriving little one in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. There were copper mines to the east to supply, as well as a few local pastoral operations. The TransContinental Railway to Marree and then Alice Springs, passed through it, as did what passed for the main road.
But the copper mining declined. From the 1940’s coal was mined at Leigh Creek and a township established to service that. In 1980, the railway closed down, when the new route was established well to the west. Then the road alignment was shifted a few kms to the west – now one must detour from the main road to reach Beltana.
We wandered about Beltana for a little while, studying ruins, taking photos.
The ruins of the copper smelter and settlement at Sliding Rock, 22kms east of Beltana, was our next stop. It was a little tricky, finding our way out of Beltana to the road we wanted – tracks everywhere and little in the way of signposts. (Last time we went out there, it was kind of by accident, so I didn’t really remember the way). We crossed the dry creek bed and headed in what looked like an easterly direction. It turned out to be the Warraweena road, which was what we wanted. The gravel road out was in good condition.
The copper mine at Sliding Rock started up in 1869. The ore was so promising that a smelter was built out there, and then a second one. A little township grew up near the mine, during the 1870’s and was gazetted as Cadnia.
Unfortunately, the early optimism proved premature – copper prices fell, the smelter machinery was prone to breakdowns, transport was difficult, underground water in the mine shafts was a major problem. By the early 1900’s, the mine was closed and people were moving away to other places. The school house at Cadnia was moved to Beltana.
Now, it is just a collection of very picturesque ruins in a brilliant setting.
On one low hill are the remains of the smelter complex, and some distance away, on another rise, the township ruins.
We wandered around the very scenically set ruins for a couple of hours.
This place is only about 30kms in total from the main road, on good gravel roads, but it was a measure of how far off the normal tourist trail it was, that in our time out there, we saw no one else. But then, I guess the same could be said of most of the places we went at Arkaroola. But it seemed to me that travellers going through Leigh Creek and Copley are focussed on “the Tracks” – Birdsville and Oodnadatta – and do not stop to explore en route. They miss some gems.
A few kms further along the track from Sliding Rock is the Warraweena Homestead, which we had visited on a previous trip. Sliding Rock is located on the Warraweena property,. a former pastoral lease now turned conservation land. Next trip up this way, we thought we’d like to utilize their bush camping area and explore tracks further east of here.
Drove back to Beltana and, for something different, took a dirt road north that follows the old rail alignment through Puttapa Gap and so back to the main road. That was an interesting way to go.
John refuelled Truck at Copley – $1.43cpl.
We were back at camp in sufficient time for me to roast a chook for dinner – in the electric frypan, outside, as I always do my roasts when travelling and on external power.
While dinner was cooking, and M and I were getting our washing off the line, John downloaded the photos that HE had taken, to date, on the new Pentax digital SLR camera that was MY Xmas present! He was very pleased with the results, especially the ones he took out at Sliding Rock today. He named them and burnt a backup copy to a CD.
We made some phone calls. Sent emails to family and to house sitters asking for mail to be forwarded to Alice Springs.
There was an email from the construction company we had worked for, saying they were about to pay in John’s super – it had been held up for some reason, whereas mine had been fine. Almost $4000 worth – wonderful!
Through the evening, we could see much lightning flashing away in great sheets across the sky, to the east and south-east. Apparently Broken Hill, Tibooburra and Poochera all had heaps of rain – and very large hail stones. We fervently hoped that weather system did not migrate north!