This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2010 Travels May 1


In the morning, M’s outfit took forever to pack up. The “tent” contents had to be taken down and packed into the Troopy, then the tent itself cleaned out, dismantled, folded up and also packed away in its allocated space. It provided space, shelter and comfort when camped in one place for a few days or more – but the downside was the time taken to put up and down. M had been trying for the past six years to find the optimum balance between comfortable camping and the ability to travel tracks like the Canning Stock Route. She was yet to find it……

There was also a big tarp that covered the otherwise leaky roof, to be dealt with.

There was a dead “mouse” under the tent’s waterproof floor. We presumed it had hidden under there and been walked on. Poor little thing. Now we were hoping it was a house mouse and not a native critter!

When we eventually departed, drove west, to the corner with the Kingoonya road, then turned SW through Yardea Station and the western section of the Gawler Ranges National Park. Signage wasn’t great, so we had a couple of missed turns. One of these resulted in a multi-point turn with our rig, on a narrow track – not fun with the van on!

It was hot enough travelling on this day, without getting all hot and bothered by such mishaps as well.

The tracks were mostly reasonable, with the exception of the section through the National Park, which was sandy in some parts and very lumpy and bumpy in others.

Decided we would detour a few kms to the east, to Pildappa Rock, so M could see this feature.

Pildappa Rock is a granite inselberg – think of a rock “island”. Millions of years ago it was underground, but erosion had exposed it. We had never been to Wave Rock in WA, but thought Pildappa Rock must be rather like it.

Pildappa Rock

In one section at the base, gutters had been constructed to collect and channel water, in earlier pastoral times.

Gutters were built at the base of the rock to trap water and direct it to a storage well

We walked/climbed up to the top of the Rock, relatively easily.

There were great long-distance from the top, including to the distant Gawler Ranges.

Distant Gawler Ranges

On the top were lots of small pools in dips in the granite surface – gnamma holes.

Gnamma holes

We spent about an hour wandering about on the top, then came down and had lunch at one of the BBQ shelters provided. There was also a toilet.

Pildappa Rock was a known bush camp area. There was one Bushtracker van camped there when we arrived, but no vehicle. It returned while we were eating lunch.

We rejoined the “proper” road system at Minnipa, followed Highway 1 west to Poochera, then cut across on a good back road to Streaky Bay. Reached there mid-afternoon.

The Streaky Bay Caravan Park was much busier than I’d anticipated, for this time of the year. Then it was explained – a week-long major bowls tournament started in the town, today!

We were able to get adjacent powered sites for $27 a night, after Seniors discount. We booked in for three nights, with a possible extension flagged.

The park seemed much improved over what I remembered from our last time here, in 2004.

After setting up, drove to the shops. We needed some fresh produce from the IGA supermarket, and to restock the beer supplies.

Back in the land of TV and phone coverage and internet…….There were several messages to be dealt with, and news that the Bendigo grandson had caught some contagious virus, from a swimming pool.

I roasted a chicken, with vegies, for the three of us, for tea.

No more campfire! John watched AFL football, on TV, after tea. M retreated to her tent, to read and do crosswords. I read.

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1999 Travels September 7


Today’s plan was to drive south west, to Streaky Bay, on the coast of the Eyre Peninsula. We were definitely ready for some sea again! We still had, roughly, six weeks before needing to be in Melbourne to catch the ferry to Tasmania. Time enough to explore sections of the coast as we headed back that way.

Before leaving Mt Ive, spent some time adjusting the van brakes because the left wheel was locking when the brakes were applied. We seemed to fix it, by trial and error, and driving up and down a station track, testing the adjustments.

The drive south, through the Gawler Ranges, past Yardea and Paney Stations, was very pleasant and varied. The roads were unsealed, of course, to Minnipa. In places, the surface was gravel, but there were occasional slightly sandy sections too.

09-07-1999 01 Gawler ranges from Yardea road.jpg

Gawler Ranges from Yardea road

John had done the usual entering of navigation points on the GPS, last night – useful, because the wasn’t a lot of signage.

We stopped to look at an unusual, large, round stone tank or well. The pastoral relics in these parts are most interesting, with a history of sheep grazing going well back into the 1800’s.

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Old stone water tank on Yardea Station

We detoured slightly, to Pildappa Rock, not far from Minnipa. This is a “wave” rock formation, quite high, with good views from the top. Technically, it is a pink granite inselberg.

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On top of Pildappa Rock

There were stone gutters built at the base of the rock, to collect and channel water – every little helps, in that dry country.

09-07-1999 05  Wave Rocks and water collecting gutters.jpg

Water collecting gutter built at base of Pildappa Rock

We had our lunch at Pildappa Rock, then climbed to the top – which was quite easy as one side is almost stepped, with gradual rises up. The walk up, and exploring on the top, was interesting. There were natural rock waterholes, of varying sizes, in the rock surface, some with plants growing due to the moisture. The top was quite extensive and we  wandered all over it.

09-07-1999 06  Gawler Ra from Pildappa Rock.jpg

Gawler Ranges seen from top of Pildappa Rock, and a gnamma rock waterhole

We reached the Eyre Highway at Minnipa, about 3pm, and turned west. Turned on the mobile phone and found there was a signal and a message downloaded from John’s sister H, asking him to phone her. We stopped and John did this. One of the other sisters, N, was in hospital in Mornington, in her last days, and was hoping to see John.

We continued driving on, debating about what we should do. Our initial reaction was that we were too far away, and that it would take us days to reach Melbourne. But, near Poochera, we decided to turn around and try to make it back before she died. John needed to at least think that he had made the effort. If he was too late, he would at least be there with the family for the funeral.

From then, we alternated the driving, having about 320kms to go to reach Port Augusta, which seemed like a feasible place to stop for the night. The last hour was spent driving in the dark. The number of semi-trailers on the road seemed to suddenly increase as it got dark! That last hour was not enjoyable at all – and it was me driving!

We made no stops, except to change drivers, and to get fuel at Kimba – adding just a top up of 20 litres, at 84 cpl.

Noted that the bulk of Iron Knob, as we passed it, looked huge and impressive.

In Port Augusta, bought take away chicken and chips, and went to the Port Augusta Holiday Village. After the Big 4 discount, this cost $15.30. We were able to stay hitched up, and did a very minimal set up.

John phoned H for an update and to let her know what we were doing.

We went virtually straight to bed after that, gearing up for a very early start tomorrow.

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Our roundabout route to Port Augusta

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1999 Travels September 5


Today was much less windy, and also cooler.

We left Woomera about 9.15am, after getting fuel – 80cpl.

We had to retrace our route of a couple of days ago, back north up the Stuart Highway, for the 115kms to Glendambo, which was a bit tedious. We noticed puddles of water beside the road, where there had been none of Friday.

Topped up the fuel at Glendambo – 89cpl. That says something about the nature of roadhouses on main highways!

Then we were on to new ground again, heading west to Kingoonya, through rather flat and dull country. The road was a reasonable gravel surface. Just before Kingoonya, we merged with the main Perth and Alice Springs railway and had to cross it before we got into the township. This is a battling little place, once a centre for local farming and for railway workers, but the latter were relocated and the place is heading to be a ghost town. There was no reason for us to stop there – it has no fuel supplies.

We took the dirt road south, and the country almost immediately became more interesting, with some hills. At first, these were mostly low dunes, but further on became rocky hills. We passed a number of salinas – salt lakes and salt pans. The way took us between the large salt lakes of Lakes Harry and Everard, to our west, and the large Lake Gairdner to the east, but we did not see much of these.

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Dry Lake Everard, beside the road from Kingoonya

It was – rather surprisingly – sheep country, and we passed lots of those. There were structures that we thought were shelter sheds for the sheep, at drinking tanks – later, I read that these were roofs to collect water and funnel it into these tanks.

09-05-1999 02  pastoral relics near Kangaroo Well .jpg

Pastoral relics near Kangaroo Well

The vegetation varied a lot, between the sandy and rocky sections, and with a lot of blue bush.

We did not see any other traffic, south of Kingoonya, so our drive felt very remote.

We stopped to have lunch beside the track, south of Kokatha Homestead. Even homesteads are scarce on this route – we passed by three. While we were eating, I had a bit of a wander around, and gathered some dried kernels from a bush that had red fruit. The kernels have a pitted surface, and could make unusual jewellery. Later, I found out that these were the seeds of the quandong, or native peach.

This was quite an interesting drive, overall. The roads stayed reasonable.

There were occasional spots of rain, and quite a lot of cloud.

We reached Mt Ive about 5pm. The homestead is at the northern edge of the Gawler Ranges, which trend NW to SE through this area. The Ranges were discovered by Eyre, in his explorations westwards, and named for the then Governor of SA.

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Entering Mt Ive

Mt Ive is also at the southern edge of Lake Gairdner. It has been a sheep grazing property for over a hundred years. The homestead looks old, and we thought the place, overall, looked rather untidy.  It cost us $15 a night to camp, with power, flush toilets and warm showers. We booked in for two nights.

There was not much choice about where to set up, as there was only one power pole. So we parked in a bay delineated by rows of old tyres – not very scenic!

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Our camp site at Mt Ive

There is a real conglomeration of buildings here – some old stone ones, but also a big building brought from Maralinga (the former settlement at the atomic testing range in the desert). I made a joke to the lady who booked us in, about radioactivity, only to be told that it did register some!

Power is from the homestead’s generator, which provides “background noise” to the camp.

The van’s contents had been a bit shaken up by the rougher roads, and there was a very fine film of dust on the surfaces. Just needed a quick dust and sweep. The scupper vent does a pretty good job of keeping dust levels inside right down.

The freezebox door had come off in the fridge; the meats in there were still frozen, though. John fixed the door. He did the radio sched to Adelaide base.

Tea was tinned soup, a packet pasta with its own sauce, and salad. Quick and easy.

We have decided to explore some of the private station tracks tomorrow.

It was a chilly night.

09-05-1999 to mt ive

Our route to Mt Ive