This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2007 Travels May 16


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.

Sliding Rock

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!

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2007 Travels May 15


After last night’s grand finale, it was time to depart Arkaroola!

With only 130kms to go, we could afford a leisurely pack up. There was quite a lot of wet stuff – our awning, but especially M’s living tent.

At the office, I handed in the Visitor Survey form that we had been asked to complete. I thought that, after eleven nights here, we could give a more accurate assessment than many campers! I was critical of the quality of the Reception staff who, a lot of the time, seemed totally disinterested in what they were doing and in us and our tourist experience there.  In tourism operations, front-line staff are so important….

The Road Conditions board just outside Arkaroola indicated that the Strzelecki Track was closed. Good thing we were not planning on going to Innamincka.

The many little floodways/dips between Arkaroola and Balcanoona – some of which we hadn’t even noticed in our previous drives – had received a water flow during the night, evidenced by debris on the road. Even small rocks and bushes had been moved! Some still had a little water in. The amount of run-off there had been surprised us. Maybe it shouldn’t have, given how much run off ran through our camp!

Balcanoona Creek was still flowing – good to see. The ‘roos appeared to think so, too, judging by the numbers we saw.

After Balcanoona, the way was much drier, and the road surface was pretty good.

It was a scenic run, for much of the way.

Balcanoona-Copley road

We booked into the Copley Caravan Park for two nights. Our powered site cost $22.50.

After setting up and having lunch at the van, we drove to nearby Leigh Creek, to shop for food.

Copley Caravan Park

Copley was really just a small village, with a very pleasant caravan park. There was a hotel and bakery, and a bit of a general store, but we needed to do a serious re-stock. Leigh Creek, 12kms away, was one of those soul-less purpose built mining townships, containing the supermarket we needed.

Even though the fresh produce, we found, was not due in until tomorrow, I still managed to spend $256 at the supermarket! Well, it was nearly two weeks since the last re-supply, and should be at least a week before the next. We would have to go back tomorrow for bread, fruit and vegetables.

Visited the Information Centre and picked up some brochures and maps. They were selling locally stencilled T-shirts – remainders, I thought. $5 each – can’t go too wrong at that price. They had a sort of stylized serpent on the front. I bought us one each – a nice dark green and a navy – good for not showing the dirt, which was a pre-requisite of travel clothing for us.

There was a group of indigines staying at the caravan park – led by the well-known Geoff Clarke, who came over to chat to us whilst M was setting up her camp. He was not as tall or big as he appeared in the media. He was taking a group of youths/young men from down Yambuk way to become acquainted with “outback” aboriginals. He did not really explain what this was supposed to achieve.

Late in the day, John was working on his laptop, in the van, with the door open. He was visited by a black cat. It just strolled in as if it was totally entitled and proceeded to make itself at home. Was this some sort of omen?

Do we want a caravan cat?

Through the evening, we could see flashes of lightning away to the south east.

Leigh Creek coal mine visible on this satellite photo

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1999 Travels May 20


Last night was appreciably warmer than it had been at Wilpena – we are thankful. We slept with the windows at our heads  and feet, open, to catch the cross breeze. It is a nice change to be able to do so.

We were up early – before 8am. No reason, it just happened that way.

I did the washing. Then I followed up things resulting from the mail – went to the Post Office here and paid the shire rates and the Telstra bill. Had completed some shares paperwork and mailed that. I phoned Breastscreen because they had sent me notice of a time for the routine check up – arranged to contact them about same when I am next at home.

I got John to phone the insurance broker he deals with, because I realized that we should have had the renewal notice for our house insurance, in this batch of mail, and it had not come. The response was a real shock. The broker told John it is not insured through him. His records show that, this time last year, John was going to do some research and get back to him – and never did. The Credit Union, who were contacted next, claim that the policy was cancelled in 1997!!! I have a recollection of thinking that the place was not insured, a year ago, and John supposedly fixing the matter. So we really are not quite sure who stuffed up, and how. But it certainly requires urgent and definite fixing now. John phoned the Credit Union, arranged a cover note, and they are forwarding a policy document to us – express mail. We will have to wait here until that gets here, and then return same before we continue on. We will ensure that it is automatic debit each year, from now on, like the contents  policy is.

All business completed, we drove into Leigh Creek, for a paper and a box of beer. We saw a Trakmaster in the servo there, so pulled in and chatted with the couple – from Melbourne. They have the Nullarbor model – still a single axle, but 17 foot long. The layout is fairly similar to ours, but they have a microwave built in, likewise a flushing toilet. That is not something we have room for – or a water pump to supply the flush! The man told John that he’d had a problem with the brakes on a rough road. Their cupboard door catches broke on rough roads, too, and were replaced by Trakmaster with the newer press button ones.

After lunch, we drove to view/inspect the huge open cut coal mine, that is just north of Copley, and is Leigh Creek’s raison d’etre. It is enormous. There are great overburden and coal heaps everywhere and very deep pits. I remember how vast this mine looked from the air when I was en route to Jakarta a few years ago.

05-20-1999 01 Leigh Ck coalfield old cut.jpg

The old Leigh Creek open cut coal mine – now disused

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An old over burden shifter

John enjoyed himself at the lookout point, “playing” at the controls of an old over burden shifter that is now an historic item there. But basically, he has been out of sorts all day, because of the insurance debacle.

05-20-1999 03 drivers eye view

Driver’s eye perspective from the controls of the overburden shifter

05-20-1999 04 coalfields from main road

The open cut coalfield from the main road

Back at camp, I cooked barley and veg soup to last the next few nights. For tea, I made a shepherds pie and served it with cooked baby spinach. Then yoghurt after.

There did not seem to be any coal trains today – either way.

It was a warm evening, but with some cloud about. Might it rain?

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1999 Travels May 19


We got up at 8am, which was probably a little late for a moving day.

John did a clean up of the back of Truck, because there was so much dust in there. While he was doing that, I walked down to the office and bought a Desert Parks Pass – cost $60. It is an annual pass to the designated desert areas, and we can renew it next year at a reduced rate, if we wish. We received a sticker to put on the vehicle and a folder of information on the areas covered. It was all quite comprehensive.

John drove Truck to the shop to refuel – 81cpl.

We had not done any preliminary packing up yesterday, so it was about 10.30 when we got away. That was alright because we do not have far to go.

Went south from Wilpena for about 30kms and then took the Moralana Scenic Drive route, that cuts through to the Leigh Creek road. Truck managed it well with the van on the back, and the van towed well on the unsealed surface.

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On the Moralana Scenic Drive track

It really is a beautiful way to go, through a valley between the Elder and Heysen Ranges, and then through the little gorge cut by the Moralana Creek, to the sealed road north.

05-19-1999 01 Elder Range from Moralana track

The Elder Range from the Moralana Scenic Drive

For a while we had the interest of the Ranges to the east of us, but these peter out after Parachilna. After that, it was much flatter,  but there were places where areas of lower hills were visible, like around Beltana and especially coming into Leigh Creek.

05-18-1999 01 flinders from near parachilna.jpg

The Flinders Ranges from the western side, near Parachilna

I am rather amused that, along this road, the railway crosses the watercourses – which are dry now – on bridges, whereas the road is down at stream level rather than on bridges. When they do get the occasional heavy rains, there is nothing to stop the water flowing straight across the road, so I guess this road would soon get closed in such an event. Guess heavy rain must be rare in these parts.

It is noticeably hotter today – I am in shorts and T shirt. Have not needed those for a while.

We stopped at the Beltana Roadhouse and ate our lunch in the parking area there. Bought a beer and icy poles from the roadhouse. It seems a rather desolate spot to me, but we were told that the couple who run it have been there eighteen years.

There was an empty coal train on the railway line beside the road. We’d had to stop for it, a bit earlier, at the one level crossing there is between Leigh Creek and the outskirts of Port Augusta. We had noticed the railway come in from the southwest, south of Parachilna and parallel the road for a while. Saw the train on it, doing about 80-85kms, and got to the crossing just as the train was approaching it. So we counted – it had 3 diesel engines, 162 coal trucks, and one flat bed at the back. It took a while to go past us at the crossing! At the roadhouse, they told us that, at 3kms long, it is the longest train in Australia. The train takes ten hours to go, loaded, from the Leigh Creek coal mine, to the power station at Port Augusta, a distance of 250kms. It obviously manages to go much faster on the empty return run. I actually thought the longest train honour belongs in WA’s Pilbara?

The roadhouse people advised us that the Copley Caravan Park is the best to go to, in those parts. They thought the one at Leigh Creek might even be closed.

So it was to Copley that we went, passing straight by the turnoff that leads to Leigh Creek township, built a little back from the main road. We booked in for three nights, at a cost of $12 per night. The little caravan park is alright – it has a little grass, not much shade, but our site is ok. They have put a shade shelter up over a table and seats. The amenities block is modern and clean. The washing machines cost $3.

We did a quick set up, then drove back to Leigh Creek, 6kms down the road. This is obviously a town built to accommodate and service the mine workers. It has the typical curving road layout and central core of shops and services. It is soul-less, like these places usually seem. We went to the small supermarket for a few items, then collected our mail bag from the Post Office.

Drove back to the van, where I sorted the mail. There was quite a bit of share-related stuff, and a card from S. Nothing that was exciting.

We had a happy hour, sitting outside the van, then John cooked tea – he had chosen to have bacon, eggs  and crumpets. Yoghurt to follow.

There was a very nice sunset – all blues and golds. It is starting to seem like the “outback” now.

It got cooler very quickly, once the sun went down.

We heard the loaded coal train go by, after dark. It was much slower, but sounded like it was accelerating.

There is no TV here! John played computer games and I wrote – diary and did some follow up work on the mail.

05-19-1999 TO COPLEY.JPG

Our route to Copley. Artimore is in the folded ranges north of Blinman