This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2010 Travels April 30


We had intended to leave today, but John had major cramps in his calf muscles, through the night, and needed a rest day. He had, to date, managed so much better than we had expected, but maybe the walks of the previous two days had been too much.

For something to do, in the early afternoon, we went for a small drive, just a little way down the access road, and spent some time watching and taking photos of the Major Mitchell cockatoos that lived around here.

Major Mitchell Cockatoo – the lookout

Some of them were having a feed of paddy melon, so were staying relatively still for us.

Other than that, we just lazed about. Did some packing up.

Mt Ive critter
Former Mt Ive critter

Had our final camp fire and happy hour here. It had been great, out here in the remoteness. It would be back to relative civilization tomorrow. I would miss the quiet, especially at night.

Tea was fish, in batter, and fries.

Sat round the camp fire until bedtime.

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2010 Travels April 29


It was a warm, fine day, with clear skies.

We lazed around camp in the morning, having decided we would go out to Lake Gairdner again, later in the day, and stay to watch the full moon rise over the lake.

When we went up to the office to collect the key, the lady told us there had been some illegal campers out at the lake. Apparently, they had collected a key from here, telling staff they would be coming back to camp here after they’d been to the lake, but never did come back. Access to Lake Gairdner out there was restricted to people who were campers at Mt Ive only and there was no camping, except for those attending DLRA events. So it was clearly a deliberate con.

Not only that, but later visitors complained about a whole lot of used nappies that had been left out there. What dishonest pigs!

We offered to take a garbag out with us and bring the offending items back, to save a Mt Ive staff person a trip all the way out there.

We departed for the lake at about 2.30pm.

When we got out there, found there was quite a heap of the dirty nappies, piled up beside the toilet door. We used sticks to gather and pile them into the garbag.

Brilliant salt lake under a blue sky

M and John walked across the lake – about a 5.4km return trip. I preferred to wander around on my own and take photos. There was no one else out there.

No longer even specks in the distance…..

Eventually, the other two became little black dots on the white lake surface, and then I couldn’t see them at all.

When the walkers returned, we made a camp fire and cooked Kransky, bacon and eggs, and ate that, with some salad.

The sunset over the lake was excellent, but the full moon rising was a let down. Of course, the moon rose from behind the hill, on the side of the lake we were on, so there was really no light effects on the lake surface as it rose. It also got quite cold.

About 9pm, we left to drive back to camp, taking the bag of nappies – well sealed – with us.

The drive back was necessarily slow, due both to the track surface and keeping an eye out for wild life.

The jaunt had been worth doing.

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2010 Travels April 28


We had been told that the Mt Ive staff were to cater lunch today for sixty visitors – some kind of local fund raiser.

We did not feel like driving anywhere today, but equally did not feel like staying in camp with all those extra people around. So – decided it was time to try a longer walk, and see how John managed that.

We walked a little way back along the road into the homestead complex, to where there were the graves of two young children, that dated from an earlier time and family. Then we left the road and picked our way up the hill side, on rocky ground, and through spinifex clumps, to intersect with the vehicle track to Mt Scott. Doing this was a more direct way than following the road track all the way from the station, as it took a more round about route.

The station complex from part way up the hillside
Track to Mt Scott

As we walked fairly steadily uphill, toward the rounded summit in the distance, met a 4WD inching its way down. Given the caution he was having to exercise, I was pleased we hadn’t driven. John likes those kinds of adventures. I am not so convinced.

Vehicle on Mt Scott track

The views from the top of Mt Scott made the effort worthwhile.

In one direction, could see Lake Gairdner in the distance.

Glimpse of Lake Gairdner in the distance

A bit closer, looking to the west, was one of the areas of the station where visitors could go and bush camp. Could see that same 4WD. exploring some of the station tracks out that way.

To the south, could see the area of the Wombat Holes, in the distance.

The lighter coloured ground around the Wombat Holes

There was a cairn on the peak; we each added a small rock to the structure.

Pottered around on the peak for the best part of an hour, taking photos, studying the surrounding country from the vantage point.

Entry road to Mt Ive. Gawler Ranges in distance

Followed the vehicle track back to camp, not fancying a downhill scramble on the rocky hillside, on the more direct way. Even so, the rocky road demanded our full concentration on foot placement. Would have been an easy place to damage an ankle.

It was disgusting to come across a place, right beside the road, where some of the party of bush campers who were here over the long weekend, had emptied their portable toilet tanks. It was not far from the main campground. Some people are just such revolting grubs.

It was a good long walk and John was really pleased  with how he did. I estimated we walked about 7kms,

By the time we got back, all signs of the lunch – and the people – were gone. Mission accomplished.

Relaxed at camp for the rest of the afternoon. Were “entertained” by the two men who had come to the rescue the day M’s gears went missing. Today, they were using a digger, near us, for a grey water drain from the new toilet block. Watched them using wires to “detect” the line of the power and other cables, under the ground. No Dial Before You Dig service out here! Obviously it was an inexact science and – twang – they dug up the power and Telstra lines, and just missed the water pipe. They were good humoured about the mishap, and amusing as they made the necessary repairs.

Three new vehicles came into the campground in the late afternoon. We had seen one of them – a 4WD with a Trakmaster-built slide on structure  “The Kennel” – around our area at home. Went over and introduced myself. It was a small group of Trakmaster Club members, working out a route for a Club trip. We chatted with them for a while.

Lit the camp fire and had our happy hour.

There were some little critters around the camp ground. I didn’t know enough to tell if they were mice or some sort of little native marsupial. They seemed to be smaller than house mice. Some of them were quite bold. One of them snuck up and tried to nibble on my toenail! A little carnivore?

Tea was leftover fish cakes.

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2010 Travels April 27


We left camp about 9.30am, to have a day out visiting the Gawler Ranges National Park, to the south.

Took the road towards Thurlga Homestead, then went SE for a while on the Kimba road, before turning west onto the Public Access Route to the old Paney Homestead and the Park.

The unsealed roads were reasonable and the scenery interesting. We saw an emu with six chicks, near Thurlga. The PAR to the Park was rougher than the proper tracks, with a few wet patches.

We had to register at the Paney Shearing Shed near the Park entrance. $6.50 a vehicle.

From there, took the 4WD LP Track track to the NW, to the Kolay Hut camp area. That track was pretty good.

Kolay campground was a pleasant camp area, treed, with a toilet and a dry creek. For those looking for a less populated bush camping area, outside of the summer months, this one would be pretty good.

Site at Kolay Hut camp ground

There was an outlook to a low range.

Outlook from Kolay Hut camp ground. Once was pastoral country.

In wandering about, exploring, we found what appeared to be a really old lean-to shelter, made of logs, wire netting and dead grasses. I would have loved to know the story of that – person shelter? Doghouse? Chook house?

Followed a vehicle track up a valley across from the camp area, and looked at some small, dry, waterfalls in the gully, thinking these were the Kolay Mirica Falls. Walked up their gully a little way. Notable were the various rock formations. Organ pipe structures seemed plentiful in the Gawler Ranges.

Valley across from Kolay Hut camp ground
Looking back to Kolay Hut camp ground, in amongst the trees.

Continuing further along the LP Track, we found the real Kolay Mirica Falls a bit further on. So it was another little detour up to the parking area, and more walking and exploring. These were bigger and more scenic than what we’d thought were they. But dry, apart from a few rock puddles.

Kolay Mirica Falls

Pillar formations at Kolay Mirica Falls

There was no doubt about the overall aridity of this area, however, I suspected it could be really pretty in the spring wildflower period, especially if winter had been reasonably wet.

Looking down the Kolay Mirica Falls – would be impressive after a real deluge…

Kept driving on the LP Track. This became much rougher after the Falls. A couple of the dry stream crossings and rougher areas gave M a chance to try out her repaired low range gears – all seemed ok.

Turned to the SE onto the Mattera Track, then stopped by a large, dry, creek bed to eat lunch. There were some very big kangaroos about these parts!

Mattera Track area

The Mattera Track proceeded down a really pretty valley between the ranges. It joined the Old Paney Scenic Route and we detoured slightly to the west to look at the Old Paney Homestead, and had a walk around there.

Valley at Old Paney Homestead

The Gawler Ranges region was settled for pastoralism within three decades of the establishment of a colony at Adelaide in the 1830’s. Paney, Yardea and Thurlga were the main large pastoral leases in the area. At times, Paney and Yardea had the same owners. In 2000, the government bought the Paney lease area and turned it into a National Park, possibly due to the unusual rock formations. But now, of course, some of the pastoral history of the area is preserved in structures like the Old Paney Shearing Shed.

Drove back to the east then took a side track to drive the little circuit track around Waukinna Hill – just to see a bit more of the country.

It was about 3pm when we got back to the Shearing Shed at the eastern entrance to the Park. We felt like we’d seen a representative sample of the Park, so retraced our way back to Mt Ive. Stopped to gather some more firewood and got back to camp about 4.30pm.

We had only encountered two other vehicles through the entire day’s outing! One of them was a Kea hire 4WD, with a Swiss couple. We’d met them on the PAR on the way in, this morning; they were departing after camping in the Park. We’d chatted briefly with them then, as you tend to do on encounters in isolated areas. They had wanted to know the state of the track we had just come over. They were at Mt Ive when we got back, and the man came over to have a chat. This was their third visit to Australia and they were enjoying getting away from the standard tourist places.

We sat round a campfire for a while, then had a tea of fishcakes, zucchini and tomato.

Our verdict was that it had been a day worth doing. Also, if we got back into “proper” travel again – and if John could exist for a few days without things that ran on 240v power – then the Gawler Ranges would be an enjoyable place to camp.

We’d had some light rain as we travelled, this morning, but the sky was clear by afternoon. The moon was getting on towards full – lovely to see. It was a cold night, due to the clear sky.

M had decided she had a mouse, somewhere in Bessie! It had been waking her up at night, rustling around. She did not have a trap with her, but I reckoned that was going to be at the top of her shopping list when we hit civilization again!

The big questions were: 1. Where did she pick up the critter? and 2. Was it a rodent mouse or some sort of native critter? Given its behaviour, seemed most likely it was an ordinary variety mouse mouse.

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2010 Travels April 26


This morning, we set out to drive the station 4WD track known as the Flight Path, following the station directions and mud map. This mustering track heads off into the hilly country to the east of the homestead. Although only about 30kms, it should take 4-5 hours to drive.

It was stony and quite slow going, in parts, through country that grew more interesting as we left the station structures – like big dams – behind.

Vantage point along the Flight Path track

Unfortunately, couldn’t leave signs of humans behind. Some filthy recent camper had emptied a toilet cassette right beside the track.

After about 10 kms, we crawled down a steep, rocky descent, to a little creek gully, with a rise out of it on the other side. We were about 100 metres ahead of M. Then she radioed, to say that “Bessie” was stuck in low range neutral drive, in the gully at the bottom of the steep slope. We reversed back to her. She said she had engaged low range at the top of the hill, but had thought, coming down, that it did not feel like she was really in low range at all – Bessie was going too fast. But, at the bottom, she could not change the gears at all.

John used our snatch strap to tow her a short way – out of the creek bed.

That didn’t help much. She just had no gears. As instructed for those who had issues on the station tracks, M radioed the station and they said they would send a couple of guys out. They arrived, after about half an hour, and were very nice about being called away from normal duties. They decided it was probably a gear selector problem, fiddled about and thought they had fixed it – by getting under the Troopy and poking the selector up, with a screw driver. She had gears again!

They confirmed what it looked like on the map, that the Flight Path track intersected the Peters Pillars track, up ahead, so we could bail out of doing the full Flight Path route, and go back an easier way on the main tracks, also easier going than returning the way we’d come. This seemed prudent, with a suspect vehicle, though it was a pity to miss out on seeing the rougher parts. They left to go back the way they’d come out, and we continued on. Then, M realized that, in fact, she now only had low range gears, so it was a slow trip back to camp!

The country we went through was varied and interesting. Where M had broken down, there were lots of spiders – big spiders – on the ground. I was not going to get close enough to those things to take a photo of them, though.

When we crawled back into camp, a man from the RAA was there, fixing our neighbour’s vehicle. That was fortunate, in more than one way. He’d thought he’d fixed their yesterday’s problem, packed up to go, then found it wasn’t right after all. I guess his error saved him a second trip back out here, and us some time hanging about waiting for him. He said he would tackle the Troopy when he’d finished the first job.

Last year, on her way back from the Canning Stock Route trip, M had a gearbox selector seal replaced, in Alice Springs. It seemed that mechanic had not replaced the selector arm properly. Today had been the first time, since then, that she’d tried to use the lowest gears and hence the problem showed up. Bit scary, really – that work had been done at a proper Toyota place.

While the repair work was happening, John and I went for a walk part-way up the hill behind the camp area, on a road track.

The place was almost empty again – lovely!

Tea was pasta and bottled pesto. We’d had the usual happy hour before hand. During this, John decided to set up our van TV in M’s living tent, in order to watch a film. I said I preferred the quiet of the bush, not damned TV, but he persisted. I guess it made a change for M, from just reading and doing crosswords.

I left them to it, and went early to bed. After a while, rain started. Then it got so heavy they couldn’t hear the film, so abandoned it. Karma……

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2010 Travels April 25


Again, John did not sleep too late. When we travelled with M, knowing that she would want to be out and about, doing things, tended to spur him into getting up at a reasonable time.

Today, we drove a different station track, to the Organ Pipes and Peters Pillars. These are formed from volcanic origin, rhyolite rock, that weathers into columnar formations.

From the parking area, we walked up the valley, following a track beside the dry creek.

Rhyolite formations on hillside

Next stop on our driving explorations was to the south of the Nonning Road – the Wombat Holes. There were extensive views over the mostly flat country here, as we drove into the that area.

The Wombat Holes were much more impressive than I had expected. They are the domain of the Hairy-nosed Wombat. We didn’t see any of the animals, though – just the entrances to their homes.

Very impressive digging abilities, these critters have!

The country here was different to the stony, hilly sections we’d been exploring previously. It was a calcareous type of soft ground – those wombats are not dumb. The ground extended out in long tongues, between depressions that might occasionally fill with water.

It was different and strangely attractive country.

We walked around, exploring, for a couple of hours. Looked at wombat holes. I really wondered how big they were under the ground – how far they extended into the hillsides. Although many of the entrances were big enough for a person to fit, none of us was tempted to play wombat. I reckoned, given the size of their holes, they would be very big wombats. And there might be other creatures in there too, like snakes or spiders.

Walked across a valley to a low, mesa-like hill.

For most of our time out there, we were the only people there.

Drove back to the Mt Ive entry and had lunch at the submarine.

Then, back to camp. M and I were conscious not to let John get too tired.

There were now lots of people in the campground, and in the cabin accommodations. There was a fly-in too.

Our intrusive neighbours arrived back from somewhere, being towed by the station grader. I hoped that did not mean they were here for a long stay!

Happy hour by the campfire – with background noises.

Tea was lamb backstrap, mushrooms, beans, tomato.

Afterwards the three of us sat round the fire, reminiscing about past adventures.

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2010 Travels April 24


The skies today were a mix of cloud and clear, but rather stormy looking.

John was not permitted to sleep too late. After breakfast, we paid a fee, collected mud map and the key that would allow us access to the Lake Gairdner Track, and set off to drive the 30kms there.

The track was not too bad. Apart from tourists, who could only get the track key from the station, this track was used by the Dry Lakes Racing Association to access their club house beside the lake. Once a year, a race event is held here and racers use the bush camp area around the club house. So, essentially the track is little used.

There is one other way to access the shores of the lake, via the unsealed road that comes south from Kingoonya to the Eyre Highway at Kimba. A track leads off that, to the Waltumba Tank, where there is a little National Parks campground on the western side of the lake, just a bit further north from our access on the eastern side.

When we came down this way, first, in ’99, it was from Kingoonya. Lake Gairdner was, then, a real surprise to us. Australians almost universally know about Lake Eyre, but this one was still so little known. Yet, according to National Parks, it is the third largest salt lake in Australia, after Lakes Eyre and Torrens.

Lake Gairdner (Google Earth). Marker shows our access point.

It doesn’t have water in it very often. Unlike Lake Eyre, which has stream systems entering it which sometimes bring water from storm events in NW Qld.

Lake Gairdner is very irregular in shape, but is roughly 160kms long and up to nearly 50kms wide, in parts. The access track from Mt Ive goes in to the southern end, where it is quite narrow, and it is possible to see the other shore.

The beauty of Lake Gairdner lies in its brilliant white salt surface, contrasting with the red earth of the surrounding hills, with their low, sparse shrubbery. It was this spectacle that so amazed us on our first visit.

Lake Gairdner

Because the salt surface of the lake is over a metre thick in parts, it has been the location for land speed world record attempts, and it is why the DLRA has a facility here.

Mud stained salt at the edge of the lake

The lake was as brilliant as I had remembered.

Out on the lake – looking to the north

There were some patches of water on the surface of the salt – must have been a bit of rain not too long ago. These reflected the clouds – wonderful!

Reflections in surface puddles

It was a great day for photos and we wandered about, taking heaps. Thank heavens for digital!

Salt encrusted debris – wind blown twigs

Surface patterns on the salt

The stormy, dark sky was a great contrast.

One could imagine themselves at sea….

We had been told that the salt adversely affects the soles of shoes, so I’d worn thongs, not wanting to damage ┬ámy hugely expensive walking shoes. The other two had worn their walking footwear and were probably a lot more comfortable than I was, as we walked across the salt surface, towards the other side, for about half an hour. Grainy salt between the toes – not nice. It was hard to tell what progress we made in that time, but probably got over half-way across, before we turned back.

The other side was further than it looked
DLRA building and carpark

The sun began to come through the clouds, and made interesting lines of light across the salt surface.

Animals had been out on the salty surface…

Ate our pre-packed lunches back at the vehicles.

Loo with a view….

Heading back towards camp, we turned off to visit the Embankment. This was a dam wall, built in 1892 across a small valley. In such an arid environment all means of gathering water were tried by the early settlers.

The Embankment

The dam wall featured beautiful stonework and real craftsmanship.

Quite a tall structure

There was no water trapped behind it on this visit, just a few puddles drying out, but it would be really pretty on the rare occasions it filled.

The valley behind the Embankment could hold a considerable amount of water…

We walked quite a way up the valley behind the wall. There was a very strong smell of goat!

Strong smell of goat here….

The block/pillar like rock formations that are characteristic of this area make it dramatic, added to by the tortured shapes of dead bushes.

Back to camp, after a great day out.

We were rather cross to find that a camper trailer had been set up immediately behind us, on the other side of the screen. What is it, that with heaps of space all around, some people feel compelled to set up virtually on top of others? So rude. To make it worse, this couple had a handicapped adult son with them, who made loud animal-like noises for much of the time. It was very intrusive and ruined the ambience of the place. Full marks to them for travelling with him, but perhaps they should have been more cognizant of his impact on others, given that there was plenty of room to camp.

 More campers had come in today – it was a long weekend.

John tried to install the new CB aerial. No go! He should have had it done in Port Augusta, after all.

Had happy hour around our campfire, to the background grunts and groans coming from behind us.

Tonight we had an entree of avocado dip, with vegie sticks to dip in it, followed by baked potatoes with coleslaw and grated cheese on top.

John watched a film, inside the van – A Man called Horse. It was all grunts and Indian dialect. I very uncharitably hoped the very near neighbours enjoyed it! I went to bed, with earplugs.

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2010 Travels April 23


The usual morning routine was uneventful.

From Peterborough, went through Orroroo, Wilmington and via Horrocks Pass to Port Augusta.

I always found this section depressing. There were too many abandoned old stone buildings that were once farm homes. There was a sense of desperation and failure, to me. Tricked by a series of good years, would-be settlers had ignored Goyder’s Line and tried their luck out here. In the 1860’s, the Surveyor General, Goyder, had separated SA into two sections: the better watered part where agriculture was feasible, and the drier parts suited only to open grazing, if anything. The division between these on the maps became known as Goyder’s Line. Unfortunately, when there were a few unusually good seasons in a row, it was too easy for people to think he was wrong. Hence the abandoned ruins we were passing.

I wondered if, with current climatic change, a 21st century Goyder’s Line would shrink even closer to Adelaide?

John was very pleased with the performance of the van brakes through Horrocks Pass. That made a change. Maybe Trakmaster did something at the recent service that had actually worked.

As we were driving into Port Augusta, saw a Trakmaster van pulled up at an auto electrician place. After the trials of last year’s travel, I could sympathize.

We went to the Woolworths supermarket, easily finding a parking place for the rig in the large car park between the shopping complex and the sea front. Did a food shop, mostly for fresh provisions. We did not plan to be near shops again for a week or so.

Drove to an auto parts place, where John bought a new CB aerial. We were picking up M’s calls to us alright, but she couldn’t hear us transmit. John did not want to wait around for someone to install it, and said he would do it himself, later.

Headed out of town, on the highway west. At Iron Knob, turned off onto the unsealed Nonning Road that goes for about 120kms, through the Siam Station, to Mt Ive Homestead.

The road surface was not too bad, but in parts there were little humps, and dips, which necessitated great concentration. John missed seeing one such and we did a huge bounce – instant rearrangement of the contents of the van’s cupboards!

Stopped by the road side to eat lunch. A bit further on, there were glimpses of Lake Gilles, to the south – another salt lake. Gathered some wood for possible campfires.

The entrance to the Station approach road was marked, very distinctively and incongruously, by a submarine apparently rising out of the red earth. This had been built by some local volunteers, utilizing an old boiler. Why, I’d never been able to find out. Maybe because they could? Anyway, it certainly made for a very unusual mail box.

Mount Ive campground had been developed more, since our last visit in ’99. The camp area was more attractive, with tree plantings and a roofed sort of camp kitchen structure.

Our powered site cost $22 a night, with the seventh night free. Very reasonable we thought, for out here. There were two power poles, a distance apart, with eight outlet sockets on each. We chose an area by one pole where shelter screens kind of defined the camp spots, and we hoped would prevent any neighbours from becoming too intrusive.

We were not too far from the amenities, which were housed in one end of an ex-Woomera building that also housed a kitchen and recreation room – for users of the cabin accommodation  only!

Ex-Woomera building

Woomera, further to the east, was the site of a military rocket launching and testing facility, from 1947 until 1982, a joint British and Australian facility. After 1982, the off limits Woomera village area was opened to the travelling public, though only official government staff can live there. As the facility was wound back somewhat, after 1982, some buildings that were not needed were sold off and re-located. Hence the one at Mt Ive.

We set up, with M putting her “living” tent at an angle to the back of the van. I re-packed the van cupboards. They were not quite as bad as I’d expected.

Mt Ive camp

Had a wander around the campground and buildings. There were some excellent photos on display in the rec. room, many taken by a lady from nearby Thurlga Station. There was one photo of a bird delicately picking the nose of a sheep – a once-ever photo!

John was really absorbed by some Major Mitchell Cockatoos in scrub in the area.

A twin engine plane – identity VH ZUM – also featured in a photo that was obviously taken here. I wondered if that was taken before our one-time boss bought it for his aviation company, back in 2005. However, later, I saw some brochures set out, for his company, so then assumed that he had added Mt Ive to his aerial tour routes and destinations.

There were only a couple of other lots of campers here.

Near the camp ground

There had been cloud build up during the day, and it was quite overcast by sunset. Hoped it would not rain. The tracks in this area would not be pleasant, wet!

We had the usual happy hour, sitting outside, around a campfire we’d built. Our tea was salt and pepper squid rings, and salad.

The night was wonderfully quiet – back in the bush again…..