Sunday Morning December 1, 2002, Vince McIntyre
On the road at last. Over breakfast at a local coffee shop we bump into our outback tour team, Cam the cook and (aptly named) Tim Coach. Their coach is a short bus on tall tyres with a galley trailer. Inside it’s roomy with air conditioning, overhead storage and a loo. We’re loaded in 10 minutes and off, heading north to Wilpena Pound, via Gawler and the Clare Valley. Facts and figures flow as we pan through the northern suburbs and satellite towns. 90 percent of SA gets its water from the Murray River. It’s a glorious day, morning temperature about 18 degrees C, bright sun and low humidity.
First stop – Gawler to pick up last-minute things. I had fun photographing the old stone buildings. There was a sleek modern pub opposite the Baptist church (open at 10:AM!) and a handful of other shops spotted – stumpy (windproof) wheat a, a trotting pony and sulkie working out. Up the Gilbert valley through wheat fields, and into wine country.
At Clare we stop for lunch. I went for a wander and managed to stumble into the cellar door of one of my favourites Leasingham. Spent a pleasant half hour sampling Reisling and their 2000 reds. We also stopped at Cardinham Estate, a tiny Clare producer. They’re family owned with grapes 15-134 years in age. Experimenting with Sangiovese. Great Reisling of which I bought some.
Yesterday we also sampled some wines at Petaluma Bridgewater Mill. It’s located in the Adelaide Hills and can be reached by city bus. The cellar door staff were friendly and knowledgeable. I learned a lot from them.
Sunday Afternoon December 1, 2002,
After the nice stop at Cardingham winery near the town of Clare we started making our way toward the Flinders Ranges. The ubiquitous grape fields are slowly yielding their way to rolling wheat fields as far as the eye can see. Windmills pumping water for thirsty sheep and cattle dot the landscape every few hundred meters. One particular windmill had a bird sitting on the water pipe watching the sheep laze below. The flat and slightly rolling roads through the wheat fields began to give way to steeper hills where our huge 4x4 beast began to lumber ticking away the Kms.
We passed lollies (lollipops) around and watched the many Floodway signs stream by perhaps indicating wetter periods in the past.
We passed the Walloway Survey site of 1882 that set the stage for the historical area we are entering. The Flinders Ranges start in Port Augusta (where we will eventually catch the Ghan train north to Alice Springs) and stretch 450 km north to the outback regions. The highest spot in the south is 915 m and in the north part of the range 1200 m at St. Mary’s Peak. Wilpena Pond, where our big machine is slowly working its way towards, is a circular range, or pound area, with just one way in and out. The cause of this interesting structure? A geologic fault.
In 1802 the naval explorer Matthew Flinders was the first person to circumnavigate Australia. The Flinders Ranges were visible from the coast and named by Matthew. Once the circumnavigation was completed John Ayers began to explore the outback region opening it up to small settlements. Before 1900 there were as many as six different gauge railways in the country. Most of the interesting towns in this area including Hawker (Haakaa as Tim pronounces it) were railway towns. Once the country was "federated" in 1901, standard gauge was laid in straighter sections than the previous rails bypassing many of these small towns. What’s left are quiet back road towns drawing only tourists.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s Flinders National Park was formed with 49k acres. White cypress pines dot the landscape as we pulled into the park. We noticed baby emus with their mother and a few kangaroos trying to stay cool in the shade of small trees.
We pulled into camp and received our tent setting instructions from Tim. We all proceeded to set up camp and check out the area. Dinner was pork chops, veggies, potatoes, and pavlova dessert. Wine was consumed in moderate quantities, enough to make everyone quite lively. Enough for now…
Planning the way to the Eclipse Site