Label search

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Flinders Ranges trip September 2016 - Part 1 - Home to Angorichina

We left home on Wednesday 14 September, looking forward to our longest continuous trip yet in Wanda.  Our main goal was the Flinders Ranges, where we would travel with Robert's sister Marilyn and her hubbie Mick with their caravan.  Their friends Glenda and Greg had been planning to come along too, but unfortunately Glenda had recently fractured her wrist so they had to cancel.  The weather forecast hadn't been great, and Robert and I arrived at the ferry terminal at Devonport just as the rain arrived from the northwest.  This wasn't much fun for the motorbike riders and the drivers of an open-topped car (whoever forgot the soft top was in trouble!) who were also boarding the Spirit of Tasmania.  Queuing for more than an hour in a downpour was a new experience. Once on board though, we had a lovely smooth night's sailing to Melbourne.

Day 1 - Thursday 15 Sep
The weather had cleared a little (although still cold and drizzly). We decided to skip the Melbourne traffic and aim for the historic village of Maldon for breakfast.  A good plan, but our stomachs had got the better of us by the time we reached the goldfields town of Castlemaine, and we chose the first decent cafe we saw.  Of course when we walked around the corner afterwards we found two even nicer looking cafes just opposite the tourist information office!  My new theory is that blackboard menus and outside tables and chairs are a good indicator of good coffee and fresh, locally made fare.

I overheard the woman in the newsagent telling a customer that the road to Swan Hill had been cut by floods.  When I checked the map, I realised that this was important as we intended to go up that way en route to Mildura, our first stopover.  I thought we might be right if we avoided the area north of Kerang, which the map showed as having lots of little lakes, and we continued on our course on quiet country roads.  We weren't listening to the radio, we had our own driving music soundtrack.

Arriving in lovely historic Maldon, where we had stopped some 35 years ago on a road trip when Sam was little, we enjoyed a stroll around the main street.  Maldon won a heritage award in 2006 for having the most intact historic streetscape, and the locals are rightly very proud of their beautiful village.

We walked around the remains of an old goldmine, and then, dodging the fresh showers, drove off northwards.  Soon after this we realised that there had been heavy rains in Victoria for some days, with massive damage and heavy floods in some areas.  And, guess what, Central Victoria was one of the affected areas! 

We found our way blocked by floods TWICE before we beat a strategic withdrawal to the highway - the Calder Highway - where we thought all would be clear.  When we reached the highway at Wedderburn, we were due for fuel.  It was a surprise to find a little sign in the window at the service station at Wedderburn saying "Closed due to No Power".  30km further on, it was the same story in Charlton. At least here there were staff to talk to! It turned out that the floods had knocked out the power completely for these towns.  We were now getting quite concerned because our fuel guage was getting low and running right out can damage the motor.  We bit our our nails for another 30km.  At Wycheproof we were relieved and elated to find the local independent operator had managed to hook up two generators to the pumps, and the fuel was flowing. We later worked out that we had got down to only 3L of fuel in the tank!

Further up the highway we stopped to stretch our legs at the old railway town of Ouyen.  Over the railway overbridge we discovered the quiet old main street.  The silent old Royal Hotel still had its original exterior, art deco foyer, old notices for the upstairs guests, ladies' bar and leadlights - it would be a good movie location, and I wonder how many old pubs around the country are in the same preserved condition. Soon we arrived in Mildura, where we chose the Buronga caravan park on the NSW side of the border.  We were given a prime spot on the riverside, despite not having booked ahead, which was nice!

After settling in, we rode our bikes over the bridge (on the footpath, no bike lane!) into town.  We were keen to visit the Grand Hotel, where many years ago Robert and I had enjoyed staying en route to South Australia, and where we had experienced a fabulous degustation dinner (my first!) at Stefano de Pieri's ground breaking restaurant. This time we settled for wine at the bistro.  Today's gourmet find: our bar snack was Almonds and Olives - the almonds were activated and the salty mix was served in warm oil - very more-ish!

Our park neighbours were Jane and Bill from Ballarat, also bike riders.  They told us to mention them to their nephew who runs the bike shop cafe in Melrose.  What a coincidence, Jeff D had already recommended the coffee at this cafe!

Day 2 - Friday 16 Sep
Filling up before leaving Mildura (being now very aware of fuel levels), we headed westwards. At Banrock Station winery, where the owners have successfully restored large areas damaged by poor agricultural practices and are actively conserving native plants, animals and birds, we greatly enjoyed walking the Wetlands Boardwalk trail.  The Murray River levels were high as a result of the rains, the scrub was green and the birdlife was fantastic.  Sadly the lunch afterwards let us down this time, with  pretty average service.

We could easily pass through Cadell so I contacted Eileen to see if she was at home.  Unfortunately she had to go to work but she invited us to drop in anyway and pick up some of her oranges.  Testing Google Maps navigation to its limits, we finally found her solid old country house.  What a lovely peaceful place to live. And today's gourmet find: the home-grown Riverland oranges were awesome.

Taking the Cadell ferry across the Murray was nerve-wracking, when we discovered that it has very steep descent and ascent roads.  Wanda is long and low, and our bikerack extends her length to 8m.  We "grounded" twice on the crossing, so now we are hoping that the bikerack didn't get damaged (this has happened to us before).

Down we go!
We were ready to stop for the night near the famous historic town of Burra.  Unfortunately the caravan park was full (perhaps, there are mixed online reviews from camp users).  So we just had a walk around, admiring the old buildings, and bought supplies including saltbush-fed lamb sausages.

 Plan B - we headed for the town of Melrose underneath Mt Remarkable to join Marilyn and Mick who were already happily camped there.  That was a lovely drive through old country towns and villages in various stages of decline and re-energising, and we also passed several large windfarms along the way.  Arriving in the dark at Melrose caravan park, it was good to be placed "one door up" from Marilyn and Mick, who were perched at their roaring campfire.  We caught up on news and met their new friends, park neighbours Tony and Toni Morgan from Perth, WA.

Day 3 - Saturday 17 Sep
Next morning, our neighbour kindly pointed out our very flat rear tyre.  After breakfast it was a "quick" call to the RACT, and a local guy came to change the wheel for us.  It looked like the tyre had failed seriously and there were also several cracks in the tread.  We packed up quickly and drove immediately to Port Augusta to hopefully have a new set of wheels fitted before everyone shut down for the weekend.  No time to check out Melrose's bike cafe or the nice looking shops. I noticed that the town of Wilmington looked pretty as we passed through, it seemed to have some bike paths. In Port Augusta, the bloke at Under Car Port Augusta was very helpful, replacing all four wheels for us straight away.  The only downside was having lunch at Hungry Jacks while we waited (sad in so many ways).

Back on the road, with Wanda loving her new wheels, we drove northeast through the picturesque Pichi Richi valley to Quorn caravan park, to rejoin Marilyn and Mick.  After setting up we took a short ride around the well preserved historic town (many period movies have been filmed here) before the rain started again.

We purchased some locally made quandong relish from the little art gallery, which turned out to be quite yummy.

Day 4 - Sunday 18 Sep
This sunny morning (at last!) we joined Mick and Marilyn on the Pichi Richi historic steam train trip.  New friends Tony and Toni Morgan made up our group, and we met other travellers John and Trish on the train. It was good to support this local steam train venture, kept afloat by the efforts of many enthusiastic volunteers.  Engine No.22 was driven by Justin, and our amusing cabin conductor was very young and enthusiastic.  There was a lunch stop at Woolshed Flat, but there were long queues for the pies and pasties, so we focussed on watching the engines shunt around in preparation for the return trip.

One of the carefully restored carriages

Engine No.22
Tony, Toni, Mick, Marilyn, Di

When we arrived hungry back in Quorn, we had lunch at the Quorn Cafe, which has a hippie style menu and the food was tasty.   Later on I did our first laundry load, in the park's well equipped laundry.  I recommend this pretty little caravan park, where the managers have a strong interest in conservation and promote their local area very well.

It's a subversive plot (of garlic)

Day 5 - Monday  19 Sep
Today we broke camp, enjoying a morning coffee at Emily's Cafe in Quorn.  This evocative old general store and drapery has been lovingly preserved, together with its original fittings like the front display windows, the timber display cabinets and shelves lining the walls, and the mechanical canister relay system from the shopfloor to the office. This was the heritage find of the day.
We stopped to walk in the sun at the Powell Gardens, where keen volunteers are collecting and displaying local native plants.


Our first taste of the agricultural history of the Flinders Ranges was old Kanyaka Station, a pioneer sheep station now in ruins, but once a small village of stone farm houses and outbuildings.

In the country town of Hawker we enjoyed our art find of the day: painter Jeff Morgan's Panoramas, 360 degree representations of Wilpena Pound, these were fantastic.  We picked up some more quandong goodies - this time fruit leathers.

Gourmet picnic on a little hill approaching the Ranges

A couple of days ago we had tried to book into Wilpena Pound caravan park, but they were totally booked out.  This is the peak season here.  So we chose Rawnsley Park Station caravan park, which is just outside the Pound.

We couldn't get two powered sites, so we put Wanda on a rough bush site.  It was hilly in the bush camp area, and all pretty damp.  After we parked we realised we were actually on a walking path (signage was pretty poor!) but our view was great, looking straight at Rawnsley Bluff, so we stayed put.  Around about here we also realised that mobile phone (and hence mobile internet) reception was going to be hard to find in the Ranges.

We visited Marilyn and Mick by bike, and we all drove into Wilpena Pound to have a look around.  They must have a mobile phone tower in here, as we suddenly enjoyed great mobile phone reception, and curiously Dad rang just while we were there (he must be psychic).  On the way back to camp we stopped on Station Hill lookout for Robert to take some photos, Marilyn providing yummy snacks.

We ate dinner together at Rawnsley Park's Woolshed Restaurant.  Sadly, we weren't impressed with the quality, service or value. But afterwards Robert took some great photos of the night sky, once again from Station Hill.

Day 6 - Tuesday 20 Sep
A very wet day, so unfortunately we couldn't do the Rawnsley Bluff walk as we had planned. Instead, Robert and I braved the weather and instead did the shorter and easier Clem Smith walk up and around the hill behind our camp spot. It was a pretty walk, with many spring flowers out.  The views to the south would have been great if it had been clear. It was strange to come across several skeletons of wallabies in a rock cave right next to the track. Back at Wanda, we then had to dry out all those clothes, so we settled in for the day.  I read Lionel Shriver 's So Much For That, and Robert worked on his photos.  Marilyn invited us round to a barbecue dinner at the camp barbecue behind their van.  This was fun, despite the rain and the cold. 

Day 7 - Wednesday 21 Sep
This morning the weather was clearing, but our camp neighbours told us that the road to our next destination Parachilna is now closed because of the floods!   We had been hoping to visit the restaurant there, famous for its bush tucker menu.  The notice at the camp office confirmed that it was among several roads which were closed, but we headed north to see what we could find.  At Huck Lookout we enjoyed great views back towards Wilpena Pound (and good phone reception).

A couple of stops on the road north:

Adnyamathanha Art Site, near Dingly Dell bush camp

Adnyamathanha Art Site

Looking at the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China
At the historic mining town of Blinman, enjoying the dry weather, we skipped the tour of the mine and instead invested in today's gourmet find: the famous Blinman Miner's Pasties.  We ate ours on the road to Angorichina, discovering they are delicious, with a sweet surprise at the end (stewed apple and a light sugar coating, which is probably so that you don't eat the wrong end first!).
The road from Blinman to Parachilna is dirt, with several creek crossings. Although officially closed there were no road signs up to that effect and we made it easily through several fords to the camping ground at Angorichina.   Here Dave the park operator, a friendly but no frills guy, advised that the creek crossings onwards to Parachilna were currently impassable.  As Marilyn and Mick had not arrived yet, we went for a walk part way along the pretty Blinman River Walk - one of South Australia's Great Walks, we discovered.  The water levels in the river were still too high to cross the creek.

With the campground almost deserted, we four sat around our fire on the cold night and enjoyed our own party.  I enjoyed a short bike ride down the road to Parachilna Gorge to see how deep the crossing is there - yes it was way too deep for Wanda to get across.  A number of 4WD bush campers were waiting patiently beside the creek for the water levels to go down a little.

Day 8 - Thurs 
A beautiful warm sunny day, at last!  Robert and I walked the Blinman River trail, finding the water level had already dropped significantly.

Blinman River Walk
This was a lovely walk, a highlight of our trip. Beautiful, preserved by its remoteness no doubt.

See the trees on the top that tilt perpendicular to the tilted rock?

 Four hours' walking was enough for us, although we didn't quite make it to the Second Pool.  Marilyn and Mick took a drive to Wilpena Pound and other sights. Later on, we joined in a Star Gazer event in the carpark, with an enthusiastic local astronomer named Fraser. We saw the rings of Saturn, Mars, a nebula, etc through his large lens telescope, as well as learning more about the Southern Cross and star signs such as Scorpio and Libra. Fascinating, and two hours slipped away fast, despite the cold.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Moulting Lagoon, Swanwick, September 2015

Last weekend we had tried to make this trip, but found that for some reason Wanda's car battery was flat.  So instead we had had a quiet weekend at home while the battery charged! This weekend there was no stopping us.  We set off on Saturday morning and enjoyed a warm scenic drive up the East Coast.

At Orford we stopped for our gourmet ploughman's lunch at Raspin's Beach.  The previous campground here has been closed and some excellent conservation work has been done on the foreshore to protect the birds and marine life.  A pleasant unsealed walking/cycling trail has been built from Raspin's Beach through Orford and round to Spring Bay.

Raspin's Beach

We stopped to visit Spiky Bridge for the first time in many years.  It is an amazing structure, still very solid.
Spiky Bridge

We also visited Spiky Beach, just across the highway from the bridge.  This is a lovely pristine little beach with great views over to Freycinet.


For overnight camping we chose the Moulting Lagoon Game Reserve Campground, on the River and Rocks Road just before the turnoff to Swanwick.  This is a pleasant free campsite, with (as it is still the off season) plenty of room with grassed and under tree sites to choose from.

Just over the sand dune is Moulting Lagoon, a conservation area where the shooting of ducks in that season is still permitted (hence the name "Game Reserve"). When we walked onto the wide beachin the twilight we were amazed to see thousands (millions?) of tiny red and blue crabs coming out of their holes and scuttling towards the waterline.

Robert was pleased to try out our new travelling barbecue, table and chairs, and also tested out our house battery charger (for luck).

Everything passed with flying colours.

On the Sunday we made our way up past Bicheno to Apsley Gorge for a short walk - which turned into a long walk.  Read more about that on our Walk a Month blog.