Sunday, August 23, 2009

Slow Trip from White Cliffs

No flies on us in the Mutawinji National Park!

From Broken Hill we travelled up to Mutawintji National Park. After we turned off the Silver City Highway, we were on a dirt road for the rest of the trip. At the park, we went on a walk along Homestead Creek and visited a large rock overhang decorated with Aboriginal art. We walked as far as where a waterfall flows after heavy rain.
We continued on to White Cliffs and did not see another car during the 160 km trip but we did see lots of emus. The road deteriorated - it was marginal for a regular vehicle. Just before we arrived at our accommodation, one tyre gave out. We were down to the steel belts and the low profile tyres just could not cope with the very rough road. After putting on the narrow spare, we found our accommodation.

We stayed at the underground motel, built into the hillside. Our room was dugout 17. After pre dinner drinks, we dined on the set menu with soup, roast lamb and apple crumble.
In the morning, we drove around the mine sites and visited an underground house and museum owned by “Mad Jock”. He lived up to his name! We also visited several opal mines selling their wares but did not end up with any White Cliffs opals to take home.
Our trip to Cobar was very slow and steady. We were on sealed road but travelled at a maximum speed of 80 kph. 400 km is a long way at 80 kph! We finally made it into Cobar in time to replace the rear tyres ready to travel on the next day.

Broken Hill, Silverton and Menindee Lakes

Burke and Wills stayed in this hotel in Menindee before setting off on their fatal journey of exploration.
The Mad Max movies were made in Silverton and here is the car!

During our time at Broken Hill, we marvelled at the wonderful buildings from the colonial days. These ranged from the grand public buildings and hotels to the simple miners’ cottages. The mine still dominates the town.
We visited Silverton, 25 km from Broken Hill, referred to as a ghost town, that once had thousands of residents. Now it has museums, including the former gaol and school. These were fascinating. It also has artists and galleries of the bush art school.
Menindee Lakes are dry! The huge lakes are no longer the refuge for waterbirds and a place for Broken Hill people to ski and sail. We followed the river road that ran along beside the Darling River and then drove out to the main weir that stores water for Broken Hill. Saw lots of emus but they are so common, we no longer stop to take photos!
Our visit to the Broken Hill Galleries included those of Jack Absalom, Pro Hart and Julie Hart where we made a purchase.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Flinders Ranges

On Friday we drove out to the Flinders Ranges. We first visited the town of Quorn, a fascinating place which was used as the site for several movies such as The Shiralee and Sunday Too Far Away.

Our next stop was the historic town of Hawker where the original Ghan used to pass through on its way to Maree. The trains no longer run and it is very small and quiet.

We finally arrived at Rawnley Park Station which runs sheep and tourists! We walked to Ferntree Falls which had no water but was very beautiful with interesting rock formations.

On Saturday we drove to Wilpena Pound and went on an amazing walk through the pound where wheat used to growand sheep once grazed. Now it is National Park. We visited the original homestead and walked up to the lookout. it was a steep climb but a great view.

A truly magical place.

Coffin Bay National Park

On our visit to the Yacht Club in Coffin Bay, it was suggested that the nearby National Park was an absolutely must see place so off we went.

Our first stop was Templetonia Lookout, named for the pea shaped red flowers that grow in the area and are currently in flower. Next we drove to Little Yangie Bay where we were entertained by several wrens that showed no fear, sat on the car, danced at our feet and admired themselves in the reflection on the car windows.

The highlight of our visit, however, was the sighting of several emus and chicks. The emus were very protective but we were thrilled when they crossed the road right in front of our car. We also saw the ‘coat of arms‘- an emu and a kangaroo standing next to each other.

Coffin Bay National Park is also the home of the white bellied sea eagle but unfortunately, we did not have a sighting.

Whale Watching

Last Tuesday we headed off from Ceduna to the Head of the Bight to see the whales. It was 300 km there and 300 km back so we were hoping for some amazing sights and we were not disappointed.

At the “Head of Bight” as it is known, the deep water comes right in to the cliff face and this is where the southern right whales come every year from May till August to calve. We saw at least forty whales, many with their small (compared to their mothers) babies. They were so close in to shore and the wooden boardwalk allowed us such a great view, we stood there and just marvelled.

Some of the whales had barnacles on their bodies which we could clearly see from where we were standing. The babies clung closely to their mothers. They stay in the area for several months and after calving, they stay very close to the cliffs.

The whale watching area is in Yalata Aboriginal land and we had reached the Nullarbor Plain before we turned down to the Bunda Cliffs to do our whale watching. It was a marvellous experience.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Lake Mungo

Standing on the Walls of China at Lake Mungo

We drove up to Lake Mungo after dropping our stuff at the homestead where we were staying. We followed a 63 km self drive tour around the lake mungo region and took in the sights. Lake Mungo is part of the willandra lakes world heritage area, one of the original three declared in Australia along with Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef.

We visited the Walls of China, a lunette of sandhills and clay that has been severely eroded. We walked through this most interesting area that includes fossils of dwarf hippos, giant wombats and kangaroos. This is also wher Mungo woman and Mungo man were discovered, possibly the most significant archaeological finds in Australia.

Other places included old homesteads and ground tanks, driving across the enormous lake beds, an old 1869 wool shed and fascinating vegetation.

Our accommodation was fascinating as we stayed in the shearers' shed on a working property. We had a mulga stump fire and fortified ourselves with sherry and port.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Along the Murray

This is the view right outside the cottage.

Our stay in a cottage on the Murray was delightful. Brimin Lodge is a working farm- but a rather unusual one. They breed lambs and Murray cod for the restaurant trade. We visited a number of the Rutherglen wineries and dined on Murray cod and chicken (Gail), washed down with fine local wines.

It is a birdwatchers’ paradise. We especially liked the finches and also saw possums and pademelon. Unfortunately we did not spot any of the local platypus.

We had a long drive on to Mildura, following the Murray Highway for about 600 km. We had an interesting break at Echuca, the fabulous old Murray port that still has a number of working paddle steamers, along with stops for morning tea and lunch plus another stop at a fruit quarantine bin. (We ate the oranges and threw the grapefruit.)

We spent the night at a quiet cabin a few km from the centre of Mildura, located at the main beach on the Murray. In the morning (Friday), we head up to Lake Mungo National Park and hope to post this before we leave as there is no mobile or email service there.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

From the Murrumbidgee to the Murray

We left Sydney early on Monday and travelled down to Griffith in the centre of the MIA. First thing we did was visit De Bortoli for a tasting. We were amazed at the number of wines that we recognised that we had not realized were produced by De Bortoli.

We had an interesting drive around the ridge overlooking Griffith including the area where a hermit had lived in a cave from the 1920s to 1952. We also saw the memorial to Donald McKay and drove past his original furniture shop which is still called McKay's.

Yesterday we drove on to Rutherglen and are staying in a cottage right on the banks of the Murray. Previously we had stayed on a houseboat on a billabong on the property but now the billabong is dry. Our cottage is very comfortable and there are frequent sightings of many Australian animals and birds in the area ranging from platypus to the black swans that swam by this morning.

So far today we have visited Stanton and Killeen Winery and Campbell's Winery. The car was full when we arrived in Rutherglen. Now we have a few more dozen bottles to add to the load. We will need to drink any that we can't fit in tonight!

Each winery had its own cat. Stanton and Killeen had Trouble (its brother is Strife) and Campbell's had Muscat (their previous cat was Tokay).