Port Lincoln, Eyre Highway, and through Lincoln Gap to Iron Knob. Iron Knob was once a thriving iron-mining town. In the late 1800s, it was the first commercial iron ore mine in Australia. But the mines closed. Now, the town is popular with retirees, as the lack of industry means fairly inexpensive housing.
We had turned off Eyre Highway onto the rocky, red track that leads to the Gawler Ranges. Myalls (a type of acacia tree), a few sheep properties, and then into the wilderness. Nikki told me that this was one of the least traveled areas in Australia, and that we would be unlikely to see anyone else for a while now.
The rough, red road cut through a scrubby wilderness. It was strange but wonderful, with the ground cover changing every few miles: scrub, spinifex, grass and wildflowers, saltbush and blue bush, and widely spaced trees. This may not sound beautiful, but it was. There was something in the ruggedness and remoteness that appealed to me. Birds were abundant, too: galahs, emus, red finches.
Then there were what I thought were kangaroos, but I was told they were euros. Also known as wallaroos, euros are heavier and harrier than kangaroos. It’s spring, so many of them have joeys in their pouches.
Just witnessed one of the defensive maneuvers of euros–jump toward an approaching threat, to startle the possible enemy, and then run away. The problem is that a vehicle speeding down a dirt road doesn’t startle. The euro slammed into the trailer, breaking the hitch that connected it to the ute, so we had no control over the trailer. Richard immediately braked, and the trailer began to pass us, but the safety chain was still attached, so the trailer began to drag the ute around. Richard had a real fight on his hands, trying to regain control. (Nikki later told me that, because camping trailers are heavy, they can flip a car right over. It was only Richard’s years behind the wheel that kept that from happening.)
When we finally came to a stop, we shakily got out of the vehicle and surveyed the damage. The camping trailer, which was a fair distance away, was wrecked—caved in where the euro hit, plus the axel was bent. The contents of the trailer were strewn for about a mile behind us, and most everything that could break had broken. Fortunately, other than the tow hitch being broken, the ute is okay–and so are we. More adventure than we’d bargained for, but it made our decision as to where we should camp for the night pretty easy.
Being a veterinarian, Nikki’s first concern, after making sure we were okay, was to check on the euro. As she walked back to where the animal lay, I saw her go rigid. I was not far behind her, and I heard her say, “Oh, no.” Sadly, the euro was dead (Nikki said it was clearly very quick, as the euro still had grass in her mouth), but of greater concern to Nikki was that the euro had a joey in her pouch.
Nikki said she knows a vet in Port Augusta who cares for orphaned wildlife, so we’ll take the joey there tomorrow. But until then, we need to take care of him. Nikki wrapped him in a towel and stuck him in a pillowcase, so he’s snug and warm and feels sort of like he’s in a pouch—enough so that he stopped shaking. My first thought was of milk, but Nikki said cow’s milk would sicken the joey. We just needed to keep him hydrated. So we took turns dipping our little fingers in water and letting him suck the water off of them.
We cleared everything off the road, on the off chance that someone might drive by (they didn’t—that’s the downside of being in a remote wilderness that no one visits—if you need someone to come by, they don’t). Then, making the best of a difficult situation, we set up our camp in a clearing, started a fire, opened the cooler, and prepared a wonderful “mixed grill” of lamb chops, steak, and sausage. It’s a beautiful evening, with the nearly full moon flooding the bush with pale silvery light.
We’ll need to get an early start tomorrow, so we made it a relatively early night. We passed “Skippy” from person to person as we got ready for bed, so he would always have someone holding him. It was freezing, so this was as much to keep him warm as to keep him feeling secure. As the temperature kept dropping, I was grateful for the thermal garments Nikki had loaned me, as well as the sleeping bag and blankets
The evening was not what we had planned, but it was, as Richard says, “Classic”—the classic outback adventure, complete with an orphaned joey.