Category Archives: History

Trip 3:Sunday, September 10

Leisurely morning–not up until 8:00. Because it was my last meal in their home, at least for this trip, Nikki and Richard created a really splendid breakfast and served it out on the terrace, so we could take advantage of the lovely weather. Then it was time to pack. Richard loaded my bag in the car, and we were off to Adelaide. Richard and Nikki had a few things they wanted to do in town, but Richard also had a couple of things he wanted me to experienced, things I had missed on previous visits to Adelaide. I happily left the day’s plans to him.

We did a bit of shopping along the pedestrian mall section of Rundle Street, where cafés and eateries appear to outnumber boutiques. No one really wanted to rush around, so after Nikki bought a few things she needed, we just ordered tea, settled at an empty table, just talked for a while. After having their carefully made plans go so terribly wrong, Nikki and Richard had been fairly stressed, but today, they were unwinding at last. Also, with Richard no longer in his outback guide role, he could relax. The conversation was both stimulating and light-hearted–and it would make it that much harder to leave.

Artwork on Rundle Street


But Richard still had those two things he wanted me to experience, and it was several hours before we had to be at the airport. First stop was the Adelaide O-Bahn, a “guided busway.” Buses pull onto the O-Bahn, and then, like a train, they are guided by the tracks. This takes buses out of city traffic, as cars can’t go on the tracks. No stop lights or competing traffic. No holding up cars when the bus stops. Nifty.

On the O-Bahn


We took a bus for the 12-kilometer/7.5-mile ride up the Torrens Gorge. Transit was smooth, swift, and safe, and the surroundings were beautifully landscaped. The bus simply pulls off when it reaches one of the stops along the route, and then pulls back on. Really brilliant concept. However, since our purpose was just using the O-Bahn, we didn’t disembark; we simply returned to our starting point.

For lunch, we enjoyed Indian food and more excellent conversation. Then we headed over to Victoria Square. I had seen the Glenelg Tram on my first visit, but just witnessed it stopping here at the square. This time, we would ride it. The tram is a classic electric tram—the last one in Adelaide. The interior is old fashioned and handsome, with abundant brass and wood and leather trim.

Glenelg Tram


The tram runs the 15 kilometers/9.3 miles from Adelaide city center to the Victorian-era, beachside town of Glenelg. The tram carried us through a trendy part of town into old suburbs, then to vintage rural areas to the seaside in a few minutes. But no time to linger in Glenelg. We had to return to Adelaide, get the car, and head for the airport.

As we drove out of the city, I wondered why I felt so much less like I was in Australia here than I did out bush. I love Australian cities, and Adelaide is a delightful place. But it’s the wild places that cling to my heart. Maybe it’s because cities are so much a part of “real life” that they don’t offer me the sense of escape that the outback does. I do realize I couldn’t live in the wilderness, but I do love the rugged beauty–and being truly “unplugged.” That said, I was quite happy with the things we’d done today.

Nikki and Richard came into the airport with me, and I bought coffee and tea, and we sat and chatted until it was time for me to head out to the boarding area. I left them hoping I’d see them again, and maybe even have new adventures. I feel blessed to have such friends.

The flight was bumpy but otherwise uneventful. It was raining as we landed in Melbourne. Judy and Geoff were waiting for me at the airport. They look great; semi-retirement clearly suits them.

They had gotten a new Land Rover since my last visit, though they assured me the one I knew was still at the house, reserved for hauling supplies for the horses and garden. We wound through Melbourne’s suburbs and out and up into the Dandenong Mountains, arriving at their lovely mountainside ranch at roughly 10:30 p.m.

The three of us enjoyed a cup of tea and talked about what we’ll do this week. Then I headed off to their delightful guestroom with its regally high brass bed. It’s good to be here again.

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September 9, Part 2

The weather was beautiful, the sky was clear, and it was, again, a lovely drive. Galahs, eagles, corellas, crows, ruins, flowering gum trees, mistletoe, sheep, horses, an ostrich farm. Always something to see.

Arriving in Quorn, we spent some time admiring the handsome, antique steam train that would take us on our tour. There is something evocative about its appearance and even more so about the sounds—the hiss of the steam brakes, the chuff, chuff, chuff of the engine. This is an important train-preservation location, so most of the people here are real enthusiasts—and those running the operations, from engineers to conductors to ticket sellers, are all volunteers.

The train was full, so they put us in the guard’s van, the car in which guards and break men traveled, in order to have a good view of any problems that might occur on the train. The open half-doors on both sides actually gave us a better view than the windows in the passenger cars.

And we were off on a brilliant one-hour ride to Woolshed Flat that took us through fields of wildflowers and among rolling hills.

The conductor said that, if I’d seen the movie Gallipoli (I have), I might recognize some of the countryside. I already knew from my last trip that Quorn, especially its train station, had appeared in Gallipoli, as well as numerous other Australian films, but learned that Pichi Richi Pass and parts of the Flinders Ranges also appeared in the movie.

We stopped in Woolshed Flat for tea and scones, then reboarded the train for the return trip to Quorn. (Different seats this time, so different view from and of the train.)

And then it was time to head for home. However, Richard took us by back roads, rather than the highway—more inland, and more scenic. Saw a few new places and some familiar from previous trips, and loved it all. Wilmington, Melrose (still lovely and charming, with old, well-kept buildings and massive river red gums), Murray Town, Wirrabara, Stone Hut, Laura (boyhood home of C.J. Dennis), and Gladstone—the point at which, at the beginning of our trip, we had turned toward Port Pirie. Charming old railway town, with wonderful Victorian hotels and train station. Through Georgetown, not stopping this time, retracing the beginning of our little trip.

We enjoyed an amazing moonrise—full moon hanging, huge and yellow, on the horizon.

Into Clare just before 7:00 p.m. We stopped for dinner at Bentley’s Bistro, in the wonderful, old, 1865 Bentley Hotel. Enjoyed our meal, but didn’t linger, as we still were an hour and a half away from the Barossa Valley.

Pulled into Richard and Nikki’s driveway after 9:00 and quickly unpacked the ute. Then we relaxed for a while, chatting, and looking at books about Australia, until we could stay awake no longer.

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Trip 3:Friday, September 8, Part 1

We’ve decided to stay where we are, since it’s a nice little cabin and quite near the Flinders Ranges. But first things first. After a hearty breakfast, we jumped in the ute, took our damaged trailer to the repair shop, and spent a couple of hours immersed in insurance forms (though I was just there for moral support—Nikki and Richard did all the work). But that out of the way, we headed for the mountains.

Approaching the Flinders Ranges

Road into Flinders Ranges


On the far side of Pichi Richi Pass, with stopped in Quorn, to buy train tickets for tomorrow—because Pichi Richi is not just the name of the pass, it’s also the name of the railway that was built from Port Augusta northward. The Pichi Richi Railway, opened in 1879, was originally intended to stretch all the way to Darwin, though that never happened. However, it did make it to Alice Springs by 1929, and it became an important route, especially during World War II. Service on this line ended in 1957, but that was not the end of the railway. Local train enthusiasts formed the Pichi Richi Preservation Society and, since 1974, the rails have carried historic steam trains filled with visitors to the area. (I wondered if Pichi Richi Pass was named before or after the train reached Alice Springs, where Heavitree Gap, the break in the mountains that gives access from the south to the Alice, is also called Pitchi Richi, with the added “t.” It was explained to me on my first trip that Pitchi Richi means “break in the range,” which is certainly also appropriate for Pichi Richi Pass, so perhaps it was geology rather than the connection that led to the similarity.)

Quorn Railway Station


We drove across the Willochra Plain, passing the Kanyaka ruins, which we visited on my list trip. Showing nothing of the harshness that led to the ruins, the plain today was very green, with orange, yellow, purple, and white wildflowers running riot over the rolling terrain. Birds were everywhere, not just here but throughout the day: galahs, corellas, kites, eagles, kestrels, magpies, Port Lincoln parrots, and more.

We stopped briefly in Hawker, where Richard was greeted warmly by friends from his days as a guide in this area. The roadhouse at the center of town had a display of souvenirs and photos from the making nearby of the film “The Lighthorsemen.” One of Richard’s friends pointed out the locals who had bit parts in the movie—all much younger in the photos than they are now, as they movie was made a while ago. But it was a remarkable bit of history, and I have no doubt taking part in reproducing it would be a memory not readily given up. (If you have any interest in the history behind the movie, as well as a clip of the key battle, I posted about it after mentioning a monument to the Light Horse that I had seen in Western Australia. You can see it here.)

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Trip 3:Thursday, September 7, Part 1

We were up just before dawn and began packing up bits of camp. The sunrise was glorious, and the light spilling over the astonishingly lovely bushland was magic.

Gawler Wildflowers


Our orphan lived through the night. Today, we’ll try (among other tasks) to find him a new home. We headed back along the dusty, red miles of beautiful wilderness, not stopping until we got to Iron Knob. Short break, mostly to buy beverages, and then on again, and back on to the Eyre Highway.

The knob of iron that gives Iron Knob its name


Skippy slept in my lap for most of the drive, only poking his head out of his pillowcase-pouch occasionally to look around or to suck on my fingers, hoping for milk. He is a heartbreakingly beautiful creature, with big, brown eyes and a coat like silk. His huge ears swivel independently, as he tries to pick up a familiar noise, and he shivers occasionally, no doubt because nothing is familiar.

First order of business in Port Augusta was getting the tow hitch on the ute repaired, so we could pull something again. Richard then arranged rental of a larger trailer, one on which we could load the totaled trailer we’d left out busy. Then we headed for the local vet Nikki knew, to drop off “our baby.” Skippy is so adorable, the vet’s staff fell in love with him—and they immediately called to make arrangements for him at a nearby animal reserve. One thing that amused me was saying cans of milk on the shelf for various forms of local wildlife, including wombat milk and kangaroo milk. Nice to know that they are equipped for emergencies like this.

Then back across town, to pick up the rented trailer. Port Augusta is a very utilitarian town, the “Crossroads of Australia,” where highways and trans-continental train tracks all converge, connecting in some cases with the busy harbor. As a result, there are lots of unattractive warehouses and work buildings—and charming, handsome, Victorian-era hotels. The area is pale and dusty, but flanked by beautiful Spencer Gulf and the Flinders Ranges.

Spencer Gulf


Port Augusta offers lovely old houses and dozens of service stations. Magnificent old gum trees and flowering bushes suggested to me that earlier settlers might have thought it a beautiful spot, and in its heyday, as a busy port, it would have been fairly wealthy, as well. Now, it’s a kind of tacky, ugly spot with some pretty bits in a magnificent location. But the residential areas are nice, and the people here are remarkably friendly.

And whatever else can be said about it, Port Augusta had everything we needed, including a good place for lunch. We were directed to a carry-out place that offered spit roasted chicken, salads, fish, gyros, and chips/fries. We got chicken and salads to share, and had a bit of a picnic nearby.

After lunch, with the new, larger trailer hooked up to the ute, we headed back into the wilderness, to retrieve our gear.

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Trip 3:Wednesday, September 6 Part 1

Up at 7:00, had breakfast, and got a tour of Nikki and Richard’s wonderful garden. (The hedges around the front gate are rosemary, so the place is fabulously fragrant.) Then we packed the ute (an Aussie pick-up/utility vehicle), hitched up the camping trailer, and headed out bush again. Richard’s years as a tour bus driver and outback guide were about to be put to good use.

We drove out of charming Nuriootpa, through delightful Greenock, among the rolling hills and spring-green fields of the Barossa Valley. Grazing sheep, vineyards full of awakening vines, and flocks of galahs alternated with small towns and large wineries.

Brief stop in Kapunda, where I photographed the town’s centennial statue of a miner. Before even bigger deposits were discovered in Burra, this was an important copper mining area.

Then on the road to Clare, rolling through a countryside that might be English but for the gum trees. Into Gilbert Valley, where large patches were brilliant yellow with canola flowers.

Into Auburn, birthplace of poet C.J. Dennis, author of The Sentimental Bloke. I’m a fan, so I was pleased. If you’re interested in knowing more about Dennis and his charming verse, I posted about the poet last year: C.J. Dennis post.

As we continued through the Clare Valley, we were surrounded by vineyards, but then we drove into a grain-growing region—one of the best in the world, Richard told me. Their specialty is malting barley that is so highly regarded it is even exported to Germany.

Before long, we could see the lower Flinders Ranges in the distance, across the miles of undulating, green farm land. We pulled into Georgetown, a classic little old town with buildings of field stone, with iron lace and wooden verandas much in evidence. We past the old railway hotel, a feature of most of these old towns, and stopped at the charming 1912 General Store. The interior of the store was as iconically rural Australian as the exterior. Here, we enjoyed a lunch of excellent meat pies with sauce and locally produced ginger beer.

Then on the road again, heading toward Port Pirie, across the hills, then swinging north, with the lower Flinders to our right and Spencer Gulf to our distant left. Yellow, gold, and purple flowers lined the road.

We joined Highway 1 and continued toward Port Augusta. We stopped briefly to watch stumpy-tailed lizards crossing the road. Samphire flats stretched toward the water. (Samphire is an edible succulent plant, sometimes called sea asparagus, pickleweed, or sea beans, that grows on some shorelines, marshy areas, and mud flats.)

The country not directly adjacent to the water was drier than that we had left behind. The mountains got closer and higher. Glorious flowering bushes surrounded us. We got closer to Spencer Gulf as got nearer to Port Augusta.

Not surprising, of course, but it’s quite a bit colder here than it was at the top of the continent. However, as we drive farther north, the clouds are clearing and the bright sun is warming things up a bit. Fortunately, Nikki was able to lend me some warm clothes for camping out in colder weather.

And into Port Augusta. Just a short stop, to buy groceries for our stay out bush—and to stretch our legs after the long drive. After buying food, we headed across the street to the grog shop, to buy some Strongbow cider. (I had learned to love Strongbow during my first trip to Australia–well before it was available in the U.S.) Then we were off again, heading for the Gawler Ranges.

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September 4, Part 2

After lunch, we did a little more browsing among the shops along Carnarvon Street. I bought a lovely little, locally collected seashell: a Cypraea cylindrica, which is indigenous to this stretch of coastline. Then we caught the 3:30 bus to Cable Beach.

Cable Beach is a long (22 kilometers), beautiful stretch of white sand bordered by red cliffs, graced with purple-flowered vines and palm trees, and dotted with eroded black rocks. The beach gets its name from the trans-oceanic telegraph cable that was strung from Australia to Java in 1889, allowing Australia to then communicate with the world more quickly than sending a message by ship.

We walked and observed and photographed. When Belinda and Athena perched on rocks to rest, I continued on my own. I picked up bits of coral and tiny shells, photographed a hermit crab and the sand balls surrounding the burrows of sand crabs. (The sand balls are created by the crabs, who roll up and rubbish after eating and eject it from their burrows.)

As sunset approached, a couple of strings of camels were led down onto the beach. Riding a camel along the beach at sunset is one of the “things to do” in Broome, and sunset-lit camels appear on a high percentage of the souvenirs in town. I photographed the camels and then rejoined Athena and Belinda, who had been joined by Mim, Hazel, Shirl, Graham, Leslie, and Don from our recently completed tour. We exchanged notes on what we’d seen and what we would be doing in Broome, then said good-bye again.

Athena, Belinda, and I climbed a nearby hill to await the disappearance of the sun. By 5:30, the huge, golden orb was well on its way towards the water. There were not a lot of clouds, so the sunset was not quite as stunning as in some photos we’ve seen, but it certainly seemed far larger than usual, perhaps attributable to our proximity to the equator.

Once the sun had set, we caught a taxi back to the hotel. I did a quick load of laundry, hung the wet clothes all over my room to dry, changed clothes, and rejoined Athena and Belinda for a quick taxi ride back to Chinatown. We stopped at a fish and chips shop with a surprisingly impressive menu (salmon, snapper, shark, squid), but we just bought chips (fries). Then the three of us headed for Sun Pictures, “The Oldest Picture Garden in the World.” (Are there others?) By picture, they mean movies. They would have been showing silent films back when this place was built in 1913. The façade would lead a passerby to believe Sun Pictures was a relatively normal theater. But behind that façade, the roof only extends for a few feet, to cover the ticket office and a bit of wooden lattice work, and then ends. The “theater” is a broad, green yard framed by palm trees, completely open to the sky. Rows of deck chairs are lined up in front of the large outdoor screen. It’s quite wonderful. The movie was actually incidental to the experience. The heat of the day faded into what seemed cool in comparison. The air was fragrant from all the flowers. Stars were splashed brilliantly across the sky overhead. Absolutely delightful. The place was packed, with locals far outnumbering tourists. Great fun. Highly recommended.

We caught a taxi back to the hotel and said a final farewell. I stayed up another hour, ironing my clothes and organizing my luggage. But by 11:30, I was too tired to do any more, so I went to bed. (It was not just the fifteen days of camping that have worn me out; I’m still hurting a fair bit. Definitely think I broke a rib or two back in Kununurra.)

Anyway, it was a fine last day to this part of the adventure. And tomorrow, onward.

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Trip 3:Monday, September 4, Part 1

Up at sunrise. A moment’s excitement upon discovering a tarantula in the loo. There was a grasshopper, as well, but that was less daunting.

Headed alone to the beach for as long a walk as I could manage. I had until 9 a.m. at my leisure, but the tour was scheduled to end at 10, and we still had to drive to town. But that gave me a couple of hours to enjoy my surroundings. I was joined by wading birds, an egret, and sea eagles. Mud hoppers skipped across the mud. (Also known as mud skippers, these are fish that can actually breathe air.) Snails emerged from their shells and explored for food. Red rocks, black rocks, gray mud, blue water. Beautiful morning.

Mud Hopper

Layered Rock

Snails, large and small

I lingered on the beach till the last possible moment, then headed back to camp, to climb into the 4WD one last time.

Most of the gang was dropped off at the posh Mangrove Resort, but Athena, Belinda, and I continued on to the more modest, less expensive, but still very nice Tropicana. The yard was filled with flowers, particularly the wildly fragrant frangipani, so the place smelled heavenly.

We allowed ourselves half an hour for settling in and showering, and then the three of us met up and set off to see the sights. Our first stop was at the nearby Broome Historical Museum. It was a wonderful little museum, filled with relics, photos, and documents from Broome’s earliest settlement to the glory days of pearling through the devastation of World War II (Broome was bombed by the Japanese), and up to the present. There were artifacts from all the many peoples who have inhabited (and do still) the region: Aborigines, Europeans, Japanese, Malay, Indonesians. Delightful place, and astonishing history.

Leaving the museum, we walked on the road bordering the mangroves and beach. We continued to be amazed by the brilliance of the turquoise water and stopped frequently to photograph it.

We visited an art gallery and an upscale jewelry store (this stretch of coastline is famous for its huge, exceptionally white pearls, and they’re worth seeing even if they are too costly to consider), then continued toward Chinatown. The gum trees along the road were in bloom and were wonderfully fragrant. Ibises wandered on the court house lawn, and kites (the birds) soared overhead. We all commented that this was a good place to ease ourselves back into civilization, as there was enough of the exotic to make us feel that this was still an adventure.

Chinatown was a real shock. When I first visited, it was a quiet, sleepy area, even though it’s the center of town. The broad streets then were covered in red dust but otherwise featureless. There were no sidewalks. The cars parked somewhat randomly down the center of the street tended to be rusting, practical, and sporting protective bars to minimize damage when encountering kangaroos or water buffalo. The stores were very basic tin-roofed structures that were generally Chinese owned. Now, though still open and amiable, the area is very upscale, with nothing more than a couple of Chinese restaurants to give validity to the name “Chinatown.” Carnarvon Street now has sidewalks and a parkway covered with grass and dotted with palm trees. The street is lined with posh boutiques, souvenir shops, jewelry stores, health food stores, nail salons, tour operators, and delis serving quiche and mocha lattés. Wow! What a disappointment. I had so looked forward to the funky, rustic, multi-lingual Broome that I had been telling Belinda and Athena about before we arrived.

That said, at least it was a convenient disappointment. We browsed through a few shops, where both Belinda and Athena found gifts to buy for folks back home. Then we popped into the comfortable (air conditioned!!) and apparently popular Bloom’s Gourmet Deli, where I had iced coffee and the mixed salad plate (Greek, pasta, and potato). Athena asked if any of us had any sense of being in a remote corner of the Australian Outback. No. Well, at least not until we went to the restroom, which is a corrugated iron shack at the far side of the hot, dusty backyard.

One thing on Carnarvon Street that had not changed from my previous trip was Sun Pictures. I photographed it in the daylight, and we agreed to return this evening.

(For more on the changes in Broome, check out my earlier post on Broome Old And New. There, you can see contrasting photos of what I saw during my different visits.)

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