Tag Archives: Gawler Ranges

September 7, Part 2

The beauty of this land is such that, even though we had just traversed this section of road a few hours earlier, I was still absolutely delighted by it. The graceful, curving trees, the green and blue brush, the wild flowers, the red dirt, the mountains a purple ripple rising in the distance captivated me. Among the trees, there were a few gums and acacias, but the majority of the trees were the casuarinas known as black oaks. As we drove by one tree, a wedge-tailed eagle lifted into the air. The sky was remarkable, filled with towering cloud formations.

Going back over the site of our mishap, it was easy for Richard to see more clearly exactly what happened. Sheared off bolts were scattered about the place, and our swerves, as Richard fought for control, were carved into the soft edge of the road.

Skid marks


We began loading gear into the new trailer and discovered that the rental place had forgotten to include the handle for the winch. (Needed the winch to pull the damaged trailer up onto the bed of the new, larger trailer.) Richard tried to use a wrench to work it, with Nikki and me pushing the wrecked trailer. Finally, Richard (who is, fortunately, a pretty big guy) just grabbed the front of the trailer, and the three of us used brute force to get the camping trailer loaded. We then loaded everything else, covered it with a big tarp, and headed back down the bumpy road toward Port Augusta.

It’s a good thing Richard is such a good driver. We discovered next that the brakes on the rental trailer don’t work, so, without care, it could easily go out of control and flip the much lighter ute. At one point, a gust of wind hit the trailer, making it swing wildly, which started the ute swerving from side to side, almost off the road, but Richard managed to regain control.

We stopped a couple of times to stretch our legs and enjoy the scenery, but mostly we just kept going, trying to beat darkness and/or the approaching rain from catching us out. Late afternoon turned into a beautiful evening, with miles of purple mountains outlined along the horizon before us and dramatic storm clouds prowling up from behind. But we did make it safely back to Port Augusta.

Clouds closing in


What a day!

We checked into the Fauna Holiday Park. We’ve rented a “cabin,” sort of a large trailer on a permanent site. It has a kitchen, TV, two bedrooms, and a shower. We were glad to be able to clean up after all the dragging and loading.

We went shopping at a Woolworth’s on a street lined with lovely Victorian buildings. The store offered a huge selection of wonderful, often exotic food items (I’m guessing a benefit of being a crossroads). We got goodies for the evening, and returned to our cabin to settle in for the evening. Richard is making a stir fry for our dinner, and Nikki has set out delights for “happy hour.”

Tomorrow, we’ll drop off the camping trailer to be repaired, then plan what we’ll do for the next two days. But that’s tomorrow. Right now, the pâté with port, the prawn dip, and a cold glass of Strongbow cider are calling me.

Nice end to an unusual day.

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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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September 6, Part 2

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.

Oops.

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.

Assessing the damace


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.

Keeping Skippy warm


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.

Not a bad place to camp


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.

Classic, indeed.

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