Port Augusta to Curtin Springs
16-26 April, 2001

16/4/2001 (Mon) Outside Port Augusta to Wilpena Pound

The drive to Wilpena Pound was to be filled with a few outings en route. Our first stop happened to be timed well. We managed to catch the Pichi Richi steam train as it was leaving Quorn. We waited patiently, watching the platform attendent to give the signal. Then a roaring whistle. And the steam blew out from under the wheels with such power. Another whistle - and off it went. It was rather impressive.

Quorn was such a cute town - where many movies had been made - My Shiralee, Sunday Too Far Away...

Our next couple of stops were pretty average. Firstly the caves with rather average aboriginal paintings. The walk was difficult and the paintings were probably touched up and were very basic. The next stop was to take a walk to a lookout - which was nothing outstanding and a climbing track - that wasn't marked well. The kids decided they were sick of lookouts and scenery.... so we headed straight to Wilpena Pound. The afternoon light highlighted the red colours of the Flinders and gave us a picturesque drive.

We decided to stay at the caravan park at the pound so we could have a camp fire and walk into the pound the next morning. We had a camp fire and singing that night.

17/4/2001 (Tue) Wilpena Pound to Port Augusta

The walk into the pound was about 2 hours. The river floor was covered with the most wonderful river gums of ancient shapes. We also saw some wildlife which always excites Zoe although the fact that Jake got closer to an Emu didn't excite her. The old homestead in the pound was in great condition and the climb to lookout was heavy going for the unfit. The walk was pretty and the kids were definitely sick of lookouts.



Another Echidna

Looking out to the Wilpena Pound rim

The family had a meeting - and decided we'd head to the sea - for more fishing and swimming. So we would foresake other scenic opportunities of the Flinders for the flat, country style beach of PA.

The drive back gave us a good look at the Finders - and a couple of hours later, Zoe a Jake were fishing from a pier in PA. We ended up staying near the old pier area. PA is an intersting town - where east meets west, and north meets south. The road trains are fantastic. We could see the traffic over the bridge.

Our first experience in PA was Zoe finding a couple of aboriginal girls sniffing something from plastic bags. We ended up being in the area where aborigines used to hang.

18/4/2001 (Wed) Port Augusta

After a brief fish, we were off to the power station - apparently the most up to date in Australia. That was very interesting - and the tour guide also worked for a local fish farm (yellow king fish) and told us about that. The farm uses the warmed water from the power station. Back to fishing! stocking up, and terrific sunset and another sleepover.

View from the Port Augusta Power Station

Fishing from the historic jetty of Port Augusta

We had an interesting experience with the aborigines there. I gave a lady a light and took photos of her family, including her mum and arranged to send them to her when they were developed. Her mum had a domestic across the road, threw some dirt/rock at her man and broke a window of some poor innocent resident. This was all in the main street and no-one does anything. She had been drinking. Others we had spoken to that day had been drinking. Back at the jetty, the domestic continued, loudly - with a few involved. It was like street drama. And really sad.

We were asked to move by security because the road was used by the aboriginal "brethren" in the community - basically we could end up with some unpredictable behaviour. So we moved.

19/4/2001 (Thursday) Port Augusta to Roxby Downs

This was our big day - we were heading off into the desert. I did schooling with Jake in the back and the front pasangers told us when to look. The scenery changed: salt pans, mesas, the Ghan, wedge tails feeding on road kill. Jake's comment was that he didn't think the desert would have so much to see. We arrived at Woomera in time for lunch. We walked around the outdoor exhibits - old bombers, rocket launchers, anti-aircraft guns, satelite launchers... Very interesting.

Woomera - historic space and war exhibits



After lunch we headed off to Roxby Downs. This was an oasis - a well appointed mining town. It had a swimming complex - with similar pool games as the Homebush pool in Sydney. So, Steve enjoyed the pool with the kids and I enjoyed a shower.

20/4/2001 (Friday) Andamooka

Tried to book a tour of the huge Olympic Dam mine - the reason d'etre of Roxby - but no vacancies for a week.

What a colossal venture this is by WMC. It is the world's 3rd biggest copper, 2nd biggest uranium and very large gold & silver mine. Only the uranium is not completely refined on site & it is taken to 99.6% pure anway. All production goes to Port Adelaide by truck. Copper goes perched on the corners of the cement trucks which bring the back fill for the mines. Incidentally the huge power station gets rid of a lot of its coal ash by selling it to be mixed with the cement for Roxby.The coal comes from huge open-cut mines at Leigh Creek not far from Roxby.

We drove thru red gibber desert to the middle of nowhere - Andamooka. Dry, dusty & excellent. We noodled till we dropped. Jake found the biggest opal piece in the carpark outside the postoffice after we finished noodling (he never stops collecting). We toured some fifty year old dugouts with an ancient German lady who moved to Andamooka in the sixties. Also took us down a mine inside a house.

Noodling (fossicking on the mullock heaps)

Looking inside the dugouts

Inside an Opal Mine

21/4/2001 (Saturday) Andamooka back to Roxby

More time noodling to the delight of the kids (though Robbie is difficult to distract as well). Just before we left we met the postmaster returning from his open cut opal mine at White Dam (the newest claim area). He had no luck but when he was returning he did some idle noodling & found three huge matrix opals - happy lad.

Returned to Roxby for a HOT SHOWER. As usual met some delightful people in the van park. The friendliness of the campers is in stark contrast to those in Europe. Although it is the Aussies here who are the friendly ones.

Went to the annual Rock'n'roll bash on the oval. I had cut my heel on the door of the van when it slammed on me so I couldn't dance. Zoe embarrassed Robbie no end by dragging her protesting to dance in front of the 60's band - most were watchers.

22/4/2001 (Sunday) To bush camp before Cooper Pedy

Drove thru spectacular Red dirt & salt pan scenery overlaid with kids school work before stopping near the road for an overnight bush camp with the mandatory mulga campfire

Camping in the bush en route to Cooper Pedy

23-4/4/2001 (Monday/Tuesday) Coober Pedy

Another fascinating town - an upmarket & touristy version of Andamooka. Again the kids noodled enthusiastically with some success with the adults draggd along in their slipstreams. We again visited underground mines & houses followed by hot showers.

Mines with Blowers

One of our tour places: through old mine, museum and dugout living

25/4/2001 (Wednesday/Thursday) Bush camps north along Stuart Hway

Great country. Uneventful except when we stopped overnight in a wadi. It rained. Only lightly but enough to scare me into moving back next to the highway. The fuel is moved in 'quads' - movers with 4 trailers totalling 56 metres long & a million decibals loud. Sleeping next to the way is not an option we found.

Bush camp after Cooper Pedy

Northern Territory beckons



Chess at the Kulgera pub

26/4/2001 (Friday) To Curtin Springs

Stopped for a shower & camel ride (don't they always go together?). Mark, the cameleteer, trekked with 5 camels across Oz from near Monkey Mia to Byron Bay. He and his camels are very close. We got to ride on one of the trek camels (Rajah Redman).

The wild camels which now number over 300,000 are not the only successful Arab import here. Baffle grass came here as mattress stuffing with the 'Afghans'. It is now everywhere. The cattle love it & fatten beautifully; the camels love it & grow so obese that a light breeze topples them; the horses love it & develop an embarrasing & fatal disease called 'big head' caused by calcium deficiency; the big reds nobody knows nor cares about as they are now in record numbers..

Sunset Camel Ride




Sunset Camel Ride - famous red sand dunes

Jake with a baby camel (Mira) at Curtin Springs