On the 17th February, Graeme and I packed up our old Toyota with all our camping gear and headed down south to attend the Maryvale bull sale at Kapunda, South Australia. Sister in law Val Bradshaw and her husband John and past traveling companions Ian and Ros Lewis joined us and what a great time we had. It's amazing what 6 oldies can get up to when they set their mind to it!
The highlights of our trip were many but of course the one that always takes 1st place is camping under the stars. Nothing beats that incredible panorama of stars, especially far from civilization and its accompanying light pollution. It is the one single thing I miss most on returning to my bed at home.
The journey was exceedingly dry and although we crossed many creeks in the Flinders ranges, only one actually contained water. Comprised of vast stretches of wheat country, devastating fires had reduced many thousands of hectares and several homes to ash prior to Christmas and the wind blew up a gigantic dust storm on one occasion. We passed a wind farm so the wind must be a regular visitor but then, there was nothing to hold the soil.
Another highlight was camping at Marrabel, the home of Curio, one of Australia's most famous bucking horses. The photo of her being ridden for eight seconds for the first time in her career by Alan Woods was often used by RM Williams in their catalogues and a statue in her honour (and Alan Woods') stands at the entrance to the Marrabel rodeo ground.
Kapunda was the home of Sir Sydney Kidman. With next to no education, Kidman left home with a one-eyed horse aged 13 and ended up one of Australia's most renowned cattle barons. The Kidman company owns Helen Springs Station in the Northern Territory along with numerous others of course, but are in the throes of divesting their interests. We are ever hopeful they do not sell out to overs seas interests. One of Kidman's houses was donated to the school in Kapunda, a magnificent piece of work.
Being so close to Adelaide, we decided to venture in to Prospect and check out the RM Williams store to which we used to send our orders for jeans and other clothing via snail mail and have it all posted back to us the same way. It contained a museum of RM Williams, another famous Australian who has done much for the bush and it was easy to meander through all the memorabilia placed there. Adelaide seems to be a great city to drive in. Basically in squares, if one misses a turn they just turn left and left and left again and come out where they were supposed to go in (which means one should probably do two blocks before making the second left turn) However, in spite of being quite easy to traverse the sheer volume of traffic had us hightailing it out faster than a cat up a tree with buckshot up it's bum!
There is no doubt that one may be able run, but one can't hide. We managed to bump into the ex wife of one of Graeme's second cousins, a friend of one of Megan's brothers in law and our neighbours' son Troy as well as people who used to live at Hivesville just 20 minutes drive from Tingoora. It pays to be on one's best behaviour when traveling apparently!
The Murray River was awesome and we were so starved for the sight of water when we reached it, we sat for an hour just watching the ferry take cars and trucks back and forth across it. Its fertile banks grow miles of grape vines and other produce and it's hard to believe that not much more than a kilometer from the river it becomes a barren salt bush dust bowl.
Australia is full of amazing people not least of which are the tourists. They do the strangest things, either out of lack of knowledge of the vastness and heat of this country or because they are intrepid adventurers wanting to make their mark in this world, even if it is as a grease spot on the bitumen! We camped at a caravan park in Euston on the Murray river and there met 60 year old Swiss man Leo Villeger. Leo farms cherries, strawberries and some other berry on his farm in Switzerland for 8 months of the year and then loads himself and his bicycle on a plane and pedals through what ever country happens to tickle his fancy at the time. He landed in Darwin, pedaled down to Ayers rock (Uluru) and then west to the southern region of West Australia and then back to where he now was. We could have listened to his amazing stories all night and the following day, we passed him on the road out, making his way to Sydney to catch his plane back to his homeland. Amazingly, not very long afterwards, we came across two backpackers on ROLLER SKATES and another one pushing a pram with all his camping equipment in it. I think we'll stick to the old Bagman's hotel!
And now we're planning the next foray into the wilderness, possibly along the dinosaur trail in Central Queensland, with a bit of fossicking in between and potentially winding up at the Daintree. Who knows? The world is our oyster at the moment! I apologise that the captions to the photos are so dark. I have no idea how to rectify that or even if. You'll just have to peer closely!