Heading North …

From Waikerie it was a northward trip through the picturesque town of Burra, passing south of the Flinders Ranges then north with the hills on our right. We were traveling in the footsteps of the explorers Eyre and Stuart.

Eyre had been thwarted to the east by the mud of the salt lake, Lake Torrens. He ascended a peak at the top of the range and could see more salt lake to the west and the north. He was out of water. He turned back with the belief a horseshoe shaped salt lake blocked travel to the north.

It was John McDouall Stuart from 1858 onwards that found a way between the lakes culminating after six attempts in the first return trip north south across the continent. He could always find a drink, unfortunately when in town that was alcoholic.

At Lyndhurst you have a choice of adventures, the Strzelecki Track runs off to the right Marree and Farina, our next waypoint, are straight ahead. We pulled into the Farina camp site as the light faded. Its a ghost town presently getting a face lift. One of the old bakeries is up and running and the bread is beautiful.

I have written about Farina previously <HERE>.

A run out in the surrounding country the next day produced the first casualty of the trip. The aerial for the CB radio snapped about 100m into the first corrugations we had encountered. Bugger.

Day one …

Central Goldfields, Victoria to Wakerie, South Australia – 615km.

A long day to get a good step over the familiar. Travelling north west through the sheep-wheat-painted silo country of Victoria, pausing at Patchewollock to admire the art work and allow Fifi McGee to stretch her legs.

Next step the border, quarantine and new time zone. The quarantine station was unmanned which made for a speedy transition.

Onto Waikerie and the newly minted silo art, a double sided affair …

Three silos together make for a wavy canvas that is hard for the artist to get a great result from.

The campsite we chose is at Holder Bend on the banks of the mighty Murray. Quite picturesque but very close to the Sturt Highway. The dawn chorus was a competition between a Darter and a choir of Mac trucks.


Chaff cutter to the stars …

I was complaining about the weather yesterday and today is no better. But last night the sky cleared and gave us a look at the stars. I put on my warmest clothes and sallied forth. Clear skies have been a rarity just recently. This was a good opportunity to complete a project that was conceived months ago.

The machine is a chaff cutter. It was built by Buncle of North Melbourne and after a busy life preparing horse feed is now retired.

John Buncle was a Scot who arrived in Melbourne in 1852 aged about 30. This was at the height of the gold rush. He was a skilled draftsman and engineer and had no trouble finding employment. After about a year as foreman at Langlands foundry he started his own business and became famous in the field of agricultural machinery.

He died in 1889 by which time he’d made a sufficient mark in Melbourne society to warrant an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Today’s diagnosis …

On the rare occasions that I see my doctor I go armed with a self diagnosis. Given my background I have enormous scope to work with. My GP is a very tolerant and lovely man. He reassures me in mellifluous tones and diverts attention to real problems like my cholesterol level.

The weather today in the Victorian Goldfields is bitter. A biting wind is roaring in from the south, the temperature is going to top out at a mere 11 degrees (Oh, and that’s centigrade – I’m sure my Canadian readers are full of sympathy) and the next shower will be coming in horizontally. Today’s self misdiagnosis is SAD.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, here’s a link <SAD> so that you can suffer from it too should you wish. My self prescribed cure is a road trip to somewhere warm. Kimberleys here I come …

Since this is the southern hemisphere we can take advantage of the coriolis effect to reduce fuel consumption by traveling anticlockwise. The start and finish point is in the lower right hand corner.

The camper trailer had a little work last week, the car goes for a service tomorrow. Over the next six weeks they will travel about 11,000km (~6,800miles). I’ll be taking in the Oodnadatta Track, passing Lake Eyre currently holding water, crossing the Tanami Desert and the Nullabor.

I shall experience climate change. Observations from the local airport – Maryborough reveal that average June temperatures range from a minimum of to a maximum of 13°C. In Broome the averages are 15° to 29°C. I once heard a guy on the radio telling us that a climate change of 4° would bring photosynthesis to a halt. I shall carefully check the vegetation for any hint of surviving chlorophyll. The return journey takes in Marble Bar which boasts that it is the hottest town in Australia. Here I’ll be able to cook on the bonnet of the car. A fried egg takes only a couple of minutes by which time the flies have eaten half of it. Or so they say.

Gayle’s ready.

There’s still a little shopping to do – corks for the hat etc. Departure is four days away.


I’ll scratch yer eyes out …


I recently heard a woman on the radio telling the presenter that kangaroos are peaceful animals and that she had learnt a great deal from them. By and large I agree that they are peaceful but they do fight and there are plenty of records of attacks on humans.

There have been some studies on kangaroo fighting, a couple of easily accessible ones can be found <HERE> and <HERE>. If you’re into lurid accounts of attacks on humans you can find a catalogue of them <HERE>. I mean, kangaroos kill people don’t they? Well yes but almost exclusively by way of motor vehicle accidents (and even in those cases there’s not always a real kangaroo involved). A hunter in New South Wales was apparently the only human killed in combat when he tried to rescue his dogs back in 1936.

Kangaroos will fight each other for resources such as food, water or access to females in oestrus. These tend to be serious engagements. Much more commonly the fights are between youngish males with no obvious prize at stake and end without significant harm to either. Mothers will also “fight” with young male offspring perhaps by way of training them for future bouts.

Males have impressive arm and chest musculature, an example of sexual selection. Skippy was clearly a female.

Scratching, pushing, punching and downward raking kicks seem to do little harm through thick fur. People of course are not protected in that way. When you watch a fight it looks as though eyes and gonads are the structures most likely to be injured.

Barmah …

I visit Barmah National Park from time to time largely because it’s the one spot in Victoria where the Superb Parrot turns up. I’d love to add it to my state list and one day I might.

The Sandridge track runs from the park entrance to River Road and the mighty Murray. It’s about 15km of dirt road and a good test of the camper trailer which passed with flying colours coping well with the corrugations and some muddy patches. And the muddy patches on the way in were nothing compared to the muddy patches on the way out after a night of steady downpour. It really was the first sharp bite of winter, there were blizzards and snow down to 700 metres in the high country.

I had a more realistic target as well as the elusive parrot which was to photograph the beautiful Azure Kingfisher. I was able to camp right on the river bank at a spot where I have seen adults feeding a brood of youngsters on a previous trip. The light was actually quite good during the afternoon so it was just a game of patience.

Good things soon happened. This Jacky Winter presented itself for a nice natural portrait. While the next one came even closer, posing on the UHF radio aerial.

A White-bellied Sea Eagle cruised up the river …

A Kangaroo checked me out.

A Scarlet Robin took a bath not far off

And yes, the Azure Kingfisher played nicely.


The Terricks …

The lovely Gayle and I are soon to embark on a road trip and I used the weekend to iron out any problems with the camper trailer which has recently undergone some modifications. Terrick Terrick National Park is a couple of hours drive from home. It’s 65km north of Bendigo, 225km north-west of Melbourne.

The park protects four quite heavily wooded blocks, the two eastern blocks include some impressive granite outcrops while the western blocks are home to a rapidly recovering forest of Callitris pines. The surrounding grasslands were lightly grazed sheep country in the past, the land management favoured the rare and endangered Plains Wanderer. Indeed it was their Victorian stronghold.  A patchwork of old farms has been added to the park for its protection. Despite this the odd one still turns up occasionally.

The campsite is at the foot of Mt Terrick Terrick which is probably the most visited feature of the park. In its great wisdom Parks Vic put it on a slope that enjoys a flash flood every time it rains, this in a park where 75% of the terrain is flat. They do provide a composting toilet which is very pleasant after cleaning which I think happens sometime in June. Do remember to take your own toilet paper.

The weather forecast was dire but it was fine when I arrived and I explored the granite boulders with camera in hand.

But before sunset the cloud rolled in rapidly and a rainy night followed. The following morning was misty and somewhat atmospheric …

Some good birds turn up in the Terricks but on this occasion I encountered nothing out of the ordinary. Still, Galahs and Hooded Robins are always good to see.

Then it was a case of packing a wet tent and heading for another spot – the Barmah National Park.