Leaving the Flinders ranges behind us we head back out through Hawker and a lookout also called Castle rock (haven’t we been here before). This is much smaller than the one in the Porongurups. We also investigate an old bush cemetry and ruined buildings from some abandoned pioneer settlements.
In Hawker we pause to view the Panorama, a local artist has done a 360deg painting of the Flinders ranges along with some other stunning works of art which unusually and refreshingly they allowed us to photograph. We did ask permission and they said that’s fine as it’s free advertising for them which of course it is. It is well worth a visit, the Panorama is the main draw but some of the other large scale canvases are equally impressive. A mere photo can not do them justice but we hope these give some impression of their splendour. The last shot is the whole thing stiched together, it will look very small and thin but zoom in or hit display as full screen for a look at the whole thing. It took 13 landscape shots to get it all in.
Back on the road we reached Mt Remarkable and Alligator gorge by late afternoon, we had hoped to camp nearby but the local garage owner informs us we can’t, instead she points us to Hancock’s lookout and after approx 8km on dirt we arrive at a stunning vista overlooking the Spencer gulf with the town of Whyalla and the lighthouse at point lowly that we camped on 7th Feb. The great thing here is we get fantastic photos at both sunset and sunrise. See the locals know all the best spots. This was one of our favourite free camp spots, the view was just stunning ! but the spider that I disturbed may me jump.
Retracing our steps we ride into Alligator gorge (shouldn’t that be crocodile …) a once stunning ride in marred by MASSIVE speed dips (huge half pipes buried in the road to slow you down) we nearly knocked ourselves out on the first one doing 30km/h so we learned to crawl over the rest. It was actually easier on the way out as it was a steep uphill climb.
The fire rangers see us on the way in and come over for a chat while we change into our shorts and sandals, it’s high fire season now so only the 2hr canyon walk is open. As we walk down into the valley bottom the colours are magnificently lit by the morning sun. The steep sides shear up above us in brilliant oranges and ochres and the gum trees cling to the sides of the gorge in every crack and fissure.
Back in the car park we have lunch before heading over Horrocks pass to the other side of the park where we intend to camp, pulling into the camp ground a couple of fire rangers come over for a look and we’re soon joined by the other rangers we met earlier in the morning at Alligator gorge. It turns out they patrol both sides and Russell recognises us from earlier, we get talking and one thing leads to another and he invites us back to stay at his farm just down the road. We gratefully accept and arrange to meet when he gets off work meanwhile we have time to walk Davey’s gully a pleasant 1hr stroll amongst the many Euro’s (another variety of Kangaroo) still resting in the shade, we also disturb a small goanna who rushes up the nearest tree allowing us to photo it.
Russell lives nearby and we enjoy a pleasant evening with him and his wife Joy and their grandson Rani. We are treated to Whiting one of Russell’s favourite fishes and it is one of the nicest flavoured fishes we have tasted and blissfully bone free. Our talk soon turns to the topic of travelling as both Russell and Joy have travelled themselves. We enjoy their company immensely and it is hard to leave the next day but we have already made plans to catch up with someone else that we have delayed already. In the morning we pass Rani on the way out waiting for his school bus and wave enthusiastically as we realise the whole family has assembled to watch us pass by.
We are soon travelling through many interesting towns and stop in Gladstone famous for having three gauges of railway tracks; narrow, standard and wide. We explore the area and get talking to a man who bought the old station and is currently renovating it. It lay derelict for years and he described how they literally just walked away when it closed not even bothering to shut the doors. There was a old weighbridge still connected to some of the different gauges of track. Incredibly different Australian states used three different gauges when they built their networks as there was no standardisation. New South Wales used European standard gauge,Victoria and South Australia opted for Broad gauge and Tasmania, Queensland, Western Australia and parts of South Australia thought they would go with narrow gauge just to be different. A passenger travelling from Perth to Brisbane in 1917 had to change train six times solely due to the differences in gauge. Even more incredibly it wasn’t until 1995 that you could travel between Brisbane and Perth via Sydney Melbourne and Adelaide on a standard gauge track. Three different gauges still exist to this day but now at least the major cities are linked by one common gauge. Also in town was the old butter factory which had a fairly checkered history originally being built as a assembly hall later used as roller skating rink before being purchased in 1922 for a butter factory and was in use right up to 1965. After standing vacant it was sold privately in 1974 saving it from demolition. Sold again in 1987 it is now used by the community as a paper and cardboard recycling depot.
We set off to visit the gaol which the signs say is open seven days a week, except it seems today when its shut ? especially frustrating as we left the bike in town and walked about a km in the heat of the day.
We console ourselves with a local ice cream made in the neighbouring town of Laura yummy.
A local directed us to some old WWII fuel storage tanks now located within the municipal tip opposite what was the old drive in movie theatre so we ride out for a look. We chat to the gatekeeper of the tip who not only lets us wander around but gives us a few interesting stories about its history as-well. Apparently theses were built during the war as emergency reserves of fuel and crude oil lest Australia had to make a tactical withdrawal and abandon the north to the Japanese.The holes have been cut in the sides to use them as storage originally they were filled by pipes from above and controlled from the command bunker.
That is how close it got at one point ! If it hadn’t been for the battle of midway destroying the Japanese supply chain they probably would have invaded and the tactical decision at the time was that the north was undefendable with the population they had and a tactical scorched earth style retreat was all they could do.
Back on the highway we finally arrive at Gawler and are welcomed by Trish and her daughter Sandy who make us feel right at home. Trish is married to Peter (Jeff’s brother from Port Lincoln) whom we met when he got home from work. They kindly say we can use their place as a base to explore the surrounding area and make us very welcome.Left to right is Peter, Trish, Sandie and daughter Katie, Charmain, Andrew, Karen and in the pram little Josh.
Next up – Gawler, wine tours and helicopters woohoo !.