Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Port Augusta to Adelaide

We spent one night outside Port Augusta where we slept in swags. This was the last time I slept in a swag. I liked sleeping outdoors while going down the center, there were few if any lights around us and the stars were amazingly clear. It never got too cold either so it was usually more comfortable to sleep out doors than in one of the huts. However on the last morning the flies showed up and by 6am had driven all of us out of our swags and indoors. I'd been warned that flies would be a problem in the center but in general they were a nuisance but only a mild one. Here down in South Australia they were a plague so everyone who had a fly net was using them for the first time on the trip. I'd picked one up in Alice Springs so I was one of the lucky ones.

The day was spent in the Flinders Range National Park. Compared to the Red Centre the Flinders Range was a little dull. The Flinders are Australias largest mountain range, but unfortunately I found Australian mountains were not very impressive to look at. What makes them impressive is their age, Australia has the oldest landscape in the world and the Flinders are around 800 million years old. Thats pretty impressive but it also means that the mountains have been worn down by wind and rain over the millions of years and now lack the grandeur one would expect from great mountain ranges like the Alps or the Himalayas. We went into the Wilpena Pound which did some walks. The guide told us that the Pound had once been used to as a huge sheep pen where 140,000 sheep were grazed. Unfortunately in a severe drought 100,000 died so the family running the Pound as a farm had left. Now it's a national park and full of kangaroos and emus.

After the Pound we went for an off road drive in the bus, We were on dirt roads going through the mountains in a full two wheel drive minibus and towing a trailer full of bags. Perhaps we should have paid attention to the signs warning that vehicles towing trailers should not attempt the roads. Things were going well until that is the trailer fell off. I was actually asleep when this happened and woke up to see everyone jumping off the bus and heading back down the road. The pin that held the hitch to the bus had fallen out and after searching for a hour we couldn't find it. The guide improvised a fix using a bolt from else where on the bus and we drove, carefully, to the town of Parachilna. “Town” is a little grand name for the place since it the permanent population of 5, but it has a pub, a camp site and backpacker hostel and a train station so it's pretty much a city by Australian outback and rural Ireland standards. In fact this is the train station that was in the film Rabbit Proof Fence.

The train stations second claim to fame, and probably one of the reasons the Oz Bus stops here is what the locals claim is “the worlds longest front drawn train” passes through it twice a day. I'd take that claim with a grain of salt since I cant find it confirmed anywhere else, in fact one site simply lists is as one of the longest in South Australia, but its still an impressive train. It passes through town in the morning fully loaded with coal from Leigh Creek heading to the power station in Stirling North and then returns empty at about 10pm. We drank in the pub and walked around a photography and painting exhibition in rooms behind the bar until 10pm. When someone spotted the trains light far off in the distance we headed out to watch it go by. At the last minute we had the idea that we should put 5 cent coins down to flatten. After the train passed by we managed to recover a couple of coins but since it was dark we couldn't find most of them. The next morning as everyone was eating breakfast or having showers the train passed by again, without any notice so most of us missed it.

After breakfast we drove to the town of Hawker where we stopped for breakfast and the guide got the pin in for the trailer replaced. Next it was off to the Mount Remarkable National Park and more walks, this time through a series of gorges. They make for some nice photographs if you can get ones with no other walkers in them. After the walks we headed to Clare Valley driving through several nice old towns, at least old by Australian terms. We stopped in Taylors winery for a wine tasting to round off the trip with some free wine and the chance to buy some wine that didn't come in a cardboard box. After that we drove on to Adelaide. That was the end of my trip through the center and while 4 others were continuing on with me in two days to Melbourne it was the end of the trip for most of the people on the bus. That was sad since we had spent 6 days together. The bus from Alice Springs to Adelaide was the best bus I'd been on, the most fun and the best mix of people with everyone getting on really well. 6 days was a daunting amount of time to spend on a bus at the start of the trip but I'm really glad I did the it.

Port Augutst to Adelaide: 26-27 November
More photos on Flickr

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