The Port and the Arid Lands Gardens.

Looking toward the Joy Baluch Bridge

Talk about “Back to the Future” as once again I made the journey out to the Port for the same reasons as last week. I was supposed to head out on

Big W. Department Store.

Tuesday but late Monday afternoon I received a telephone call from the Doctor Surgery reminding me I had an appointment on Tuesday afternoon. I probably could have still  gone to the Port and been back in time, but I decided to leave it until Wednesday. So, Wednesday morning I headed off to Port Augusta and the Bank.  My business at the bank was completed a lot quicker that I had anticipated so I was able to spent some time at Big W, then The Office Shop before heading to the Arid Lands Botanic Garden.  I bought three new native plants before heading off for a wander at the Lookout area. There are some really nice walking paths and they would be great to take Benji, but as I said, dogs are not allowed. Yes, I agree they could make a ruling that dogs have to be kept on a leash at all times but there will always be the drongo(s) that believe that rules don’t apply to them and put the native wildlife in danger. I have to say that the weather was lovely, but too warm to leave Benji in the car for any length of time. The Joy Baluch Bridge is the main crossing point of the Upper Spencer Gulf but there is another crossing a bit further up. This is Yorkeys Crossing and is supposed to be the route for heavy vehicles, which are reluctant to use it and instead use the main bridge. There was a pedestrian bridge but due to structural damage

Yorkeys Crossing Bridge

this was closed,  so pedestrians are forced to use a narrow pathway on the main bridge. The Federal MP has highlighted this and shown how close  the trucks come  to people using the narrow walkway, but nothing was ever done.  The reason drivers are reluctant to use Yorkeys Crossing is that it is a long detour and the road between the crossing and the main highway, is an unsealed, dirt road on either side, so for big vehicles it can present problems. It also puts added pressure on the main bridge, which, because it is now used by pedestrians, the speed limit is 40KPH over the bridge.  The Port Augusta Council have been asking for the State Government to seal the road, and repair the pedestrian crossing, but the previous  state government was more concerned with extending a motorway in Adelaide to get people home by cutting four minutes off the traveling time. We really hope the new government can do something about the problems around the state outside of Adelaide.

I spent much of the morning walking the trail towards Yorkeys Crossing and up to the top of the escarpment. I find the view quite pleasant with

Looking back towards the Shop and other buildings

the Flinders Ranges in the distance. Looking back towards the Gardens and the Shop area is quite interesting. Way beyond the hills in the distance  is part of the way home. and between where I am standing and where I am going there is nothing – no houses nor people – mind you, there’s no water either. Coming back down from the escarpment to the carpark I had a chat with some visitors from Germany. Driving back to the main road I stopped and pulled off road as best as I could so that I could get out and photograph a family of emu. In the early paragraph of this post I mentioned the problems with allowing dogs in the area – even on leash – because some people would believe the rules don’t apply to them – this was brought home to me as I was photographing  the Emu. For obvious reasons, the speed limit in and around the area is 40KPH with restrictions that the wildlife has right of way. As I was parked a white sedan came from the opposite direction and  passed me at about 60+, despite the fact that there were Emu in the area – rules didn’t apply to him.

Anyway, I have decided that I need a new camera. My Nikon is getting old and is really overdue for replacement. Think I might have to talk nicely to “She who must be Obeyed”.

Part of a family of Emu at the Arid Lands B.G.

 

Heatwave, Flowers and Eagles

When the temperature hits the mid to high 40c it very rarely lasts for more than two days – three tops. But even those two days are enough to do a lot of damage. The north of the State,

Wild flowers grasses and Emus
Flinders flowers

the Flinders Ranges and beyond change from arid lands into desert landscape. In the spring these areas are alive with grasses and wildflowers – the area becomes a sea of colour – wonderful to behold. People come from all over Australia and  beyond to photograph the Flinders  wildflowers. Yet, within a short space of time, spring changes into summer, the sun starts to bight and burns up the grasses and the wildflowers and the dry, brown desert land returns. We are, the driest area in the driest state of the driest continent.  We have one river, to the west of the state, the Murray and that’s being done to death slowly. All the lakes you see to the north and west of the state are all dry salt lakes – so big they even have world landspeed races and records on them. Water is pumped from the Murry some 300 miles away and without that much of South Australia would simply cease to exist. The Murry Pipeline is the umbilical cord of the north on which much of the settlement of the state  beyond Port Wakefield relies. If we have a really warm and prolonged summer we start to eat into the water reserves and we have to ration water. No watering of gardens is allowed except under certain conditions. However since we have a spendthrift government, we built a water desalination plant – a couple of $billion, but who’s counting – which was put

More dead than alive

into mothballs because  in the time it took to build – delays, cost blow-outs, over-runs, usual SA Govt. project- we had several wetter than usual winters and the catchment

dying plants

areas were all at capacity so water was no longer an issue. But despite all the precautions and the special Mandevilla Fertilizer, a day and a half of  46/47c  heat is enough to undo all the careful tendering that you may have done over the late winter and spring to little more than dead brown leaves. Both the  Frangipani didn’t fare all that much better. Two days undid all the work and expense of months. I came home at midnight from Adelaide, played with Benji, had a chat with Annabell then close to 1am went out and watered all the plants before going to bed, but by then the damage was probably already done and the Friday was even hotter. I had great hope for the Mandevilla but I think they have gone too far to be saved now. – Update – I have been told by the garden people not to dig up or pull out what appears to be dead plants. I should keep on tending to them because it is very likely that the extreme heat has killed and burned the surface shoots and leaves, but it is  more than possible that the plant itself is still alive and will respond to care, attention and watering. Ok I can do that and we’ll see what happens.

At the moment it’s too hot to go wandering so although I have been thinking about the Arid Lands Botanic Garden (ALBG)and getting native plants that probably would survive the heat in this area, I’ll leave  the 150 klm drive off for the moment. I think I have said before that dogs are banned at the ALBG – which is understandable given the nature of the gardens and the native  small reptiles  ( mainly harmless lizards)  that roam freely around the place.

Wedge-Tail Eagle ( Not my photograph)

Not sure if  I mentioned this before but my son had to have a meeting with the Environment /Wildlife Officer of the  Mine. A few days before, he was called out for a problem at one of the areas and was on his way to the mine. An Eagle, chasing prey, mistimed and miscalculated its attack and flew into the side mirror of Andrew’s Vehicle, killing the bird and smashing the side mirror. The report was sent by the company to the Environment Officer and although no blame was attached  to Andrew it was considered unfortunate in that the  Environment and Wildlife people had been running a program to re-introduce the Wedge-Tails (Eagles) back into the area. The damage to the vehicle and the replacement of the side mirror cost over $700. Sad but at the same time fortunate for Andrew that it was not a fully grown adult – these birds are BIG with a wingspan of up to 9 feet.

Swans, Beach and a Day Trip

There are now four pairs of Black Swans at the Wetlands

Up until fairly recently there were areas that were a sort of sanctuary – Benji went there and the WaWa stayed clear. One of these areas was my bed. Benji  curled himself up at the back of my legs and slept there. However, over the last week or so the WaWa has become my BFF and she now— gasp— sleeps with me. Thus my bed is no longer a Benji Sanctuary  and if he goes up on the bed she stands and barks at him.  Oddly enough, she is quite calm sleeping close to him at night –  although she is closer to me. She still walks quietly beside him when we go out walking in the morning and at night. I know it’s old hat but still no word about if or when Sooah is coming back and this Friday it will be a year since she left Kongsoon  (WaWa) with us.  It  could be months or it could be another year, or never, we just don’t know. However the WaWa is settling down and we can do a lot with her and the coffee ladies have sort of adopted her and when I

Just a little paddle in the water.

kept her in my room, they asked for her, so I let her out and they were happy with her running around them and letting them pet her . Everyone has noticed the difference in her this last while back.

For a while there was only one pair of black swans at the wetlands. Now there are four pair and we really do hope that we will get to see some little black swans in the not to distant future. Today at the beach much of the seagrass is back but there was more than enough clear sand to be able to  play in and we even got to go into the water for a bit, although Benji is not keen and I had to coax him. Next time we go down with the intention of going into the water, I’ll take some treats with me and see what we can do. Other than that it was a great afternoon and the dogs enjoyed playing and chasing in the sand.

The view toward Port Augusta
At Woolshed Flats off the Road.

Due to lack of  aged accommodation here one of the ladies from our church has been moved to Quorn – about 80 miles ( 130 klms)  away. One of her friends  wanted to go and see her before she went home to Adelaide tomorrow, so I decided to take her. Lovely day, good drive and a fun-filled conversation.It’s not something I can do every  few days or even every week, but I will encourage people to visit her as often as we can so that she does not get depressed by feeling isolated, particularly as she has no family here in Australia.  The drive from Stirling North to Quorn is not the easiest of drives for us “Townies” with the long winding country road through the Pichi Richi Pass, and the lower Flinders Ranges,  but it’s not too bad – bit tight in places, but not too bad. The lady we went to see was bright and cheerful and seems to have settled in fairly well. She has a room at the Quorn Country Hospital and she says she is well looked after and the staff are friendly and very nice. It is a typical, single level, country hospital. It was a good visit and the only  tears were when it was time for us to leave and make our way back home. When a bed is available here she will be moved back – but she understands that this could take a while. We did a bit of shopping in Port Augusta before heading back home.

Casablanca, Benji and a Road Trip.

The temperature over the last few days has started to climb a little and today (Wednesday) was 38c However it is not expected to get too hot for the next few days and  over the weekend. That being so, we might actually be able to get out.  Wherever we go out of town it is a long drive. I had thought of going to Quorn in the Flinders Ranges, which is about 120klm from here. In the other direction there is a drive to Cowell  which is about 110 klm and a direct road. The disadvantage  of Cowell is that there is really nothing to see on the drive down there, whereas the drive to Quorn means going through the Pichi Richi Pass and Woolshed Flats which are both interesting. However, we will not be going anywhere until this weather calms down.

The Royal Palace at Casablanca
The Royal Palace at Casablanca

My top three movies are: – 3. A man for All Seasons.  2. The Man who would be King. 1. Casablanca. As John was growing up he would sit on the couch with me and we would watch Casablanca together. Of course, as he got older he understood that Rick’s Cafe was  simply a studio set in Hollywood. However, in Casablanca, Morocco there is a Rick’s Cafe – opened in 2004 and based on the movie fame – and he was quite excited when the tour of Morocco included lunch at Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca. However, when they got there it was Ramadan, so no Rick’s. However the King of Morocco had decreed that during Ramadan all Muslim owned businesses must close but non-Muslim owned businesses may remain open with limited hours – so his tour group had lunch – at McDonalds. Fourteen thousand miles to have a Big Mac!!  He was not impressed, but we (Annabell
and I) unkindly thought it was hilarious.  They didn’t even go to Rick’s so there are no photographs. To say he was disappointed is an understatement but, he got over it and really enjoyed the tour of Morocco and the Tea Ceremony they went to. He also sent me a photograph which I showed to

Oh! is that Gibraltar?
Oh! is that Gibraltar?

Annabell. She said it was a good photograph of John. A few minutes later I showed her the photograph and she said it was a good photograph of John. A few minutes later I showed her the photograph and she was slightly irritated and said that she had said twice already that it was a good photograph of John. So I very gently asked “I wonder what that is over his right shoulder?”  “Oh – is that Gibraltar? ” “Yes dear, that’s Gibraltar”

We didn’t go for a picnic but we did go for a drive around the  area. We were away a couple of hours and I thought what’s not to like – Lovely (tad warm) day,  the car, me, my dog and Sinatra.

The weather forecast for next week looks interesting so we should be able to get out somewhere. This morning ( Saturday) I took the dog out for his morning walk and just about froze — gollleee – it was cold and the summer jacket I had on was a waste of time as the wind cut right through it –  one and three-quarter mile and  every foot of had me thinking  “I should have gone back to bed this morning”  I mean,  I get up and get dressed and out we go at 5:40am and the only time we don’t go out is if it’s raining. I look forward to coffee when I get back from our walk – he gets his treat I gets me coffee!

Iron Knob Mine
Iron Knob Mine

Being a nice afternoon I  decided to take Benji out for a bit of a drive. We drove out to Iron Knob a mining area about 55klm, north-west of here.  Once upon a time it was a thriving community of 3000 people  but those days are  gone and it has a population of less than 200.  The town – what’s left of it – is very run down. Most of the shops are closed, the school is closed, the pub is gone and the only Petrol (Gas) Station  is closed and overgrown with weeds. Its sister town – not too far away – Iron Baron – again a once thriving mining community has completely gone; there’s nothing left of that. Beyond Iron Knob there were several pastoral  areas, but our government seized them in compulsory purchase and made them  part of the extended army play-pen. When we set out I foolishly  thought that there would at least be one shop still open. The Inter-state Highway – National Highway 1 – passes across the top of the Eyre Peninsula and it passes the far end of Iron Knob and right on the corner, where the Iron Knob Road joins the National Highway, is a  Petrol (Gas) Station. It is a  service station,with  food and drinks and I always  thought was ideally placed to pick up trade from tourists, locals and trucks traveling the Inter-State.  I thought that at least would survive, but I was wrong and it’s an overgrown junk heap. I thought this was quite sad.

Adelaide, Flinders Ranges and the Man

Driving into Adelaide - what's not to love??
Driving into Adelaide – what’s not to love??
Just nice.
Just nice.

Heading down to Adelaide at the weekend. My son is taking his partner for some tests she has to have so they are driving down and I am going down with them. They will drop me off in the city and I’ll catch the coach home in the evening. I thought I would grab this last opportunity to do some Christmas shopping and see what I can get for Herself. Not too much for me – I’m easy to fix; a Bunnings Gift Card in an coloured envelope and I’m happy. This is not the scheduled trip that I spoke about – that has been cancelled – so this is the last until February. I have resigned from one of the State Committees and I  will not be going to the Assembly, so my runs to Adelaide will be considerably cut down. Between Assembly, Conference, Committee meetings, The Commission, Alan’s illness, Alan’s passing and Alan’s Funeral, the last year or so really took a lot out of me and I have no desire to repeat the exercise.

I’ve been trying to palm off The Man to my other son  :o) I said I would just keep a photograph because it will be cheaper than keeping him. He is well,  growing in strength and eating like a  horse. I can’t keep up with the amount he eats at the moment. I am forever filling his bowl with food and I still hand feed him his treat in the morning.    He has even been out on walks twice in the last week. He generally stays close to Chi but he does wander about until he finds his way back to her side.  I have to watch him like a hawk because he crosses in front of me at times and the idea of getting up close and personal with the roadway does not appeal to me.

My Filofax - Scanda Personal
My Filofax – Scanda Personal

I bought a friend a Pink Filofax for her birthday last year and she makes great use of it. So much so that she asked me to help her find an A4 Filofax for her study next year. Interesting because I have temporarily abandoned Filofax for a similar system but with a different maker – Van der Spek , a Dutch company , and unlike Filofax these binders ( planners/Organizers)  are hand made. It will be an interesting exercise and to be truthful I will not be surprised if I am back to my Filofax by Easter, but I will try to get used to the smaller A6 unit.

I read the interesting Road Trip by Uncle Spike and for me to travel on the kind of highway that he is using, I am looking at close to 1000 miles – Melbourne – Sydney – Canberra. Melbourne would be the closest at a mere 700 miles. Also the land around here is fairly flat, with a very small population – 350,000 in an area about 904,880 sq.klms  The Flinders Ranges is the largest Mountain Range in South Australia. It’s about 270 miles in length with the highest peak being St. Mary’s Peak at 3,780 feet. Have not been into the Flinders for ages. Must try and get up there for a couple of days before it gets too hot.

 

Heat, Fires and the RFDS

It’s 4:35am and I am sitting here hot and sticky. The temperature has been hovering around the 46c mark for the last few days and will continue for the next few days with a cool change coming in at the weekend. I was in bed at 11pm last night so I guess five hours or so in this heat is fairly good. I do not have an AC in my bedroom, only overhead fans – which I find are only really effective in moving the warm are around, not really cooling it. Still, it’s better than nothing. The Man finally crept out from under my bed at 10pm last night.  The  dry thunderstorm (no rain) sparked off a number of fires (200) in South Australia, one of which is only about 50 klm. east of the city. Water bombers have been brought over from  NSW and Victoria to assist. As the high temperatures continue the possibility for bushfires increases., but I have to say (although Chienne would not agree) the light show last night was quite spectacular.

This is not ours, but it gives you an example.
This is not ours, but it gives you an example.

I bought three Pencil Pines when I was in Adelaide, but because of the heat I have not planted them. They should be safe enough remaining in their pots under cover and well watered until I can get them out. Normally I would do it at the weekend once the cool change comes in, but this weekend I am busy with the Royal Flying Doctors and fundraising. On the subject of the RFDS, we are bringing a 10 meter simulator into town at the end of the month. It’s coming from Central Operations and we  will have it for four days, so we will make the best use of it we can. With 557 landings here in the last 12 months, I think many people would be interested to see what the inside of an RFDS aircraft looks like and what range of medical  equipment it carries. We can’t take an aircraft out of service, so the simulator is the next best thing.

There are still fires burning out of control across parts  of  South Australia as the temperature shows no signs of letting up at the moment. Some places further north have recorded  temperatures of 50c – and – would you believe – 11 incidents of  people leaving children in a car and 4 of a dog left in a car. True one of my dogs will be in a car today, but the Man will be with me and you may be certain that the AC is on at full. We will only be driving for about ten minutes – to the groomer – and a further ten minutes when I collect him.

When I was a boy I went camping, fishing and hiking in the Scottish Highlands with my Dad. After my Dad died, I went off hiking on my own and an kept up the fishing. No. 3 GF came hiking with me but we are talking about the late  1960s in Scotland, so camping was out and we stayed in B&B – separate rooms, of course and if I went in to see her, the room door had to remain open.  Even better – she liked Sinatra!! I get slightly amused with the term “relationships”because we never had “relationships” which seems to me to be a fairly modern term. You either had  Boyfriend or you had a Girlfriend – there was no relationship – or what moderns would consider a relationship. Yeah, but what about the 60s, Woodstock, Hippie Generation, Free Love and all that – yes certainly in America, possibly even to a small extent in England, but  in Presbyterian,  Conservative Scotland – I think not!?! After  herself and I were married we went back to the Highlands and the mountains for a few carefree years before the twin adventure dampeners  of mortgage and family.  After the first son was born we did spend some time in the North and my family looked after the child. When he was about four, we introduced him to Loch Earn. We even took him out to Rannoch Moor for a walk. Not really knowing much about Australia I assumed that I could go for long walks and to off fishing. The bulk of Australians fish from the Jetty and that really didn’t appeal to me. The nearest river was the Murray – about 100 miles away and the nearest trout fishing was in the Australian Grampians which are cold enough for trout. I didn’t get used to the flies and still have not, but I missed my highlands so at weekend for the first year or so we were here I very selfishly took off to the upper Flinders Ranges. It wasn’t too bad walking through the SA High Country because we seemed to be out of the way of flies. I don’t think I will ever get used to them.

Auctions, Munchies and Federal land grabs.

flinderflowers
Springtime in the Flinders

I have not done the concrete work yet. I have blocked the area off and it is only the one area where the  properties abut. The problem is that the fence was raised from the ground level up, whereas it should have  been buried two or three inches into the ground. However, I will attend to this shortly.  Tomorrow (Thursday) I do have to attend at auction at the Tregalana Homestead. The family have owned this property for the best part of a century, but when the Feds want something they have the power of a Compulsory Purchase Order to see that they get it.  Quite a few properties have been lost this way and by the time it’s all over the area under control of the military in this region will increase from 500 square kilometres to 2300 Square Kilometres. This is over and above the 127,000 square kilometres of the Woomera Testing and Exercise Range  further north – which is the largest testing base in the world.  Tergalana will close this week and all the house property and farm equipment will be up for auction tomorrow. The Royal Flying Doctor  had been asked to do the catering for those attending the auction. It’s quite disconcerting to realise that as you drive along the road everything , as far as you can see on either side, belongs  to the  Military. At first we thought that moving the armoured brigades down here would be a boost to the local economy, but in the last year they have just taken control of more and more land and council concerns have been ignored. And yes, we have a Constitution – you can have it if you want it – we don’t use it.

Bummer about the Munchies!!! 

flinders flower2
More Flinders Flowers

We had a local pet supply and groomer who made her own dog munches and sold them for funds for the Dog Rescue. However, although the dogs liked them they didn’t keep and within a few days they were going hard – like build a wall hard. But it was too far to drive every other day just to pick up a handful of munchies. We do  give them a treat every morning and they are happy with that. Sometimes the little man is not the best so I will sit down with him and break the treat into small pieces and hand feed him.  She  who must be obeyed said that ‘ he has me well trained”. Hey, considering he has no teeth, he does pretty well. Took them out last night and had to carry him for a bit – time to get his second wind. As far as I am concerned this is all part of the job description.

PS. I thought some photographs of the spring flowers of the Flinders would have a calming effect.

Arid lands` and Isolation

20130316_113019
The upper area of the Spencer Gulf with the Flinders Ranges off to the left.

I enjoyed my visit to the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens. It has a well stocked shop and a small, but interesting nursery with a good range of native plants – and the prices were very reasonable. And I became a member.  It’s a 150 klm round trip but it does have a nice dining area – it is a good morning out and a nice, peaceful drive.  I bought 4 small (1.5 metres) silver leafed Eremophila  and have planted two out front and the remaining two in large planter pots. We will see how they go. I think I have mentioned before that the term “Full Sun” really does not consider the  heat of this area. Two days of 40c and they are dead, irrespective of water and mulch.  So I thought it is time to go to the Eremophila and see what we can do.

Our inter-state visitors arrived yesterday afternoon and will be here for a few days before setting off further north, then into the Northern Territory and Alice Springs. At least it will be a lot cooler than a few weeks ago.

Mid spring is the best time of the year to  travel up into the Flinders Ranges – everything is still green and there is a massive abundance of wild flowers. Then summer comes and everything is burned off.  My problem over the last week has not been the heat but the wind, which has hardly let up for weeks. I have never known for it to be so breezy.  Provided it’s not a North Wind, it does have a cooling effect but the  disadvantage is that  around this place all you have to do is sneeze too hard and leaves come down by the bucket load. I left a fairly clean place and came back from Adelaide to find everything covered in leaves again. I mean I understood ; spring – leaves grow;  summer – leaves develop and flourish; Autumn – leaves start to die and fall; winter- leaves come down. Is there something wrong with this logic?

20130316_113152
Still in the middle of nowhere

Depending on how the Eremophila do I will go back to the Arid Lands Garden again – only next time I will take a camera with me. This could be as early as next week, but I doubt it – although I will be going down to Adelaide next week to  pick up my brother-in-law (my sister died two years ago) and bring him here. His carers are going away on holiday and since there is no one to look after him, he will be coming here. He has serious heart problems so John is coming down with me to help if we run into trouble. It will be a long, slow drive back. I will also be good to have John spell me on driving – it will be a 930 klm round trip. It  will depend on time if I get to the Gardens. If not I will try and get through in a few weeks. I hope the dogs behave for the ten days he is here!!! But then, the dogs live here – he does not  :o)

Oh and it’s not really in the “Middle of Nowhere” the photograph was taken from the pathway of the Botanic Gardens as was the one above but they do serve to illustrate the isolation of this area.