We were up early this morning aiming to have finished breakfast by 9.30 am when it was time to collet my car from the garage where the tyre was being replaced. I walked the 150 metres [past the pub with no bee)r and found that my car was all ready to go. It actually cost me less than a third of what I imagined the charge might be so I was quite delighted. The owner of the garage did offer to charge me more, but I graciously declined.
We were on our way south before 10 am and we had an uneventful day driving back to Peterborough where we are spending another night.
Our first stop was in the little town of Parachilna. This was one of the railway towns along the old route of the Ghan railway. (named after the original Afghan Cameleers who were bought to Australia to carry freight by camel train across the arid outback). Now it has just a few houses and a caravan park in the main street. It is home to the Prairie Hotel which has a gastronomical menu and serves up to 200 lunches on a busy day. I don’t really know where all those people would come from.
Today was rather quiet and we were the only people at the hotel. We were too early for lunch, so we had a quiet look around the pub. The bar is very small, but the eating areas a quite extensive and adorned with aboriginal artworks for sale. This place has such a reputation that people fly in from Adelaide for the ‘Feral Menu’ for lunch – camel, goat, lamb, kangaroo etc.
Further down the road, we came across the site of some of the old township sites that existed when the narrow gauge railway was at its peak. It ran from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. Most of these localities no longer exist (apart from a ruin or an old cemetery in disrepair). In the early 1900’s each might have had a population of over 1000 people. At the old site of Wilson. we came across the old station master’s house. At other places, we build see the ruins of places where railway settlers and gangers were accommodated. It took many men to keep the line in good repair. Now, the train line doesn’t exist at all, apart from the old embankment that generally follows the road.
I am a bit interested in this old railway. My father was here in the army in WW2. After Darwin was bombed in the initial stages of the war by the Japanese, a frantic program of activity was introduced to rush supplies north for defence. Dad was posted to a number of supply depots along the railway line (and further north) and would have known all of these old sites very well. The new standard gauge railway to Alice Springs and Darwin now follows a different route to the east of this original railway line.
Quorn was the centre of activity for this railway. It is a town in the southern Flinders Ranges and was the crossing point for both the railway line to Terowie, that serviced the mines near Burra, and the original Ghan railway to the north. It is now the terminus for the Pitchie Ritchie Tourist Railway that runs on the original railway line through Pitchie Ritchie Pass. The historic station there now has an information centre and a museum.
Across the road from the station are four large old pubs. You can easily imagine the large numbers of people who would have stayed there while on their train journey or perhaps just stopped in for a beer while their train stopped at the station.
From Quorn, we travelled across some wheat growing areas that were dotted with little towns that are struggling to survive. I stopped to look at the war memorial in one of them and noticed that 14 of the local inhabitants were killed in WW1. This would have decimated the local community and probably meant that there were very few men left in the local area. The main surviving building in some of the towns was the local Church.
There are enormous wheat fields around here with homesteads that are few and far between. It would be a long way to go the neighbours house to borrow a cup of sugar.
Back in Peterborough, we caught up with some shopping at the supermarket. This was our first opportunity in six days to find a shop that had a large range of supplies. We had previously seen the railway museum here but this afternoon we made a stop at the Town Hall which has a beautiful quilt made by local women for Australia’s bi-cenenerary in 1988. it shows many facets of local life and illustrates much of the history of the area.