On this trip, we have travelled through a variety of regions and environments. We began in the Riverland, then moved on to an area of mountains and gorges in the Flinders Ranges. Then at Port Lincoln we found rugged coastlines. Today, this was all swapped for inland Australia with its distinct rural environment.
Driving inland and north along the centre of the Eyre Peninsula, we encountered vast sheep and wheat farming areas. This region only receives about 400 mm (16”) of rain each year. It has hot summers and cool winters. This is ideal country for raising Merino sheep with their valuable fine wool. With care, it can produce good quantities of grains such as wheat and barley.
We have seen, many dry creek and river beds on this trip, but today we saw a river that, although very tiny, was actually flowing. The water was no more than 20 millimetres deep but it had a flow! The Dutton River reaches the coast 6 km north of Port Neill, where besides the 600 metre wide and usually blocked river mouth, it has built a small sand dune ridge barrier at its mouth,.
We passed through the little country town of Cleve with its population of 740 people. The town has its origins in the 1850s, It is a hub for farmers and suppliers on the Eyre Peninsula and hosts a field day every second year that shows off the newest farming equipment and stock.
It was early Saturday afternoon when we visited and absolutely nothing in the town was open. There were no people or vehicles on the streets and we could meander around in our car without any concern for traffic at all.
The 19th Century children’s author, May Gibbs (1877-1969), spent some of her childhood here. She is one of Australia’s most treasured illustrators, artists and children’s book authors. Her bush fantasy world has captured the imaginations of Australians for over a century, creating a uniquely Australian folklore that holds a special place in the hearts of a nation. Her time in tis area influenced many of her books with her famous gum nut babies.
The roads in this area have kilometre after kilometre of straight distances. We drove through alternating sections of mallees scrub and wheat fields that stretched beyond the horizon. Occasionally, we could see a plume of dust in the distance where a farmer was ploughing a field in preparation for planting. I wonder how much barley will be grown in this area this year, seeing that China has now banned the importation of Australian Barley.
We came across some more painted silos at the town of Kimba. This tiny town advertises itself at being ‘halfway across Australia’. The roadhouse and service station also features the Big Galah. The galah ( a pink and grey parrot) is found throughout Australia. It is among the most common of the cockatoos and is known for its bold and loud behaviour. It gives its name to the Australian slang term for a silly or stupid, person. To be described as a ‘Galah’ is not a very positive description.
From Kimba we drove east along National Highway One. This road circumnavigates Australia. It is easy to navigate – all you need to do is keep the ocean on your left and you will end up where you started from!
To the west of Port Augusta is an enormous area of land that is used as a training centre for the Australian Army called the Cultana Training Area. It extends from the El Alamein Camp neat Port Augusta in the north, all the way to Port Bonython and Point Lowly in the south and includes the coastal areas in between. Cultana is used as a wet season live fire training area for Darwin-based units as well as for southern-based regular and reserve units. The area has been considered particularly valuable due to the similarity of its terrain to that of Afghanistan.
The training area has recently been expanded five-fold with the purchase of several pastoral stations to the West. This has created the Australian Defence Forces largest training area, and enables full combined services arms exercises (air, land and sea elements). We noticed some sentries at the entrance to the live firing range. They were so well camouflaged that we could not see them.
Just before reaching Port Augusta we made a small deviation to the town of Iron Knob. This is where a small mountain of iron ore is mined to feed the steelworks at Whyalla.
This place is a near-perfect example of the changing fortunes of mining towns. There was a time when Iron Knob was hugely productive with a population of over 3,000 workers all employed by, or working for, BHP. Today it is a typical, struggling, mining town with closed up shops and empty houses but with a population who seem determined to keep the town alive. Its future is driven by iron ore prices and when they rise the town is rejuvenated. It is interesting to visit – if only to see what happens when mines close down.
Web were amused to find this little shack called “Buckingham Shack”. The owner clearly has a sense of humour!
We are spending the night in Port Augusta, simply because it is a convenient stop after a day’s travel. I have changed my mind about this town. I previously wrote that it was an OK town because it was the largest place that we had seen in almost a week. Now that I have seen towns like Whyalla and Port Lincoln, this place seems much more of a frontier town and it is quite basic. There would be much nice places in which I would like to live rather than here.