Blinman is the furthest north point on this trio and we reached there in time for lunch. Our route then took us trough the Parachilna Gorge and then back to Hawker on the main highway.
After leaving Rawnsley Park Station, heading north, we crossed the Arkaba Creek. This is one off hundreds of streams in this area that only flow periodically and after heavy rain. I’m a sucker for the old Red Gums that grow along these watercourses and this one had some especially good examples.
We passed a number of lookouts along the way to Blinman, each offering extensive views across the mountain ranges. This one at Hucks Lookout gave us a view back to the northern rim of Wilpena Pound.
We missed a turnoff to the ruins of the Appeallinnea Homestead as the signpost was small and its colour blended into the grass in the background. The local area was hilly and the road was windy so we had to drive another 6 kms further on before we could find a place to turn around. Back at the turnoff, there was a track that we followed for three kilometres to reach the ruins.
Joseph Wills, a local pastoralist in the 1850s, built the homestead and stockyards on the southern side of the creek. I think he must have been a cantankerous old bugger. One of the stories that I read about him told of the time that he found some of his neighbour’s sheep on his property so he drove them a very long distance to the nearest government pound. His neighbour had to pay to get them released and then had to drive then all the way back again. All, on horseback! I don’t think that this did much for the relationship between the two graziers!
There are some other ruins on the north side of the creek that were once a busy mining settlement. The flat stone was quarried on-site and is a unique feature of Appealinnea.
Before we reached Blinman, we came across a featured known as the Great Wall of China. It is really named Mount Emily and is made of limestone with a hard rock capping on the top. I was flying my drone from the b base of the mountain to try and take a photo looking along the face of the mountain something like this.
My drone was flying at maximum legal altitude (110 metres) and almost a kilometre away from me. All of a sudden, I saw the image on my screen rotate, then the horizon turned upside down and I lost all contact with my drone. Looking carefully at where it should have been, I saw a Wedge Tailed Eagle flying away across the face of the mountains and away from the location of my drone. My good friend, the drone, had been the subject of a bird strike. It is now somewhere out there under the ridge of this mountain in an irretrievable position. Having lost my friend, as well as a dozen images that I had taken today, I had to resort to my standard camera and take this photo of the Great Wall. Maybe my drone is a tiny dot somewhere in this image.
We stopped at Blinman for lunch, buying a couple of pies from the General Store. There’s not much else in the town other than the North Blinman Hotel and the Shire Hall that was hosting an exhibition of local photographers. We had the only non-Japanese 4WD car in the street. We seem to be something of an oddity driving a European Car, although we met a couple for women camping somewhere in a Mercedes SUV and they were planning to drive along the Oodnadatta Track once they had left the Flinders Ranges. Good luck to them!
The first European settlement around the current Blinman, was at Angorichina Station. This land was taken up for sheep farming in the 1850s. A shepherd employed by the station, Robert Blinman, discovered a copper outcrop on a hot December day in 1859. He gambled some of his money on the presence of more underground copper and he and three friends received a lease for the land that became Blinman. A mine was established during the 1860s. Over the next 20 years, railways were developed and wells were sunk at regular intervals making settlement much easier. Mining continued until 1918 when the ore ran out. The busiest time for the mine was 1913-1918 with a town population of 2,000. The total amount of ore removed was about 10,000 tonnes.
The next part of the trip took us on a freshly graded road through the Parachilna Gorge to the little town of the same name on the Leigh Creek railway line. Half way along this road, we passed the tourist village (really a campsite with a store and petrol station) of Angorichina. The site was originally established as a tuberculosis sanatorium.
This tourist village is on Angorachina Station. The station homestead was constructed in the 1860s and has been extensively renovated to now offer tourist accommodation. Angorichina now occupies an area of 554 square kilometres (214 sq miles). The property is composed of hills, creek beds and gorges as well as extensive plains of saltbush. Basically, the road we drove on is all on private land!
The gorge was very scenic and we enjoyed driving through it – especially on such a smooth road.
When we reached Parachilna, we stopped for a while because we found that a Telstra mobile phone connection was available.We checked our emails and I called a couple of stores in the biggest town in the area at Port Augusta to see if I could buy a new drone. I was out of luck as there isn’t one camera store in the entire town!
There is nothing much at all at Parachilna apart from the hotel and some back packer accommodation in shipping containers. Due to some serious and clever promotion by the owners of the Prairie Hotel, Parachilna has become one of those outback destinations that everyone wants to visit. People even fly in from Adelaide to this place in the middle of nowhere. The reason is the exceptional wild food – kangaroo, emu, goat and camel – which is served in the hotel’s restaurant. I’m sure that this town (permanent population of 13 people) is so small that if you are not looking, you could very easily pass it by.
As we came to Hawker, our overnight stop, we passed the old Ghan Railway Station. It’s now a cafe and restaurant.
The Ghan is a legendary rail service that has been operating since 1878. Originally known as the Afghan Express, the Ghan takes its name from the 19th century Afghan camel drivers who arrived in Australia and helped to explore the country’s remote interior. Although construction on the line began in 1878, it wasn’t until 1926 that development in Alice Springs began and it was 1929 before the line was completed. It wasn’t until 2004 that the line was finally extended northwards from Alice Springs o Darwin.
The early railway line often experienced delays and washouts, causing the first flatcar behind the tender to always carry tools and spare sleepers so that passengers and crew could repair the line and allow the train to continue on its journey. Although the service wasn’t very good, passengers tolerated it because the route was the only one with water available to power the steam trains. However as the service expanded during WWII, the limited water supplies were under great pressure so de-mineralisation towers to use bore water were built, with some surviving to this day. As diesel replaced steam, the need for water diminished and the line was re-routed to a more reliable route. My Dad would have travelled on the old Ghan in WW2 when he was posted to a number of supply bases in the Northern Territory. Perhaps he even had a rest break at this very station.