Travelling south from Port Augusta took us (again) through mile after mile of broad acre wheat farms. There is nothing of great interest apart from the towns that we visited along the way They were the highlight of our day as we drove south to the wine growing area of the Barossa Valley.
Just south off Port Augusta was the little town of Port Gernein. We found an active market down near the jetty. Unfortunately, we had just eaten breakfast as the smell of the food cooking was salivating. This port which was once famous for the fact that it boasted the longest jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. The water level in Spencer Gulf was so low that a jetty which was 1676 metres long was built to cater for the sailing ships that came to the port to collect the wheat harvest.
Further south, we took the short turnoff to Port Pirie. This is South Australia’s seventh largest city and its economy is driven by a huge silver, lead, gold, copper and zinc smelter which process the raw ore brought from Broken Hill, 400 kilometres away. This substantial port services both the surrounding rural areas as well as the minerals. Although it is primarily an industrial city it does have a gracious and impressive main street and some spectacularly impressive and unusual buildings. One of these buildings is the old railway station – now a museum. The enormous grain storage facilities handle a variety of grains from the surrounding area.
At the little agricultural service town of Crystal Brook, we were in for quite a surprise. We stopped for a ‘cuppa’ in the little park at the end of the Main Street. Rather than finding a dusty run-down town as we were expecting, we found this little town to be a delight. It was well kept and clean. The park was green and well watered and the strip of park down the centre of the Main Street was very nice. We wished that we could stay longer!
There are some towns and cities in the world that have a name that sounds unfinished unless you add an event or action to its name. For example, it’s hard to think of Boston without adding ‘Marathon’. Similarly, the Vietnamese village of Mi Lai is incomplete with out the addition of the word ‘massacre’. The Sydney suburban suburb of Lakemba only sounds correct with the addition of the word ‘Mosque’. The little run-down town of Snowtown in this area is one of these towns. You really need to add the word ‘murder’s’ for it to sound complete.
Horrifically, in 1999, Snowtown wrote itself into the history books when it became the site where bodies were found that had been the result of the largest serial killing in Australian history. By the time all of the bodies had been found – eight in the town’s disused bank building – a total of eleven people had been murdered. All of these bodies in the bank were found decomposing in barrels of acid. The perpetrators were caught and are now completing multiple life term of imprisonment without any option for parole.
In the park, a painted water tower brightens up this town with its paintings of four local people who have made significant contributions to the town.
We stopped for lunch by Lake Bumbunga, an almost dry salt lake. Salt has been mined rom this lake for decades and today it was a bright oink colour. A local wag had created a version of the Loch Ness monster out of old truck tyres.
The landscape stayed uninteresting until we reached the town of Clare in the Clare Valley wine growing region. Here, we came across well preserved old buildings and vineyards. Colonial South Australian architecture is quite distinctive. There is a wide use of gold coloured sandstone with leather lighter stone or red brick edging around the windows and doors. The old public library and court house in Clare were fine examples of this architecture
In nearby Farrels Flat, we came across another painted silo. This one was only completed a few months ago. The former Roseworthy to Peterborough railway line passed through the town in the late 1800s and early to mid 1900s. This is now the 9th silo to join the South Australian silo art trail. It depicts the last train to pass through this historic township of approximately 300 people, located 20 kilometres east of Clare and 22 kilometres southwest of Burra.
Using about 150 litres of paint, local Adelaide artists Jarrod Soden and Matthew Knights spent 140 hours painting the 30-metre tall silo.
Our final point of interest for today was at Kapunda, near where we are stying for the night. Since 1842, this town has had three definable periods of development – initially it was created to develop copper mining. After the copper mining period it became the base for Sir Sidney Kidman’s huge cattle and horse operations; and currently it is an important service centre for the surrounding rural area. It is still partly defined by copper mining with the huge ‘Nap Kernow’ (the Son of Cornwall) statue of a miner at the entrance to the town. The fascinating, and colourful, remnants of the copper mines are still an attraction for visitors.
A few streets out of town are the remnants of the old mine itself. The open cut is still evident and the Cornish style chimney of the smelter still towers over the site.
This area of the Barossa Valley is very different from the other parts of South Australia that we have visited. The gentle hills and vineyards are easy on the eye and the autumn colours of the vines are very attractive.