The trip's itinerary.After I finished my last journey, I realised that I want more, and that I need to go somewhere else. This time the travel bug took me to the nearby Gawler Ranges. Two reasons for the choice of place:
Here we are, then.The trip is thereby postponed for two weeks. Not only there's a new windshield for me, though, but the vehicle itself: I sold the previous Tucson and bought a proper 4x4 instead: a diesel Prado 120. This trip is going to be its maiden journey, then.
Enter the camels!Soon the highway takes me to Lochiel, which is as quiet and small as half a year ago.
A local shop with a decoration.
Wind farms and some weeds nearby.On the right side of the highway I see a lake glistening under the morning sun. It's noticeably pink: either due to extreme salinity, or karotine-producing bacteria. Who knows. It is very saline, though, and its banks are glistening even brighter under the sun, as if covered with ice.
No Photoshop here. I swear.
I feel like making a snowman here.
Or engage in some skiing.Once my time with the peculiar pink lake is over, I resume my journey. The vehicle is steady and the windshield is quite secure, although every time I see a truck in front of me I gulp uncontrollably. And there's quite a few of them here: the highway is busy, all kinds of cargo travels here nothwards, towards Alice Springs, and westwards, towards Perth.
Takes a certain effort to overtake this thing on the road.There's also a railroad next to the highway, and behind it I can see a not-too-distant ridge: these are the first signs of the Flinders Ranges. A train is rolling down the railroad parallel to me; we keep overtaking each other, and we'll part our ways for good only in Port Augusta.
Can get straight to Sydney from here, if sleepy Adelaide isn't your jam.
That's one very long train.Both the highway and the railway cross the numerous wheat fields. Harvesting time now! The spring was exceptionally rainy this year, leading to the record level of crops being harvested.
No rest for the farmers.
Wheat and windmills: a typical look of the area.There's also a long water pipe that runs parallel to the highway. It transports drinking water to Port Augusta and even further, for the whole Eyre Peninsula: they don't have any of their own, which made things quite hard for the 19th century explorers.
The life-giving pipe.And here's Port Augusta at last. A prominent place, indeed: it is the exact halfway point of my journey, and it is also a major crossroads where you can go either all the way up north, to Darwin, or all the way up west, to Perth. Spencer Gulf cuts the land in two here: on one side, there's Adelaide and everything else, and on the other, there's the Eyre Peninsula.
The view of the gulf.
The water is very blue, very shallow, and very salty.
Mangroves in the front and Flinders Ranges in the back.
And this is what you see if you look up north; the Gulf ends there.The local mangroves are actually the southernmost in Australia: usually they prefer to live further north, where it's warmer and wetter. However, they feel quite at home here (where Matthew Flinders's ship had run aground once), extracting nutrients from seaweed carried here by the gulf, and giving home to quite a few species of aquatic life.
Looks arid, all right.
Patches of green are still there, though.The place looks like a proper botanic garden: quiet lanes, all sorts of plants around, signs and plaques here and there. No entry fee, but you can throw a coin or two into the donation box, if you like. Still, the joint doesn't look too popular: during an hour of walking I only see three or four people on my way.
Cute trees and info plaques.
The porcupine grass.
A nice-looking, but a very parasitic plant.Many parts of the garden are carefully constructed to recreate different parts of the continent: the north, the west, and so on. You can actually see the difference if you look closer. Walking there, I think about all these inhospitable lands, and whether my travel bug (that I have obviously contracted) will take me there one day.
Looks very desert-y indeed.I'm on a bit of a schedule though, so I have to move on. Just outside Port Augusta though, right on the very same intersection where roads north, west and south meet, I encounter a road block. It hasn't been here an hour ago! I can't go westwards now, but that is exactly where I need to go. A policeman explains something to every driver in the queue. When my turn is up:
That's one big galah, all right.I don't make any stops at the roadside eateries, keeping myself fed with an occasional sandwich or fruit. I use wet wipes after them, and their scent brings back the memories of the previous journey very vividly. They really play a major part in our lives, these smells; even for a fairly smell-insensitive guy such as myself.
At first the road is great…
…but slowly takes a turn for the worse.You have to pay $10 to enter the park, and another $12 to camp there. I put my money in the envelope and write my details on it, then tear one part off and take it with me, because the envelope goes into a giant metal honesty box.
A few gates to open and close on the way.
The road isn't too good, but could be worse I guess.The road soon ends, and I leave the car: it's a short walk now for about a 300 metres. Hot and quiet around. Only wind is howling in the scrub, and flies are dancing around my face, and an occasional bird is chirping somewhere.
A short walk.And here are the Pipes themselves. They look memorable indeed. About one and a half billion years ago, when all life on Earth was just a handful of bacteria, monstrous volcanoes were raging here. Lava was bursting outside, but once out it cooled down instantly and under its own weight it moulded itself into these stony pipes. It's been so long ago that the very volcanoes disappeared, but their traces are still here to this day, and will stay here for quite a while, too.
Looking closer.Here is one of the few remaining places on the planet where you can actually see, touch and feel the Ancient Earth. Most of the Earth's crust is long ago underwater or became replaced with newer parts, but some pieces (called cratons) are still left intact—just like this one.
The scenery around is quite okay, too.Life is clinging to these hot, dry places as much as it can. I've already mentioned birds and flies, but there's someone bigger around as well. As I sit on the rock, eating my sandwitch and soaking up the views, I spot a kangaroo rummaging in the scrub nearby, looking at me warily.
Very modest fella.Once I'm satisfied with the Pipes and the atmosphere of the Ancient Earth, I return to my vehicle and get back on the road. The campground is not too far away. It it situated in a small valley surrounded by hills: no mobile signal, obviously. The campsites are level and spacious; and, as I expected, there's barely any other people around: only a couple of other cars that I can hardly even see. I unpack and pitch the tent.
Today's camp.The sun is still relatively high, so I decide to take a small walk around. The surrounding hills are quite scenic on their own.
Subjected to elements, volcanic pipes slowly but surely crumble apart.Finally the sun begins to set, and a few more pics later I come back to my camp to make myself some dinner.
The day is ending.
Where there are flies, there are spiders.I find out very soon that the campground is also occupied with wild bees. They instantly locate my water jug and fly all over it, and also at the spot where I washed my hands and feet. Understandably so: bees need water, and there's barely any of it here in these arid lands. I can't say I'm too pleased with these unexpected neighbours, but as soon as sun goes down, the bees disappear as well.
A waterhole for bees.Time for me to hit the sack too: there's a long day for me tomorrow.