"Destination Unknown" Day 2 - Enroute to the Flinders Ranges via Yunta & the station country.

Saturday, Jul 02, 2011 at 08:00


Saturday the 2nd July – Wilpena Creek 65km East of the Flinders Ranges

I slept well during what was a brisk night. We arose to a chilly but sunny morning. Breakfast was a feed of jaffles. I am constantly amazed at the ability of the CP to cram such a high volume of food down one gullet. This morning was no exception with a precursor of 10 Weetbix followed by a spaghetti and cheese jaffle. Where does he put it all? We’d spent a bit of time the previous evening seasoning up a couple of new Jaffle irons and then oiling them ready for use. As a pair of jaffly challenged individuals, I should have been paying more attention to Pete and Jacks efforts at the fire. The result of their first ever jaffle was well....interesting. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. A bit of spray oil or lashings of butter on the outside of the bread may have helped. I was also amused to find them scrubbing the jaffle iron in the wash basin later on. The quest for outbackability is truly a game of snakes and ladders isn’t it. One rung up and then a slither down the slippery slope for that little effort. We’ll get them there ha ha.

Pack-up went smoothly and we were soon on the road comfortably completing the remaining 130 odd kilometres to Broken Hill. With the CP at the wheel, it was able to plot our route (while also keeping a nervous eye on the road ahead) into the Flinders from Yunta.Broken hill was also used to fill up with fuel and pick up some stuff for lunches before heading south west on the Barrier Highway to Yunta. Out west of Cockburn, the Thackaringa Hills gave us the first taste of the country to come. Those low weathered ranges pricked the interest of the lads, as did the large mobs of marauding goats. I’m sure there were visions of spud cannoning the feral beasts but it was more hinted than spoken (I think it was the maniacal glint in the CP's eye and the nervous fidgiting that gave it away).

At Yunta my compatriots were introduced to the concepts of dropping tyre pressures before we hit the dirt. Pete took the opportunity to top up the Lawn Rover and Johnno the Prado and then the adventures begin, we were on the dirt and heading north. Our first stop was the site of the Waukaringa Goldfields and its attendant ruins.

Teetulpa some 10 km north of Yunta and Waukaringa a further 24 km north were two of SA’s productive gold mining areas during the latter years of the 1800’s. Teetulpa Goldfield, the State’s most productive goldfield, produced 3132 kg of alluvial gold, mainly between 1886 and 1889. Further mining took place in 1909–13 and 1934, and sporadic fossicking continues to the present.Waukaringa Goldfield produced 1427 kg of gold between 1873 and 1969. The underground workings extended to depths of 260 m. The main mines in the area include Alma and Victoria, Alma Extended, West Waukaringa and Balaklava. At its height Waukaringa had a population of over 600 people. These days the ruins of the Waukaringa hotel remain a stark testament to the lure and fleeting success of the early gold fields.

The hotel was still operating until 1970 but has now largely been gutted. Anything of value, including its timber floors have been removed. The underground masonry is quite amazing with local stone being trimmed and used exclusively throughout the construction. Lintels, dwarf walls and all foundations are built out of and upon local stone. The water cisterns at the hotels rear coupled with rougher underground tanks and cellars gave the boys an impression of how dependant people were on their ability to catch and store the necessities of life in remote and harsh outback areas. Naturally the boys enjoyed crawling round, through under and over the buildings that remained. The rusting remnants of an old ute also provided a great photographic backdrop for the first of our group shots as did the dark and threatening clouds brewing in the east.

It was a grey afternoon we headed into as we drove further north. Our route was to take us up the Frome Downs Track to Curnamona to where we would veer more northerly onto the lesser used track to the Erudina woolshed. While in no way a major road, this track was in good condition and we spotted plenty of wildlife as we passed. From the woolshed we would head west towards Martins Well and the Flinders. Here we had to be a bit careful as the area between the woolshed and the Erudina Homestead is a series of broad grassy flood plains where the Wilpena Creek spreads before feeding into the Siccus River. The area is covered with thick lignum and high grass and having such good feed and water, was thick with cattle. As a result it was slow and cautious going, for a few kilometres, particularly around the Two Mile Bore.

Our intended destination for the night had been the campgrounds in the Bunyeroo Valley (Acraman and Cambrian) at the base of the Heysen Range in the Flinders but fate decreed otherwise as the skies darkened and the first drops of rain fell. As we passed Erudina station, good showers had already fallen ahead of us making the track sticky and treacherous. With showers visible ahead, it became apparent that we were being optimistic in in achieving the Flinders that afternoon and a decision was made to find a suitable campsite on a good sandy base and hopefully ride out the rains. I quickly found a track down to the Wilpena Creek, at this point a wide pebble bedded creek bordered by tall red gums. l followed the broad rocky bed along for several hundred meters before climbing out on the southern side into a relatively flat area that was sheltered by towering eucalypts. The boys quickly followed and we had camp up and the fire set as the rain began to fall.

Thankfully, they were only light showers initially and we were able to get dinner squared away before the heavens opened a little before 8.00 p.m. This prompted a quick retreat by all into the shelter of tents swags and the Roof Top Taj. The constant drumming of rain on the roof continued until the early hours of the morning.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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