Take 2 @ Wilmington & Port Augusta

Trip Start Aug 05, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
The Church

Flag of Australia  , South Australia,
Monday, March 17, 2014

Distance Travelled: Williamstown to Wilmington 291km
Total Distance Travelled: 10,648km

Main North Road took us out of the Adelaide Hills through Clare, Yacka and Laura on our return to Wilmington for another visit with Annette & Paul at The Church (capitalised hereinafter in recognition of its 'home base' significance!)
We licked our lips passing through Laura. Creamy ‘Golden North' icecream has been manufactured here since 1923 – and enjoyed by thousands, perhaps including poet C.J. Dennis who lived here as a boy. I was interested to learn that C.J.’s ‘Sentimental Bloke’ sold 65,000 copies on its release in 1916, making him the most prosperous poet in Australian history by 1917. Poets are generally a starving bunch (as are bloggers) and I wonder if C.J.’s record still stands? 

On the outskirts of Melrose, the oldest town in the Flinders Ranges, we soak up a therapeutic dose of nature amid a stand of ancient gum trees. Enormous, powerful reminders of the eternal quality of all life - even those with burnt out centres stand proud and strong. No sculptor could recreate such testaments to joy. Oozing spiritual energy and character, these peaceful giants play host to nymphs, sprites and delighted earthbound bushwalkers alike. Today they’re anointed by Dylan (several times), Bertie and Ace.

Originally named Mount Remarkable – in whose shadow it sits – Melrose (pop about 450) is a centre for local farmers and a base for tourists visiting the National Park. In 1948 the sleepy little police station here was the base of the largest police district in the world – with a constable, two troopers and an Aboriginal tracker responsible for an area extending to the Timor Sea! Heavens - they couldn't even see it!! Perhaps they covered the distance on mountain bikes as do riders from all over Australia who meet at Melrose annually for the ‘Fat Tyre Festival’ in June.

Arriving at The Church in time for dinner the four of us settled in for an evening of good food, good wine and plenty of chat. Paul, born and bred in Port Augusta, is fiercely proud of his town and there was much discussion about its past and future. We were quite entertained with his colourful stories about Joy Baluch – reputedly the longest serving mayor in Australian history – whose death last year (at 80) from breast cancer ended almost 30 years of service. Joy didn’t mince her words. She was a controversial figure and renowned for calling a spade just that. ‘Joyous’ quotes I’ve found include:
"Life marches by, I suggest you get on with it."
"Being nice to governments doesn't work, they are such lying bastards."
“God, Private Enterprise and government have made me what I am, and now they have to take some of the blame.”

Sounds like a breath of fresh air. God knows, we need more polies like this! I have included a late-life photo of her because she looks feisty, intelligent and determined. If you'd like to know more here's a terrific ABC interview with Joy in November 2012. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-11-23/joy-baluch-on-life-love-death-and-port-augusta/4389868  Joy was a regular visitor at Annette & Paul’s store, Alternative Choices. These days the store opens 3 days a week, and Wednesday to Friday are working days.

On Wednesday morning we followed A&P into Port Augusta, where Ace and I retraced the guided tour that Paul had treated him to on our last visit. It was fun and fascinating to visit the places that make this seaport, at the head of Spencer Gulf, unique. One such spot is the actual head of the gulf, accessed by Yorkey’s Crossing - a 20km stretch of gravel road looping in a horseshoe around the town. Heading out of Port Augusta past the Davenport Aboriginal Reserve, the sparse terrain becomes almost a moonscape. I’m not sure just what I was expecting the head of a huge body of water to look like – but definitely bigger than this tiny, serene ribbon and small, still pool.

It is strangely peaceful out here even though an estimated 125+ road trains trundle through daily hauling large equipment to service the billion dollar mining industries in SA, WA and goods in transit to Darwin. Not permitted to pass through Port Augusta, they use Yorkey’s Crossing to access the Stuart Highway and Highway One. Proposals to either close or to seal this road have, to date, resulted in stalemate.

As we contemplate the serenity, a distant rumbling produces an extremely long coal train travelling between the power station and Leigh Creek, 250km to the north, from whence comes the brown coal to feed the Playford B and Northern power stations. The only coal-fired electricity generating plants in SA, they produced about one third of the state’s electricity in 2009 - and over half of the CO2 emissions. Quite a high price to pay!  The power stations are on the way to becoming dinosaurs. Having already been sold off (to the Chinese?) they now employ a decreasing number of locals. Solar technology, together with the many wind turbines now marching steadily across the SA landscape, has changed the ball game.  

We took a look at the tourist information and Wadlata Outback Centre – an impressive set up in the heart of town – but decided that the outback display at $18.50 p/h admission was a bit steep; opting instead for a short walk with the kids through part of the Arid Lands Botanic Garden.

Port Augusta, people-ing around 15,000, is a major railway junction where the Adelaide-Darwin and the Sydney-Perth railways intersect. Of course, rail from Melbourne passes through too. The Ghan and the Indian Pacific stop here twice a week going in each direction, making it popular with train spotters. Also the quaint Pichi Richi Heritage railway runs between Port Augusta and Quorn. Pichi Richi is on our list for next time ... as is a trip on The Ghan someday!
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Peta Gapper on

glad your having fun its bloody cold here xoxo

kerrie white on

I like the sound of Joy as well Michelle. Hope you are all well. Would you ever get back to Townsville? That would be great.

dollyandace on

Hi Kerrie, Great to hear from you! Yes, we will certainly be back in Townsville later in the year & look forward to catching up. Regards to all & woof to Bentley!

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