Aroona Dam, Beltana and Parachilna

Our exit from Leigh Creek brought us to a beautiful spot just out of town, that we’d missed on our way in. We’d heard of Aroona Dam and thought it would be in the middle of town, so might have completely passed this gem by.

The road in is dirt, but would be ok if you were towing. I think it might be 5km and it was scenic. We were not expecting the size of the dam or the range of things to do and wildlife.

There’s an old concrete BBQ setting but I didn’t take a close look to see if it still worked. I’d definitely recommend taking food and spending some time here, as you could fill hours, easily. Don’t forget hat, sunscreen and some portable shade could be good.

We left and decided to make a stop at Beltana, as we had heard a tourist operator talking up the town, as having been rebuilt from ruin and the model upon which Furina was based. It wasn’t far from Leigh Creek, but the road from the highway was pretty rough at the meeting of waterways and if we had been towing it would have made for plenty of careful crossings. No water in sight, of course.

Beltana is occupied and we expected a shop or some signs of life, but there were none, so we ate our lunch, used the excellent facilities and drove on to Parachilna.

the Flinders Ranges in the background

What, you might ask, does the ediacara capital of the world, mean? Quoting from https://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/places/national/ediacara

” In 1946, geologist Reginald Sprigg discovered fossil imprints in rocks in the Flinders Ranges at the old¬†Ediacara¬†minefield. This discovery was the first time the fossilised remains of an entire community of soft-bodied creatures had been found in such abundance anywhere in the world. ”

The Ediacaran period is 94 million years between Cryogenian and Cambrian Periods.

There is an area just after Parachilna, heading north, called Nilpena, where it is very easy to pick up Ediacaran fossils. Had we known…

There is a great hotel at which to stop here and plenty of information.

From here, it’s still about 5 hours to Adelaide, so pace yourself and plan ahead where you’ll stop and for how long. We made several stops before home, including Orroroo and Auburn.

Safe travels.

Maree, Furina and Lake Eyre South

The other drive we took from Leigh Creek was to Lake Eyre South, in hopes of seeing the lake filling.

En route to Maree, we stopped at Farina, a town that is being rebuilt from ruins and friends had advised us to get there early for the cream buns! You see, the first building to be rebuilt was the bakery , which runs on wood as it did in the day, and is underground. This doesn’t seem to be uncommon, as a hotel in the town had an underground bakery, too, so maybe it was to provide a cool spot in the Summer. I should have asked!

A super idea having a working bakery, as the town is only a little detour from the main road and the place was packed with visitors, all checking out the ruins, recovery and yeast goods. A team of people come here from May to July each year, to work on rebuilding the town which they have researched heavily. We think we might join them when we retire. There’s a campground for anyone wanting to stay.

At Maree, we stopped for a great coffee at the Oasis Cafe and heard that the road to William Creek was pretty awful. From Maree onward it was dirt. Having a bite to eat by a rest area, we saw a memorial to the early cameleers, who were present throughout the desert in Australia in colonial times and their part in the country’s growth is only recently being acknowledged.

We let down our tyres (for the first time ever) and had a great drive. A spot along the way caught our eye and we stopped to catch the sentiment. I think it’s nature is artistic.

It was some time before we reached Lake Eyre South Lookout and it was pretty easy to find, with a huge carpark and many attending. The water had only just started entering this part of the lake and we had been warned that it was a good walk out to see it, but 100m didn’t even provide more glimmer. We’re glad we did it, though.

From here, I was keen to go to the hot springs, but Alan wasn’t, so we returned the way we had come. We paid closer attention to the closed coal mine and got some nice sunset shots.

Leigh Creek and Arkaroola

We headed north of Adelaide, South Australia, beyond the Flinders Ranges, along the Explorer’s highway, to Leigh Creek. Strictly speaking, it is almost in the centre of the state.

The drive there is varied along the Pt Wakefield Road and we discovered a unique little stop just after Pt Pirie, where you could buy homemade wurst, sausages, pickles and jams, Crocodile or roo (kangaroo) burgers or pick up pastries. It’s called Harry’s.

A good road takes you to Quorn and then Hawker and past the Ranges. It is picturesque and you can catch some good views if your timing is right. The drive took us 6 and a half hours.

The traditional owners are the Adnyamathanha people and its importance to the new arrivals of the 1800s was the discovery of coal. In its heyday, mid-1970, there were around 2000 residents who all worked in the mine or the town. At that time, a large underground coal deposit was discovered under the town, resulting in the relocation of Leigh Creek, 22kms south ( http://www.leighcreeksa.com.au/about/). The coal mine closed in 2015 and the population has dropped to around 100, so it has a ghost town feel to it, although the local shopping precinct still operates a motel, hotel, post office, supermarket, tourist centre, health centre, Area school, petrol station and possibly other services.

We took a couple of drives out from Leigh Creek, each day we were there. The first saw us take the Copley turn-off to Arkaroola. We thought the 130km dirt road would take about 3 hours, return, but it is easily 2 hours each way. The road is kept in good condition but I think we should have deflated the tyres for comfort. It is a very pretty drive, through hills, which might be the Gammon Ranges, and if we had made an earlier start we would have stopped at the art gallery just outside Nepabunna.

Arkaroola Resort and Wilderness Sanctuary has a great deal to offer the traveller – observatory, 4WD tours and trails, walks, geology, cultural trails and a variety of accommodation. We were disappointed that we hadn’t known all the potential, but we were intending to explore a 4WD tour and a walk, finally settling on a walk due to time constraints and cost. The Resort has tea and coffee for a gold coin donation, provided incredible service for maps and information and had good souvenirs. There is a tired area that offers some histroy and information and a platform for taking a shot of the town.

We decided on the Kingsmill Falls Walk and used the info in the rec room as well as the maps. It wasn’t straight forward but we found the Ochre Wall and went from there.

Once again, we found ourselves wondering what it would look like with water flowing through, but it was definitely easier to walk the gorge this way.

It was an easy 45 minutes and we could have made it longer or shorter. There are many walks from which to choose and whether you travel in winter or summer, take water and a hat with you.