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Port Augusta to Adelaide (via Stockport Station!)

Port Augusta

The caravan park at Port Augusta was excellent. Who, you may ask, decides what rating each park is awarded? Why, Pam does of course. First impressions are seldom wrong so the attitude of the park receptionist is paramount. Next, before the caravan is even unhitched, Pam disappears into the ablution block, scorecard in hand. Her score in that department will depend on such things as cleanliness, size, general condition, the number of shower and WC cubicles, etc. But even more important is the provision of a hand drier and a soap dispenser for the wash basins. Very few pass that ultimate 'soap test', yet it's basic hygiene and certainly not prohibitively expensive to provide. Port Augusta, like most, failed on that point. However, in other ways it was excellent.

Crowded Park

The park layout was spacious and well designed, not at all like the park pictured (right) which resembled a refugee camp!

For the first time we found there were some of our 'Non-Reflective Cousins' residing in a chalet in the caravan park. They didn't stay long. The police visited them twice within the first twelve hours of our stay and we didn't see them again.

In the town centre of Port Augusta, however, we found lots of them hanging around the parks and streets. Does the presence of a Centrelink (dole) office in the town have a bearing, or am I too cynical? We watched a bit of cabaret outside Woolworth's in the town centre one afternoon.

Hearing a lot of shouting and commotion we looked across and saw two female Cousins fighting. As happens, a crowd gathered to watch and every spectator, black and white, was grinning broadly. Next thing an enormous security guard appeared and tried to separate the combatants. Given the size of his stomach - which hung almost to his knees - we had some difficulty in believing he was a security guard; the man could hardly walk! But, emblazoned across the back of his shirt was the word SECURITY which was a dead give-away. We heard him shout P--- off at one of the women and he attempted to chase her away - which alone was worth watching.

A female Cousin near to us was laughing so much that she walked smack into a steel stanchion with her head. The resonation of the stanchion resembled a gong - BOOOONG! I wonder if that's why they're called . . . no, don't even go there. However, she kept laughing and the rest laughed even louder. It might just be coincidence but there was a pub directly opposite Woolworth's. Well, c'mon, it might be coincidence! Right, and who's cynical now?

Port Augusta, as you doubtless know, is the crossroads of Australia. All road and rail traffic travelling either east-west or north-south passes through Port Augusta.

The caravan park appears to be used as a transit stop rather than a destination. We stayed a week and during that time we noticed that the park almost emptied every morning and a fresh influx arrived to replace them each afternoon.


Port Augusta caravan park is home to hundreds of Black-Eared Miners, very
similar to Noisy Miners but without the black cap. They are certainly as noisy!

When we visited the town's tourist bureau we began to realise why people were not staying in Port Augusta - it just wasn't geared up to cater for tourists. For example, they have a wonderful attraction called the Pichi Richi Railway that runs through spectacular scenery between Port Augusta and a little town called Quorn in the Flinders Ranges. It climbs over a thousand feet, twisting and turning as it goes. It crosses little bridges and runs along precarious ledges.

The track was originally built for the old Ghan train - pure history. We would have loved to travel on it but it only operates from April to October because of the fire risk from the steam locomotive. The railway apparently does sometimes use a diesel in March and November, so why not operate all year round?

One day we drove 160 kilometres into the Flinders Ranges (this time named after, not by, our old friend, Matt) to a small resort known as Wilpena Pound at an elevation of 1,800 feet. Again, the scenery all the way was spectacular with rocky peaks rising to 3,500 feet. We found a solar power station built by a Perth company to supply electricity to the resort. It was hidden in a sheltered valley a short walk from the road. The whole day was absolute magic but we only discovered this place by exploring. It didn't even rate a mention from the staff at the tourist office.

Solar Power Station

The array of solar panels supplying 100kW of power to Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges.

Walking back to the car we spotted three kangaroos sitting in the shade of two small trees. We must have passed them on the walk out without noticing them. You can probably see them (circled) under the green shrubs in the picture below.

'Roos in the Flinders Ranges

Once they realised they'd been seen they fled faster than a Cousin from a job vacancy. Well, perhaps not quite that fast.

Fleeing 'roos

Wilpena Pound (after which the resort is named) is a huge dish-shaped hollow surrounded by high, rocky peaks. Not, it seems, formed by volcanic action or a meteorite impact but by wind and weather eroding the softer interior of the hollow over millions of years while the craggy rim is made of sterner stuff. Or something like that. Not sure where the name Wilpena comes from (probably Aboriginal) but Pound is the English word meaning 'enclosure'.

Encouraged by our 'find' we planned another drive out, this time going south-east. We climbed a steep, twisting road through a mountain pass which provided us with more spectacular scenery. Through the pass, we found ourselves on a wide plain with more mountains in the distance. At length we arrived in a little town called Melrose, nestled at the foot of the towering Mount Remarkable. We quickly spotted a coffee sign outside a small, dark building. The car didn't need telling, it pulled over and stopped.

Expecting a café, we were surprised to find ourselves in blacksmith Bluey Blundstone's workshop, as it had been in 1865. In the centre of the workshop was a rusty, iron quenching tank containing water. Looking into the water we saw an empty white basin on the bottom of the tank with coins all around it. A sign told us that if we dropped a coin into the tank and it landed in the basin, our coffee would be free. Pam had a go, and guess what? We paid for our coffee.

The café was behind the blacksmith's shop, but it - indeed, the whole place - had been restored beautifully, retaining all the atmosphere of bygone days. Behind the café there was a lovely native garden with old artefacts everywhere. Beyond, there was a cottage which now accommodates bed and breakfast guests, again authentically restored. Pam and I were so rapt with the place that the owners gave us carte-blanche to wander at will. And we did.

Mount Remarkable dominates the town, its slopes appearing almost vertical. There is a road which takes you to a cenotaph a short way up the mountain-side where the fallen from World War 1 are remembered - all seven of them. From the monument we looked out over the town to the plain beyond. Pam quickly found a picnic table and . . . out came lunch.

Bucket of the Outback

Bucket Of The Outback. After her pack horses had died of thirst, Bucket collected a few essentials - her knitting, a selection of Tupperware products, her calorie counter and a tube of skin cream - and went on alone.

For anyone puzzled by 'Bucket' references, Mrs Hyacinth Bucket is a very class-conscious snob in the British television comedy, Keeping Up Appearances. Mrs Bucket is played by Patricia Routledge. In the series, she insists her surname is pronounced 'Boo-kay'. A friend once claimed that Pam's telephone voice resembled Hyacinth's. It stuck. Poor Pam, good job she's a real trooper! She good-naturedly puts up with this nonsense without complaint. But the hat suits her, don't you think?

Germein Gorge

Moving on from Melrose we (eventually) found ourselves returning through the mountains via the Germein Gorge.

Once more, a twisting, winding road with steep cuts through the rock. The road took us to Port Germein, a little place which didn't send us into raptures. And from there, we returned for our last night at Port Augusta. Or, as the Cousins would say, Porta Gutta.
Port Pirie

Next morning we hitched up the caravan for the short journey south to Port Pirie where we were greeted by a large grain terminal, a lead smelter and 42º Celsius. The caravan park was on the banks of the Port Pirie River which flows (if indeed it flows at all) into the Spencer Gulf. The Gulf's original name was Spencer's Gulf, named after Earl Spencer, the First Lord of the Admiralty.

Okay, here's an easy one: Who named Spencer's Gulf? Yep, good old Matthew Flinders. No prizes for getting that one right.

We found the town centre of Port Pirie pleasantly compact and the people very friendly. A visit to the museum proved interesting. In days of old the railway used to run up the centre of the main street which was called, would you believe, Main Street. Steam locos hauling passenger carriages would stop at the museum which, in those days, was the railway station. More frequently, however, those steam locos would be hauling ore from Broken Hill to the smelter where lead, gold, silver, cadmium and copper were recovered from it. The main reason we'd stopped at Port Pirie was because Billy, our good old Pajero, was due for a 45,000 km service. It cost us the equivalent of thirty bottles of red wine! I realise you're questioning our priorities but we ask a lot of Billy and so far he hasn't missed a beat. We'd like things to continue that way.

Both the days that we spent in Port Pirie saw the mercury reach 42º C. The caravan air conditioner was a godsend but it really battled to bring the temperature down to a semi-comfortable level. The fridge, too, wasn't quite up to those conditions.

What we didn't know at the time was that the lower Eyre Peninsula - just across the Spencer Gulf - was being devastated by fire. With temperatures exceeding 40º and the countryside tinder dry, strong gusty winds gave the exhausted fire crews little chance. We'd spent Christmas there and had only left ten days earlier. The news shook us severely. The places worst affected were familiar names, little communities where we'd stayed, visited or passed through. Nine people were confirmed dead with several more still missing. An estimated 250,000 sheep were dead. The Tumby Bay Hotel, where we'd spent Christmas Eve, was full to capacity with people whose homes or farms had been destroyed. The fire had threatened Tumby Bay at one stage but thankfully a change in the weather intervened. Water supplies, power and telephones were badly disrupted. Some heartbreaking stories emerged. One mother, fleeing the flames with her two children in a car, hit a tree in thick smoke. The fire reached them before rescuers. All three died. Their farmhouse, ironically, didn't burn.

A sincere thank you to the good friends who contacted us to ensure we were okay.
Port Victoria

After Port Pirie we journeyed further south to spend five days at Port Victoria, a small, coastal village midway down the west coast of the Yorke Peninsula. You're doubtless sick of hearing that everywhere we visit is picturesque. Well, sorry but Port Victoria fits that description too. The caravan park is terraced and runs right down to beach. However, perhaps we should have listened to advice once given to us by a fellow camper: Avoid coastal caravan parks during the summer school holidays. Good advice, this park was riddled with the little ankle biters. Using Port Victoria as a base we explored the Yorke Peninsula. One day we arranged to tour the grain terminal at Wallaroo.

Distant silos

Both White Structures Comprise The Wallaroo Grain Terminal. We Toured The Cells On The Right.

Industrial Bucket

Prior to retirement, Pam worked for Sealing Technology Australia, a company which specialises in sealing the giant cells to make them airtight. (An inert gas is pumped through the grain to destroy any nasty creepies, eliminating the need for toxins.) Despite working for S.T.A. for many years and being offered a tour on several occasions, Pam had never seen a silo close up, let alone toured one.

Left: Industrial Bucket.

We found the size of the cells awesome. We were amazed to learn that the spaces between the cylinders is also used for storage. In addition to various grains, also processed are beans, peas and lentils.

We watched a huge truck draw in under the complex and tip its load of beans. The truck parked over a steel grill and the beans fell through the grill into a hopper below. The hopper fed the beans onto a conveyor belt which carried them to an elevator which lifted them to the top of the towering cells. There another conveyor carried them across the top of the structure until they reached their destination cell . . . and in they went.

At harvest time, trucks arrive at the terminal's storage facility by the dozen. They will be carrying any of several different varieties of wheat or barley. There are eight parallel lanes leading into the facility. Each lane is reserved for one specific type of grain, so the drivers need to be careful. A sign on the approach road advises them of which lane to use. Before tipping each load is checked, and not just the grain at the top of the load either. Samples are drawn from deep inside each truckload.

Grain truck unloading

A cloud of dust drifts up as the truck tips its load of beans through the grill on which it had halted and into the below-ground hopper. Inset: Our tour guide, Graham, shows us some of the beans. The grill through which they fell can be seen behind him.

The grain is cleansed of foreign matter and dust before it is transferred by truck to the storage cells prior to being loaded into a ship via another conveyor system. During our visit to Wallaroo there was a ship loading which was destined for Iraq. During busy periods, a cell may be discharging grain to a ship from the bottom while simultaneously accepting fresh grain from storage at the top.

Below left: Eight lanes where trucks queue to unload at harvest time.

Below right: Iraq Bound. A Ship Loading Via A Conveyor.

Grain Terminal

We found that the little towns of the Yorke Peninsula were similar to those of the Eyre Peninsula - small, pretty and friendly. However, unless you are a beach, boat or fishing person, there is very little to do so we were quite ready to move on when the time came.

On our way to our next destination, Clare, we passed through a little place called Snowtown. We didn’t actually pass through it, we stopped for a coffee. As we do. Since there was a town notice board next to our car, we paused to peruse it. (D'ya like that - peruse?) The street was very quiet with just an occasional car passing by so we were startled when a loud male voice started shouting. Turning, we saw a bloke across the street yelling something - and he was yelling at us. He sounded angry but I couldn't make out what he was saying. What had we done? He came towards us, still yelling. I really couldn’t make out a word he was saying though I did catch the phrase ‘body bank’. By now he had come right up to us. It was apparent that he was a few cents short of a dollar. I was still trying in vain to understand him when Pam responded. I listened in amazement as a short conversation ensued, only one side being intelligible to me. Then he walked away. I looked at Pam.
Did you understand what he was saying? I asked.
Yes, every word she replied.
Well I couldn’t grasp any of it. How is it you could understand him?
I was the mother of a teenager for years.

Pam burst out laughing.
What’s funny? I enquired.
You should have seen your face when he called you Grandpa - it was a picture! Did you think he was asking you for a deposit for the body bank?
I didn’t even know he’d called me Grandpa. Anyway, what’s all this about a body bank? I asked.
That building across the street is the closed-down bank where they discovered drums in the vault containing the body parts of seven or eight murder victims.

Snowtown Bank

Then I remembered. Of course, Snowtown. The gruesome story had been in all the news bulletins at the time. In fact, the trial of one of the accused was still in progress. It seems that some enterprising characters had struck upon this imaginitive idea for making easy money. Locate some people receiving social security benefits, 'terminate' them, then claim their payments; a nice regular income.

Left: The Snowtown Bank.

The only problem was, how to dispose of the bodies? Well, where safer than sealed in drums in a bank vault? Won't fit in the drums? Cut them into manageable chunks. Naturally. Nobody looks twice at drums being moved, but someone dragging a couple of corpses by the ankles tends to attract attention.

Then came the day that the building was sold and the nice lady came to view her purchase . . .

Poor Snowtown was not involved in the murders, it just happened to have a convenient bank vault that nobody was using. And we had parked right across the street from it.

Our rather strange friend (who, it transpired, had received brain damage in an accident) must have thought we’d gone there to gawk. Gawk? Us? As if! But . . . well, seeing that we were there and nobody could see me between the car and caravan, I knew you'd expect a picture.

The name, Snowtown, conjures up romantic images of alpine scenes and skis - or it had until the bank incident - so it was quite a disappointment to learn that it doesn’t snow in Snowtown. The town was named by a state governor in the late eighteen hundreds in honour of his secretary, one Thomas Snow. You know, I blame Matt Flinders; he started all this naming nonsense. However, I digress. We were on our way to Clare . . .
Clare in the Clare Valley

The town of Clare was named by an Irishman after Clare in Ireland. It is the commercial centre of the green and leafy Clare Valley where there are three dozen wineries including Taylors, Gramps and Annies Lane. The area is similar to the Margaret River region - right up our street!

On arriving in Clare we had to pass through the town to reach the caravan park. Pam and I liked both the town and the caravan park immediately. Partly, perhaps, because there were no kids in the park and no ‘Cousins’ in the town. Or it might have had something to do with Clare having three pubs!

Anyway, as soon as we’d set up the ’van, we took off to check out the first pub under the pretext of doing some shopping. On returning to the caravan we noticed that the registrations on the vehicles on either side of us were from Western Australia. One couple was from Canning Vale where Pam used to work. The other was from Beverley where I used to glide. Small world. (And it's getting smaller. Read on.)
Clare Valley - the Town of Burra

Next day we visited a lovely little town called Burra. Used to be ‘Burra Burra’ but they decided one was enough. It sprung up in 1845 when two shepherds, almost simultaneously, discovered copper. It's a long story, but miners came from Cornwall, Wales and Scotland to dig holes in the ground. They found a lot of copper but all that could be mined profitably has long since gone so the town now makes the most out of the heritage aspect of it. And why not?

Burra Burra Copper Mine

The old Burra Burra Copper Mine.

The engine house (restored) and the winding house can be seen behind the pit. The mine was originally underground but as technology improved it became profitable to convert it to open cut. Since pumping ceased, the water found its own level and rose approximately half way up the pit leaving fifty metres below water.

The conditions endured by the miners were atrocious - yet they came to Australia supposedly to escape even worse conditions in Britain. The poorer miners dug holes in the banks of a dry creek and lived in them! What happened when the creek flowed or - worse still - flooded? Imagine waking up to find the bed soaking. Gives a whole new meaning to wet dreams. Wish I hadn’t said that. Where was I? Oh, yes, the holes, known as ‘dug-outs’, are now a tourist attraction. The better-off miners lived in small, terraced cottages (now restored and used for B and B).

Dugouts and Cottages

Cave-like homes dug by miners in the banks of a dry creek and renovated miner's cottages now used for B & B.

Looking for somewhere else to visit, we called at the Tourist Information Centre. There was a museum just round the corner, we were told, but it closed at three o'clock. It was then five to three. They urged us to go, regardless. So we did, just in time to see the lady attendant drive away. As we wandered across the street to look at a rather splendid war memorial (another one stating the Great War ended in 1919) the man from the information centre came chasing after us. He’d intercepted the museum attendant and sent her back!

“Just make a donation”, he said.

We returned to the museum feeling very guilty but the little woman was charm itself and refused to accept a donation. She turned all the lights back on, unlocked all the doors and took off dust covers for us to view the exhibits. How often do we find people like that in our lives?
Clare Valley - the Town of Kapunda

Kidman House

One day we visited the town of Kapunda which also came into being through the discovery of copper. We went first to the Information Centre where we felt an immediate rapport with a very nice, helpful lady called Kathy Warburton. We talked to her for a while and it turned out that her husband, Bob, had attended the same primary and secondary school that I had in the U.K. As kids we had played in the same park though he is three years older than I am. (C'mon, somebody has to be.) Not only that, but her husband's younger brother, Richard Warburton, also attended the same school and was in the same class that I was. Richard, too, had been in Australia but had tragically been killed in a mining accident while driving a grader at Port Hedland. Once again, it's a very small world and getting smaller as you'll see as you read on.

Formerly the residence of cattle baron,
Sir Sidney Kidman. Now Kapunda High School.

As we had been late in arriving at Kapunda we were unable to explore much but we found many references in the town to a self-made cattle baron, Sir Sidney Kidman, who had owned most of the area in his day. Film star Nicole Kidman is his great niece . . . or something. We did, however, manage to investigate the inside of one building before we left - the Sir Sidney Kidman Hotel. Well, you have to support local commerce, haven't you?

Old Sid Kidman was a generous man - could afford to be, I suppose - and he gave his house (pictured above) to the town to use as a high school. Kathy had told us it was worth a visit so we dropped in one Sunday afternoon, just on spec., and scored a tour of the place from a kind teacher who was only there to prepare for the resumption of school the next day. Aren’t people kind? Sir Sid’s place must have been a very nice pad in its heyday.
Clare Valley - the Town of Stockport

While perusing a map, Pam discovered a place called Stockport just a few kilometres away from Clare. (Stockport was the town in the U.K. where Pam and I lived until we emigrated.) Naturally we had to go and investigate.


Views of Stockport, South Australia. As different to Stockport, U.K., as you can get.

So who named Stockport and why? Can't blame Matthew Flinders for this one. We looked for a general store or any sort of public building where we might find someone to answer our questions. There wasn't as much as a shop, let alone a pub or police station. We finally found two women cleaning the town hall. They conferred for a minute and suggested we try Julie, first house on the right over the bridge. Now, you're not going to believe this - Julie was from our old home town, Stockport, in England. Yes, it's true. Yet another 'small world' coincidence. But even Julie didn't know the who or why of the town's name in Australia.

“Try Sharon at the house across the street” she suggested. “She's been here longer than me and she's the Post Mistress.”

Post Mistress? There wasn't a Post Office, just some post boxes on a wall but hey, who cares? Sharon couldn't answer our questions either but suggested we try the library in a town called Riverton a few kilometres away. They have a green book, you see? Well, the Riverton library didn't have the green book - it had been transferred to the Information and History Centre and, Oh dear, that closed half an hour ago.

So, there was nothing for it but to go all the way back to Riverton's Information and History Centre two days later, only to find a notice on the door saying it was closed for a week! However, at that very moment historian Rosemary Shearer walked around the corner and opened the door. Just one minute later and we'd have missed her but she invited us in and gave us two hours of her time plus heaps of photocopies from the green book for which she wouldn't take a cent! Thank you, Rosemary.

Old Stockport Station

Back to the subject. Who did name Stockport? While the records for the town are quite comprehensive, nowhere do they state who named it. However, all the indications are that it was one Samuel Stocks who was born in Stockport, England, in 1813 and died in 1850 aged 37. Perhaps his early demise explains the scarcity of references to him.

Today, Stockport is a small farming community. Many of the houses appear neglected and you could drive through the 'town' without seeing a soul. But it wasn't always so. In its early days it was the thriving hub of commerce in the area. It had four pubs (one called The Stockport) and things could get quite lively. Before the railway came, bullock teams hauled copper from the mines to Port Adelaide and returned with loads of coal. They would stop at Stockport and the teamsters caused so much trouble that the locals requested a ‘peace officer’ for the town. The request was refused.

Stockport Station today

The picture (above right) shows Stockport station in more prosperous times, and (right) as it is today.

Is it my imagination or had some creative 'fiddling' been carried out on the black and white photo to make the station look longer and grander? It looks decidedly more 'dumpy' in the colour picture.

Today the bitumen on the platform has weeds growing through the cracks. The buildings are deserted and padlocked. Only one track remains but at least that is still in use - we watched two diesel locomotives haul a grain train through. There's always something sad about an abandoned railway station, don't you think? Once - before the roads were sealed and everyone owned a car - it would have been the lifeline of the community. Now it's just a decaying relic of a bygone age. I know that feeling well.

Okay, that was all very interesting but we still had a continent to explore, so back to Clare. There was an open-air pop concert planned for the next Saturday night at Annies Lane Winery. On Friday evening the peaceful, laid back atmosphere of the caravan park was shattered as young people with loud cars, loud music and even louder mouths, flooded in and set up tents everywhere. Fortunately we had planned to leave on the Saturday morning on advice from the park manager - If you want to stay you can but, believe me, you won’t want to! He was right.
Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley

Our next stop was Nuriootpa - and I still couldn't say it right after practising for a week. It’s pronounced ‘new ree oot pa’. Thankfully the locals just call it Nuri (rhymes with fury). The name is derived from the Aboriginal word, Nguriatpa. Come back Matthew Flinders, all is forgiven! Regardless of the name, this was one of the nicest places we had visited. Just as Clare is the commercial centre of the Clare Valley wine growing region, so Nuriootpa is the commercial centre of the Barossa Valley wine growing region. Wall to wall vines, everywhere we went.

Caravan at Nuriootpa

We were given a prime location in the caravan park, shaded by a beautiful flowering eucalyptus tree. It vibrated with the hum of bees all day and attracted scores of multi-coloured birds. (I don't actually know what sort of tree is is, but eucalyptus seems a pretty safe bet.)

Home amongst the gum trees

Life can be so cruel sometimes. There we were, passing through the heart of two world-famous wine producing regions, and unable to take advantage of it because Mr and Mrs Bucket were in grave danger of becoming Mr and Mrs Barrel. Pam is determined never to put on weight again so she's put us both on a strict diet and I'm only allowed one drink a day. Hyacinth Bucket lives!

Based at Nuriootpa we were still within easy reach of Kapunda where we had met Kathy Warburton. Kathy had phoned and invited us to afternoon tea so we could meet her husband. What a colourful character Bob turned out to be! A pilot of both powered aircraft and gliders and a connoisseur of red wine to boot! I started to recount the story of how I was at the Avro airfield the day the first Avro Vulcan delta-winged jet bomber flew. You guessed - he was there too. Then he told us that he'd been in Darwin when Cyclone Tracy struck. You win, Bob. I can't match that.

On the way to Kapunda we decided to stop and eat the lunch Pam had prepared for us. A road sign indicated a rest area 400 metres ahead so we pulled in. There we found a huge statue of a Cornish miner called Map Kernow. The name is Cornish and means ‘Son of Cornwall’. The Cornish connection harks back to the discovery of copper when many Cornish miners were drafted in because they knew it all when it came to copper mining.

Map Kernow

Map, Mate, Watch You Don’t Drop That Hammer. She Might Be Small But . . .

One day we received a nasty shock while driving back to base. We were squeezed to the edge of the bitumen by an oncoming truck. As it passed us its wheels threw up a large rock. I actually saw the rock a split second before it hit the centre of the bonnet and ricocheted on to the windscreen in front of Pam's face with a deafening bang. Fortunately the windscreen held though it sustained a double chip. Had it not, Pam would undoubtedly have been severely injured. The rock left a nasty dent in the car's bonnet and took off some paint.

The truck driver was not at fault and we were travelling below the speed limit. It was extremely unnerving, but how can this sort of incident be avoided? The short answer is, it can't.

The roads are not wide enough for a truck to safely pass another vehicle without risking its left wheels running off the bitumen. And when that happens, rocks will get thrown up. We spent a lot of time driving on South Australia's country roads and found them pretty appalling. The roads are too narrow, the surface is frequently bumpy and patched. The gravel verges have, more often than not, eroded leaving the edge of the bitumen undercut, breaking away and jagged. To exacerbate all this you are sharing these roads with large trucks and the speed limit is usually 110 k.p.h.

View Over Barossa Valley

Looking Across the Barossa Valley

In the picture above, the grass in the foreground and on the distant hills gives an indication of how dry the countryside would look without vine cultivation. The rich, green areas are wineries. The town of Tanunda can be seen in the distance.

Beyond the stone wall in the foreground are three of nine sculptures. In 1988 an International Sculpture Symposium was held in the Barossa. Nine sculptors from Australia, Japan, France and the U.S.A. were invited to work, in-situ, on designs that ‘relate to the environment’ using blocks of local granite and marble. Three of the sculptures are shown in the picture. You can clearly see the relationship to the environment. Well, can’t you? Personally, I prefer the stone wall; at least it's useful.

Mock Mustang

While exploring the Barossa we came across Lincoln Nitschke's Military and Historical Aircraft Collection, a truly marvellous aircraft museum. Well, one of us thought it was wonderful, the other just yawned.

Lincoln had even acquired, complete, a Canberra jet bomber, an Avro Anson, a DH Vampire, a CAC Wirraway and a DH Devon as well as many partial aircraft. There was a multitude of aircraft engines, including that most famous of all, a Rolls Royce Merlin. The museum walls were covered in photographs and newspaper clippings and Lincoln had built a collection of over 1,400 scale models. Perhaps the most intriguing exhibit was . . .

A Full-sized Replica of a Mustang

It was built by a man who, recovering from a serious illness, was advised by his doctor to find himself an interest. From 1/72 scale plans of a plastic Airfix model Mustang, he built the full sized replica (pictured) in his back yard. The only original Mustang component was the cockpit canopy. The rest was fabricated, mainly from wood and sheet metal. All the control surfaces respond to movement of the cockpit controls. He even fitted a Datsun car engine to spin the propeller for realism! From a few metres away you wouldn't know it wasn't the genuine article. It has even fooled people who have worked on real Mustangs.

Lincoln was an extremely interesting man. We talked at length and I discovered he used to be a glider pilot at Waikerie and has a love of diesel engines. Instant rapport! He travels extensively to view aircraft, motor and motorcycle museums, as well as castles and cathedrals. The amount of energy, expertise and devotion that he's put into his museum is quite phenomenal.

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