Surveyor's General Corner Part 1 South Aust'n "Gems"

Sunday, Feb 24, 2013 at 02:35

Member - Michael John T (VIC)

Our objective on this trip was to visit yet another significant point on the Australian continent, the last of the North, South, East and West points and the State Corners to be achieved. Surveyor’s General Corner is the point (or I should say points) where the WA, SA and NT states converge. With the relevant permits arranged, away were went five of us in three vehicles on what turned out to be a 7 week and about 8,000 Km journey. (From June 28th to August 22nd , 2012). With just on 3 weeks before our permit date for SGC we had plenty of time to explore some of what South Australia had to offer --- and were there some “gems” of places to see.
On our second day out we stopped (as usual) at that exquisite spot just over the SA border from pretty Nelson, Picanninny Ponds. This is a lovely limestone sink hole, crystal clear on a calm day, beautiful water (accessed by permitted divers) and surrounded by extensive reed and marsh beds. A small and quite fast moving water flow leads from the pond out onto the nearby beach. It’s one of those places Brenda and I always call into when passing nearby.

From there we made a run via Mt Gambia and it’s Blue Lake, passing through the myriad of wind turbines and onto the Coorong another of SA’s magic places. We camped quite late at Chase Parnka Camp No. 2 just in time to watch with some awe the beautiful sunset reflecting in the shallow waters just in front of our camp. That and the twilight colours that followed easily eased the pain of the wind and very cold night that followed. A one night stopover doesn’t do justice to this place you need to spend time , away from the crowded holiday peaks, to really enjoy it’s beauty.

However our arrangement was to meet our fellow traveling companion at the small township of Blythe the next day. The following morning, with some sunny patches but persistent light rain showers, we pressed on through Port Augusta and out to Iron Knob for a look at this monarch of the past. The township, except for a few remaining residents is all but deserted and dilapidation starting to set in on some of the buildings. It is a pity that there is so little information displayed about the important role that this community and it’s mines played in the 20th century development of Australia. Before the development of the Pilbara, the Knob was principally one of our most significant iron ore deposits, supplying the towns of Whyalla and Newcastle. A mining lease was first pegged there in the 1880’s by Ernest Siekman and his family. He formed the Mount Minden (name of his Prussianhome town) Mining Company which extracted high quality (often close to 70%) ore for the next 16 years. BHP acquired the lease and mined there for the next 100 years closing operations in 1998. Ore was railed to Whyalla. Leaving the town we continued our journey turning onto the Mount Ives Station road finding a camp site in amongst the mulga scrub. Another cold night but a good camp fire helped.

The good quality gravel road led us through several stations, Corunna, Siam, Nonning, Kalengo and into Mt Ives. It was a pretty drive through often rough pasture and grazing country, many herds of goats and flocks of sheep, plenty of roos and emus. Stopped at the memorial marking the site of Edward John Eyre’s No 6 Camp, and a little further on the old telephone box, depositing a few coins donation to the RFDS. Since my last visit Mt Ives has become a well set camping stay, with a very pleasant and informative host. We paid our $25 per vehicle access fee for the self-drive visit to Lake Gairdner. This lake Australia’s fourth largest salt lake, usually an expansive dry area of salt, is used for land speed trials attracting enthusiasts Australia wide. Not on our visit though, it was well covered in water, the only salt, little puffs washed up onto the lakes edge. Cold and very windy as it was, set among arid scrub with the surrounding brilliant red of the rhyolitic rocks the lake provided excellent reflections over its’ vast expanse and a walk along the edge was well worth the effort. I had the notion that it would be a long time, perhaps a year or so before they raced again on this lake, but evaporation out here proved me wrong and only a couple of weeks ago there was a report in our local paper of several enthusiasts were heading back for this years speed events (two of our locals actually hold current speed records set there). Driving out you caught a brilliant reflection on the lake before losing sight of it behind the low hills. We made our way to the Embankment, a rock retaining wall built by pastoralists in 1892, and then to the Castle – organ pipes (we were to see numerous examples of these over the next day or two) before locating a suitable camp site further up the road north of the station.

Our drive today was to reach the Gawler Ranges NP, about 79 kms downYardea Road and then a further 29 kms into the NP via a narrower and enjoyably winding road through the mulga forest. Truly, the whole drive was just magnificent, from the soaring wedgetailed eagles & the many kangaroos, to the blue/greys of the saltbush strewn grazing country and finally the very pretty drive through the multi coloured vegetation of the mulga bush. The last 30 kms was slow driving more so from the numerous stops to enjoy the bush than the nature of the track. At no stage was it all difficult but just extremely pretty.

The NP has so much to offer, plenty of history, including the historic Paney Station Shearers Shed located at the registration site ($7 entry fee and $7 - for oldies- camping fee) . It proved very good value indeed. The drive along the LP Track to Kolay Hut and Mirika Falls with it’s excellent examples of organ pipe formations was just a joy, especially as you looked back over the colourful rolling hills. From there we followed the 4wd (sensible) Mattera Track and onto the Old Paney Scenic Route that led us to the abandoned homestead from where the original 1400 square miles of station was administered. It was that the family of 11 children were raised and endeared the hardships of outback life. Two graves near the homestead attest to the loss of two small children, one age 3 yrs and the other 4 yrs, reminding us of how difficult it must have been for those early pioneer settlers. The homestead itself is still in remarkably good condition of solid stone construction.

A short drive from here is Policeman’s Point, not sure why it is called that but it is at the head of an obvious fertile valley and feeds a small stream that in the wet would house a small but impressive waterfall. We scrambled over the rocks and up to the top of the small creek. Once again a lovely place highlighted by the sighting of a watchful Yellow Footed Wallaby. The wander back to the vehicles was enhanced by several mallee ringnecks feeding on the grasses just in front of us. This had been a delightful day as we made our way to the small Yardinga campig site. Just as we pulled up we were caught in a quite heavy down pour, this was not going to be a pleasant night, but as quickly as it came it cleared and although damp we had a pleasant evening, helped a little by a couple of glasses of shiraz and a port or two. We had however had a strenuous day …. . well it’s a good excuse isn’t it?

Next morning we were set for another good day in the Park and this was helped by the presence of the Red Capped Robin that all but joined us for breakfast. More delights today as we drove the 28km (return) into the Organ Pipes. We scrambled up the small valley, along the massive rock fingers of the strangely angled rocks, many of them representing large crystal shapes. What was holding them upright? There formation intriguing, the overall effect, just a little mind blowing. We climbed almost to the top of the shear face of the valley and sat, taking in the peacefulness of the area. This is a fantastic geological display and well worth taking time to visit it. When you look across to the surrounding hillsides the volcanic rhyolitic structures can be seen to be extensive throughout the Park. It is difficult to describe the area , perhaps the photos will help.

Unfortunately the schedule we were proposing for ourselves dictated that it was best to move on. After all it is well within reach of a return visit in the near future. We had but glimpsed at what this area has to offer, I had been through this area back in the 90’s but missed the now National Park features, so this trip turned out to be a great diversion from the highway to Ceduna and another of our objectives ….. Googs’ Track. More of this in part 2.
So far SA had served up the following “gems” for us :-
- Piccanny Ponds - The Coorong - Mt Ives and Lake Gairdner
- The Gawler Ranges NP and it’s Geology.
…… But as they say in the adds “ There’s more…..
Additional Photos:-

We retired to travell
It's time to go again...
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