The country east of Burra, South Australia

Sunday, Oct 05, 2014 at 11:00

Member - Andrew & Jen

For some time we have traveled the Barrier Hwy on our way to or from a destination in outback NSW or Qld, passing by the hills to the south of Yunta and thinking “We really ought to make the time to take a look at them”
So having returned from outback Qld along the Barrier Hwy mid August, we started planning a short trip into the country to the south of Yunta and east of Burra.
Burra is very accessible to Adelaide, being only a few hours away directly to the north or a little bit more by our preferred route up through Mt Pleasant, Keyneton, Truro and Eudunda.
Tucked into a valley, Burra is an attractive pastoral centre and historic tourist town steeped in mining history, being at one time a major producer of copper (5% of the world’s supply). It has all the facilities required for the traveler, including Coopers Butchery which sells salt bush lamb, good coffee shops, Cornish pasties and an excellent Italian restaurant, La Pecora Nera (The Black Sheep).
The tourist information centre has a brochure called the “Dare’s Hill Circuit Tour” which outlines a route from Mt Bryan to Terowie via Dare’s Hill. This excursion of some 104 km is well worth allocating a day to. Heading north from Burra, the tour starts at Mt Bryan opposite the extensive wind farm, taking the back roads past many historic settlements, the birthplace of noted Australian photographer, adventurer, aviator, war hero, spy and polar explorer, Sir Hubert Wilkins (largely unknown in Australia – see book “Hubert Who?” by Malcolm Andrews) and pastoral properties such as the renowned Collinsville Stud. The changes in land forms, soil types, climate, vegetation and land management are very apparent over the relatively short trip.

We also took the opportunity to side track to the Caroona Conservation Park via the western access track and were rewarded with spectacular views over the eastern plains. We checked out the campsite and while no great shakes, it would be quite adequate in the dry.

After leaving the tour route at the Pine Creek Road junction and heading east over the extensive plains, we had definitely shifted into pastoral country – flat, saltbush, largely treeless except where watercourses crossed the landscape, unfenced roads with grids or gates marking the end of one property and the start of the next, the occasional homestead and sheds, often the former no longer occupied but the sheds still in use, as were the adjacent yards. Name changes were evident, as properties had changed hands, been amalgamated or relegated to outstation status.

Then the occasional and welcome station homestead still in use – maybe a green patch of garden, the inevitable washing on the line, a collection of Toyota utes parked in the yard (there were 9 at one station we visited), some trailbikes, dogs barking to announce our arrival, a plane in a shed next to the homestead with double gates for access to the strip.

A quick chat with whoever responded to our arrival – maybe just in from checking the water on a trailbike, about to start the day away from the homestead having finished the chores close to home, or in for a cuppa. And generally happy to share some advice about what lay ahead and who to contact, asking a few questions by way of background and, I suspect, quietly assessing the questioner while they cast an eye over our vehicle checking for “fitness for purpose”. And then that amazing aspect of life you come across in the bush when you least expect it, of finding shared contacts, either direct or once removed! “Ah, so you would know so and so, wouldn’t you? He worked/lived there around that time I reckon”

After mainly easterly travel, a bit of northing to get back into those hills we had viewed from the highway; to what appear to be imposing mountains in the distance but shrink in stature on approach, but then sometimes regain in ruggedness close up as we explore the ravines and bluffs. Not surprisingly, public access is very limited to these areas as there were few mines and no settlements to warrant public roads being built when the country was opened up.

After renewing contacts in Manna Hill and Yunta, and hot weather and strong winds forecast, it was time to head home and, while having only sampled what was on offer, with a better appreciation of the country we had bypassed so often.

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