27 Sep 1998 - Burra SA

Sunday, Sep 27, 1998 at 00:00

Mick O

So it begins. Three intrepid explorers, brothers in alms, on a journey into the unknown. The Olsen boys “Bondfest” begins.

But in true Pythonesque style, before the beginning, there is always the part that comes before. That’d be Saturday. As it was the Grand Final of the ’98 A.F.L. Season, I had to work a shift commencing at 6.00 p.m. and finishing at the ungodly hour of 2.00 a.m. Sunday morning. Not much chop on the day before your holidays start let me assure you. Cam had flown to Sydney that morning and was due to arrive back at Tullamarine at 7.20 on Sunday morning. Scott was ensconced in front of the tele watching the final itself so the packing etc was left up to me. I caught a taxi to the airport and picked up our brand new Magna Station Wagon from the Thrifty Rental Branch there. It was a superb new beast with only 500 klicks on the clock and that smell you pay thirty plus grand for. I couldn’t help but wonder just how long that would last. Having retrieved most of my camping gear from the storage area and roof the previous day, the necessary supplies and equipment were quickly stowed into the wagon and for me, it was off to work. I’d arranged to stay at Scott and Bec’s in Glen Iris that night so we could get an early start for the airport. 6.00 a.m. to be exact and after a 2.00 finish having spent an eight hour shift dealing with drunken idiots, the alarm came all to quickly. Breakfast was a coffee and a last minute re-shuffle of the equipment then it was off to the airport to pick up Cam.

We’d decided (at the airport mind you) that our escape route out of Melbourne would take us out the Western Highway to Ballarat then on to Horsham before wending our way north through the Adelaide Hills. We hadn’t reckoned of course on 40,000 victorious Adelaide Crows supporters heading home that same day. From about Beaufort onwards the roadside was littered with odd little groups of Crow Supporters draped over utilities, eskies and deck chairs waving their flags, tooting their horns and drinking plenty of VB in tribute to their returning comrades. Of course the urge to spur them on with our witty repertoire was irresistible so the obscenity “GO ROO’S” was heard echoing across the highway on more than one occasion (Actually bought back memories of Scotts’ classic “I hate…..” comment of Langtree Avenue, 1983).

There was an essential road stop at Horsham, primarily to call on Bryan and Shirl but also to hunt down an air mattress for Cam. Whilst standing at the local K-Mart waiting for Cam to finalise the transaction on his new, velour topped blow up bed (Wonder how that will take the three corner jacks and bindi eyes of the rugged outback?), Bryan snuck up on me. We were cornered now and had no other option but to head round to Tydeman Street and let Aunt Shirl prepare a minor feast of salad rolls, cakes and biscuits. This outback exploring is fraught with dangers. It appears though that starvation is not going to be one of them.

After a pleasant hour at Tydeman Street we were on the road once again through Kaniva and inevitably the South Australian Border. Through the Aptly named Border Town and on to Murray Bridge the Magna effortlessly chewing up the kilometres despite the load. The road was littered with traps set by the traffic police of two states no doubt to keep the returning throng on the straight and narrow. At Murray Bridge our path diverged to a more northerly aspect taking us through the scenic green hills to the towns of Palmer, Mt Pleasant, Williamstown and Lyndoch. There was a little confusion as we became tangled in the freeways at Gawler before finally finding our target, Highway 32. By this stage of the afternoon, the weather had started to close in and our beautiful sunny day evaporated, replaced by low dark clouds. The black ribbon of Highway 32 points north like an arrow for 200 kilometres until it reaches Peterborough in the foothills of the Southern Flinders Ranges. 120 kilometres from its start, the highway passes through Burra, an old copper mining town now a tourist destination and service center for the surrounding farm lands. The district of Burra Burra (the name means “Great Great” in Hindustani) is now famous for stud sheep. It was copper though that first put the town on the map when it was discovered in 1845 and it’s population swelled to nearly 10,000 making it in the mid 1800’s the 12 largest city in the colonies. The population now is a much more modest 1200 but much of the old town remains in the form of its miner’s cottages, grand hotels, wide streets and of course the open cut mine and ruins. More pressing on us at the time of our 5.30 arrival was the thought of impending rain and as a few drops were beginning to splatter ominously on the windscreen, we made a joint decision and like the brave explorers were are, booked straight into the Burra Motel. Best $70 we’d ever spent. Tea was a massive steak at the Karingal Hotel accompanied with a bottle of red (or three) and a chat with the licensee Warrick and his family (Wife Jan and daughter Christine). There had been a bit of celebration at the Crows win in the Grand Final and the pub was still decked out with the appropriate coloured decorations and painted esky lids. All in all an enjoyable evening topped off by flogging one of the Crow Icons from the mantle piece on departure at closing time, a shocking 8.00 p.m. There was nothing for it but to return to the motel, have a spa and consume far too much port.
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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