Saturday, December 31, 2011

Backroads: Sydney to Canberra Pt 1 - Sydney to Southern Highlands.

This drive is designed to suit people who like to get off the beaten track and stay off the main highway and motorway routes. The Southern highlands can also be accessed by one of several beautiful routes from the south coast. This article does not cover those routes. Instead it concentrates on the western areas of the highlands closer to the Hume Highway. If you love to drive or would like two or three of days out of Sydney without going too far, then a circular drive down to the highlands and down to the Illawarra coast and back up along the Grand Pacific Drive is an excellent option.

First of all (and this depends very much on the precise timing due to peak traffic periods) you could consider driving out of Sydney along Henry Lawson Drive. You might choose to do this if you are one of those people who would like to have a quick squizz at the "real" Sydney rather than sitting on the motorway with sound barriers for the whole drive out of urban Sydney.  To take this route, I reckon the easiest access is to exit the motorway at King Georges Road and head south (left) down King George's Road. Turn right at Stoney Creek Road and continue on to Forest Road which becomes Henry Lawson Drive.
Henry Lawson Drive follows the Georges River and is leafy and pleasant. There are stretches of bushland and riverside parks you can stop at such as Georges River National Park.  You need to be careful swimming in the Georges River as sharks do enter the waters, though this is noted as unusual on the Georges River website .  Keep an eye out for the beware of sharks signs along the river as you pass by. 
In places along the river you will see some large houses.. the George's River used to flood regularly and the houses were fairly inexpensive by the river as a result. They've done some flood mitigation works and clearly the current owners feel their investment is safe enough. Consequently redevelopment has been enthusiastic. Perhaps some of them might be feeling nervous after the experience of the people of Brisbane recently when areas considered safe since the construction of the Wivenhoe Dam, were again inundated following a series of major rain events.

Rejoin the motorway when you come to the on ramp from Henry Lawson Drive. Continue and you can then exit the motorway at Camden Valley Way to make your way to Camden straight down Camden Valley Way. This section is also heavily dependent on timing.  Camden Valley way is a pleasant leafy drive through rural hinterland.  
As you approach Camden you pass a development called Harrington Park. You might be curious to take a brief detour to cruise around in Harrington Park and see this reasonably typical recent outer Sydney housing development or perhaps the website and the drive past is more than enough. The large houses that are commonly built to consume the majority of the housing block they sit on are derisively termed "McMansions". They are a subject that is not quite a barbeque stopper, but certainly one that is likely to bring out some strong emotions in many people. McMansion is a term derived from the fast food hamburger outlet known the world over.

Also at the intersection of Camden Valley Way and Narellan Road there's a shopping centre. Camden Council resisted such developments in the area as long as possible but in the end with the population growth they allowed this one, and the fast food joints nearby.  So far Camden itself has been carefully protected by the local council. However, it seems the writing is on the wall.  The NSW government is currently working on drowning the lovely rural land around Camden with housing developments. The resumption of productive farm land for housing is an increasingly controversial issue.
Also at the intersection of Camden Valley Road and Narrellan road you can turn towards Campbelltown and visit the Australian Botanic Garden Mt Annan...Entry is free and it's worth a stop. There is a pleasant circuit drive, lakeside picnic spots, remnant critically endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland; some walks with outstanding views across the district, an excellent children's playground and a good cafe. As you drive on the circuit you cross a bridge over a canal. This canal is entirely gravity fed and is apart of the infrastructure of Sydney's water supply. It was built in 1880 and moves water to Prospect Resevoir.
To the south of the Gardens as you travel on the circuit or pause to enjoy the views you can see a large historic house with an area of olive plantation. This is a beautiful private historic home called Glenlee. It is owned by a local Chemist and accordingly it can be purchased at David Wilson Chemist in Campbelltown.. and you might also be able to buy it at the gift shop in the Gardens....I will do a separate article on a walking tour of Campbelltown.

From the Gardens (or Campbelltown) head back out to Narellan along Narellan Road and turn left at Camden Valley Way to continue down to Camden.

Camden is a very pretty little village with a charming main street. This district was originally set aside as government land called "the Cowpastures" after escaped cattle from the earliest days of settlement were located thriving on the fertile grasslands. Having been firmly rebuffed by the Governor who had reserved the land to ensure the availability of food for the young colony, John Macarthur, as a result skillful manoeuvring, obtained a large land grant here through the intervention of the Colonial Secretary, Lord Camden. Hence the name. When John Macarthur arrived back in the colony the Governor of NSW was furious to say the least.  The whole area is very historically significant. You might recognise the name of John Macarthur if you've come across mention of the Rum Rebellion. He's one of our more interesting/notorious historical figures. His wife Elizabeth is also very important historically and you will see her name here and there if you're paying attention as you drive through.

You will find more information about sites around Macarthur on the visit Macarthur website. In particular the website provides a self guided walking tour of Camden... but take some of what they say on there with a grain of salt, (especially in their history section!) They talk some things up a bit much to say the least.. indeed as someone quite interested in history I'd say their claims are a tad outrageous. If you really want to see the "birthplace of Australian agriculture" you could consider visiting Experiment Farm which is in Sydney.   Another very interesting place to visit in Sydney is Elizabeth Farm which was built for John Macarthur in 1793. It is the oldest European building in Australia. You'll get a much more balanced representation about John Macarthur's contribution there... but I digress.

It's a pleasant back roads drive across the Razorback, out to the village of Picton. The George IV pub (known as the George) brews it's own beer and has an excellent reputation for a quality drop. 
Also in Picton r.coffeeco is a good cafe for breakfast or lunch.

Another option from Camden is to head out to Burragorang lookout which overlooks Sydney's main water supply and the world heritage listed Greater Blue Mountains area. At Burragorang there are beautiful wildness views and beautiful and shady picnic tables, a nice childrens play area and electric barbeques. The bushland at Burragorang is beautiful and when we visited in January the Sydney red gums were shedding their bark to reveal beautiful beautiful red beneath.  There is a day use fee which has been imposed since they upgraded the facilities. To go out to Burragorang, drive straight ahead at the roundabout near the Camden Showgrounds into Cawdor Road; straight ahead at the roundabout at Sheathers lane and then turn right into Burragorang Road. Stay on it and it will take you to the lookout. Along the way you pass through the Oaks where volunteers operate the Wollondilly Heritage Centre which is open on weekends and public holidays. 

On the return from the Burragorang lookout turn right into Barkers Lodge Road and follow it all the way to Picton from there. We're talking serious backroading now :o) and this is a lovely drive leading you to a lovely little country town.

From Picton there are two notable options, you can head through Tahmoor and Bargo and catch up some time by rejoining the highway for a while at Yanderra. 
 Alternatively you can turn from Picton to Thirlmere where you will find the Train Works Railway Museum, which has recently had a big capital investment from the Government.

From Thirlmere you can head to Tahmoor and catch up as described above, or you can continue through the bushy route via Buxton, Hill Top and Colo Vale. If you are a gardener you might find it interesting to have a quick look at Wariapendi Native Nursery at Colo Vale to see the sorts of things we might plant here that you might not expect to find at home. You drive straight past their entry and they sell icecreams if you fancy stretching your legs. There is some interesting information on their website about some things they have been involved in that adds background for later in this stage and a  later stage of the Sydney to Canberra backroads trip.  Eg  restoring the Gib  and Wariapendi’s contribution to the re-vegetation of the site of the Capital Hill Wind Farm at Bungendore.  
Once again you have a choice to join the highway for a quick run in along the main road of Mittagong, where you will find the tourist information centre. I recommend this route for a first time visitor although it does spend a while getting through the industrial zone before you get into Mittagong itself.  Mittagong's main road is very nice and lined with deciduous trees that colour in autumn. If you enjoy needlecraft you may be interested in a stop at Victoria House where you can find Australian themed designs as kits or pattern sheets. If you have skipped some or even all, the stopping opportunities so far, you might feel like a break at Lake Alexandra, a man made lake with picnic and playgrounds and toilets and an opportunity to take a short walk. In the streets surrounding Lake Alexandra there are numerous old stone cottages. 
Alternatively you can cross the overpass above the highway and drive along the Old Hume Highway for a short way, turning right into Old South Road. At the intersection with Range road turn right and drive until you come to the Sturt Craft Centre. The left turn at the same intersection is a nice scenic drive out to Robertson and this is recommended for people who have done the highlands before and are looking to explore deeper.

Nearby lovely district views can be enjoyed at the lookouts on Mt Gibralter, which is known as The Gib. 
From the Gib, it's a short drive into the busiest (and most up market) centre in the highlands: Bowral. However, I recommend heading back to the main street in Mittagong and heading to Berrima first as the route to Berrima from Mittagong is more scenic.

As you head out of Mittagong, scrapbookers might like to visit Paper Roses scrapbooking shop at 113 Main Street Mittagong.

Taking the route from Mittagong, about a km after you cross the overpass across the highway, you will come to sign directing to Wombeyan Caves. This road is a very rough, difficult route. If you do want to visit Wombeyan Caves - don't go this way. Especially in a camper.  However if you turn here you can follow the signs to Tertini Wines cellar door. We recently enjoyed a stop at Tertini Wines and walked out with some lovely Noble Reisling, Pink Lady cider and (delicious) rhubarb and ginger jam. :-)  This is not the only winery in the area, but it is one I can recommend.

About 3 kms out of Berrima you will come to the Berkelouw book barn.. which comes with a warning.. those tempted to enter sometimes lose track of the time....  
Berrima is an historic village with many shops, galleries, an historic licensed hotel - The Surveyor General - and national trust listed buildings such as Harpers Mansion (only open on weekends and public holidays) and Berrima Courthouse (open every day).. Visitors who are looking for Australian themed patchwork fabric can find some at Berrima Patchwork.

Aside from these options there is a lot to explore around the Southern Highlands. You can enjoy a pleasant drive through or you can stay a night or two or three.... There are a number of cellar doors in the area, gardens, scenic drives and historic properties.  

More to follow :o)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Silver City Sojourn - Day 8 - Hay to Cootamundra

Day 8 – Thursday 28th April
First departures at the Saltbush about 6 am but I am already awake.  A pretty good night. Comfortable room. Quiet fridge.  I catch up on my journal while mum potters about getting ready.  We won’t hang about in Hay today, we have plenty of things to see between Narrandera and Cootamundra and I want to save those things in Hay that I haven’t yet done for another time, when I plan to rent a riverside cottage and spend a bit longer.

Before leaving Hay we decide to pop down to the river at Bushy Bend.  I don’t remember seeing the three lovely stainless steel sculptures when we last visited.. but as we contemplate them I think to myself that at least the one with the river levels depicted I think I have seen before. They are great sculptures and are very effective with very good interpretive panels to help visitors understand the inspiration for each monument.  

There are great birds around this morning, yellow rosellas, treecreepers and diamond firetails as well as a couple of peaceful doves.  It’s a lovely spot for a picnic and a break from the highway or the motel.  I am really sorry to be leaving Hay so soon, but there are routes to explore to the east and I want to be home for weekend.
We head back south to join the Sturt Highway to take us across to Narrandera. The scenery is quite different to the saltbush plains we would cross if we headed directly for West Wyalong.  It is a fairly quiet, straightforward trip through to Narrandera with just the one stop at a rest stop situated nearby or among a signposted “significant roadside area”.  These significant roadside areas are those where the vegetation remnants along the road provide good quality habitat for various creatures including birds.  The rest stop in question is called “The Birdcage Rest Area”.  We have wizzed past an inconspicuous sign saying “The River” with an arrow.   

We pull into the forecast rest stop and find a fairly modest strip abutting a small watercourse which must feed into the Murrumbidgee.  There are lots of fallen trees.  In one spot there are some discarded truck tyres, but the area could be made very nice. Just a short stop and we move on as I am anxious to get to  Narrandera before 10:30 so we can take the tour at the Inland Fisheries Centre.  I don’t see any signage, so with just five minutes to spare I dash into the information centre and ask for directions.  I am assisted with good cheer by a nice friendly man and I go on my way.  

The Fisheries centre is along the Sturt Highway as if you were heading to Wagga Wagga.  I drop mum near the entrance and go and park.  We appear to be the only people here today.  Sure enough this is the case. We’ve picked the right day and we have the guide all to ourselves.  Cheap as chips. $7.70 per adult.  The first part of the tour is in the aquarium section where there are banks of fish tanks of various sizes housing a range of fish and creatures that are found in inland waterways of NSW.  First we learn about Golden Perch which is better known as Yellow Belly, and it’s close relative the Silver Perch. These are able to be caught in some places, but never out of a river.  You can only keep perch that are at least 30 cms long. The perch are bred at the centre. When conditions are right they are tested and if the tests are satisfactory they are injected with a hormone to bring on spawning and put into a large tank male and female together and allowed to spawn.  They lay eggs that are not sticky and that float around in the water.  The perch can produce 500,000 eggs in a season. All the native fish can only spawn once each year. In the tank there is a catfish The catfish make their nest on the bottom on the river bed. Here’s where the evil European carp come in,  they are bottom feeders and they muddy up the water and they can clean up a catfish nest in seconds.  The European Carp can spawn twice in a year. One female can produce a million eggs every year.  Contrary to popular belief, Carp is OK eating and in most other countries people are happy to eat it, even serving it as a treat at Christmas time.  We are surprised to learn that way worse for the environment than the European carp is the red fin.  It is also a feral exotic.  All red fin are born carrying a virus which when times are bad they release the virus and it kills of all the other fish, and plenty of the red fin too, but the red fin survivors are the strong ones.  Red fin are very popular with anglers they are considered good eating. Perhaps this is why they don't get such bad press as the carp.  Due to the very damaging effect the red fin have it is now illegal to return a red fin to the water if you catch it regardless of the size of the particular fish.  Anglers are encouraged not to return carp to the water but it is not illegal to do so.  Carp are incredibly good at getting themselves back in the water so it is recommended that anglers kill and bury any carp they catch.  The research station has a number of projects on the go, including ways to selectively extract the ferals from the river systems via mazes and clever things like that.  Goldfish are also in the waterways and can get very large.

Another highly endangered fish we learn about is the trout cod. Very similar in appearance to a Murray Cod, except the trout cod has an overbite, so its top lip sticks out further than the bottom.  It also has a black line back through it’s eye.  The trout cod is a very aggressive fish and popular with anglers.  It is in big trouble and is completely protected.  The fisheries centre breed the trout cod also and numbers are improving.

The Murray Cod is very intelligent. They spawn sticky eggs and are also bred at the centre.  They spawn inside a drum with removable wire mesh.  In the wild the female leaves the male to guard the eggs.  Fishing for murray cod is illegal in their breeding season.  You are not allowed to keep any Murray Cod less than 60 cms long.  They are only breeding size at 30 cms.
Moving right along we consider the Macquarie perch which is a very finicky fish into which research continues.  It was first bred in captivity at Narrandera only last December and they don’t know why the fish bred – but they are working on it.  The breeding has occurred in a set up that the centre has made as close to their wild environment as possible and it worked. They just don’t know what about the conditions brought the breeding on.  The Macquarie perch on display is black and this means that it is a happy camper.  So much as somebody wandering near the other Macquarie perch in the centre's ponds and they can go all pale and sulky and refuse to bred.  Research continues.
In the biggest tank is a Murray Cod that is about 17 years old. His name is agro. The Murray Cod are doing ok but not thriving.   In other tanks along the wall are other native fish and creatures for us to see. One little fish is hiding under a rock shelf which his lunch, a water beetle swims around unmolested.  This fish is nocturnal.  Then there are yabbies, and shrimp, smelt and rainbow fish among others.  The whole display is excellent and the information fascinating.  When we have asked all the questions we like we move outside to see a pond where the breeding stock is kept and we are told how they go about getting the fish from the pond. Then it’s into a large shed with the big breeding tanks and paraphernalia around and we see some baby perch that will soon be released and have the process for that explained.  How to count the fish, we look at some baby Murray Cod also.  It’s all just fascinating.  Surely up there with the very best tours you can do in both interest and value.  Don’t miss it if you are in the area. 
We depart having spent an hour 45 mins at the centre.  Next is Narrandera for lunch.  We have a quick squizz at the royal doulton fountain in the nice memorial park, but we don’t get out.  We stop and look in a great photography studio and pick up a card for the photographer. He’s really good. Some beautiful photographs among those on display and I am seriously tempted. I’ve spent enough this trip though, so I’ll keep him in mind for the future.  Perhaps we could hire him for some family shots if we have a family holiday in the area.
We toy with the idea of eating at the café next door but end up deciding to sample the bakery which we enjoyed.  By now it is getting fairly late.  We pull up by the road just out of town to eat our stuff. At least here we have some gum trees to look at.
There is a string of sweet little villages between Narrandera and Coolamon. Grong Grong, Matong, Ganmain was particularly nice with a pretty streetscape.  All with pubs of pretty reasonable façade. There are heaps of things to do in Junee and a museum we understand in Coolamon, but we are both fairly tired and decide to press on to Cootamundra leaving the other sights for exploration another time.  We don’t actually go into Junee township, so that will be a surprise for next time. 
As we travel delightfully traffic free country roads we stop here and there to soak up a beautiful view.

Eventually we arrive in Cootamundra. It's a pleasant town and we have no difficulty finding Bradman's birthplace Museum. This is actually once a small local hospital and of course you can visit the room in which Sir Donald made his first appearance.  

There is a good range of memorabilia and the place is spotless and beautifully maintained. Exhibits are not restricted purely to the Don of course and among my favourists is a collection of barbed wire!

The yard attached to the museum and its adjoining buildings is very nice and makes one long for a quiet rural life.. for a few moments at any rate!  Bradman's birthplace is a lovely little attraction and we're glad to have visited.
We make our way to our accommodation. The Southern Comfort Motel, where we are greeted with a warm and sincere welcome from the host. Lucky we booked ahead there is a Jaguar motor club booking tonight.  We make ourselves at home in the beautifully appointed room and rest for a while before dinner.
It is a long time since I've been in a motel room that was so immaculately maintained and such lovely furnishings. I would not hesitate to return.

For dinner we head down to the Globe Hotel where we have a very nice meal of steak. Cootamundra has been a lovely stopover and I look forward to returning for a longer visit sometime.

Day 9 - Cootamundra to Home Via Grenfell (of course)
We decide to take a curious route home.  Seldom one to take the most direct route to anywhere, we are heading from Cootamundra to Grenfell, planning to arrive close to opening for Grenfell Quality Meats where we will stock up our two eskies full of delicious lamb and steak. The best souvenir.  We take a fairly direct route through Young and stop at the bakery in Young to sample there for brekkie. We give Young an opportunity to redeem the performance of the cherry pie we had at the Young Maid shop a year or two ago. We saved that for home, but really, we think we make a better cherry pie ourselves.. which I guess is not so very surprising. 
In Grenfell our first stop is the servo for some ice and then we say Gday to our favourite butcher.  It's quite a trek home from Grenfell if we don't want to be too late and so it may seem strange that we decide to take a chance and go a rather strange route. Well, strange if you think you must always travel as close as possible to the route a crow might fly.  Grenfell to Cowra.. nothing strange about that choice, but then we decide that rather than heading for a mountain crossing we will head south again towards Boorowa. This route looks an aweful lot like backtracking, but its a lovely scenic quiet route and its not long until we're expressing pleasure in our choice.  From Boorowa we head across towards Crookwell and thence to Goulburn where we do the obligatory stop for some awesome sour dough bread at Trapper's bakery... and some pumpkin bread too actually.  Goulburn is only a skip and a jump to home and we are thrilled to find that this apparently circuitous route has been quicker than the trip would have been going across the mountains. Success all round. 
It has been a lovely little holiday and we have enjoyed the journeying as much as the destination.  Only one more decision to be made. Where to next time?

Silver City Sojourn - Day 7 - We move on to Hay via Wentworth and Mildura

Wednesday 27 April
An early leaver thismorning before 5pm wakes me.  Mum is awake by 5 am also and neither of us will be getting gback to sleep so we decide to just get up and go.  We are hitting the road by 5:45 am. Servo’s aren’t open yet which foils our plan to buy some milk and have cereal along the way.  Also means I’ll have to make do with the petrol I have, which after checking the distance we have to go I decide will be fine.  The sunrise is pretty and we stop briefly to capture a few images but they're not very successful.  We’re not travelling real fast due to the risk of animals on the road.  The landscape is very flat and even in the dark you can see it is covered in vegetation.  The sun rises and about an hour out of Broken Hill we come to a lovely stretch of happy looking mallee. Spinifex in the understorey and the short multi-trunked mallee eucalypts.  We leave the mallee and come into an area with many trees with fibrous dark charcoal grey bark and there is a strong fresh and delicious aroma in the air that seeps in through the car even with the windows up.  I wind down the windows for a while to enjoy the fragrance of the bushland. Lovely.  Beyond this area we reach another regions of flat plains and the sky reaches out beyond the 90 degree arc above the road to stretch down the 180 degrees horizon to horizon.  As we travel south the cloud cover is thickening.  I can’t wait to drive the Hay plain this afternoon.

We take a fairly lengthy stop at the rest area at the great Darling Anabranch.  A tidy but slightly whiffy toilet and there are a few campers among the trees lining the water.  Cars rumble across the bridge nearby and the air is full of soft twittering bird song. The croaky rasp of a restless flychater floats to us from slightly upstream. 

About 15 – 20 mins and we’re back on the road for an uneventful run into Wenthworth.  We miss the signs to Perry’s sandhills so  head in to fill up and check at the information centre for directions.  A nice friendly lady behind the counter provides us with a map and a leaflet detailing the things to do in the area.  For now it’s back to Perry’s sandhills which is not far away.  I'm keen not to skip the sandhills as a colleague has recommended them highly. On arrival we pull up in the car park and I dutifully make my way up to climb the dune near the old buried tree while mum does a little birdwatching near the car. 

My objective is a very old gum tree whose canopy emerges from the depths of the sand.  Hmm. I find this totally underwhelming.  I guess you’re not going to see the place at its best on the first day after a long long weekend.  The dunes are trampled with footprints.  There is rubbish all over the place, some of which consists of improvised sand sleds made from flattened beer cartons.  Having skipped this on past visits to the area we conclude we really weren’t missing much.    

I pause to admire some delicate flowers on what looks to be some type of saltbush then it's into the vehicle and wagons roll.

Next priority is to see the confluence of the Darling and Murray Rivers.  First we stop by to see if the Artback Gallery is open for brunch. Nope. They’ve closed for a break since Monday and reopen tomorrow.  That's understandable if a little disappointing.  On to the park near the junction of the rivers.  The observation tower is out of action. It is clear that the park has been partially under water recently and perhaps this has destabilized the tower, or perhaps the ground is not yet sufficiently dry for them to allow people to climb all over it.  The ground is muddy and only just drying. Cracked mud lines the shores and the general area is a little tatty as a result. But the rivers are flowing beautifully. 

I can see the line between the two rivers pretty well I think, but not good for photos.  What we really need to do is take a trip on the river.  I really feel like a trip on the river. A change of plan.  We need to head into Mildura.  So this we proceed to do.
Our first stop is the Alfred Deakin Centre which houses the information centre.  You can tell we’re back in Victoria, it has a subtly different feel to NSW.  We have only just missed the morning cruise on PS Melbourne. Bugger.  Next one is not until 1:50 pm.  Hmm.  I really want to take a paddle steamer trip on the full river though, so we pay our $27/25 and go off to find some lunch.
This is an easy choice. Stefano’s Café and Bakery just down the road.  We’re a bit too early for lunch, so we order a canoli and a fresh fig tart to share and settle down under the grape vine canopy which is a mix of vibrant red overhead with tendrils of green waving like a fringe around the edges.  The canoli and the fig tart are delicious. So is the smell of the coffee.  The temperature of the day is ideal with the whispering touch of a zephyr caressing bare arms.
We linger for about 40 mins just relaxing and then it’s time we can order lunch.  Mum is rarely adventurous and she goes for the beer battered barramundi with rustic cut chips. Assured that the house made tart is not full of mushrooms I go for that.  The chips were lovely.  I’m never much of a fan of fish. The tart though is great. You’d go a very long way to find a more delicious delicate and delectable tart.  The salad is a nice companion dressed with balsamic.
We order a fruit tart and lemon curd tart for Ron and get on our way to get into position for the cruise.  We watch as the PS Melbourne returns to the wharf and passengers depart and we board nice and early taking our pick of the places available.  It’s a big vessel with plenty of room and nice opening windows.  Those who wish can sit in a sort of deck chair arrangement in the front of the boat, but I didn’t find those comfy so we relocate back to some blue sebel numbers arranged in rows inside.

The trip on the PS Melbourne takes a couple of hours.  We pull out from the wharf and prompty turn around and travel downstream.  We note the weir and turn into Lock 11 where a detailed commentary explains the process of going through the lock, the history and points out the white board on the flagpole which marks the levels of the floods since white settlement.  The biggest was in the 1880s but not far below that is the 1956 flood and numerous others since.  The weir is a trestle construction and we see the spare trestles up on lock island which are rotated through to enable servicing of the various sections now and again.  At times of big flows the weir at Mildura is removed completely letting the river follow it’s natural course.  With recent flooding around the catchment the weir was removed the week before Christmas and was only put back in place three weeks ago. There is no charge for using the lock but you do need to book a time so the lock master can organize groups of small vessels into the lock or keep slots free for larger ones.

When we leave the lock we head back up stream for a look at the weir from the downstream side then we turn again and follow the river downstream for a few kms. The river down from the weir is currently running about 1 meter higher than usual . above the weir the river is maintained at a constant level.
The commentary on the trip is OK.  Some things are repeated several times, so I guess people who miss it the first time can catch it when next it is mentioned or pointed out.  It is very relaxing sitting on the boat as we steam along and there are periods without commentary which is OK.  There is a kiosk on board and they are licenced so a glass of wine or whatever as you cruise is available.  The river itself is in NSW. When you step onto the wharf or over the water you are in NSW.  Victoria starts from the shore on the southern side of the river.

We are back at the wharf by 4pm and promptly get on our way to Hay.  We are too late to stop in at Yanga National Park which is disappointing. Oh if only we’d skipped perry’s sandhills, we would have made the earlier cruise time and then had plenty of time for a quick squizz at Yanga.  Oh well.
The sun is behind us as we drive and we are grateful for that.  There is some very nice mallee between Mildura and Balranald. Some really beautiful mallee trees with their smooth and glossy chocolate brown bark and multistemmed trunks.  The foliage is also looking very vibrant and happy in this season of good rain.
Beyond Balranald we reach the hay plan and 360 degree views of the horizon.  No clouds, but still I enjoy the Hay plain.   
We are about half an hour out of Hay when it gets truly dark after a lingering twighlight.  In the almost dark I see a line of glowing red in the distance to the north. A car is driving towards us from the direction of the flames.  A closer look confirms smoke rising.  Fire. 
Soon we are in Hay and when I go to check into the Nicholas Royal Motel I find that I have managed to book the room for tomorrow night. OOPS.  Luck is smiling on us though and the Saltbush Motor Inn across the road, which has been turning people away earlier in the evening, has had a late cancellation. Another full house.  Business is strong for accommodation today with so many people returning from their Easter breaks.  We duck down to the Wok in Hay to grab some dinner. Mum had a chicken schnitzel burger which she thought was pretty ordinary. OK but a bit too much bun for the amount of schnitzel and the chicken was over cooked.  I ordered the pad thai which was nice but I forgot that they don’t automatically give you lemon here and I forgot to ask. I enjoyed the pad thai though.  Not a huge amount of meat in it, but it was tasty and a pleasant change from what we’ve had along the trip so far. The Wok in Hay remains probably the most spotless take away food joint I've ever seen.
Lights out by 10 pm.

Silver City Sojourn - Day 6 - Silverton, local Broken Hill sites and the Sculpture Symposium

Tuesdsay 26 April
A fairly good night, then I decide I had better catch up on the journal which is a couple of days  behind.  Mum reads her bible and then does her exercises as I work.  It’s an easy day today, so there’s no need to rush.  No point heading out before things are open.  
Before we have a chance to get too far Mum realizes that she hasn’t got her glasses.  She goes through all her stuff and then rings SSSF and sure enough they found her glasses on the floor of the plane.  We head out to the Albert Kersten Mining and Minerals Museum.  They aren’t open yet.  We go and fill the car with petrol and then decide to head to the park in town to check out the ant sculpture.  The garden is called the Conservation garden and it has been established to demonstrate the different performance of a range of exotic plants and native plants.  There is a large shining white sculpture closest to the road but I do not find any plaques or information boards to tell us about it.  The Ant however is, as one would guess from looking at it, by Pro Hart. 

The Ant has a dedication plaque which reads: Dedicated to the workers of Broken Hill & their struggles to extract the wealth we all live from. There is also an interpretive board that explains the significance of the ant to Pro and it comes from his devout christian faith. The sculpture represents the dedication that each miner must show to his mates. Underground he is important only as a member of a team working as closely together as ants in the common interest.  No matter what a miner's personal feelings are towards another miner, he cannot let them interfere. In this way he learns tolerance.  The sculpture was inspired by Proverbs VI, VI: Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise.
I find this information very enlightening and I am surprised that the Pro Hart Gallery did not explain that about his use of ants in Pro's work.  

I wander around the paths in the garden and admire the flowers.  Some fragrant wattles are flowering, so I warn mum to avoid that bit as she's allergic to those.  

Then I go next door to the rotary park to photograph a lovely pink flowering gum and across to the next lot to have a look at the Kintore Head frame and read about its history in the interpretive panel provided.

Back in the garden there is a yellow flowering eucalypt with comparatively coarse bright yellow blossoms of heavy substance. The fruits of this tree are ridged and gnarled. 

On the edge near the grass a beautifully flowering pin cushion hakea.  

Time now to head out to the airport and get mum’s glasses which goes smoothly. Then it is an easy skip across to the flying doctor base. An hour too early for the first tour. Hmm.  Maybe we have time to duck back into town for the geo museum.  Back in the car and in no time we’re paying our small entry fee and heading in.  What a surprise! This place is fascinating. I’m not generally interested in minerals or geology but this museum houses the city’s collection and it includes a remarkable array of specimens many of which do not exist in the local area any more, some very rare, or unusually large.  Even the specimen of galena which is common in the area is really interesting to see, and very pretty.  If that is not enough, the silver tree is huge. Much bigger than we expected and the craftsmanship is exquisite. Under the tree itself which once would have supported a cut crystal bowl, there are aboriginal hunters, emus, roos, a boundary rider and some sheep.  I came so close to skipping this museum but it was great. I am so glad we came in here.  We have run out of time but there is also a corrugated iron miners shack in the backyard, that I would really have liked a closer look at.  Maybe next time.  We have to dash out to the flying doctor base. The tours run from the Bruce Langford Visitors Centre and the Clive Bishop Medical Centre is across the courtyard.

It’s only a few minutes out to the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) base and we have a look in the shop for a bit until time for the tour.  The tour heads down through the operations room where we get an overview of the range of services that the RFDS offer.  Everyone knows about the emergency evacuation side of things, but many people don’t realize that the RFDS offer a regular clinic round in remote areas and this is the only medical services available to those communities. They even have a dentist who goes around with her gear and portable dentist chair. Everyone is covered all services are free of charge.  The RFDS also does evacuations when people are taken ill or are injured on the ghan or tours, so while city people may think the RFDS is not relevant for them, it serves everyone.  We move on to the hanger to hear about the planes.  

Operating expenses are covered by the government, but the RFDS has to supply their own planes. These cost 6 million to buy and another 2 million to kit out for the role.  So 8 million AU$ all up. Fundraising is essential and 100% of donations goes to the purpose, none on administration. Give generously. We have a quick look around the museum, but there's not much we don't already know having read the book about John Flynn by Ion Idriess and also having had a good look at the Adelaide House museum in Alice Springs which also is closely involved in the history of the RFDS. We buy some things in the shop, all profits go towards funding the planes.  A maroon and white shirt for Hubby, a first aid kit; a couple of pairs of earings; a cookbook. We've really enjoyed our visit here  Then time to move along.   
Where to now? Straight out to Silverton, but first we stop at the lookout over the mundi mundi plain.  Not really anything we haven’t seen already over the course of our trip.  However the views are expansive and as with everywhere else around here at the moment, it's green rather than the "normal" red.

We decide to explore out to Umberumberka Resevoir and then make our way back. It doesn’t take long to get there.  It’s kind of a ramshackle sort of place, but there is a pleasant picnic area up from the actual reservoir wall.  Nothing to keep us long when we have limited time.

Next we head back to Silverton keen for some lunch.  First we head up to the café but it is bedlam there. No tables to be had, so we decide to head down to the horizons gallery for a better look down there.  We are really thrilled to read on the interpretive sign outside, that the gallery is in what was originally the butcher shop run by Sackville Kidman and is where Sid Kidman worked when he was about 14.  Coool.  I acquire a lovely framed print here called West Fall of the Barrier Ranges. Beautiful work and completely evocative of the local landscape. I have just the place for that. Very reasonable price too already beautifully framed by the artist.

Back up at the café we end up sitting at a table with a Broken Hill local and have a lovely chat over lunch and a slice of quandong pie. I had a pretty good milkshake, mum had an orange spider.  Our waitress comments that it's always people of the older generations that order the spiders.  Meals we shared: sausage rolls and a serve of damper – which was rather like a giant scone. Nice and light and quite tasty. We buy a large bag of quandong seeds for making necklaces with the grandkids when they get a bit older.. and in fact we'll need to have some more too I guess (haha I'm always thinking ahead!). We also bought a jar of quandong jam which mum and I shared over following weeks. Absolutely delicious - don't skip that!! I wish I'd bought more.

Next we have a quick look at the coin carver and at the various old buildings. The Mad Max Museum is next to the cafe, but we both find we can cheerfully skip that one.  We’re finding Silverton more interesting than either of us expected.  We stop by the leaning dunny of Silverton and check out the gallery next door, cost of entry is a gold coin donation. Apart from the tea towels we don’t enjoy this gallery much.  Seems to me the souvenirs and prints on offer are overpriced.   Another of the stores we checked out was called Beyond 39 Dips. This is chiefly a leadlight studio.  The name of the store is a reference to the large number of dips on the road out from Broken Hill.  It’s an entertaining road to drive though you can’t go overly fast with the dips coming up pretty frequently.

It’s a tough decision but in all the living desert and sculptures have to take priority over the Silverton goal museum, so we head back in to town, then out again to the Living Desert.  $10 entry per vehicle. It’s about the time that we flew over yesterday.  We follow the signs to the sculptures and this involves climbing up to the ridge top where we are met by wonderful views around the ranges and back to Broken Hill. It is simply a stunning location.  Other visitors are wandering around in awe.  Some are so overwhelmed they cannot help but turning to eachother to exclaim how wonderful it all is. So much better than they were expecting.  Some of the sculptures are in themselves a little underwhelming, but there are a few that we really like,  Even simply as lumps of rock in this position among the gardens on the ridge top they are collectively wonderful. 

Having taken our fill of the sculptures we decide to drive around to the living desert just as a reccie. It closes at 5pm so isn’t open now in any case, but it’s interesting to see the picnic area.  There is a walk up to the sculptures and that would be the way to go if you have no issues with mobility. It's only 1.2 kms or about 20mins walk.  In warmer months you are advised to take water and in the cooler periods a wind proof jacket is recommended..  We don’t stop at the picnic area though and turn to head back to Broken Hill hoping for a rest before dinner.  On the way out we pass a sign pointing to a display of Sturts Desert peas.  At first I don’t see them, you would probably miss them if not for the sign. They are about 50 metres or so away from the road in great splashes of red.  Awesome. 

I pull over and we each climb out and head to the peas with cameras at the ready.  How awesome to see the peas in their natural environment. We have only seen them in gardens before.
We pause a couple of times on the way out to admire the sunset and try to capture it but photos seldom do a sunset justice.
A brief time to relax before heading to the Broken Earth Restaurant high on the line of lode for dinner. On arrival we are greeted by a delicious aroma which bodes well for the meal.  We are seated promptly but there are a couple of large groups who are currently using all the menus, so we order drinks and wait.  Eventually and soon as a couple of people have ordered at the large table, More apologies and menus are provided.  We decide to go with entrees for both savoury courses.  Our first round is the best with a haloumi and mushroom stack for mum and quail for myself.  Both delicious and we both agree that the haloumi is the nicest we have ever had.  We are surprised at the colour of the cheese when it appears as it has been cooked to almost black on either side, but it defied its looks and didn’t taste overcooked in the slightest.
Our next course mum went for honey soy prawns with crispy noodles.  This was interesting with more honey in the flavor than I have typically found in honey soy flavoured things.  Quite reminiscent of honey prawns.  It is garnished with coriander which is unfortunate because mum doesn’t like coriander at all. The coriander was not listed in the description. It would probably have broken up the cloying aspect of the honey if mum had not been inclined to remove every tiny coriander contamination. 
My second course was ravioli with chorizo and feta.  When it came out it turned out to be massive. Absolutely massive.  For entre dishes both these second round arrivals have been very big.  I also ordered a salad and that too is massive.  I would have been happy with half the size.  I asked later whether they had made these two main sized but was told no, that’s the entre (starter) size.  We concluded they must be portioned to accommodate very hungry miners who do physical work all day.  I am keen to try the deserts and though tempted by  a couple, I decide to go for the pumpkin and orange and apricot pudding with orange infused yoghurt cheese.  This was very very sweet. Only the yoghurt dressing which was not plentiful breaking up the sweetness.  Apricots in the base but they are the whole dried sort that I’m not overly fond of.  We were not all that fussed with the pudding, but I think to myself that I have been spoiled when it comes to desserts.  The high end places in Sydney are really extremely good and most recently our dining experience was at Aria.  Its really not fair to compare a $13 dessert with a $25 dessert is it!  Tonight’s dessert was fine really. It needed a bit more to offset the level of sweetness, but the biggest problem was that the portion sizes on the entrée dishes was just too big to have you arrive at dessert with enough appetite to do the offerings justice.
We are a bit horrified by the time. It was 8:45 by the time we were even ordering dessert.  Three staff on the front of house and they seem to be coping very well with a full house.  The delays seem to be in the kitchen, simply servicing the number of people, though I did note that the big groups where receiving their meals in quick succession from each other and all ordered al la carte.  Many places in Sydney simply won’t let a group of that size order a la carte. 
It is quite late before we fall into bed. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Silver City Sojourn - Day 5 - Anzac Service and Lake Eyre Scenic Flight

Day 5 Monday 25th April – Anzac Day
Up at 5 am and bustling around preparing to leave for the Dawn Service.  The motel has prepared details of the day’s program of remembrances for guests, which we appreciate very much.  I went down Sulphide st to drop mum as close as possible to the memorial for the service and find a beaut parking spot  very close.  Luckily mum had her disabled parking sticker on the car. The kerb is quite high and Mum couldn’t manage it on her own, but a nice lady gave her a hand. As we wait for the service to begin the memorials look splendid all lit up in the dark.  The WW1 Memorial is very impressive with a digger posed in the midst of throwing a grenade. It is a wonderful statue and must have cost a lot of money. Definitely one of the most impressive Anzac memorials I have seen. 

Coincidentally when we get home I discover in my reading that this memorial in Broken Hill was by sculpted by Charles Web Gilbert who also did the original memorial for Mont St Quentin in France and the diorama for Mont St Quentin in the national war memorial. There is a very prominent and large memorial to the Vietnam Vets too, and a smaller very modest one to WWII, Korea, Malaya and Vietnam tucked away like a bit of an afterthought.
As the service gets underway, serving army soldiers move into position at the four corners of the memorial and the diggers who have assembled for rum rashions at the legion club earlier in the morning march into a prominent position. From the age of most it looks like there’s no shortage of Vietnam vets in Broken Hill. The MC for the service starts off with a few words and invites the local minister to speak.  The minister says that war brings out the best and worst in people, but that today he’d like to focus on the best.  He goes on to read a moving letter from a father to his son about how men don’t embrace and men don’t cry but if he were here now they would embrace and that sometimes men just cry.  Throughout the service the vets stand at attention and at ease at appropriate points.  The band plays a hymn and the minister leads a prayer.  Reveille is sounded and a piper plays.   The biggest difference to our local service was that they didn’t get the crowd to face East or turn to face the west.  The crowd participated in the lest we forget,  beating the MC to it, and then saying it again after him.  The service finished with the national anthem which was played by the band but the crowd was not invited to sing along and didn’t do so off their own bat.
We mosey around take a few photos.  There is a round garden planted with Peace roses which we thought a nice touch, and we wander down to check out a wooden boat shaped sculpture at the far end of the park.  It is a project by students of the local TAFE in some sort of aboriginal artwork course.  With that we are done and we resolve to try to make it back later to get a photo of the war memorial in full light.
Back to the motel to finalise preparations for our flight out to Lake Eyre and the Flinders Ranges.  We have some brekky and I do a little journaling while mum does this and that. Then it’s time for departure and we head out to the airport. 
It takes the full half hour to do all the meet and greet, flight briefing and so forth and then we clamber into a small Cessna.  A flock of galahs is feeding on the grass near the runway. Smooth takeoff and first we pass over Broken Hill and get a look at one of the open cuts right in the centre of town.  From the ground or even up at the memorial on the Line of Lode you would have no idea these huge open cut mines were there.  As we fly over the edge of the Barrier Ranges there is a light mist lying like a gossamer veil over the ridges. It will soon burn off.  It’s pretty while it lasts.

We leave the ranges and head out over the mundi mundi plain.  The country is green as far as the eye can see.  Mad Max3 is set for filming at Silverton and at the Broken Hill Movie Studios which have been established by the local council in the large buildings that were once housing for the broken hill power generations plants.  These became obsolete when Broken Hill was connected to the grid. At any rate the movie studio has been leased to the movie for a couple of years, but the location scenes at Silverton are a problem because it’s all too green. What they are looking for is the typical red soil desert look that Silverton is known for.

Throughout the day the landscape is scarred by the lines of watercourses.  It is counter-intuitive because normally you would expect that a watercourse or soak would be the green part and the surrounding area dry and red.  At the moment the water courses are the only red or puddles where water has dried up.
The transition to the Strzleckie Desert is marked by the appearance of ripples in the earth. All is still green, The dune tops are crusted with small shrubs which appear from a height like little trees but which Tim (our pilot) tells us are only about 1 metre tall. We descend to about 500 feet so that we can see that the ridges are sand underneath the green.  In the dips between the dunes the earth is carpeted with matting ground cover plants. When we have had a good chance to see the desert we rise again to our cruising height of 2500 feet. 

At this higher altitude the trip is smoother as we are up out of the effect of turbulent air rising off the dunes.
Scattered across the desert are ephemeral lakes.  They vary in colour according to how the light is hitting them.  Across to our left we admire some that are shining sapphire blue.   We pass Lake Blanche and can see Lake Frome and the Flinders Ranges off in the distance.  In places streaks and patterns in rich emerald green entrance the eye.  

After a time we cross the vermin proof fence which was originally built to stop the rabbits spreading. It was unsuccessful at that and so then was said to stop the dingos entering the pastoral land. At this point the dog fence follows the border between NSW and SA. 
We continue tracking north west to the punt across the cooper creek. The Cooper is usually a dry river bed that you drive across. Today it is a wide flowing river and we can clearly see the punt that carries the cars over the water and some cars on the banks nearby.  We are passing the very tail corner of a large expanse of Ramsar wetlands.  Beyond the punt the Cooper spreads out into a wide lake- like area before snaking off on the remaining journey to Lake Eyre which is still off in the distance.  Looking down from a great height we see a few flocks of birds.  Tiny specks that you would almost miss. We are crossing the wetlands which are the main area where the birds are found. 

Numerous small bodies of water lie here and there among the desert dunes.  Some dry salt lakes begin to appear as we near Lake Eyre North.  We are cutting corners across its meanderings but we are basically following the route of the Cooper Creek into Lake Eyre.  It seems to sort of peter out in places before reappearing a little way along.  There is an area of shallow small ponds interspersed with vegetation and this we are informed is where most birds are found.
Now we come to Lake Eyre itself.  Shimmering salt in white, wet salt areas show a dull brown and the water shines and shimmers in the sun showing beautiful pale blue, or pink, or brownish purple in various areas as we pass.  

We are remaining high at about 2500 feet as SSSF believes this gives us the best view and we can see where we are and the overall lake. 

Tim says watch out for other planes, as some come through without telling anyone else they are there, and it’s pretty busy out here.  The radio is reporting traffic as various aircraft announce to others where they are.  Apparently there has been at least one plane that has come through underneath us without announcing their presence.  I suspect that perhaps this is another reason why SSSF stay high – to keep out of the way!

It takes a while to cross Lake Eyre North which is 70% full.  It is a shallow lake and the wind shifts the water around changing the view day by day.  Spectacular swirls and shapes appear as we cross over the western lake edge and head for William Creek where we will lunch.  In this portion of the trip the earth is looking a little more like desert.  Red earth is showing through the vegetation.  Eventually William Creek and its airstrip appear. 

There is no shortage of radio traffic and planes arriving and departing from this remote outpost.  There are 8 planes on the ground as we approach and another three arriving.  We’re pretty much bang on time at 11:30ish.  It’s a walk of a few hundred metres to the William Creek Hotel.  There is a flock of little corellas over on the ground nearby.  The flies are quite enthusiastic and everyone has a backload of passengers as we head for cover.  The flies buzz around faces but are not too bad. A bit of practice at the traditional aussie wave, or better still the keep the mouth shut and blow jets of air up to discourage them when necessary. 

We don’t dilly dally and head on into the hotel and take a seat.  We peruse the menu.  Mum seeks out a power point to get on her nebulizer, then we order our lunch and sit down to chat with our companions.  They are civil but not friendly and don’t have much to say.   I ordered a grazing plate which is described as having marinated vegetables, dips, salad, and Turkish toasts with labna.  Mum goes for a steak sandwhich with the lot which I predict will be enormous but she is not deterred.  Also on the menu are toasted sandwiches, baguettes and kangaroo and emu pies.  One of our fellow travelers is tucking into a pie and it’s fairly small. As we wait for our meals we have a look around the walls.  It is traditional to leave a calling card of your visit on the walls, but we don’t participate in this tradition.  Seems like cheating arriving by plane really. The room where we are sitting is constructed from railway sleepers.  William creek is located in the midst of what is claimed to be the largest pastoral property on earth.
Our food arrives and it appears they must be out of labna which is very disappointing. I probably wouldn’t have got this except for the labna. Oh well. I enjoyed the meal in any case.  Mum’s steak sandwich arrives and it is, as was always going to be the case, enormous.  She manfully gets stuck into the task, prioritizing the steak and egg and skipping the Turkish bread in which it sits.  Looks like a room service tea for me again tonight as mum won’t want too much.
Tim and another SSSF pilot Drew join us and Tim is more a chatty sort of person (thankfully) and we have a nice chat as we have our meals.
Time comes when we must be getting on our way. But first we pause for a tripod shot at outside the pub. Love this flash new tripod, it is so so small and light and so easy - worth every penny.  A few more snaps of the area around William Creek and some of the local signage.  Mum requests another photo with the road sign and then we’re on our way to reboard the plane for the remainder of our trip. 

We depart William Creek at about 1:30. As we fly away we follow the course of a road below and I count 11 vehicles heading back from the direction of the lake, kicking miniature dust clouds behind them.  It is like Pitt St out here.  Half the world seems to be making the trek to see the spectacle of this lake in a big wet season.  Old timers say the lake hasn’t had so much water in 40 years.. not since 1974.  This is a once in a life time opportunity and clearly many people aren’t wasting it.

It’s not long until we are crossing over Lake Eyre South. Again staying at about 2500 feet.  The first bay is Bells Bay which shows a sort of murky green browny colour.   

Close by we come to Jackboot bay which is a purple pink hue, the shape of the boot needs a little imagination for me but is described as a sort of reverse Italy. Finally we cross Madison Gulf which is a pretty pale blue and pink. With the edges of snowy white and the pale powder blue sky and surrounding desert the whole scene is very beautiful, but as it turns out hard to capture in the photos, although the accentuation of the pinks by the camera is a lovely effect. 

From Madison Gulf we swing south east to Marree.  It is surprising how varied the patterns on the desert below are. Even with the green around after the flooding and rain it is extraordinary to think that people run cattle out in these arid lands.  Scars of roads and pipelines are plain to see.  We pass over Marree, which is bigger than I expected.  Apparently people come up to Marree which is accessible by mostly sealed roads but some sections of dirt, and take their Lake Eyre scenic flights from there.  Marree is not too accessible from Sydney in a short trip, hence our decision to do it from Broken Hill. As we move on from Lake Eyre South white expanses of salt and a mosaic of olive greens and browns provide yet another texture to the landscape.

At Marree we again make an adjustment to our course and head for Arkaroola and the flinders ranges which appear as scrunching of the earth.  The ranges present a change of scene to the desert area. We mostly stay very high and it is interesting to see, but would not be a substitute for a heli flight that stayed at a lower altitude. As we approach the ranges the skeleton of the ranges breaks the ridges like the spine of some great reptile.

The crumpling of the ranges intensifies before falling away to the plains in the east.

 The ranges behind us we are on our way to what turns out to be a particular highlight of the trip.  Lake Frome.  A sparkling expanse of white salt crystals gives why to a confection of pastel pinks violet and blue swirled around crescent islands crusted with dark plants. It is spectacular. 

The greatest salt lake spectacle of the day saved for last. The pictures don't do it justice. 

Finally we cross a deep channel of gorgeous purple. Lake Frome is the jewel in the crown.

As we head on back towards broken hill we pass a mosaic of smaller dry salt lakes and back across the strzleckie desert.
We are heading first for Silverton where we fly over the long straight loop ended road that was constructed for the filming of Mad Max way back in the early 80s.  With the rain, parts of the road are washed out at the moment. 

We note the Umberumberka Resevoir which is at 100 per cent capacity at the moment over there in the north.  Then Silverton itself, which is bigger than I expected too, but the grid of streets largely empty where houses that once were have been demolished. 

The country all around is very green.  No outback moonscape to be seen anywhere.   Moving right along we’re looking for the Scuptures and find them sitting crested on a ridge with their car park nearby.  They are on Mum’s side of the plane so it’s quite hard for me to get a good shot, but I do my best.  There is a walk you can do from the ridge down to the wildlife reserve (or vice versa) so if you're exploring both and can handle the walk you don't have to move your car. 

In a flash we are passing over a number of open cuts in the line of lode as we approach the airport.  On mum’s side of the plane mostly, but I manage just one shot.  The position for me is all wrong for getting the miners memorial and the restaurant. I wildly snap one photograph, but I think it is showing as a strange jumble of mullock and instead I take a nice shot of the houses in South Broken Hill.

We are back on the ground at about 4:30 having watched another plane land as we circled on approach.  We clamber out of the plane and are presented with a folder containing some information and a couple of key rings.  Amongst it is the most important thing, a plot of our route today.  Excellent.   As we turn to head inside we spot a small bird of prey with tear drop face.  Not black enough for a peregrine we assume a hobby, but don’t get much time to look before it takes off again on the hunt and the sun sinks to the horizon.
We’re both pretty warn out, mum in particular is stiff from sitting in the plane on the way back.  We are both heartily relieved to have the head sets off our head as they do get a bit heavy  and uncomfortable on the ears after a while.  No rush to try to fit more in today, we decide to have a nice early night and head back to the motel.  I obtain some internet time and we share another chicken parmy for tea. Man the parmy’s here are good!!
We watch the anzac day news and service from Lone Pine on ABC1, then switch the tele off and have an  early night. Finishing our day as it started with remembrance for those we have lost.  Lest we forget.