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  #81  
Unread 4th October 2011, 11:05 PM
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Love the Gawler Ranges photos, having been there recently myself. Your comments seem spot on.

We also stayed in the chain wire enclosed CP in Ceduna (um, interesting place - the locals seemed surprised when we said 'hello' in the street). We had lunch at Fowlers Bay another day.
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  #82  
Unread 17th November 2011, 08:46 AM
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My apologies folks, I’ve been out and about lately, hence the delay. I’ll try to pick up where I left off.


To this point, Wahgunyah was easily the most remote beach location I had camped at.

Morning came and it was fresh and full of promise. After breakfast I climbed a dune to take in the surrounds once again.



















I managed to get camp packed pretty quickly, and once on the limestone near the beach I took the time to air up the tyres. That done, I looked at the time and decide that it really was too nice a location to not have a swim. Before I got in I took some more pics including this one looking west.













While in the water, I was made to feel somewhat sick by the sight of a fin sticking out from the surface not too far from me. The Great Australian Bight is notorious for white pointer sharks, and my thoughts immediately turned to the logistics of driving a manual vehicle with one leg bitten off by a shark. Another fin appeared, and it didn’t take long for me to get onto the beach again.

Another fin appeared, and another. My heart rate slowed in the knowledge that the more fins I saw the less likely it was to be sharks. Besides, they weren’t going to get me on the beach.

It was with a sense of relief rather than foolishness that I came to the realisation that it was a pod of dolphins, and a large one at that. In clusters of fives and sixes I had soon counted past fifty as I trained my camera on them to try to catch their movement.


































Some dived, others rolled and others still caught waves. Others did “flips ‘n ****” but I was not “On a Boat” and there were no other “muthafu^%ers” around.

Another spectacular show, and not another person in sight. Half an hour or so of exclusive morning entertainment that I will never forget.

I could have stayed, but today was to be special. My destination was planned well in advance: I was to travel to the Koonalda Cave which was 20,000 years ago a flint mine.

.../continues
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  #83  
Unread 17th November 2011, 08:51 AM
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Continued…

I retraced my route out of Wahgunyah and back to the highway towards Nundroo still marvelling at the size of the pod of dolphins I had just seen. As I write, I still feel that Wahgunyah was one of the highlights of the trip.

A head full of a rich experience has a way of disposing of many kilometres as if they were not there, and it seemed altogether too quick that I had reached the turnoff to the “Head of the Bight”. This is the northernmost bay of the Great Australian Bight, where in winter around 100 Southern Right Whales gather to breed and give birth, and about 15,000 tourists visit between June and October to take in the spectacle. By my standards it is a reasonably “touristy” location, replete with toilets, a visitor centre, viewing platforms and a rather large car park.

It was with a sense of self assigned intrepid superiority that I rumbled the Dulagarl into the carpark among the campervans and backpacker bombs, thinking as loudly as I could “yep, I’ve seen sh*t today that you bast%rds can only dream of…”. Off went the motor, out I got, and with camera, binoculars and a couple of muesli bars I set off towards the visitor centre. Intrepid indeed. I may have even had an apple.

I was fairly pleased to learn that the centre is an Indigenous owned and operated venture, situated as it is in the Yalata Indigenous Protected Area.

http://www.yalata.org/lands.htm

You are in Nullarbor central here, and the plain stops with no subtlety at all as it reaches the Bunda Cliffs which tower up to 70 metres above the sea.

I spent only a little time gaining a basic orientation of the vistor centre, determined to return before I set off west. The view out the window was simply too spectacular to not be drawn to and I was soon on the walkway to the viewing platform. Various plaques provided insights to the locale, including this one explaining some of the Anangu dreaming of the area…









Overlooking what it described.















I enjoyed the view with a Dutch couple who I had briefly met earlier along the road, making them jealous with my description of the dolphin pod at Wahgunyah. Being encumbered by a rather large campervan, they were unable to get to such a location as Wahgunyah, despite their wishes. They had in fact tried to get into Fowlers Bay but abandoned that endeavour for fear of the vehicle shaking apart, vowing to stick more closely to the bitumen.

We chatted and enjoyed the sheer grandeur before us, squinting into the distance towards Antarctica while breathing air that had been breathed by no-one else for thousands of kilometres as it wafted off the Bight.






The Bunda Cliffs looking to the west.









... continues

Last edited by Dulagarl; 17th November 2011 at 09:14 AM.
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  #84  
Unread 17th November 2011, 08:52 AM
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...Continued

The views and atmosphere are thought provoking to say the least. Satiated by the visuals, I felt ready to take on the visitors centre to provide some context and it didn’t disappoint.

Aside from a great description of the antiquity of the evidence of Anangu occupation of the region (finger engravings in the cave at Koonalda dated over 20,000 years old, and a flint tool of 36,000 years at Allen’s Cave further west), the centre gave an interesting sense of the layers of history of the Nullarbor.

I had never before the considered the role of the steam train in colonisation. But here it was described. To the north, Ooldea soak had for millennia provided an important source of water for Anangu travelling through their country.

A little bit of water goes a long way in these parts. In the 1960’s some old Anangu men described to a journalist how “old Mr Eyre” in 1840 (Edward John Eyre, who was in fact in his 20’s at the time) was helped to find water and grass as he travelled by horse from east to west. It is described in “Maralinga: the Anangu Story” as follows:

“having unsaddled the horses, we set to work to dig holes to water them; the sand however was very loose; and hindered us greatly. The natives…observed the difficulty under which we were labouring and one… who appeared to be the most influential… said something to two … upon which they got up and came towards us, making signs to use to get out of the hole, and let them in; having done so, one…jumped in, and dug in an incredibly short time, a deep narrow hole with his hands; then sitting so as to prevent the sand running in, he ladled the water out with a pint pot, emptying it into our bucket…held by the other native. As our horses drank a great deal, and the position of the man in the hole was… very cramped… the two natives kept changing places… until we had got the water we required.”


It is probable that the location described was Ooldea soak which was visited by Venning and Howie in the 1870’s as they travelled sinking wells. Ernest Giles also went there in 1875, and used it as a base camp. Many others followed.

In 1901, while looking for a route for a railway to the West, JG Stewart, Government Surveyor, passed through Ooldea. The information centre at the Head of the Bight describes how between 1874 and 1876 the east – west telegraph line was built, following an ancient Aboriginal trade route through the area. It also describes th opening of the east west rail line in 1915. A display states:

“At Ooldea, which had been a major Indigenous trading centre, locomotives used 45,000 litres of water every day. In a few years this destroyed what had been a permanent source of water for Indigenous people.”


As all but one well at the soak failed by 1923, eight years of drought began. More Anangu became reliant on the soak as it became less reliable. Anangu were soon consigned to prostituting themselves to and begging from the people on the trains that had drunk their water dry.

Irony: As white people developed a technological means to travel through Anangu country, and hence to travel across the nation, Anangu lost the capacity to travel through their own country by traditional means.

As I wrote earlier: this aspect of steam trains had not previously occurred to me.

Returning to the highway, I found that there were numerous spots to pull in where the plain simply stopped, and the Bunda cliffs plunged away to the ocean.






















It was disconcerting. I had no way of knowing precisely how much earth was under my feet: it could be only a matter of metres and below that an expanse carved out by the advancing ocean. I was wary of straying to close to the apparent edge, lest my weight cause the earth beneath me to create a new edge behind me.












I soon reached the turnoff to Koonalda: unmarked, but I was certain from the GPS that it was the turnoff that I wanted. Heading north away from the highway it soon became apparent that there was some sort of campsite nearby as evidenced by ever opportunist dingoes close by the track.



























Numerous vehicle wrecks were close by the old homestead at Koonalda.


















The day was close to an end, and while the homestead and the wrecks were very interesting, I couldn’t resist heading further north to get my first glimpse of the cave itself.









I determined to return to the cave in the morning for a better look with more favourable light. I headed back towards the homestead and set up camp by the shearing shed, some distance from the shearers’ quarters where two couple had established camp for the night.

Over dinner and a few beers, I began to hear the occasional dingo howl and see the occasional bat. A special little visitor was drawn to the LED lantern on the table.



The photo doesn't really do it justice, but it is a praying mantis: not green or brown but a rich metallic gold colour. It had obviously adapted to reflect the strong sunlight of the Nullarbor, and I had never seen such a remarkable adaptation of a relatively common creature.

As I drifted off to sleep, my head was full of thoughts about how it came to me that 20,000 years ago this was a site of trade in flint, and wondering about the people who entered the dark cave to leave some of the oldest engravings and markings in the world.

I would not sleep well that night.

Last edited by Dulagarl; 23rd November 2011 at 07:16 AM. Reason: forgot a picture
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  #85  
Unread 17th November 2011, 10:32 PM
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Wow!
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  #86  
Unread 18th November 2011, 07:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
Wow!
X2!!!...and in suspense waiting to hear/see about the cave.
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  #87  
Unread 19th November 2011, 04:56 PM
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Top stuff as per usual Greg, cant wait to get out on the road again..
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  #88  
Unread 19th November 2011, 09:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
Wow!
Wow is right.
There more I read of this fantastic trip report the more I like & enjoy it.

Regards
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  #89  
Unread 23rd November 2011, 07:03 AM
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Sensational narration Greg, coupled with the fantastic photos and awesome adventures, it makes for riviting stuff
I think I've read through this thread about 15 times so far!!
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  #90  
Unread 23rd November 2011, 05:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greentreefrog View Post
Sensational narration Greg, coupled with the fantastic photos and awesome adventures, it makes for riviting stuff
I think I've read through this thread about 15 times so far!!
Me too. Thank you for taking the time to write this trip report Greg.

Ian.
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