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Old 09-04-2010, 03:41 AM   #16
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Old 09-04-2010, 11:26 PM   #17
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Old 09-05-2010, 08:10 AM   #18
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My apologies for not continuing this journey with you folks again today, but I've edited out the large capacity photos for some easier downloading resized ones, plus added a couple more along the way. Will continue it again tomorrow.
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Old 09-06-2010, 12:47 AM   #19
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Brachina Gorge, to me, is the geological jewel of the whole of the Flinders Ranges. It's an area about 30 kilometres long where the Earth's crust has been torn apart and up-ended at an angle of about 70 to 80 degrees, so that as you travel along the gorge, you travel through time. And time here is ancient. The mountains date back to a time before life existed on the land and had really only just established itself in the oceans. This gorge, created when enormous forces from the north and south ripped the ancient bedrock of the mountains apart, formed a shallow coastal sanctuary where early life flourished and thrived. These Pre-Cambrian era creatures included sponges, worms, trilobites, jelly-fish and star-fish.

The ghosts of a long dead sea, the massed whiter rocks (near the right hand tree) which extend across the roadway of the presently dry creek bed are actually the 520 million year old fossil remains of a reef made from one of the first sponge like sea plants, Archaeocyatha, a colony of cone shaped filter feeders.

The predominant plants now are various acacia bushes and River Red Gums. They survive in this now arid mountain range ringed by salt covered dry lakes simply by having extensive, deep roots that tap into a constant body of water hidden beneath the dry creek bed surface. The path of creek beds and inland rivers are easily followed, even out on the desert plains, simply by following the lines of River Red Gums. An amazingly hardy tree, they can survive droughts of several years duration by utilising water stored in their root systems. Aboriginal people of the desert country would survive on this stored water by digging up the young saplings or cutting into the larger tree roots. The colours of their bark is a mix of subtle greys, greens, silvers and pinks. The strong red fibre of their trunk and branch timbers give them the remainder of their name.

The trunks show off their amazing colours best just after good rains.

The view from an early bullock wagon driver's (Teamster) grave, looking east into the gorge.

A little further in, the southern wall of the gorge. A geologist's dream of faulted, folded and compacted sandstone, 450 to 550 million years old. This particular section is also home to a family of Yellow Footed Rock wallabys. Two 4WDs overtook me earlier, so I don't bother waiting or searching for these timid yet agile creatures. The rock face is sanctuary from the Wedge Tailed Eagles that patrol the ridge line looking for a meal. About knee high, the wallabys have a tail twice their body length to help them balance as they climb the gorge walls. Once an endangered species, they thrive now in certain areas of the park in family group about 10 to 20 strong.

Another family lives nearby in this small break in the gorge wall. There is a semi-permanent waterhole at the base of this wall, which the wallabys visit at dawn and dusk every day.
The tree on the left side of the road is the native pine tree, a White Cypress Pine. They cover the hillsides of the ranges and produce the dense forests the larger Red and Grey Kangaroos rest in during the day, before feeding on the native grasses at night. The trees contain a resin the billions of underground termites cannot abide, so the early pioneers used these to form their early "Pug and Pine" huts. I'll show a photo of one of these dwellings later in the report.

During good times, waterholes form all along the gorge. The rounded boulders are from thousands of years of torrential flooding. The creeks have a huge catchment area in the surrounding hills and the creeks can flood suddenly, with great force. They flow out to the nearby stark white salt lakes, the remnants of the ancient shallow sea, where the salt is absorbed into the water again then gradually reappears as the hot northerly desert winds quickly evaporate the lakes. The high salt concentration can often cause the lakes to appear to turn pink or sky blue, as they change with the evaporating water.

Various areas of the Ranges show evidence of the passage of glaciers in previous eras. The sandstone is often metamorphosed into quartz like slabs by the weight and heat of the passing ice sheets.

Landslides are still a common feature of the geologically active mountains. This one is about 250 metres high. Another family of the "Andu" or Yellow Footed Rock Wallabys live here, along with echidnas and small insect eating bats. The mountains have approximately 25 minor earthquake incidents every year. The largest in recent history was a 4.8, from memory.

The nearby grasslands along the creek bed provide feeding grounds for emus and kangaroos, as well as a huge variety of parrots and cockatoos. In drought times, a common cockatoo, the all white Little Corella, descend onto the gum tree canopies and strip the trees almost completely bare of their leaves. Somehow, the trees seem to survive and even benefit from this action. The trees here are victims of this event previously.

The red colouration to the sandstone layers is from the oxidisation of iron present on the surface of the rock. The darker parking bay surface is formed from crushed shale, dating from about 600 to 700 million years ago.

Water is life, in this area. The animals breed up during the good season, knowing there will be enough food available to see out the hot summer. The thin layers of shale with the adjoining layer of sandstone marks the boundary of the Pre-Cambrian rock.

To see this amount of water in the gorge is amazing. It cleans the mud off my filthy bike as well. All that street cred gone in an instant.

I leave Brachina Gorge and enter Bunyeroo Gorge. A short time later, this is my reward.

Old man emu and his five kids. They're about two weeks old and following close behind their dad, learning to survive. The male looks after the eggs from the moment the female emu lays the eggs until they're almost as tall as their father and find their own grazing country. They feed on berries and tourists, mainly.

To be continued....

Sundowner screwed with this post 09-14-2010 at 08:22 AM
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Old 09-06-2010, 03:19 AM   #20
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good stuff Sundowner... i remember reading in the SA forum a few weeks back that you were going and i 'might' have gotten a tad jealous...
if i wasnt holed up with a broken leg i recon i might have tagged along...

curious to see how your $200 budget pans out at the end..

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Old 09-06-2010, 04:34 PM   #21
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Keep it cummin Dick.

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Old 09-07-2010, 03:38 AM   #22
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Out on the more open plains of the Bunyeroo Gorge road, my camera batteries start to play up so I tape a solar charger to the tank bag. It seems to work well enough to grab what I want. Except pictures of roos. The valley is full of them. Or it used to be. I reckon they've moved slightly further east to the new bitumen road, to terrorise half frozen nocturnal motorcyclists. By the time I see any wildlife, it's buggered off before I can get the partially recharged batteries into the camera. But the valley scenery makes up for it.

This is looking north, back the way I've come. The prominent grey escarpment to the right of centre is the area near the eastern end of Brachina Gorge.

The jagged ranges are the Saw Tooth Range.

They lead south towards Wilpena Pound.

Always on the lookout for fossils, this rock caught my eye. The scale like indentations snaking through the centre are just a trick played by the extreme heat of summer on the abundant slate. This rock forms the base of many roads out here, simply because these ancient mountains have been worn down by enormous erosion. In most areas, including the flat plains, you are travelling across the strata layers from the heart of these eroded giants.

The bark of the pines and acacias are also designed to protect them from the baking summer heat. Mid to high 40 degree Celsius days are the norm.

They also provide bush tucker to the Adnyamathanha (People of the Hills) aboriginal groups that called this place home. The sap from many trees like this were used for food gum and medicine.

Moss covered rocks from a previous landslide. The moss thrives throughout the Ranges.

Fields of wildflowers are also a common sight in the Ranges. More to come soon. This is actually a noxious weed known as Paterson's Curse (or Salvation Jane), which are poisonous to most livestock but agreeable to honey bees. Soon vast areas will turn purple from these flowers. Not the best photo, but a cold howling gale is starting to blow.

With only a 400 kilometre range in the old Tenere, I head for nearby Wilpena Pound to refuel.

To be continued....

Sundowner screwed with this post 09-07-2010 at 05:20 AM
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Old 09-07-2010, 05:13 AM   #23
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Bunyeroo Gorge is the start of another creek system that stretches west towards Lake Torrens. The power of the water is evident in the flattened trees that line the gorge. Dried reeds and grass debris hanging from the roots 8 foot above ground level indicates the volume that flows through the gorges during heavy rain.

The road then winds upwards to a magnificent lookout facing the ABC Range and northern face of Wilpena Pound.

The truly enormous mountain building forces are revealed in sections of the earth's crust, thrust skywards at 90 degrees to their original bedding.

The winding road leading to the Pound road.

The north western face of Wilpena Pound coming into view. The small bush in the centre foreground is a Dead Finish bush. Named after the despair of the early cattlemen, who upon seeing their livestock eating this dry, spiky thorn covered bush, knew their cattle would soon be dead if rains didn't arrive to provide decent feed grasses. Camels, a legacy of the early Afghan Cameleer transport system, which now roam wild throughout outback South Australia tend to favour this bush over other forms of feed.

The Pound from a slightly different angle. It was created along a fault line by tectonic plate pressure from the north and south buckling the Earth's crust into a horse shoe shaped impoundment. It's often mistaken by visitors as being a dormant volcano or meteor crater.

I ride on to the Pound Park Station/Resort where I meet fellow ADV inmates Old Ozy, PBee and one of my regular riding mates, Gateshutter. Sadly, my camera batteries have died so no photos of the guys. We chat and form plans for the afternoon. They're heading where I've just come from and I have other areas I want to explore, but we agree to meet at the Hawker township, further south, that evening.

To be continued....
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Old 09-09-2010, 05:46 AM   #24
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After spending a while refuelling and removing a loose chain guard, then bumping into an old work mate and chatting a while, I finally hit the road to catch up with Oz, PBee and Gatey at a lookout on the Blinman Road. It's blowing a gale and freezing. My camera batteries have apparently frozen, because I can't squeeze a shot out, so I throw them back into the solar charger . With the other guys on the move south then west, I head north then east. I turn off onto a rough, two wheel track a short time later and follow it, to see where it goes. It ends up heading straight into the Ranger's Headquarters, which isn't a good move, so I turn around and head back out and east again.

Straight towards these, The Bunkers range.

One of the gorge areas.

An example of the damage caused by rabbits in high erosion areas.

I have a thing for these tough old creek-bed gum trees. This is the creek coming out of the gorge.

The Sturt's Desert Pea, named after early explorer, Captain Charles Sturt, is the South Australian State floral emblem featuring on the SA Coat of Arms.

This striking flower grows in low laying sandy ground in the arid central country, appearing shortly after heavy rains.

Nearby, some more bush tucker. These are one of several varieties of Bush Tomato, a staple food gathered by all desert country aboriginal people. It needs careful preparation before eating, as some parts are poisonous.

Latrobe's Desert Fuchsia. Part of the same plant family as the Weeping Emu Bush, a favourite food for emus when in fruit.

The Paddock (Paddy) Melon or Camel Melon. An introduced vine like plant that again reacts to heavy rainfall, it was spread by Afghan Cameleers as a food source for their dromedary camels. It's a bitter, poisonous (to humans) melon often mistaken by keen tourists for young watermelon, with mirth filled results - can you say "Nurse, stomach pump, stat!" Sheep actually will eat it but camels apparently ignore it in favour of native shrubs. If you could brew alcohol out of it you could be a billionaire overnight, as there isn't a farmer in SA that wouldn't let you have truckloads, for free. The green melons dry out to be thin skinned, yellow husks that explode in the heat and throw their seeds about to be spread by heavy rainfall and feeding birds.

A bit further on, heading south towards Hawker, I come across this sign near a Sheep Station home paddock. It's a warning for travellers to watch for low flying aircraft, as a dirt airstrip exists right next to the road. The aircraft, in this case a high wing Cessna, are used to locate/muster stock on these huge properties and for personal transport to nearby towns or cities. The properties out here are measured in hundreds and sometimes thousands of square kilometres.

From here, the road winds along the Elder Range. My camera batteries die again, which is annoying, but it's overcast and the solar charger is doing it's best. Darkness approaches and the roos and sheep become more common as I near the bitumen road leading to Hawker. I roll on and finally reach the caravan park the guys are staying at. After being robbed of $12 to camp on their dirt, I quickly set up my pop-up tent, throw my gear inside and ride to the pub to catch the guys.

To be continued...
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Old 09-10-2010, 08:29 AM   #25
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A pint of Cooper's Pale Ale goes a long way to finishing a great day. Another while the guys eat their counter meals is even better. We return to the 'van park and spend a great evening yakking and drinking and annoying the neighbours with some good music.
About 4 am or so, I'm woken by a howling gale shaking the tent and some very mild rain. About 10 minutes after I wake, the tent gets flattened by a sudden stronger gust. I prop it back up from inside. It's a neat pop-up tent system made with a black mozzie dome and a silver igloo shaped dome fly. To pop it up in seconds, you simply take it out of the bag, pull a central cord in the dome roof and it springs the six fibreglass poles out and the dome up. The fly cover then sits over the top and elastic cords in the four corners hold it fast to the inner dome. Takes about 5 minutes maximum to set up. It also takes a 100km/hr wind gust mere milliseconds to flatten it. This happens repeatedly for the next two hours until dawn breaks and I'm sick of holding the tent upright. I leave it standing to go have a shower before returning to this....

Bloody tents. Someone should blow them up.

I've never liked caravan parks, mainly because tents are a pain to sleep in and pack away. I find everyone now awake, so raid Gateshutter's caravan to fix some porridge for everyone. Gateshutter's the only one keen, probably because he's got Scottish blood. After fixing a good feed for him, he tells me how the storm also woke him shaking his van, so he got up and locked the door so I couldn't get in if I'd wanted to escape the storm. What a top guy. F'ing Pikey Git. Australia - full of great mates.

Again the guys are doing something different to me, so my plans are simple...Explore.

I find a dirt road just out of town and follow it, straight back to the main Hawker to Blinman bitumen road. I find another one a few metres north, so head up that one instead for about 5 kilometres - straight to the closed gate of a farmer's boundary fence. I don't feel like being shot at today, so drag my tourist arse back to the bitumen and roll north again.

Ahead is the Rawnsley Bluff, the towering escarpment just south of Wilpena Pound. After a couple more stops for photos and a pee in the freezing gale force conditions, I finally reach the Moralana Scenic Drive.

First up, across the dry creek bed.

Nice trees.

Decent dirt road. Wilpena Pound to the north.

Rawnsley Bluff to my south.

A better view of Rawnsley Bluff escarpment.

An old rabbit proof stock fence. Plagues of rabbits prior to biological control by the early myxomatosis virus forced hundreds of kilometres of this fencing to be installed throughout inland grazing areas, to slow the rabbits spread.

I follow the road west between these two ranges until I've reached the southern side of the Pound and the road into Black Gap.

A quiet little place, away from the buses and tours. I like it, a lot.

Back out onto the road and west again.

To be continued....

Sundowner screwed with this post 09-11-2010 at 07:36 PM
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Old 09-10-2010, 07:24 PM   #26
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Top stuff, Richard - amazing what you can see/do on such a small budget.

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Old 09-11-2010, 12:01 AM   #27
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top stuff sundowner,,ive been crook for the last month but am ready to roll now.see you on the dirt soon.keep up the great report.thanks for sharing
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Old 09-11-2010, 01:10 AM   #28
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Can I take the Geology and flora for 20 points please ?
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Old 09-11-2010, 05:12 AM   #29
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Thanks guys. I'm glad you're all enjoying it.

GoneAgain - shame you couldn't join us, mate. It was great weather and top company. Couldn't ask for much more. Soon, hey!

Turbo - You'd probably get to Cape York and back on the postie with my budget. The Tenere's still pretty darn good, fuel wise. 20km per litre is alright for a big bike. But it was also easy to travel cheap when you avoid luxuries, like fresh camera batteries. I actually ran out of camera memory anyway, so it worked out okay.

FatPete - look forward to you joining us for a local ride when you can. As you can see, I'll try and take an S10 anywhere. You'll have to catch up with Rich and I to compare notes on modifications too. The Top Hut run coming up is worth considering.

Gatey - Still lots more to come, buddy.
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Old 09-11-2010, 10:35 PM   #30
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It's difficult not to be fascinated by everything here. The land talks to you, if you bother to listen.

The gum trees survive countless termite attacks and small lightening started grass fires, until there's not much left and a big fire finishes them off.

An innocent little gully....

with plenty of strength.

A glimpse across to the Pound with the Bunbinyunna Range (containing Black Gap) in the foreground.

Some photos from inside the Pound from an earlier visit...

These are taken from one of the Pound ridges called Mount Olsen Bagge, 940 metres above sea level. It's about a 3 hour hike, up and back, but worth the visual reward.

My ride continued west, to a good photo and lunch spot.

The clouds bank up and constantly hover over the ranges.

Some random rocks, with evidence of more glacial activity.

An old Diamond brand kerosene tin.

Heading out onto the plains, I soon reach the bitumen Hawker to Parachilna road. This follows the old Ghan Railway Line route, north into the desert country towards central Australia.

The old Ghan line. Just a mound with millions of termite eaten redgum timber sleepers. The steel lines recycled long ago.

Looking north.

And south.

Strange paddock experiment. I'm guessing it's an attempt to capture some of the rainfall into the soil, instead of seeing it rush into the nearby creeks or simply sit on the hard baked surface and evaporate again. This was once lush green natural pasture until the introduction of livestock. Wheat was also a common crop for early farmers until prolonged droughts proved them wrong.

One of the locals, a Shingleback Lizard (Trachydosauras Rougosus - what a great name ). Also known as a Stumpy-tailed or Sleepy lizard, due to the tail matching the head (to fool predators) and their habit of sunning themselves for hours on roadways. They're often mistakenly called Blue Tongue lizards, which is a similar species, due to the tongue they possess to warn off predators. They actually find a mate and remain partners for years. If one is run over by passing traffic, the other will often remain nearby for days, almost like they're mourning. They have an amazing ability to be born with scales that match their surroundings, so that some are light brown to match their sandy habitat, some patchy brown to match pebbly terrain, while others will be dark brown with light green patches, to match moss covered rocky terrain. They're a widespread species throughout southern Australia and are still commonly gathered by aboriginal people for food. A great lizard, this was the first and only one I found. He's a bit skinny around the tail from recently coming out of winter hibernation. His appearance heralds the coming of the long, hot summer. I picked him up and put him in the grass away from the road, as there's a big mob of eagles and crows nearby, fighting over a lamb that's been run down by passing traffic. My camera batteries fail again, so I can't get a photo of the pissed off lizard's blue tongue or the fighting birds.

Riding north, following the new coal train track, I soon arrive in Parachilna, an old Ghan Railway siding, then turn east, into Parachilna Gorge once again.

Along the way, I bump into the guys, Gateshutter, Old Ozy and PBee. Not long after we've stopped for a chat, another inmate, Desert Dog, zooms up in his Land Rover.

Old Ozy has me laughing with this new invention, an air-freshener holder for a motorcycle. Perfect for those high kangaroo road-kill areas we sometimes travel in.

After a good chat, the guys head west to the Parachilna Pub. I head east, into the Gorge.

To be continued....

Sundowner screwed with this post 09-11-2010 at 10:58 PM
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