Friday 30 October 2009

SkyWatch; Friday; Wheeling....

I was fascinated watching hundreds of cockatiels wheeling and turning in big circles settling on the nearby trees, taking off again in huge flocks until they found their roosting place.

(I have left the pictures fairly big, so please click and scroll to see the impact of the birds.)

For SkyWatch Friday click here

Photos TS

Monday 26 October 2009

Adieu Bourke; on the way to Coober Pedy...

Perhaps au revoir!
Please do click the pictures to get a better view.

Lilli picked some of the tiny straw flowers.

The wharf is a three story building. When the Darling rises the boats could still be unloaded; have a look how high the river can rise in flood times.

On the banks of the Darling River almost 800km north-west of Sydney, the once thriving river port of Bourke was the highest town on the Darling from which barges filled with cargos of wool could be shipped downstream.

Bourke was a bustling river port from the 1860s to the 1930s, and there are some fine examples of riverboat-era architecture, including the huge reconstructed wharf which can be explored – from here a track winds along the magnificent, tree-lined river. Thanks to irrigation with Darling River water, crops as diverse as cotton, lucerne, citrus, grapes and sorghum are successfully grown here despite the 35°C summer heat, while Bourke is also the commercial centre for a vast sheep- and cattle-breeding area: to the north there are rich grazing lands across the Queensland border around Cunnamulla and Charleville.

The Flinders Ranges are magnificent to see from above.

The region of the Flinders Ranges and Outback South Australia covers the area starting 200km north of Adelaide at Crystal Brook and extends to the state's borders in the north, east and west. The Flinders Ranges is a majestic mountain range stretching for 300km. The area is noted for its scenic beauty, unique flora and fauna, fascinating geology and heritage. Outback SA is a vast region noted for its harsh environment. Despite this the region offers a diverse range of experiences coupled with the stark beauty of its sandy and stony deserts, salt lakes and arid wetlands.

There are three major deserts in SA's northern Outback area - Sturt's Stony Desert, the Simpson Desert and the Great Victorian Desert. Scattered throughout the Outback are vast dry salt lakes of enormous size, the largest being Lake Eyre.
The discovery of opal in the Outback resulted in the establishment of mining towns; most notably Coober Pedy, the largest opal mining town in Australia. Situated on the Sturt Range,

We have flown over Lake Frome; Lake Torrens and Lake Eyre;

To me the huge salt lakes looked like a giant canvas painted in bold strokes with watercolours.

Salt pans in the desert;

Olympic Dam; We had to ask permission to land at Olympic Dam to refuel on the way to Coober Pedy.

Olympic Dam
South Australia possesses the world's single largest known deposit of uranium, at the Olympic Dam mine. Olympic Dam contains 40% of the world's known uranium reserves. The Olympic Dam mine is also the world's fourth largest remaining copper deposit, and the world's fifth largest gold deposit.

Andamooka from above;

Andamooka, there it is in the middle of the desert only a few kilometres from Lake Torrens and 30 km along what was once a very ordinary dirt road (it is now beautiful bitumen) from Roxby Downs, 113 km from the Stuart Highway, 286 km from Port Augusta and 592 km from Adelaide. Only 76 m above sea level it is a town driven by one economic imperative - the desire to dig a fortune out of the unforgiving desert soils.

Opals were first found at Andamooka in 1930 and since then there have been periodic great finds including the famous 'Andamooka' opal.

We arrive in Coober Pedy.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Still in Bourke; continued;

Well, we got to know it, not much but a little bit, as we were delayed for two days due to a bad dust storm. The people of Bourke said they have not seen such a bad one since 1960.

We flew out, but after an hour a message came through that we would not be able to land at Leigh Creek where we were heading. When we returned to the airport the storm was approaching and it was very windy and cold.

The air got very dusty and pinkish.

Flying out it got dimmer...

and dimmer; it was very rough, windy and rainy and the Commander had a hard time and we too! We plunged and shook, but our experienced pilot brought as back safely.

There was nothing around than pink dust, no view any more to anywhere. The storm was bad up there and when the message came that we could not land we had to turn back to Bourke. For us it is not not any more "The Back O'Bourke" it is now "Back TO Bourke"!

The landscape from above is breathtaking all the different patterns...

a leaping frog...

or the never ending desert and the Darling

The Commander was very dirty after the storm and all hands were needed to clean it up.

Pretty details;
Pink and lace are the pretty homes;

People have a sense of humour;

The main shopping area;

The tiny native straw flowers in full bloom everywhere around the airport;

The beautiful pink flowering Eucalyptus trees were in flower along the streets in Bourke.
The next day was still very windy so we decided to stay one more night in Bourke.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Outback; Back O'Bourke;

Last check ups...
...and we are...

up...looking down onto suburbia;

still climbing...
cruising comfortably over...

cultivated fields...

and over endless plains...

or fields as far as I can see..

sometimes an isolated homestead;

The Darling snakes its way through the plains...

The Darling River is the third longest river in Australia, measuring 1,472 kilometres (915 mi) from its source in northern New South Wales to its confluence with the Murray River at Wentworth, New South Wales. Including its longest contiguous tributaries it is 2,844 km (1,767 mi) long, making it the longest river system in Australia.[1]

Tumble weed, bleached and liberated by the ever blowing wind, comes to rest in a corner of the airport in Bourke.

Generations of Australians have talked about the “back of Bourke” as the edge of the great unknown. Visitors will be surprised to learn that Bourke itself is a fascinating and exciting inland town with a rich historical tradition. In the 1800s, the poet Henry Lawson wrote: “If you know Bourke, you know Australia”, and there’s still some truth to it.
Once a major late 19th-century river port, Bourke retains much of its heritage. Whether the Darling is at its lowest ebb or brimming with life, Bourke is a fascinating place to spend some time.

Charles Sturt passed through in 1824, followed by Thomas Mitchell in 1835. Mitchell constructed what he called a fort, which was little more than a shed constructed on logs, and called it Fort Bourke. Eventually, the township of Bourke developed about 13 km from this fortification.
For a couple of decades from the early 1860s, Bourke and other towns along the Darling River became important trading centers and transportation hubs.

Bourke is located in North West NSW on the banks of the Darling River. It's approximately 772km from Sydney, 1000km from Melbourne, 930km from Brisbane and 1130km from Adelaide.

This grand building was a former Bank. It is for sale! It would make a splendid home and perhaps a B and B; perhaps if I were "a bit younger"!

No roundabouts; no traffic lights....I wonder why? Can you guess?

Many interesting and beautiful houses from more prosperous times...

No traffic jams...

The Darling River;

Unfortunately, the Darling is in poor health, suffering from overuse of its waters, pollution from pesticide runoff and prolonged drought. In some years it barely flows at all. The river has a high salt content and declining water quality. To quote a Henry Lawson poem:
The skies are brass and the plains are bare,
Death and ruin are everywhere;
And all that is left of the last year's flood
Is a sickly stream on the grey-black mud;
The salt-springs bubble and the quagmires quiver,
And this is the dirge of the Darling River.
—Henry Lawson

Dark clouds...we are marooned in B o'B;