Tag Archive | Port Augusta

Dry But Not Desolate

Round Australia Road Trip #25

The arid outback of Australia looks desolate and uninhabitable but it’s far from empty. Flora and fauna are plentiful if you know what to look for. We learned about what grows in the desert at the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden at Port Augusta.

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The garden, established in 1993, promotes the research and conservation of Australia’s arid zone plants and animals. The eco-friendly Visitor Centre, made of rammed earth and powered by solar panels, sits comfortably in its surroundings. Water harvested from the roof is recycled for use in the building and the gardens.

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There are several walking paths around the garden, ranging from the 200 metre Children’s Walk to the 4.5 km Red Cliff Walk, which passes the place where the explorer Matthew Flinders landed on 11 March, 1802.

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The Eremophila Garden features an astounding variety of plants all belonging to the same family. While some eremophilas are prostrate ground covers and others are shrubs and small trees, they all bear brightly coloured flowers and fruit. The common name for some eremophilas is emu bush because emus feast on the fruit as it ripens.

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For more variety, the Regional Walk displays plants from the arid regions of South Australia, including the Flinders Ranges, West Coast Mallee and the Great Victoria Desert. In October, eucalypts laden with delicate blossoms attract Singing Honeyeaters.

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It’s also wildflower season. Everlastings show off their vibrant colours while Poached Egg Daisies nod gently in the breeze coming off the waters of Spencer Gulf.

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Yaccas, also known as grass trees, send up long flower spikes which local indigenous people once used for fishing spears.

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There’s life aplenty in the arid lands of Australia.

The Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden is open 7 days from 7.30am to sundown. The Visitor Centre is open week days 9am to 5pm, weekends and public holidays 10am to 4pm. Admission is free. Guided walking tours are available daily.

A Big Day

Round Australia Road Trip #24

When Elaine commented on my Longest Trains in the World post about the size of everything in Australia, I made it my mission to find as many big things as I could on the rest of our road trip. Australia is well known for its “big things”, both natural and man made, and the drive east from Streaky Bay to Port Augusta revealed a surprising number of over-sized objects.

Not far from Streaky Bay is an outcrop of large granite boulders at least 1 500 million years old, which have been exposed in their current form for around 100 000 years.

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Known as Murphy’s Haystacks, their name came about after an agricultural expert saw the rocks on Murphy’s farm from a distance and mistook them for haystacks.

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There are more granite outcrops at Wudinna. Mount Wudinna is the second largest monolith in Australia; only Uluru in the Northern Territory is larger. It rises out of the wheat fields like a sentinel.

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A walking track through the bush leads to the base of the rock and from there signposts mark the easiest way to the top.

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It’s not just the rock that is large; the 360 degree view from the top of the mountain is expansive. Turtle Rock, another granite outcrop, can be seen nearby.

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The swarms of flies at Mount Wudinna are large too. We spent most of our time waving them away and trying not to swallow them.

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Wudinna is also the home of the Australian Farmers’ Memorial, an eight metre high statue made of local pink granite which celebrates the spirit of the Australian farmer.

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The town of Kimba may be tiny but it is renowned for two big things. It is geographically located halfway across the continent as the crow flies and it is the home of The Big Galah.

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The last stop on this part of the drive commemorates a big journey – the circumnavigation of Australia by Matthew Flinders between 1801 and 1803. On 11 March 1802, Flinders and his crew sailed into Spencer Gulf in their ship Investigator. They landed close to where the city of Port Augusta is now located and climbed up these red cliffs. Matthew Flinders was the first person to use the name “Australia” for this vast continent. What would he think of the Big Galah?

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