Eyes on the South Australian Outback

I have received correspondence from J of Sandringham as she journeys throughout the outback. But before we join her I need to welcome our latest subscriber who lives in the Philippines. R has told me of a local artist with an interesting story so I will be featuring him as soon as J comes home and we have met all the Brushmen of the Bush. But back to J’s travels.

Cooper Pedy is a dusty, ramshackle town amidst the moonlike surface of the opal fields. We see air pipes dotted around and lots of rusted vehicles dumped seemingly haphazardly - well these are the signs of suburbia - habitation is underground. You become a local by owning lots of rusted vehicles - it’s too expensive to get rid of them, so they adorn the back or preferably front yard - Cooper Pedy’s answer to gardens - no point in growing any plants!

An oil painting Jane could not resist

In the summer temperatures can reach 35 degrees in the shade but the wind is cold today and we are wearing scarfs, beanies and gloves. A quirky place, not a blade of grass at the golf course - the greens are black pebbles soaked in sump oil. Being a member is quite illustrious though, as you gain reciprocal rights to St Andrews!

The town, a mishmash of cultures, Greeks were keen miners, Croatians run some of the opal stores, the Italians advertised their club, the Serbians built an amazing underground Orthodox church.

The expanse of the country is immense - sunsets and sunrises spectacular, even with cloudy skies. The next day was thrilling as we took off in a small aircraft - our destination the Painted Hills rise up and we land to take a closer look. Located on privately owned Anna Creek Station, the largest in the world, we are the first ever tour group to wander through these pristine hills and creek beds, thanks to a new venture with Wright’s Air -Trevor the owner is just as excited as we are - the colours are incredible, even finding a few fossils.

To celebrate we enjoy a glass of wine and canapés to mark the occasion. Individuals have been able to fly here for some time, but there is no road access.

Up early on Wednesday morning to a beautiful sunrise and another flight - over Lake Eyre - what would we see? Salt pans? Water? Great reflections? Bird life? Well we managed 3 of the 4 - no birds but amazing landscapes, the dry creek beds etched into the red earth, fingers of salt expanding the salt pans.

Until floods in the 1950’s the only Europeans to have seen water in the lake were 2 explorers. At 15 metres below sea level, usually the lake bed is a crust of salt approx. ½ metre thick and smooth enough for Donald Campbell, in his Bluebird, to become the first man, to break the 400 mile per hour limit in a wheel-driven vehicle, in 1964.

The last major flooding occurred in 2010, massive summer rains in Queensland saw the Diamantina, Georgina and Cooper Creeks flood into the Lake Eyre Basin. We were thrilled to see water in the lake, it was cloudy yet nature gave us the most amazing reflections.

The quirkiness of outback Australia continues. A convenience stop - it may be a drop toilet, but a beautifully decorated one! Then a few weird sculptures in the middle of what seems to be nowhere – in fact we are close to Roxby Downs: for those who don’t know, has a controversial history regarding mining thr resources. This area contains the largest known single deposit of uranium in the world. The mining of copper is however the largest contributor to total revenue.

Tomorrow we will meet the next of our Brushmen of the Bush.