Pichi Richi Train in Quorn

My last post for this trip is about another train journey. This time a step back in time.

In 1878, construction commenced on the Port Augusta and Government Gums Railway. The line was extended to Oodnadatta in 1891 and further to Alice Springs in 1929, establishing an important rail link to Central Australia.

The famous Ghan passenger train travelled this way from 1923 to 1956, and on the northern part of this route until 1980. Such a pity the Ghan doesn’t stop here now ut would be a great place to break the journey.

This historic train bring back the romance of train travel, as it was in its heyday a century ago. The name “Pichi Richi” came from the section of track between Port Augusta and Quorn, through the Pichi Richi Pass, which was first opened back in 1879.

During the war years this was a major junction for trains carrying troops. At one point 43 trains came through a day. The local women would feed the men in the local hall during a break in the trip. Quorn would have been a bustling town.

So the train is old. Today it is run entirely by volunteers. And what a variety of train enthusiasts offer their services to keep this historic train ride operating.

David, one such enthusiast met us at our assigned carriage to clip our ticket and welcome us aboard.

David looked the part – covered in train badges

We settled into our bench seats with other train buffs on this sellout Sunday morning short run through the Pichi Richi pass to Woolshed Flats.

David gave us a run down on the train and it’s history, speaking faster than the train was moving !

He told us that the carriage we were in named Warana was the one Mel Gibson sat in for the scene for the movie Gallipoli.

Many movies have used Quorn and this train in their scenes. Gallipoli, The Shiralee, The Water Diviner, Wolf Creek, Sundowners, The Tourist, to name just a few.

It’s such a popular attraction people stop their cars by the side of the road to watch & wave to those on board. Today with the marathon on with runners having started in Port Augusta it was extra busy.

We moved through the countryside through the pass and arrived at Woolshed Flat. Here you disembark and have morning tea while the engine is detached and moved around, in a move to then put it at the front of the train. Great to watch.

The engine moving to the front of the train for its return journey.

We spent half an hour chatting to other train buffs watching the engine manoeuvres. Our driver, an 82 year old man is assisted by his son and his 18 year old grandson who shovelled the coal. Trains run in the family.

David welcomed us back on board for the return journey. Our fellow passengers had bonded over the journey. There were four sisters away for a weekend who were joking, laughing and having a ball. A few caravaners on holidays and a family with two little children. The two year old boy was hooked. He loved this Thomas the Tank engine experience.

If you are in this area do yourself a favour and do a Pichi Richi train trip. At $61 it was a great experience and the money goes directly to its maintenance.

Quorn SA. Train Paradise

Leaving Wilpena wanting more is a sign we have enjoyed our visit. I’d like to do some more of the walks.

We stopped at a few more lookouts with the view changing each time and always magnificent.

The drive back out to Hawker was quite different to the drive in few days ago. The morning light is so different on the hills surrounding us to the light in the afternoon.

A coffee stop at Hawker was a surprise. There is a big café opposite the information centre. It’s has the best coffee, quandong pies , meals and more. Well worth a visit. The cafe staff, Sev and Kads, itinerant workers from Wollongong were helpful and chatty about this great cafe.

Quorn is only an hour away along the straightest road – looking out at flat land. Years ago this proved too hard to grow anything on so there were a number of abandoned brick houses left by disappointed farmers.

Arriving in time for a heritage building walk it was interesting and sad. So many lovely old buildings many empty but almost in need of repair.

Lunch at the Quandong Cafe was terrific.

Quorn has a lot to offer and it would be good to see a bigger industry bring people to town to live and work. At the moment it is the Pichi Richi steam train that brings visitors to town. We’re going on it tomorrow.

I’m surprised the town looks so quiet. Not many people around today. There’s a marathon here tomorrow. It starts in Port Augusta. There will be lots of people around then. Accommodation was booked out, so we’re staying at a cabin about 10 mins from town. We tried to book at one of the hotels for dinner but had to go to the other hotel, The Austral. Bonus there is karaoke on.

Our little cabin at Pichi Richi Park is basic but comfortable and there’s a heater! We sat looking at the view reading the papers before heading back into town for silo light show.

What is a Silo Art show? Most country towns have large grain silos. They are like a big blank canvas. It’s been a trend in Australia for the silos to be painted. These Silos are heritage listed so can’t be painted So they project images onto the silos at sunset each night.

We arrived as the sun was setting. Tuned our radio to the station suggested for the audio and sat in our car and watched. It’s like being at the drive in movies.

We got our quandong ( a local treat) gin and tonic set up and sat back and enjoyed the show.

In fact they should show movies here. Perfect screen. The light show consisted of various different segments outlining the features and activities of a Quorn. a section on the food, the attractions, The indigenous history.

The streets were quiet except for those heading to the two hotels for dinner. It wasn’t quiet in the Austral Hotel. We sat near a big group of Marathon runners. The good part is they weren’t drinking much and finished early. But they were friendly and fun!

The bar staff ready for karaoke

The runners head off for bed and then the karaoke started. It’s always funny to watch this entertainment. Ordinary people get up and have a go . Good on them. But really. The choice of songs could be better for some!!!

Marg and I were not going to do it but it wasn’t long before we felt we could do better than most! But we’d resisted and ended up singing all the way back to our cabin.

What’s your favourite karaoke song?

Exploring Wilpena Pound and the Flinders Ranges

The day was glorious- after a cool night we woke to blue skies and a warm sun.

The visitors centre is at the main building as you drive into the Wilpena Resort. It also houses an IGA which would be so helpful for the many campers.

The area is very sheltered with lots of beautiful trees providing shade during the hot summer months.

The Aboriginal guides at the centre have lots of helpful advice on the many walks and the drives we could take to discover the sights of the area.

With a plan in mind we set off. The resident emus were there to say goodbye as we headed back out to the explorers way.

Map of the area of Wilpena

Our first turn off was to Bunyeroo Gorge. The road was dirt but not too bumpy. Before long the grandeur of the mountain ranges started to appear.

The gorge here is so different to the gorges on the Gibb River. Spectacular, yes, Rocky, yes, but accessible by 4 wheel drive. We drive into Bunyeroo and are immediately surrounded by the ranges. Bunyeroo Gorge is one of the main gorges which runs through the Heysen Range towards Lake Torrens.

As we drive through the gorge the trees are magnificent. The gums are huge. The pine trees line up along the creek and the road.

As we drive through the Gorge the size of the limestone cliffs either side look awesome.

The creeks we cross have large stones and it’s easy to see how high the water level got to the last time the creek flowed.

Continuing on we came to Brachina Gorge which was just as inspiring as the Bunyeroo Gorge. It’s wonderful to see it close up. Not to be scrambling over rocks and boulders!

We passed as few cars and came upon a group of young cyclists from St. Peter’s School in Adelaide. They were doing over 300 km over their 10 days in the area. They were young , enthusiastic and will sleep well at night!

After we left the Gorge area we spotted a vine growing along the road. It’s a Paddy melon which is a poisonous fruit for humans and most animals.

We stopped for a picnic at the curiously named Dingly Dell. It sounds so Irish. There are little picnic tables set up through the Gorge and in the turnoffs to lookouts. So thoughtful!

Nearby we spotted a camper with their washing strung out capturing the lovely sun and breeze. Perfect.

We drove, we pottered, we left the car for little walks and we returned to Wilpena Pound for a walking tour of the historic homestead.

All the tours at Wilpena are conducted by local Adnyamathanha people. Local guide John McKenzie says Adnyamathanya’s made up of two indigenous words: Adnya, meaning rock, and mathanya, meaning people.

Guide John. A great storyteller.

Wilpena Pound itself is an immense horseshoe-shaped feature known locally as Ikara. It was once used by pastoralists as a natural stock pen. Today, it’s the jewel in the crown of this rugged landscape.

Six years ago, the traditional owners of this land acquired Wilpena Pound Resort. 

It allows locals, who’re fiercely proud of their heritage, to share their knowledge of culture and country directly with tourists.

John is good at sharing his heritage with us. Helping us understand what it was like for the local mob when the white pastoralists arrived at the Pound.

They worked for the pastoralists on what had been their land. We toured the remains of the building that made up the farm.

The stone work is so distinctively South Australian.

John told us the story of the creation of Wilpena Pound. it differed somewhat from the geological description offer by scientists but is a Dreamtime story passed down by the local mob.

Long before the coming of white settlers to Wilpena, there was an old Kingfisher Man called Yurlu who lived in the west near Kuyani territory. He journeyed south from his home at Kakarlpunha (Termination Hill) to attend an important Malkada (corroboree) at Ikara (Wilpena Pound). Passing through Brachina Gorge on his way to the ceremony, Yurlu saw two giant serpents (Akurra) travelling in the same direction. The snakes scared him and he hid behind low hills until they passed.

Yurlu stopped to light a big signal fire to inform his people that he was coming. The charcoal of that fire remains today in the form of the massive coal deposits that have been mined for decades at Leigh Creek.

Passing through Brachina Gorge on his way to the ceremony, Yurlu saw two giant serpents travelling in the same direction. The snakes scared him and he hid behind low hills until they passed. The two Akurra (male and female) were so bloated by the feast that they coiled up, and died. They now form the ring of hill surrounding the Pound.

It’s a great story and it’s important these stories are passed down.

After the tour we walked back to the resort or Chalet as it was originally called stopping to admire the trees.

The main resort building with large restaurant.

Another sunset beckoned so we climbed the hill behind the camp ground and were rewarded with a sun streaked sky.

Returning through the camp sites I was rather pleased I wasn’t the camper in the blue one man tent.

Fabulous Flinders Ranges & Wilpena Pound.

Two chilly days in Adelaide and we were ready for a little more adventure.

We thought a few days in Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges would be a perfect end to our Australian adventure.

Known for it ancient mountains, spectacular gorges and sheltered creeks Ikara National Park is one of the most spectacular parks in Australia. And there is a lot of competition!

All of this only 5 hours drive from Adelaide.

We set off early Thursday as we planned on visiting friends Kathy & Mark in the Clare Valley. They are house sitting – a new and rewarding experience since retiring.

On the way we stopped at Balaklava and lovely small town.

We drove through the vines of Clare and arrived at their house for the next few weeks. It’s charming & just outside the village of Clare. They look after ducks, chickens and dorper sheep. And are living in the comfortable old farm house.

House sitting is a great way to explore new areas – living rent free. Though it’s good if you like animals.

We headed off after lunch and headed west. We passed a few more little towns but couldn’t stop. We wanted to get to Wilpena before sundown.

This resort is joint owned b the SA Gov and the local Adnyamathanha Aboriginal people. They call the pound “Ikara” meaning “meeting place” or “place for initiations”.

We settled into our family room, had a glass of wine and planned our day tomorrow.

Dinner was soup in the restaurant which is part of the main resort building – built in 1947. it resembles a ski lodge!

We’re looking forward to exploring this area tomorrow. Driving in we were in awe of the beautiful mountains.

The Nullarbor- a Long and very Straight Track

A late night in Kalgoorlie led to an early start in Rawlinna.

Clickity clack Clickity clack. Our train clicked away during the night. It’s funny how during the day it seems so calm and the night time turns the train into a Rockin’ rollin’ adventure.

The sunrise over Rawlinna was gorgeous. Soft light makes the deserted town beautiful.

We were off the train by 6.30am. It was cold!

The only sign of life on the deserted platform was a horse. He stood patiently letting us pat him as our entertainer set up then played country & western.

We drank hot tea and ate bacon egg rolls as we sang along and wondered why we had got out of a cosy bed! But how could you miss this little piece of the Australian outback. Very special.

The more energetic of us stretched our legs walking along the deserted dirt road of this huge sheep station. I was hoping someone could fill us in on details about this sheep station on the edge of the Nullarbor. I have since found out it is more than 2.5 mil acres in size with 65,000 sheep!

Today it was us and a horse at the railway station.

Back on board we dived back under the doona as the sun came through the window.

Lunchtime came and gave us a chance to chat to our fellow travellers and make some connections. Cath thought she knew me but her husband said she thinks she knows everyone.

Sitting on the jailhouse rock.

A second stop at Cook. This place has a population of 4. There are a few houses there which get used by railway works from time to time. Someone has a good sense of humour. There were signs around the empty town including one our side as male and female jail. In between was the musical ‘jailhouse rock’.

Miranda said I reminded her of her mum who, like me, loves a red lipstick! Miranda is a nurse from Manchester who despite 20 years of living in Perth still has a strong accent. She’s talkative and funny – the kind of nurse who would keep you entertained but take no nonsense!

More cards in the afternoon before cocktail hour! Today I had a margarita and was surprised that Jill, who only ever has one half strength coffee a day, had an expresso martini. It had two full shots of coffee and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Jill was later seen dancing on tables!!!!

It was our last night together on holidays and we were celebrating our great trip. If you’ve missed out please go back and read the earlier blogs on the Gibb River Road.

We have travelled over 4,300 kilometres. Over dusty roads, had several boat trips, swum in at least 8 gorges and in the ocean 7 times, waded in a tunnel creek, had two light plane trips, one epic train trip, enjoyed wine, beer and cocktails. Eaten too many chips! Had lots of laughs and card games and really enjoyed our travel buddies Chris & Jill.

Dinner was delicious. Lamb shanks! No chips. Beautiful Moss Wood wine and lots of chat.

A great cickity clack sleep and an early arrival in Adelaide. Our lively lovely crew including Layla, Georgia. Nick ….. farewelled us. It’s been great.

We have a few days with Steve’s sister before heading off to Wilpena Pound – a little sight seeing and a ride on the Pichi Richi rail journey in Quorn.

Keep following readers…… Wilpena is known as the jewel in the Flinders Rangers

Clickity Clack: The Indian Pacific Train.

Pick up from our hotel in Fremantle is part of the Platinium service for the Indian Pacific. We are being spoiled on this trip! So naturally we’ve been looking forward to this train journey for quite some time.

We arrive at East Perth Station and are checked in with Layla a lovely young girl wearing an Akubra hat. We are in carriage I, cabin 4.

First sight of the train.

It’s 9 a.m. when we board the train and the Bollinger has been popped. People start to smile. The service team introduce themselves and the guests start to chat. It may be expensive but the treatment is first class.

Our cabin is small but perfectly laid out. Our comfy seats face the way the train will be going and every little convenience has been included.

The seats fold out to become the bed.

It’s not long before it lunch time. the food is lovely.

The menu cover.
A sample menu. I had the camel curry! It was delicious.

Of course lunch was a accompanied by another Bollinger or two. This was followed by a nap!

We met some fellow travellers. Miranda and Gavin from Perth are on board celebrating a birthday. They are lowering the average age and look like fun – enjoy a drink and a chat!

Val & Jim from Melbourne are lovely and we swapped lots of stories. There are other keen train enthusiasts who are on their 2nd, 3rd and even 4th journey – the Ghan north to south and the Indian Pacific east to west !

Some are travelling Premium because they no longer like climbing up to a bunk style bed. I can identify with that feeling.

Card playing had become our afternoon or evening activity and it has continued. Today we multi-tasked! There was a trivia competition hosted by the resident guitar-playing entertainer. We played cards, played trivia and drank Bollinger.

Tonight after dinner we arrived into Kalgoorlie around 9 p.m. We left the warmth of the train for a tour of cool Kalgoorlie with Katherine.

She drove through the dark streets pointing out sights we couldn’t see. She told us stories and used the word ‘actually ‘ more times than necessary. She’d had a long day and sounded exhausted. We were all thinking our Katherine needed to be home in bed.

First stop was a yard housing a small museum and theatre where two locals put on a play about the discovery of gold by Paddy and Tom. Unfortunately it needed a better script & better actors.

Next stop was the giant pit. We went to a viewing platform but with few lights on it was hard to see anything. The photos told the story of a pit that is 5 km long, 2 km wide and 1 km deep.

The whole tour was ‘actually’ underwhelming. It would have been more effective to have an audio on the bus. We should have listened to fellow travellers Miranda and Gavin who were staying on the train in their cabin with a glass of wine and a Netflix movie.

Couldn’t wait to get back to the train, have a warm shower and tumble into bed.

Fremantle: a village by the sea

Our stay in Fremantle was supposed to be warm. Was supposed to be spent with a ferry trip to Rottnest Island. A little swim.

The Esplanade Hotel

Weather has a way of changing things around. The ferry service is cancelled so we changed our plans.

Friday night we went to Nedlands for dinner with some old friends of Chris and Jill. We had a great night and some lovely soup. Not a chip in sight.

Saturday morning called for a sleep in. Our hotel – The Esplanade – is large and old and right near the old town on one side , the park and marina on the other.

We made our way, in the unaccustomed cool breeze, to the Moore and Moore Art space and cafe. There was a good watercolour exhibition on where we spent a few minutes before ordering breakfast.

It was the first cooked breakfast we’ve had so we all enjoyed tucking into eggs.

The streets are old and lined with lovely shops and cafes. Lots of bookshops and quirky shops like a map shop – where we lost Steve but all ended up enjoying. A gentleman’s shop with shoes and other accoutrements. A few galleries and our planned stop – the Palace Cinema.

Funny to go to the cinema on holidays but we thought it could be raining all day! We saw Maigret – about the French detective. It was slow and mysterious.

Coming out an hour or so later the skies were blue and the wind was blowing. We went browsing a little more and managed to do a little retail therapy. The streets had a Saturday buzz about them.

We saw the markets. It’s always good to walk through markets. These aren’t as big or colourful as the Adelaide Markets but it’s a good way to pass the time under cover while the rain poured outside.

Chris and Jill’s friends arrived at the hotel for afternoon tea. Sitting in the foyer is a good place to see people – both local and tourists. There was a Year 11 formal on so the young students were posing for photos, the boys looking dapper and the girls looking much older than their age – in beautiful long dresses.

Feeling a little peckish we headed up Essex St. to Nuncio. It’s a lovely Italian restaurant serving very good Italian food. The best Carnarvon scallops, prosciutto and pasta dishes.

I’d been told about Darling Darling – a whiskey bar nearby, so we braved the now very strong gusty winds and made our way past shops and restaurants.

Sadly there was a line to get in! We don’t do lines so back to our hotel for a nightcap. We have to reorganise our bags for tomorrows Indian Pacific journey.

Pity about the late night party in the room adjacent to ours where the group of people gathered on their verandah at around midnight and proceeded to party hard.

Not good for sleeping……. so I made a call to reception! It took awhile but they eventually settled down.

Farewell Broome

Our last day in Broome was slow and leisurely. Just the way Beach holidays should be.

I started with an early massage in the beautiful spa.

Then it was coffee and a trip to the beach. The last day called for a beach chair and umbrella. We loved it!

We made ourselves comfortable and enjoyed the ocean breeze and the passing parade of swimmers. Beaches are wonderful people watching places.

Photo from every angle in our comfy chair.

We went to Divers Tavern for lunch I swear that is my last chip for the holidays. Why, oh why, does everything come with chips?

Chip Tactics…….1. I try not to eat them at all or 2. try to just have six, or 3. ask to have salad on the side instead……. Today I tried this tactic but my unsmiling service man said ‘ no changes to the menu’. So I went to tactic 2 ! Also, why are chips so yummy?

Our last afternoon was spent pottering around our hotel, a last swim, packing and our last sunset drink. Apparently it’s cold and rainy in Perth where we fly tomorrow.

Farewell Broome, it’s been great.

A Pearl of a Day.

Pick up at 8.20 and we were on our way to Broom Airlines. Our substitute trip to Horizontal Falls was on.

There were two groups of 4. One being our group the other another 4 from Brisbane.

Our flying mosquito

Our two pilots introduced themselves – Michael and Bayley, a couple of young mavericks who looked like they’d just hurried from bed to be there!

No safety talk. Just a ‘listen carefully if I tell you something’ and out we walked to the plane. Or a mosquito as I referred to it. Tiniest plane I’ve ever been on. And quite old looking. Oh well we trust our Top Gun pilot.

Chris up front with our pilot

And with a quick tuneup we were off and away. It was a beautiful day. Clear blue skies, not a cloud and no wind – perfect.

We all had our headphones on with a little mic to talk to Michael and each other.

The colours below were wonderful

We flew over a crocodile park, a meat works, lots of trees, aboriginal communities.

We continued north over Derby and into Horizontal Falls. Stunning blue waters, the tidal rush between the 10 metre wide rock faces were making a surf like effect. This was where the jet boat hit the rock face.

The twin entrances at Horizontal Falls.

We saw the pontoon and houseboat we were meant to stay on.

Pristine water with pontoon & houseboat

We circled around and around taking in the beauty of this place. So many little islands. This cluster of many islands is known as the Buccaneer Archipelago.

We double backed towards Cygnet Bay. This beautiful area is home to the pearl farm that produces some of the most valuable pearls in the south seas.

We landed at a little red dirt airstrip and were collected in a small bus and taken to the pearl farm for a tour and lunch.

Cygnet Bay Pearl farm began when Dean Brown headed north of Broome in 1948 and started pearling. His son Lyndon Brown was the first non Japanese to culture a pearl.

Now it takes the provenance of each pearl very seriously. They can tell you the location found, size, lustre, blemishes of each pearl. They run a very impressive business.

Our guide Stephen has worked for the company for quite a few years and is passionate about this industry.

He took us through the steps that are needed to have a good pearl. It takes several years of caring for the oysters to help them grow a good pearl.

He opened 3 oysters before he found a pearl.

We then had a lesson in identifying the features of a pearl. Lustre, shape, colour, size, surface. Each one plays a part in the value of a pearl.

We moved into the gallery shop where I took my time to find something that ‘spoke’ ’ to me. Find something? I did. For my 0 birthday later this year. ……… all shall be revealed later.

The shape of the pearl determines its value

We had a lovely lunch in the little restaurant upstairs overlooking the beautiful bay.

View from the restaurant

While Jill and I contemplated a swim – as nice as it looked we decided not to get all wet for our trip back. We decided on a Prosecco instead to celebrate my purchase.

We headed back to the red runaway and in the blink of an eye Michael had us up in the sky.

We followed the coast back and marvelled at the colours and the effect the huge tides have on the coast line and the sand and mangroves.

We flew over two islands with iron ore mining being carried out.

As we headed further south we saw a few campers with their 4 wheel drives. How remote they are. How lucky they are to have these areas to themselves.

The colours of the tidal waters is amazing

We flew over our resort and a few minutes later we landed.

A perfect trip.

Back at Cable Beach we headed to the pool for a swim and a cocktail before our second flying treat for the day. A trip to the local outdoor theatre Sun Cinema an outdoor theatre. Tonight the movie was ……Top Gun: Maverick. What a great movie to finish off our flying adventure.

We sat in canvas deck chairs eating pizza sipping a beer under the clear skies. Twice planes flew overhead – so appropriate to the movie!

Waiting for the movie.

We all loved it. Even Tom Cruise.

Cable Beach Club Resort

I’m getting behind in my blogging do this will be a picture diary of our day.

Up early for a swim
Umbrellas are set up on the water’s edge
Nippers is on. Big crowd
Shoes at the bottom of the stairs.
Courthouse Markets. Slowest coffee in the world!
Buying a book for our grandsons
The Museum tells the Broome stories
Sailmaking shed at the museum
Lunch at the Green Mango
Japanese Cemetery. So many lost their lives diving for pearls.
Our room at the Cable Beach Resort
Walking to the adults only pool
Loving this pool
Even better with a cocktail in hand
Sunset at Cable Beach
Happy at Zander’s restaurant on the beach