Leigh Creek coal mines

General, Art + Environment

Desert Trip 2010, part 2; Flash flood Italowie Gorge

After our excellent time at Kalamurina Reserve, see Part 1, we drove down the Birdsville Track through pretty slippery and tricky conditions, a rare event to see rain on the track which forced back motorbike riders and the 4WD club it seems and stopped in the late afternoon at the iconic Ochre pits just north of Copley. They are a significant and protected Heritage indigenous site and contrasts starkly with the Coal mining activities within kilometres distance.

The colour of the pits in the rain was stunning and everyone was impressed with just how extensive the site is. As we headed south to Leigh Creek we realised the 5 inches of rain through there the day before had caused significant road damage and closures. The road east to the Gammon Ranges and Arkaroola was open though and we drove in the late afternoon up the gorge over creeks showing clear evidence of big flash floods. We found a beautiful spot to camp under some mallee which were silhouetted dramatically by the moon and looked beautiful when I sketched them at sunrise with the red morning light glowing on their glossy trunks. It was a really chilly night because we were higher and the ground was saturated from the rain but at least there were less mozzies.

We drove through the dramatic Italowie Gorge which has ancient river red gums growing in the sandy wide creek beds. Leigh Creek and Italowie creeks still had pools of water and running water in places. We stopped at Iga Warta, www.igawarta.com which also has extensive ochre pits and chatted with the Aboriginal managers there about their Adnyamathanha culture and people. After that welcome coffee break we came across an unfortunate traveller who hadn’t heeded a council detour (or safe speed given the cheery wave he gave us a few hours before when he passed us) and had ended up with his 4WD more than half submerged in water. I grabbed the chance to make a sketch while Guy and Steve performed the heroics of winching him out of the water. It was very tricky and involved the poor man, with a personalised number plate,“Rodge”, having to duck down underwater to attach the winch in pretty freezing water. We hope he still isn’t sitting on the bank where we left him dripping, waiting for it all to dry out. His camera gear, GPS and mobile phone all seemed ruined with water and according to Guy, his food was all floating around the back seat of the car from the fridge. We located his travelling companions later that  day at Arkaroola and they went to his ultimate rescue.

I have wanted to go to the Gammons and Arkaroola all my life and was really happy to see them at last, we only had a long afternoon at Arkaroola in the end, after repairing a tyre and chasing Rodge’s mates but it was just enough to cook up some curry and make a sketch at Arkaroola waterhole which looked stunning in afternoon light. We sat in the shade and saw Yellow footed rock wallabies nimbly hopping about the escarpment and rocks.

We were pleased to escape the numerous 4WD’s and dust and head down the fringe of Lake Frome to a creek bed camp outside the National Park. The distant view of the rain shadow side of the Flinders Ranges was magnificent at dawn and the river red gums, just massive. I managed to sketch everything before the flies became too persistent and then we headed out of that wonderful part of the world further east.