|South Australia's mid-north agricultural region can be very picturesque.|
|The road out of Burra, headed for the World's End Highway. It's long, it's hot, but --|
|...driving these roads, you're rarely absolutely alone. It's surprising how much traffic you see.|
|The country's flat; the local crop seems to be hay (stock feed), and if you see field animals, they're sheep.|
|Big trucks abound; they're almost always carrying fertilizer and stock feed. This one's loaded.|
|Leaving "civilization" behind. You know the shot right at the beginning of Mad Max? Looks a lot like this!|
|Yet even out here, people live and work -- rainwater tanks stand in an apparent wilderness...|
|...and here's a crop not yet reaped. You can see that in this area, water is a precious commodity.|
|It's no surprise to see the water pipeline following the road from town to town.|
|A few weeks short of winter, and to say it's dusty is a terrible understatement!|
|If you're wondering how most of these pictures happen -- here's how!|
Literally, a self-portrait of the photographer at work.
|Signs of human activity: crops, fences, vehicle tracks in what would otherwise look like a desert --|
|-- a vehicle moves off-road, on a farm track, raising a duststorm. It's actually a tractor. They're plowing this!|
|Well on the way to World's End Highway. Just follow the signs. Surprise: good mobile phone coverage.|
|The mid-north is actually very busy, a hive of activity and industry --|
|-- windlasses provide power to a remote, arid region, supplementing the wind farms.|
|Heat haze shimmers over the road, turning everything into a mirage, and --|
|Now, you really are alone. Looks like a scene out of the old TV series, Boney --|
|World's End. Looks like a scene out of Mad Max 2 - The Road Warrior!|
|Follow the signs ... parched hills rise up out of the flat, table-like landscape...|
|Burra Creek Gorge -- and even here, a crop's just been brought in and sheep are grazing the stubble.|
|Long, long zoom into the distance: a homestead at World's End. Note the tractor, bottom right.|
|People have been settling and farming in this area for over 150 years. The landscape is punctuated by|
many ruins of the houses built by the early settlers.
|Lola, the Mitsubishi Magna, takes a welcome breather at Burra Creek Gorge ... looking sharp!|
|The region has been completely overtaken by agriculture ... mostly "monoculture" -- hay! -- so the concept|
of a biodiversity corridor for surviving wildlife is not just attractive, but increasingly critical.
|Driving in the mid-north, the sky can often by hazy, the air thick and heavy with smoke.|
You think, ye gods, is a bushfire coming this way? Like --
|-- an explosion just over the next line of hills? But no. These fires are everywhere in the mid-north...|
farmers are just "burning off" after bringing in a crop and letting sheep graze the stubble. The result...
|Miles and miles of burned paddocks, some still smoldering. It smells of "burning," makes you sneeze.|
|Time to skedaddle! Headed "home," back to Clare, with dinner on our minds.|
You follow the signs, past outposts of human industry, ruins of farmsteads long forgotten, windlasses turning in the hot, restless air, sheep grazing the stubble, black paddocks that have been burned off. The air is so hot, the road shimmers like a mirage and the landscape gradually becomes even dryer, and redder, till you're seeing something very like the locations for Mad Max 2, which was retitled for American audiences and is better known overseas as The Road Warrior.
Families live and work out here -- kids grow up in these remote areas, in a heck of a lot more isolation than the kids at the center of the action of Colin Thiele's classic Sun on the Stubble. (That book was set in a very slightly fictionalized Eudunda, which might be on this very same road -- check out the roadsign, above -- but in fact is far away from World's End, and still in a region where small towns abound. This road goes ever on, and on, and on, and...!)
We stopped, right where it tee'd, with one branch heading off to Morgan and Renmark. We do intend to visit Renmark fairly soon -- it's in the riverland, and best visited in the dead of winter when the temperature won't be prohibitive. But we weren't going the today. We we headed for World's End and the Burra Creek Gorge.
The hills rise up out of a vast, flat landscape, and going by the trees, there's good ground water at the gorge. You see stands of very old, very massive trees -- they're not waiting for rain.; they have their roots in the water table. The gorge area is astonishingly beautiful, in a stark and harsh kind of way. And tucked away in a crevasse is -- to our astonishment -- a caravan parking ground (trailer park, if you will). Not a formal caravan park, as such, just a safe area where you can legally park, uh, caravans. Several big motorhomes were parked there, and a 4x4 took off down a dirt road into the heart of the gorge. We didn't want to take the car down that road -- way too many ruts and rocks.
So at this point we turned back for Clare -- "home base" -- with dinner in mind. Well, dinner and air conditioning, and a dip in the pool!