Saturday, January 11, 2014

Keith - Padthaway - Naracoorte

The Coorong is where we're headed, eventually ...
-- after the Alexandra and Victoria Fossil Caves...
...and the Dukes Highway will take us there in its own good time! First --
At last, Keith! Now you know you're getting close.
Keith has quite a history -- here's just a little of it. There's more! Because...
The first thing that hits you is how green Keith is. It's an oasis in an arid landscape.
An underground ocean of fresh water was discovered there, and it's the magic of Keith.
The arbotetum was a lovely place to park for a picnic as the afternoon shadows started to lengthen.
We'd heard of the Land Rover monument; it's just along from the arboretum, so we took a walk...
Holy guacamole, Batdude, they're not kidding! Land Rover on a pole!
It's the real deal -- nothing fake here. A real, genuine Land Rover, twenty feet up a pole!
Back on the road, leaving behind the green oasis of Keith.
Hats off to the local authorities: the roads are in great condition, and the signage is top-notch.
It's a bit difficult to get lost around here, though. There's uh, one major road!
Tje plight of the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo. It's worth seeing this at full size -- the print is easily readable.
Notice the map here: we're just about at the state line. Much further, and we'll be in Victoria!
Padthaway ... a cool drink, perhaps? And a stroll in their roadside park --
Sheet metal sculpture -- Merino sheep; and...
A wind harp, in the shape and design of wheat or barley. This is so pretty, and a great idea.
Leaving Padthaway. Now, which way shall we go? Hang a right, Dave! 
Photographed from the car, at some speed: you're entering the Coonawarra wine region now;
the landscape becomes as green with vineyards as the McLaren Vale region
Running into Naracoorte, the information boards assure us, we're almost there!
The late afternoon air smelt of pine -- a plantations clusters along the road. (Over the border in Victoria
the plantations go on and on, with about the square mileage as Belgium!)
Naracoorte at last! First stop: their signature swimming lake. Anyone for a dip?
And wall art in the form of mosaics, on the changing rooms at the swimming lake...
A black cockatoo, and an echidna, unless we miss our guess. And ants -- well the echidna is
an ant eater, so why not?
The evening light was golden, but the shadows tell what time it must be. Dinner? Please?
A very cool history of the mosaic...
...and a closeup of the work itself. Very nice indeed.
After several hours of driving through a parched, arid landscape east and south of Tailem Bend, it was magical to reach Keith, which is an oasis of green. The secret is the water, obviously: an underground ocean of fresh water was discovered there, and allows for lucerne farming on a massive scale. Much of the stock feed in this part of the world is grown here.

About 225km from Adelaide, you're either on the Limestone Coast or very close to it, depending on who you talk to, and that limestone is part of the trick: rainwater filters right through, filling up caverns with the capacity of a sea; and this water is used to irrigate crops, and to make Keith ... green. More of their story (but not all, by a long shot), is told on the Keith Wikipedia page.

Soon, you leave the green behind and head back along the Dukes Highway into arid countryside for the run through Padthaway and on into Naracoorte. Middle of the afternoon ... we were ready to arrive in Naracoorte -- any time now, please! But we stopped for a cool drink in the micro-community of Padthaway before heading onward. A breeze was wafting out of the east, and the wind harp was "singing" with a strange, high "music."

Hang a right, and you're back on the road with only Naracoorte ahead of you now. You can't get lost -- there really is just one road. At last -- a major town, with everything you expect of a town, plus a fantastic swimming lake, which we couldn't resist stopping by on the way to a very, very nice motel --

Only one problem. We'd booked a room weeks before, and even received confirmation of the booking. So imagine our surprise when we rolled up to the door and they had no record of the booking, no idea who we were, or what could possibly have gone wrong -- and also no vacant rooms. So we were in Naracoorte all right, with nowhere to stay.

Fortunately, the road into town takes you right by the Comfort Inn -- in fact, the William McIntosh Motor Lodge; and we'd noticed the "vacancies" board. We doubled back, checked in, in minutes, made a cup of tea and ... ahhh, dinner!

Tomorrow: the Wonambi Fossil Center and the Alexandra Cave.

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