Saturday, April 18, 2015

All Posts in Order: Riverlands 2014, it's a wrap.

PS Captain Proud

Part One:
Take the Southeastern Freeway, headed for a lunch date on a real, genuine paddle wheel riverboat. Pelicans, water skiers, wide skies ... and some very good food!

Dawn at Blanchetown

Part Two:
Mannum, Len Kroehn's Lookout, houseboats and swamp hens in the wetlands at Blanchetown ... kookaburras in the pink of the dawn, and hit the road early.

Murray River at Morgan

Part Three:

Some truly spectacular erosion, a six-foot pelican, a drive on the ferry across the river ... bacon and eggs, white faced herons, and -- did we just run out of road?

Overland Corner Hotel

Part Four:
The richest farm country imaginable -- it's orchards and vineyards wherever you look; wetlands being rescued, and ... step back in time to 1859 at the Overland Corner, a hotel, in the wilderness!

Banrock Station

Part Five:
Lock gates, pelicans and egrets ... Banrock Station -- a world famous winery and ecology project. Lake Bonney, and Berri... 

The Big Ram, Karoonda

Part Six:
Shades of green at Loxton, wheat to the horizon in the Murray Mallee, the biggest sheep imaginable at Karoonda, and a sunset made to order on the Southeastern Freeway for home.  

Riverlands 2014, Part Six: wine by the truckload, the world's biggest sheep, and one amazing sunset

Loxton, on South Australia's Murray River, is a wine region producing an amazing volumes as well as
some really wonderful wines... 
Dave checks out the visitor information. As the sign says, "Welcome to Loxton" --!
Everywhere you look, it's tanks of wine ... and watch out for trucks crossing!
Wineries also frequently offer restaurants, cafes and accommodation ... makes it just too easy.
Now, if we could only remember which this one is! Pretty, at any rate.
But the time really had come to turn for home, point the Mitsubishi Magna called Lola toward Adelaide
and put the foot down. Heading west from Loxton on the Karoonda Highway, you run into wheat country...
...and the road is a rollercoaster. It was laid down on ancient dunes -- this whole area was once (in geological terms)
the bottom of the sea, and later a desert like the Sahara. The road shows that wave-pattern of dunes... it takes you to (!) Karoonda, on its way from Berri to Murray Bridge. Now, those are grain silos.
Karoonda has quite a history -- perfectly readable here, if you view this image at large size --
-- and also, Karoonda boasts probably the biggest sheep in the world ... concrete, of course! He's HUGE --
known as "the Big Ram" for obvious reasons. It's a tribute to the Merino sheep which made this region prosperous.

Wall art depicts something of Karoonda's past -- neat. (Actually, this graces the west wall of
the public facilities! Neat bathrooms, too ... and halfway from Loxton to Murray bridge, very welcome!)
One of the enormous windlass sails -- these devices played a major part in opening up this country.
As the sign there says, "No wind, no water, no life." Very, very true.
Main street Karoonda ... and at this time on a Sunday evening, almost everything is closed. The pub's open...
Back on the road, we're headed almost due west into the the rapidly-lowering sun...
A beautiful evening, maybe half an hour east of Murray Bridge ...
shot from the side window, at 100kph, hence the movement-blur in the foreground.
Back in Murray Bridge at last, as evening begins to settle down over the hills...
Tail lights gleam in the twilight on the Southeastern Freeway. Headed for home: looks like it'll be a lovely sunset.
Sunset -- perfect conditions! Grab the camera. All these images were captured (by Jade ... Dave was
driving). We didn't even have to pull over. Check out those "god rays."

It's amazing what you can do in two days, if you make an early start and get home late. Looking back over this series of posts, we're astonished ... we packed in a lot. This last post covers just the final few hours as we finally turned for home -- in Loxton. We put the trusty Mitsubishi Magna on the Karoonda Highway to Murray Bridge, through the region known as "the Murray Mallee," and settled in for the long haul.

Halfway back to Murray Bridge you can take a welcome break in the rural town of Karoonda, which is not-quite-world-famous, but a most pleasant community ... with arguably the biggest concrete sheep in the world. "The Big Ram" is a masterpiece statue done as a tribute to the Merino sheep that made this region prosperous in the early 1950s. If you're interested, view the info panel, above, at full-size: it's perfectly readable. (Traveling around, one can be inundated with these pages of history, and Jade usually photographs them to read later. Sometimes there's the makings of a major novel in them -- like the story of the mines in Burra.)

The shadows were long and it was actually getting quite chilly as we left Karoonda with far to go. We knew we'd be getting home after dark, but there was one more treat in store: a thoroughly spectacular sunset, which was photographed from the road at 110kph -- Jade with the camera, Dave driving, obviously. Not too long after the last shot was captured, we pulled into our driveway, home again, home again, too tired to do the jigging part.

Apologies to all that it's taken so long to get these posts up. It's been an "interesting" year. These last episodes are being uploaded after the 2015 road trip -- in fact, as soon as the quick-list for this one is done, Jade will be starting on the next: lions and lakes, bison and barrages, fall colors and fur seals, and the place where photography meets art when the sun rises over Milang. It was a lot of fun, about one month ago at the time of this writing.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Riverlands 2014, Part Five: Banrock Station winery and wetlands, and waterbirds at Murray River Lock 3

Murray River Lock 3, at Overland Corner ... part of the flood-and-flow control system.
Cormorants take a break from fishing on the railings in mid-water.

Not only does the lock provide control of the amount of water going on down the river (which meets the
sea on the Coorong, at Goolwa and Hindmarsh Island), but it also provides a great environment for waterfowl.
You're wondering, how do boats get through? Especially those houseboats you see everywhere --
Passage for boats -- quite big ones -- is all in the mechanism...
Part of the function of the lock is obviously to control water flow, and measure it;
the second function is (duh!) to let vessels in and out --

And here's where your boat goes through the lock gate. Neat. The same mechanism works on the Goolwa barrages.
Pelicans thrive in flocks on the waters around Lock 3, and ...
-- several Large Egrets were dip-fishing along the shoreline just as those pelicans cruised by.
And we're back on the road, headed for Barmera ... eventually. 
The Riverland is flat. Very flat. The skies are vast, huge, enormous, and when the weather is changing
they can be spectacular. Hundreds of sky-shots were captured; here's one of the loveliest.
Weather forecast, anyone ...?
Now, where are we going?! The truth is, we were rapidly running of time, and we should have
hung a left and started back. But we're so glad we turned right instead, because --
Banrock Station! You've heard of it, it's world-famous, and here is is --
Inside Banrock Station's gates: about five kilometers (say, three miles) of dirt road that could have been a tad better,
and -- yoou see it -- hectare after hectare of ... yep, vineyards. (Lola handled the road just fine.)
Oh boy, there's a knife-and-fork icon on that sign ...
We were hungry by now -- time was racing by, who knows
where it goes. Should have been halfway home now, but ...
Banrock Station offers a world-class cafe as well as their lovely wines. Afternoon tea!
Wine tasting, inside the wine center; and cellar door sales are right here, too. 
A beautiful sculpture of Pelican and chicks, just inside the entry/exit. (The Stop! sign by the door simply
means they don't want you folks taking alcoholic beverages back out into the parking lot. Sensible.)
Banrock Station's other magic is its wetlands, which is actually the whole reason any of this exists...
This whole wilderness landscape has been recovered over the last 20 years or so; and the powers
behind Banrock Station invest large wedges of the winery's earnings in similar projects
right around the world ... even in Alaska, where they funded a "salmon ladder" in Anchorage!
Next stop: Lake Bonney... late in the day, under gathering skies. Spectacular.
Again, Lake Bonney, and folks fishing. Aha! Pelicans on patrol. Anyplace you find fisherman, there's pelicans,
waiting for "trash fish" to be thrown back and the keepers to be gutted. Yum!

Welcome to Berri ... and how we wished it was only nine in the morning! 
Berri Estates -- tanks belonging to the vineyard loom right on the roadside. That's a lot of wine!
Going through Berri, it was too late to stop. We went right on, headed for Loxton, and there, we did stop
before turning for home at last via a road we never drove before. That'll be in the next post!

If you're in the Overland Corner region, watch out for a simple little sign on the side of the highway, pointing out a dirt road. It says, "Lock 3 Rd," and though it's dirt, they keep it well graded. Take an hour out and enjoy a real pleasure: Murray River Lock 3.

There are seven locks on the river in South Australia, including the "barrages" at Goolwa (which you'll be seeing in the pictures recording our 2015 trip, uploaded right after Jade finishes out 2014's pictures. Promise.). This is -- duh -- the third of the seven locks, close to Barmera, but it's actually known as the Overland Corner lock.

If you're a boatie, much less a regular houseboat captain (what a holiday that would be!), you'll know all about these locks, weirs and barrages; but for the casual visitor, here's a little about them. (That whole page is tremendously interesting, but this is a link to the most pertinent bit.)

We spent about an hour there, some of the time playing with the friendliest little dog who was bored, wanted to play fetch with someone (anyone!), and had his own stick. The waters were rich with pelicans, cormorants, large egrets, white faced herons and welcome swallows. It's a fantastic destination for birders. The only thing it needs is a cafe, or at least a "tea wagon." Alas, no such facility is provided, and to be fair, we were the only visitors in an hour, so we can see why there's no coffee shop!

So after that pleasant hour we hit the road again, still headed outward from home, but by now realizing we were never going to make Renmark before we had to turn around and point Lola toward Adelaide...

The road takes you to Banrock Station ... world famous not merely for its fine wines but also for its wetlands, and the globe-wide conservation work they do. Proceeds from Banrock Station wine sales fund ecological projects in every corner of the world -- including Alaska, where they funded a "fish ladder" at Ship Creek, Anchorage. That's a kind of step-way of pools up which migrating salmon can leap to get upriver....

A hint of the story is given on their wine label (perfectly readable here, if you view this picture at larger size), and for a lot more of the story, see their website, which is a treat in itself. The work they do is amazing, and we buy their wines preferentially, since you're actually donating to the work every time you do.

Banrock Station's cafe is situated on the side of the building facing into the recently-rescued wetlands, and the views are superb ... like the coffee and cake. They also have a full-bore restaurant menu, and this would be a terrific place to stop for a meal, if you were staying in the area. Alas, we were only passing through with far, far to go, so we indulged in the aforementioned coffee and cake, and then hit the bitumen again.

Next stop was Lake Bonney, which looked broodingly spectacular in falling light, complete with pelicans galore. We stopped on the shore for a stretch of the legs and a bathroom break, and by this time we were also on the lookout for a handy gas station.

The time had almost come to turn back for Adelaide, because it's a long, long drive. We knew Berri was juuust about as far as we could go ... would love to spend several days in this region. The head-for-home decision came at the huge gas station in the next town up the road -- Loxton; and the end of the 2014 road trip will appear in the next post.
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