Would We Dare?
Dare’s Hill Circuit, South Australia
By Aussie standards not the most challenging of off road drives perhaps. But then, we hadn’t come prepared for one of those. No jerrycans in the boot. No satellite phone. This was purely an opportunist adventure, an interesting line on a map while driving near the Clare Valley looking for somewhere a bit different to go.
It started out innocuously enough. Deserted though, bar the occasional farmhand in a ute crossing vast fields like this one, a cloud of dust billowing in his wake. The hills to the right, the Razorback Range.
As the road climbs steadily towards the Dare’s Hill Summit we leave cultivated land behind and drive into native bush.
Dare’s Hill summit lookout
The view from the top, looking down into the Piltimitiappa Valley and its vast tracts of mallee woodland. In the far distance, to the left, a range of mountains bearing a striking resemblance to the location of our last trip up this way: Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Range (here).
Should we go on? Perhaps the private property refers to the land either side of the road and not the road itself? Yes, that must be it.
While there is still a working sheep station on this land there’s also plenty of evidence of times gone by and what a hard living it must have been.
Piltimitiappa Homestead was established by William Dare (he of the hill) in the 1850s, one of the earliest homesteads of the area. Born in London he migrated to South Australia at age 14. In 1852 he went to the Victorian goldfields and made good, enough to secure a lease on this 50 square miles of country which, with the help of aborigines, he fenced and stocked with sheep. Dare ran the property for 35 years until his death in 1892 having survived three wives.
Wind driven water pump
Saltbush and bluebush cover the red earth.
Trouble. And in our road. A dust storm.
We’d come to a junction, the wider and better maintained road seeming to bear off to the right but the signpost indicating we should go straight on. We followed the sign. It didn’t take long before the road deteriorated, becoming little more than a narrow track. A sensible bush explorer reviews his or her options at this point. On the plus side we had plenty of water. And 3/4 tank of fuel. But on the negative, no food. No mobile signal. Apart from the couple of farmhands way back down the track we hadn’t seen a soul. And because we’d embarked on this journey on something of a whim, no-one actually knew where we were. Then the not insignificant matter of it being 43C outside the car. With very little shade.
We retraced our steps.
The following day we were back. My birthday. My choice. Better prepared.
For one thing we now had a decent map and a full description of the route. Set the mileage trip to zero at the start of the road and each and every turn was marked off by kms travelled, with the bonus of detailed background information about all the places we passed. And if all else failed, if we didn’t make it back for cake and candles as planned, this time someone knew exactly where to send the search party.
A stock water hole with some rather unusual looking stock..
Any port on a blisteringly hot day..
The ducks are most likely used to the intrusion.
In a wetter season this road would have been impassable without a proper four wheel drive, with several creek beds needing to be crossed. But you can see how dry it is right now.
When the floods do come the rushing torrent is powerful enough to carry metres of soil away with it leaving spectacular erosion chasms like this one.
Emu disturbed by the passing car. They were just ambling up the road ahead of us before they took flight. Well, not literally. Obviously.
Another action shot, taken through the windscreen of a car still in motion as Mike applied the brakes.
A shutter click a split second earlier or later would have been ideal. But here is our friend at the bottom of his bounce, the kinetic energy from the landing stored in his rear leg muscles ready to propel him into forward motion once more. You can almost see the concentration. How high to clear the fence? And where precisely am I going to land to avoid those prickly pears on the other side?
The kangaroo got away just fine. They make it look effortless.
But the prize photo of the day just had to be this one.
It’s Dave’s Hut. Built by one David Dearlove of nearby Ketchowla homestead in the 1930s it became a popular stopover for travellers. All that remains now is this clearly very well built fireplace and chimney.
Could there be a better place for a kangaroo to shelter from the heat of the day?