It was time for our holiday within a holiday. Jacqueline and I had spent the last week and a half in and around Adelaide, in the southern end of South Australia. Our plan now was to head north, into the Outback and see some of the more remote parts of the state. To help us, we were driving Mum and Dad’s “Troopy”, a Toyota Landcruiser that had been converted into a 4WD camper van. Because I was licensed in South Australia, and because Jacqueline couldn’t drive a manual let alone a large 4WD, the plan was that I would drive all of the way. Our target destination was the Flinders Ranges, a remote mountain range in the middle of the state.
We headed out in the morning just after breakfast, the Troopy having been packed the previous night. The first part of the drive took us through the winding roads of the northern Adelaide Hills and down onto the Adelaide Plains at Gawler. After Gawler, most of the driving would be on the flat roads through the prime agricultural land north of Adelaide. Our first rest break was in the tiny town of Tarlee where we saw the first of many large grain silos that populate the Mid North of the state. Before too long, we were back out on the road again, and into the wine region of the Clare Valley. We didn’t stop in Clare, wanting instead to get as far north as we could as quickly as we could.
The vineyards then became wheat fields again, with a town every ten kilometres or so. Some, like Georgetown and Gladstone, we drove straight through, but others like Yacka, we stopped briefly to stretch our legs and grab a snack from the cupboard.
By early afternoon, we reached the settlement of Stone Hut. I knew this place having stopped here on a cycle ride north with Mum some six years prior. There isn’t really anything in the town other than a popular bakery, which was teeming with tourists heading up or back from the North with kids on school holidays. Since I had last been, they had done some renovations and now featured a large outdoor eating area and wildlife enclosure. We stopped for pies for lunch, choosing from their extensive menu and then eating outside. Before we left, we decided to check out their large walk-through bird aviary. However, there was a rather pesky cockatoo which stalked the entrance way, and tried to fly through the gate each time it was opened. We waited carefully to chose the moment to enter, and then wandered around the selection of parrots, cockatoos and galahs inside. However, on the way out, the pesky cockatoo tried chasing Jacqueline, getting caught up in the back of her neck before she managed to close the gate. On the other side of the building, was a petting zoo with lambs, kangaroo joeys and alpacas, all of which had varying levels of timidness towards the many young children chasing them around.
We continued on our way through Wirrabara and Murray Town before finally reaching Melrose. Melrose is located at the base of Mount Remarkable, which rises steeply behind the town. We checked in to the caravan park and found a nice place to park amongst the unpowered areas. The light was going to fade soon, but we figured we had enough time to hike partway up the mountain to get a view over the farmland of the Southern Flinders Ranges. Jacqueline brought along her knee brace and her new shock-resistant hiking poles, purchased after the disaster of the Lairig Ghru in Scotland a few months prior. The hike up was well marked and not too difficult. The first part was surrounded by mountain bike trails which criss-cross the countryside. After climbing through a style, we were into the National Park proper, which included both scrubland with kangaroos and rocky outcrops. However, on one of the outcrop sections, Jacqueline turned to me and told me that she had lost the end tip of her brand new hiking pole, rendering it useless. We searched and searched to find it, but decided it was lost and any further efforts were futile. We continued on and around a few more gullies until we were greeted with an expansive view of the countryside that stretched for miles and miles beneath us.
Time was against us, so we turned back and headed down again. When we reached the section where Jacqueline had lost her hiking pole tip, we gave it one last search, and at the last moment, I spotted it, wedged between two rocks. Delighted, Jacqueline was able to walk with her poles again as we came back down the mountain and into the caravan park in Melrose.
It was time for dinner. At Mum’s recommendation, we headed to the North Star Hotel, a typical Australian-style pub on the main street of the town. It clearly has begun to cater for the roaring tourist trade owing to the development of the mountain bike trails through the town. It had a new, rustic style eating area built off to the side of the pub, and then another, newer, eating section adjoining that. Jacqueline ordered the house curry, while I had my favourite Aussie pub food: a chicken parmy. We returned to the caravan park in the dark and slept the night in the rather cold Troopy.