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Quirky Camp Sites and Back Roads

Yorke Peninsula and the Mallee Highway

Many small towns throughout Australia are designated 'RV Friendly' - meaning they welcome travellers in recreational vehicles as they generally spend money, therefore supporting local businesses. The Yorke Peninsula in South Australia has many such towns. Often there's a free or donation camp, many of which offer amenities such as toilets, showers, power and water. Not all offer all these amenities but what we've found is most important to travellers are toilets and water as most people have solar power and batteries on board for power needs, but when the weather is 30 degrees or more travellers need to keep their water topped up. This camp on the outskirts of Port Broughton had some quirky, charming amenities including a book exchange in an old fridge, a bar, a BBQ and aviaries full of birds (not the sort you can put on the BBQ) but unfortunately no toilets! There was no-one camped there and neither did we because of that.

We moved onto the town of Alford which also offers 'free' camping with a donation box. Alford also had an old hall with some impressive brick and stone construction - so as we've never been to the Alfred Hall we thought the Alford Hall would do just fine.

Next camp was Wallaroo where we stayed for five nights - four of them in torrential rain. We would have been better off in one of the local rental options such as this old Customs House.

Wallaroo is a lovely small coastal town - here's the obligatory pier - next to some terrific silos which are crying out for some silo art.

Later we found out that there’s a nightly 'picture show' projected onto the silo walls which we saw one night but it's not as good as permanent art. There was a beautiful sunset that first night before the storms set in.

Another interesting beachfront building was The Smelters built in 1874 - now privately owned but which previously served as the Managers & Accountants Offices for the Wallaroo Mining Company. It was privately owned 1926-1940 and from 1940 until 2016 it became the Seafarers' Mission (British Sailors Society, Hampshire, England). The Mission accommodated UK sailors for a bit of R&R, supplied by caretaker Mary Sawyer who fulfilled that role for 50 plus years - what a legend!

We went to the town of Moonta, another historical town where because of the impending storm the school was closed due to ‘CATASTROPHIC Fire Danger Warning' - it backs onto forest which has suffered bushfires in the past.

On the main street of Moonta was this colourful piano for anyone to play - decorated with the words of a Neil Diamond song "You are the sun, I am the moon, you are the words, I am the tune, play me."

Next was the Moonta pier where a hat was blown into the water and cleverly 'fished' out again.

As mentioned above this was a mining area back in the day - copper mining. Moonta had a copper mine too and if you recall reading a previous post I made which included a tour of the Blinman Copper Mine in the Flinders Ranges I referred to the minimum legal age for a boy to work in the mines as being 14. So, onto the Moonta Cemetery where I expected to see graves of miners. There was this list of six miners aged from 20 to 51 whose burial plots are unknown among the 76 miners' graves in the cemetery - such young ages.

But then I found this grave whose headstone really shocked me!

John Bowden (junior), killed at the Moonta mine in 1873 aged just 12 years - so how did that happen if the minimum age was 14?
Nearby was this tragic grave - three young children (aged 15 days, two and a half years, and three years 10 months) lost to the same parents. How harsh was life in those days.

We'd booked dinner at a pub back in Wallaroo - under the name of John. When we arrived we were shown to a room in which a large group were having their Christmas party. We asked a staff member if we were gate crashing a private party but he directed us to a small table for two. A chap who'd organised that function introduced himself to us as 'John'. As we'd also booked our table for two under the name of 'John' we asked again if we were meant to be in that room. Another staff member confirmed that we were at the right table - our booking was listed as 'different John'. Sure enough there it was on the table!

Another pub meal and I swear if Barry Humphries hadn’t passed away in April 2023 (more on that in an upcoming post) that his alter ego Dame Edna was enjoying her Christmas party at the bain marie.

The Wombat Hotel in the nearby town of Kadina was another typical South Australian pub but with its own unique style and name.

A couple of days later we were in Adelaide staying next to the Torrens River. On a walk around the area we saw these tracks and couldn’t work out what ran on them.

After a few minutes this bus came hurtling along the track! It was the O-bahn busway.

More information here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O-Bahn_Busway

Being a librarian in a former life I'm always on the lookout for libraries that are quirky or different in some way. This one was in the Adelaide caravan park we stayed in.

After a catch-up with John's family members including his great niece (pictured with him here)

we headed towards the state of Victoria via the Adelaide hills with its beautiful scenery and then onto the Mallee Highway. We were on a mission to get to Bendigo for a repair to our camper hot water system that was supposed to be done in Adelaide but didn’t get done there.

Following a car with a number plate to attract the attention of the local constabulary?

Along the back roads we drove - past tiny towns with interesting names - like Jabuk - which must have one of the smallest, remotest post office outlets in Australia!

We camped that night on a disused basketball court in the tiny town of Geranium (still in SA and yes it was named after the plant that grew prolifically in the area). A local resident told us that when he was a kid at the primary school in the 1960s there were over 360 children attending. Now the school is completely closed and we didn’t see another living soul there after chatting to that bloke.

The next morning we carried on across the farmlands of the Mallee Highway which is really a leisurely drive - through the towns of Parrakie then Lameroo - which sounds like it should be the home of a marsupial flavoured lamington cake but isn’t.

Next was Parilla then Pinnaroo. Crossing into the state of Victoria we went through Panitya, Carina, Murrayville, Cowangie, Tutye, Boinka, Linga (didn’t linger there longer than we expected). Onto Underbool - wasn’t that something my grandad used to wear, like a woolly garment for the nether regions in the Yorkshire winters? Surely my nan once said 'I've just finished knitting your grandad a blue and white striped underbool'!
The next town was Walpeup which has a stunning piece of Silo art (completed in June 2023) depicting the life of Harold Thomas Bell who lied about his age to enlist to fight in WWI - more information here https://www.australiansiloarttrail.com/walpeup

followed by Patchewollock. In fact a Patchewollock is what you get if you don’t wear your Underbool!
Onto Ouyen, home of the largest mallee stump in Australia apparently.

Again no regrets about travelling the back roads as there are so many unusual sights, sites and unique characters that we would have missed by sticking to the major roads. Next time we visit the world's smallest mountain 😉

Posted by GraveNomads 21:15 Archived in Australia

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