Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Flinders Ranges, South Australia
So, to pick up the story where I left off last time, I slept lousy in that smelly motel room in Barmera.† Nonetheless, I had a great day of driving on Monday.† I got away about 9, as I remember, and the driving was easy, with great weather.† It was sunny and cloudy at various times, and the temperatures were in the mid-60ís F for the highs.† I enjoyed the day, and I enjoyed the drive.
I had my humble lunch that I had made that morning in some tiny town, and I stopped in another small town to stock up on groceries.† I got gas a couple of times, as I donít like to let the tank get very low in these remote places.
I arrived here at Rawnsley Park Station about 2:30 or 3, I think.† I got checked in to my ďholiday unitĒ, which is probably the nicest place I have stayed so far.† It is a studio unit, but with a great kitchen and a really excellent shower in the bathroom.† The queen size bed is a bit too firm for me, but I slept well last night anyway.
One reason I chose this place was that they offered Wi-Fi internet access.† I knew it would be costly, but it is even more expensive than I expected.† It costs 10 cents a minute, and you can buy however many minutes you want, and charge it to a credit card.† Donít get me wrong.† It is well worth ten cents a minute to me to be able to connect, but it is still pretty damn expensive.
So, as soon as I checked in, I bought 10 bucks worth of time and caught up with the world, including checking my email, which had piled up a bit.† I Instant Messaged with my friend Fred, and I got caught up, and then I went out to explore the area.
I am staying on the edge of the Flinders Ranges National Park.† The scenery is beautiful, and things are much greener than in most years, I understand, although it doesnít appear to me like it has rained here for a couple of weeks.† Iím not sure why I chose to come here.† There are some birds I could see here, but I think it was mainly to see another part of Australia I hadnít ever seen before.
So, yesterday afternoon I drove around a bit, getting the lay of the land.† It turns out that it costs $8.50 for a permit, if you want to actually stop anywhere in the National Park, although there is no charge for just driving through.† So, yesterday afternoon, I just drove around and didnít pay the fee.† I donít like to cheat on things like that, and the fact that there is a $180 on-the-spot fine for getting caught cheating might have motivated me a bit, too.† There are a number of on-the-spot fines here, and I think it is an interesting idea.† I donít know what happens if you refuse to pay or canít pay, but I would guess that it wouldnít be pleasant.
Back here at my holiday unit, I got Photos16 (covering my Bush Adventure) done and uploaded to my website.† I didnít write a Ramblings because there wasnít that much to say about yesterday, and I ran out of time.† For dinner, I had a microwave beef stew dinner thingie (non-refrigerated), which was very tasty, along with some bread and butter and a couple of jam tarts for my dessert.
As I mentioned, I slept pretty well, despite the firm bed.† I was up this morning at about 6:30.†† I had made an appointment to Instant Message with Christina at 7 AM my time, but the Wi-Fi wasnít working.† This is the 6th or 7th time that internet access hasnít worked right on this trip, at my accommodations.† I wonder why it is such a problem over here.† In the USA, I can only remember one time that I had a problem at a motel, and when I called the 1-800 help number, they fixed it almost immediately.† Over here, it seems to be an issue, though, and part of it is because everything is so remote, but that isnít the whole story.† I think the biggest factor is that it is just not seen as a very important issue, whereas in the States, it is a big deal, and the motel owners know it.† There is a large difference in what I would call the ďservice levelĒ between Australia and the USA.† In the US, service is much better than anywhere else in the world, based on my limited experience.
So, I missed my internet fix this morning.† I made my ham and cheese sandwich for my brekkie, and a cheese sandwich for my lunch, to go with a salmon and veggie thing I had bought, that came in a can.† I also had a package of IGA supermarket branded caramel slices, and I took one of those.† They are surprisingly good for a house brand bakery item.
I was out of here by about 7:40 this morning, and I just wandered around the park today.† My first stop, after buying a permit for the park at a self-service station, was Stokes Hill Lookout, where the Short-tailed Grasswren is reported to live.† I spent 30 or 40 minutes walking around the right area, and even played the call once, on the car radio system, but saw and heard nothing.† It is a pretty rare bird, and I suspect that the people who report seeing it spend a lot more time on the quest than I do.† But, I tried, in my own limited Rambler way.
On the way to that lookout, I had seen a bird on a dead snag that I decided was a Brown Songlark, a bird I had not seen up until now.† So, I had a trip bird, before I really even got going.† The interesting thing about that is that I took some pictures of that bird, and when I got back here and looked at them, I decided that it was actually an Australian Pipit, a bird I have seen many times.† But, ironically enough, after I finished at that lookout, when I got back to the main road, I actually did see a Brown Songlark, and I got pictures of him, too, to prove it.† So, I made a mistake and counted a bird I was wrong about, and soon after, I actually saw the bird in question.† Life is strange sometimes.
While I was at the Stokes Hill Lookout, there were a lot of smallish kangaroos around.† I took a picture of one that was sleeping (they are mainly nocturnal).† I woke it up, and it seemed sleepy, but it moved off and later I saw it eating.† I was worried for a while that it was ill or something, but I think it was just sleeping when I came upon it.
While on the road to the lookout, I saw a couple of parrots flying away from me.† I think they were Elegant Parrots, based on what I saw, and that would be a trip bird for me.† But, I ended up deciding that I just didnít see them well enough to be sure enough to count them.† I had hoped to see Elegant Parrots here, but I guess it isnít to be, unless I see one on my way out tomorrow.
There were more emus around than I have seen up until now, and I came upon a Papa Emu who had a large bunch of youngsters with him.† As I have mentioned in earlier Ramblings, the male Emu sits on the eggs and raises the young ones.† I counted nine youngsters, but my photos later showed that there were actually 12.† I got a picture I really like of the 12 young ones scurrying across the road, following dad.† That seemed like a very large brood to me, but later I saw another one of 10 or 11, so maybe 12 isnít all that unusual.† Most of the Emu broods I have seen up until now have ranged from 2 to 6.
My time today was about 70% sightseeing and about 30% birding.† I drove around a loop of a couple of gorges, and the scenery was indeed beautiful.† The road was fairly bumpy, and there were a number of creek crossings, and one time when the creek rain down the middle of the road for a while.† I noticed that I must have taken the loop in the opposite direction from most people, as I met a number of cars coming toward me, but no one ever came the same way I was going, even though I stopped a number of times, including for lunch.
There were lookouts, view points, campgrounds, etc.† I stopped at one picnic area with a view and had my humble lunch.† I saw some birds, and I even got a couple of pictures.† I saw Wedge-tailed Eagles twice, and I got some mediocre pictures one time.
After the loop through the gorges (Brachina Gorge and Bunyeroo Gorge), I stopped at the visitors center in Wilpena Pound.† A ďpoundĒ is evidently an old volcano rim, at least in this case.† There is a resort in the middle of the crater, and I stopped at the visitorsí center and got a bird list for the park, and walked around a bit, taking a few pictures.
By that time it was about 2:30, and I returned here to my holiday unit at Rawnsley Park Station, which is just outside the National Park boundary.† There is a campground, a trailer park, and these holiday units, as well as some ďEco UnitsĒ, which I gather are really fancy cabins.† They are much more expensive than my ďholiday unitĒ, and it is the best place I have stayed so far, so they must be way out of my league.† Their price certainly is.† Rawnsley Park Station is a former station (sheep, I would guess) and has been developed over the years as a tourist development.
When I got back here, I wandered around the area a bit, and got some more bird pictures.† Yellow-throated Miner (I like the upside-down bird picture), Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (calling), and some pictures of Variegated Fairy-wrens.† See Photos17 for those.† I was especially glad to see Variegated Fairy-wrens, a lovely little bird I hadnít seen since my first stop after Sydney, in the Hawkesbury.
Also, when I got back here, the damn Wi-Fi still didnít work.† I was getting pretty irritated with the reliability of Aussie Wi-Fi access by this time.† I went over to the office, to ask about it.† The guy on duty knew nothing about it, but the guy who did know about it drove in at about that time, and I told him my story.† I had brought my computer with me, and I showed him.† I told him that it looked to me like I could connect to the local network, but that the local network wasnít connected to the internet.† He was astute enough to realize right away what the problem was, and he went in the back room and reset (rebooted?) something, and within a minute or two, things were fixed.
So, I was able to get online and catch up on email.† I used most of the rest of my original ten bucks worth of time, and I bought another 5 bucks worth, after catching up on email (which means opening them all as fast as possible, then logging off and reading them offline, to conserve my minutes).
So, I have had a drinkie or two, I have processed my pictures, and now I have written this.† It is almost 8 oíclock, and I need to get my dinner, and then get this up to the website.† I spend an absurd amount of time doing this computer stuff, but it is the only way I can travel alone for six weeks, so I do it.† The comments I get on Facebook (by the way, thanks, everyone, for all the birthday wishes) and the emails I get, along with the Instant Messaging, sustain me for the duration.
Tomorrow I head off south, toward Adelaide, the capital of the state of South Australia.† But, I have two one-night stands on the way to Adelaide, and a few birds to look for along the way.† I need to do my laundry Ė Iím down to one last set of underwear/socks, so it is time to wash some stuff.† That will be a priority in the next few days.† Mind you, I have been on the road for four weeks now, and this will be my first laundry load.† Some people might think that changing your underwear and socks every three days or so was not often enough, but Iím traveling alone, and it seems adequate to me.† OK, so now I have completely killed any chance that any of you will ever want to travel with me.
Thatís my story for today.† Life rolls on, and what a life it is!