First Day On The Road-September 15, 2007

On our last day we got up about 5:00 AM because we were meeting the Adventure Tours van at 6:30.  The good news was that we were departing only a few doors down from the YHA.  As Chris, our driver and guide loaded the van, we looked around and quickly realized that we were the only travelers above the age of 30!  Well, maybe Chris was in his mid 30s.  At least we got the seat just behind the driver which enabled us to watch the road and upcoming sites.

As we drove through the countryside leaving Adelaide, we saw fields and fields of yellow canola growing in patches everywhere.  As we passed through the Clare Valley, stopping at the town of Clare, Chris suggested that we stock up on “adult” beverages before getting too far out of town.  In Australia, Woolworths is one of the largest grocery stores and has an extensive liquor and wine store attached.  Since the Clare Valley is famous for its Reislings, I picked up a bottle of Annie’s Lane Reisling because I liked the name.  Price and labels are my determiners of wine purchasing here.

We stopped for a “pull-out” lunch at a really small town on the edge of Clare Valley, noticeably drier terrain.  A pull-out lunch is just what it says, really not much different from a picnic.  We all took turns slicing tomatoes and cucumbers, setting out cheeses, meats and condiments, and opening cans for vegetables and fruits.  (can’t really upload pictures at this point, will have to share those later).

As we rolled along after lunch, we began to notice abandoned farm houses, made from brick and in shambles.  Chris told us that farmers in the early part of the 20th century came out to this area, tried farming for a few years, but had to finally give up for lack of water.  The crumbling houses with no roofs reminded me of those we saw in Ireland a few years ago.  It was really kind of sad, imagining family dreams of a good life slowly dissolving.

After a few hours, we stopped at the Youramboulla aboriginal site.  It is the only one where permission has been given to enter and photograph.  This is possible because ceremony has not been performed here since the 1950s.  We were told that the paintings here are no elaborate because of the harsh life style.  Searching for food and water left very little time for drawing and painting.  Like the American Indian, everything is tied to the land.  Stories were not written down.  They were passed from story to song to painting.  Most of those stories are beyond the knowing of those outside the tribes, and even outside the knowing of most tribal members, only known to the elders.  Until recently, the stories had been called dreaming or dream time.  But, some folks now feel that it is condescending  to say it is something as simple as dreaming.  That terminology is still used by most folks.  He compared the complexity of the stories to those in the Bible, encyclopedias, and other reference books of our age.  Everything about their lives are in these stories…kinships, navigational signs, animal behavior, what to eat…everything!

At the end of the day’s trip, we arrived in Parachilna, population 5!, But, what a unique place it was.  The Prairie Hotel had recently undergone significant renovations, adding several upscale guest rooms out back.  Since Bill and I had upgraded from dorm accomodations for three of our nights, we had one of these rooms.  The rest of the folks were housed in a nearby dorm like accomodation.  As we checked in, we were told that an art show was happening in the dining area.  Must have been some important folks there, since we saw a helicopter parked out back and several rental vans coming from who knows where.  They were all gone the next day.

After taking some time to rest and refresh in our room, we joined the rest of the group for dinner.  And what a dinner it was!  Chris had cooked emu, kangaroo, and camel.  With the right seasoning, it tasted quite good.  In fact, I  had a second helping of camel!!.

After dinner, we took some time for a short hike around town, actually that meant walking over to the railroad track to watch the train go by and the sunset.  There was a large structure that once held a water tank featured in the movie “Rabbit Proof Fence”.  The structure became rusted and unsafe.  Despite the fund raising efforts of some well-meaning folks, they were unable to secure enough money to save the tank.  So the foundation is all that is left.  I did manage to get some pictures of that.  Then came a wonderful desert sunset.  As we sat on some railroad equiptment with a glass of wine, the sun slowly sank on the horizon.  What a special time.

A bit later, after we had visited the pub and the sun had disappeared, we walked outside again to watch the train go by.  It is the big excitement two times a day.  It rarely stops at Parachilna anymore.  Then we were awed by the unbelievable Sourthern Hemisphere stars and “I saw the Southern Cross for the first time”. (Seems like I remember a song about that!)  Knowing that we had a long day ahead we retired early and fell asleep with smiles on our faces and thankfulness in our hearts for a wonderful experience.

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