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Outback

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Well, it rained all day Friday, all Friday night and into Saturday with around 35mm recorded in an empty creamy rice can, left in the open. Most of this time the wind blew pretty well, too.

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The wind blew all Thursday, the day I arrived at Mount Gunson Cattle Yards and it blew for a couple of days after the rain. The whole event wasn't all that much fun, but I survived pretty well without getting wet.

A couple of times I got a campfire going to cook some food by lighting it in a drum, using kerosine, and then tipping the fire out onto the ground, at which it fairly well roared in the raging wind. Most of the time, during this wind and rain event, I cooked on the gas ring in the drum, still a battle to keep the gas burning.

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But today was different! The day started with promise, a fairly clear sky with a few wisps of wind clouds and ended pretty much the same.

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A few chores to be done: Get the axillary battery on to charge by solar power, repair the speedo on the bike, start the bread baking process, fuel up the bike and sundry other little jobs that all need to be done and all take time.

So it was lunch time by the time I was ready to move from camp to check out the tracks and have a look at Elizabeth Creek and Pernatty Lagoon.

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In this seven inch rainfall country, it was great to see several dams with a generous water supply. None full, mind you, but nevertheless, enough for stock watering in the coming months.

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Pernatty Lagoon was a sheet of water as far as I could see, the crystallized salt of the dry lake bed dissolved to form brine tasting about as salty as the sea, useless for any pastoral purposes.

Similarly, Elizabeth Creek, rather than being a string of super saturated salt waterholes was one long stretch of salty water, in it's lower reaches.

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After the rain it was not unexpected but it sure was disappointing. I've come 1800km to photograph the salt encrustations in Elizabeth Creek and Pernatty Lagoon, and the salt is all dissolved and much of it washed down to the lagoon. I expect it will take six months to get anywhere near what I would call it's prime. I'm sure glad I got some salt images at the mouth of Woodforde Creek where it enters Lake Torrrens!

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I'll certainly make the most of my time here and photograph the arid region landscape as I see it: The contorted myall trees, both dead and living, the colourful sand hills, the huge skies, waterholes and rocks, and the sunrises and sunsets as only the Australian outback can turn them on.

As for moving on to the next leg of my photographic trip, I'm still undecided. It's a long way out through Andamooka opal fields to Lake Torrens on Andamooka Station, without the incentive of the salt. The rain was quite widespread and the creeks up that way would also have run.

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  • Guest - Tom Davies

    Greetings from Canada.....I can identify, to a degree at least, with your “call of the wild” drive despite the extreme harshness of the inhospitable wilderness you've penetrated, to get to places difficult to get to against all odds to photo-document what you've discovered in these regions of your country, to write about the wilderness experience, or to simply feel satisfied you've, in a sense, conquered. I can appreciate the idea that seems strange to some, of submitting oneself to the punishment the wild can inflict in the course getting to it and staying in it for a while, because I've made a few trips myself fairly deep into the Canadian wilderness, not by ATV but by canoe (trips from one-week to two-weeks long)......Although our hardships are of a different type than your hardships, I'm estimating that the Australian outback is by far the toughest to cope with. I can't imagine how you can possibly cope with your sometimes extreme heat and dryness out there......At least we usually have the natural air conditioning of fairly dense forest cover during the overland part of our our canoe trips where there's no direct sunlight and much cooler than open space. When we're out in the open air on the lakes on the rare day in our short summer when it might reach 30 deg C (scorching for us but probably nothing for you), most of the lakes we travel are deep lakes with cool water to splash on us or else we dive in......On top of your having to cope with infernal heat, I wonder how in the world you manage to co-exist with all your fearsome life-threatening wildlife, especially your reptiles and arachnids......In terms of our wildlife, large bears are our only potentially serious problem. Lately, climate change is bringing them closer to us, but a can of bear spray (concentrated pepper spray) is very effective in repelling them and a bear-proof air-tight food barrel is effective in not attracting them in the first place. In the forest, black bears are anything but stealth. They make a lot of noise breaking branches. You can hear every step they make (very similar to a very heavy person walking fast). Their heavy breathing and sniffing is easily heard. Sometimes they snort. So there's plenty of warning.......But, how on earth do you Australian wilderness trippers protect yourselves against those stealthy crocs, snakes, and spiders that could be lurking where you can't see or hear them?......We've got it easy compared to you Australians in the wildlife danger department. We've got nothing at all in fresh water that can hurt us. We've got no members of the lizard or crocodilian families. Compared to warm climates, we've got few species of snakes and spiders, nothing big, mostly very small harmless ones......Best wishes in your adventures and endevours.

    from Barrie, ON, Canada
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  • Guest - Tom Davies

    Laurie, this is to add to my earlier comments I left that you may already know about....I didn't mention (what you might have figured out) that you may remember me from the Build a Joomla Site forum where I had promised you to say some words relating to your adventures after I had read some of your stories and looked at your photos. So, I finally got around to it. I'll be back to the Joomla forum soon. I had to be away for a while to attend to other things unrelated to web site building......Tom

    from Barrie, ON, Canada
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  • G'day Tom! Thanks for the interest.

    Not so much animal danger here as you may think.

    Crocks are in the tropical north.

    We have some pretty dangerous snakes.

    I once had a scorpion run out from under my tent as I packed it up.

    On another occasion I was getting some large, square cut rocks for an oven and under one rock was a centipede about eight inches long, coloured bright blue and orange. It scuttled down it's hole pretty quick.

    There are wild bulls on Pernatty station. When the station was sold three years ago, the cattle hadn't been yarded for four years so there were as many bulls as cows, and wild. In fact, Pernatty cattle had been banned from all the saleyards within a viable trucking distance so they had to go straight to the abattoir.

    Many were missed upon muster, more than the previous owner had figured on, and although the current owner has no time for rouge animals, there are still many roaming free and untouched.

    I once stood and watched, from a safe distance, two bulls having it out on a dam wall, while a third bull stood back a few paces, presumably waiting to take on the winner.

    Eventually they moved their contest some place else which relieved me greatly.

    My main fears on my outback trips are coming a buster off the bike, a breakdown, running out of fuel or getting stuck in either dry sand or mud.

    Even in spring and autumn the temperature often reaches the high 30s, but in winter I've woken to a frost. The maximum summer time temperatures are commonly 44 to 48 deg C, dropping down to 36 overnight.

    from New South Wales, Australia
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  • Greeting Laurie. You mentioned that crocs aren't an issue where you are, but snakes could be. What about those Taipans and Brown snakes I hear about? I think there's 2 species of the Taipans with one of them being the deadliest on earth. Do they venture into your stomping grounds. Have you or a friend ever run across one or have to deal with it?.......When you mentioned it's winter there (a bit like our autumn going by the way you described it), it reminded me to say that because it's summer here we're taking every chance to be outdoors and most of us are averse to doing indoor work like computer work unless we absolutelty have to for a job or a business. For the last several days it's been between 25 and 30 deg C here which feels hot for us. I totally cannot even imagine what the 48 C you mentioned would feel like or how you people cope with it. But, we're happy with the 25 or 30 C when it comes given our summers are short and out winter's are long and can be quite brutal where people cacoon indoors. Even in central Ontario where I am (which is quite south for Canada), every 3rd winter or so has an extended bitterly frigid period of MINUS 25 deg C for every day for 6-weeks in a row (usually January to mid Februrary). But, usually it's averaging around MINUS 10 for 4 months with the occasional thaw days going up to plus 5 C which feels mild and balmy after weeks in the freezer. There's usually walls of snow 6-feet high all up and down every road, driveway, and sidewalk. And, if you don't keep up with snow removal, you're stuck with odd shapes of solid ice ruts on you driveway that are hard to drive on and stay there for weeks or even months....What we're most grateful for in the summer is our lakes. We have about a quarter million lakes in my province of Ontario. About a half million lakes in Quebec. And about 3 million lakes in the whole country. Most of them are quite deep. 100 metres (over 300 feet) is a quite common depth. They're all fresh water. None of them are salt. So, the lakes make it possible to travel by canoe for long distances in parts of the country, portaging the canoe between lakes. The hardship part is carrying the canoe and equipment up and down high elevations of irreglular shaped rock boulders, low elevations of swamp and fallen trees, or thick forest. We have a lot of solid granite rock surfaces in Ontario. There are thousands of granite cliffs and solid granite rock islands. On the north shore of Lake Huron (one of the 5 Great Lake of the St Lawrence), there's a lot of white quartzite rock of 80% quartz. The canoe trips arr a lot of work. But, it's healthy exercise, fresh air, and the views are worth the climbing.

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  • G'day Tom!

    Yes, the inland tipan is reputedly the world's most venemous snake, but it's not aggressive.

    The inland tipan's distribution cuts out about 150 or 200 kilometres north of where I go, around the Lake Eyre region.

    However, there's the king brown which is quite aggressive and quite venemous.

    I've seen only one snake out there and didn't get a good enough look at it to to make an identifacation.

    When I asked a pastoralist about snakes he replied reassuringly saying they see very few snakes. In the old days, the stockmen on horseback would roll out their swag and sleep on the ground. I haven't heard any stories of stockmen being bitten by a snakes.

    With two weeks of winter to go, we recently had a run of mild weather with one day reaching 22 deg C. Very pleasent!

    A few days ago at Tredbo, one of our ski resorts, it was -18 overnight and got up to -9 during the day. That's about as cold as it it gets anywhere in Australia.

    Most of Australia's population lives on the coastal fringe where the climate is reasonable, with a realy hot day reaching about 40 deg C and a good frost getting down to say -4.

    Sounds like picturesque country where you are. I rather like the arid region though. The landscape that I capture photographically suits my personality.

    Comment last edited on about 3 years ago by Laurie McArthur
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  • Guest - John

    Hi Laurie
    Enjoyed your post.
    Did you see a Pernatty Knob Tail Gecko?
    Do you know how often the Pernatty Lagoon fills?

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  • G'day John!

    I guess the Pernatty Knob Tail Geko would be what I know as a sleepy. It's a lizard about a foot long, or a little more, with a tail that looks like a second head, tricking predators into believing they're being watched all the time.

    See photo:
    http://southimage.net/images/outback/lake-boolka/lake-boolka-0313.jpg

    I don't know if they'll bite, but they sure do try pretty hard to frighten you when you get too close.

    I don't know how often Pernatty Lagoon fills. There was water as far as I could see, a day or two after the rain but a week later it seemed to have soaked in or some such. The lagoon being pretty flat, there may have been only a couple of inches of water to cover the floor.

    There are two main tributaries: Elizabeth Creek, entering at the north west and Pernatty Creek, entering at the south east.

    I suppose a six inch rain event would add a good bit of water.

    Regards,
    Laurie.

    Comment last edited on about 3 years ago by Laurie McArthur
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  • My son grew up watching one of his favorite Discovery TV shows "The Crocodile Hunter" who was the late Steve Irwin (may he rest in peace). I often watched the show with him. The show made it look like there were huge dangerous snakes and deadly spiders everywhere because Steve Irwin was constantly running into them. According to what you are saying, it seems my image of Australia was too influenced by that show.

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