I camped on Pernatty Station in the Northern Pastoral District of South Australia in the Australian Outback.
View Larger Map
Salt waterholes and the delta where Elizabeth Creek flows into Pernatty Lagoon in outback South Australia.
Camping in the shade of a densely foliated myall tree would have been nice, but the prickly bushes everywhere took the edge off that plan. Instead, a small claypan beside the cattle yards became the campsite for a couple of days.
The yards are about six kilometres NNE of Mount Gunson Mine and this camping spot left me with a trip on the bike of only a couple of kilometres to Elizabeth Creek and about four kilometres to where the creek splits into a delta and empties into Pernatty Lagoon.
On arrival, I set up camp, unloaded the bike and went for a ride, finding Elizabeth Creek, ready for the morning photography in and around the salt waterholes of the creek and the dry salt of Pernatty Lagoon.
Overlooking a dry salt waterhole in Elizabeth Creek, not far from my camp at the Mount Gunson cattle yards on Pernatty Station, outback South Australia.
The sun rose over the desert horizon beside the steep, southern side of the flat topped Bonney Bluff on the far side of the lagoon and reflected gloriously in the salty water of Elizabeth Creek.
Back to camp for breakfast at about lunch time. Photographing in the early morning light, even the mid morning light, takes precedence over eating on these trips. Mostly it works out at two meals a day, two of the traditional meal times clashing with the best photographic lighting. It’s a matter of compromise between two very important activities.
The breeze picked up overnight, pushing the side of the tent against my head. The flapping of the tent walls with the wind gusts was an ever present reminder of the turmoil outside, struggling to break down my protection. It wasn’t a real good night’s sleep.
Dawn, on the way to Elizabeth Creek, not far from my camp.
Daylight revealed an overcast sky. The wind soon picked up to a dust storm. Deciding to sit the storm out, I parked the ute to the windward side of the small hiking tent and secured it to the tie rails in order to prevent the tent from being squashed flat by the force of the wind.
Sitting in the ute for a couple of hours wasn’t too bad. At least it was out of the wind and not too dusty with the windows open just a little for ventilation. But as tiredness took hold, the tent looked like the place to be.
Well, the tent is ventilated. The inner section is waterproof for part way up and then mesh. The outer fly sits over the the inner section allowing ventilation between the two coverings.
Sunrise over Pernatty Lagoon. Bonney Bluff in the background and Elizabeth Creek catching the rising sun’s reflection in the foreground.
With the heat of the outback, autumn sun beating down, the tent was rather warm.
While the force of the wind was kept out, dust and grit still got in.
The tent was flapping and the mattress under me was moving with the force of the wind trying to dislodge my shelter and the sides pushed against the pillow with the wind gusts.
Still, fatigue overcame the noise and movement, eventually drowsiness giving way to sleep and I drifted off into the land of nod.
Salt waterhole near the mouth of Elizabeth Creek.
On awaking well after lunch time, everything in the tent was covered in red dust. My face was gritty, my bare feet and legs were gritty and my clothes were gritty. The sleeping bag, mattress and floor were a mess with the fine red dust of the outback dust storm.
Reluctantly I pulled on my boots and ventured outside, dusting off my clothes and bare skin as best I could.
Getting a feed was quite a task. There were still a few coals in the campfire which soon ignited some tinder dry wood. It didn’t take long to boil the billy on a fire of hot burning myall pushed along by the strong wind.
Washed into the bed of Elizabeth Creek by the flood, twigs are encrusted with salt, forming captivating abstract forms.
But everything not in a box had to be held down and the lid replaced immediately. So a couple of cans of food heated in another billy were eaten straight from the billy. That not only saved washing up but the high sides of the billy kept the dust out of the food a bit better than a plate would have.
By the time lunch was out of the way and the dishes washed it was late afternoon. Another fierce gust whipped up the dust. Mount Gunson was only just visible on the skyline and the horizon was an indistinctive blur of dirty brown, the distant ground merging with the sky.
Typical of the salt waterholes I go out to photograph. Elizabeth Creek in South Australia’s outback
“That’s it,” I declared out loud in desparation, “I’ve had it,” and commensed the difficult task of packing up in the wind and the dust. A couple of hours saw me back on the Stuart Highway and headed for Pimba, Woomera and Roxby Downs, about 150km from my camp at the cattle yards.
The setting sun in my face was bearable due to the effect of the dust. At one stage I thought I was looking at the moon.