Sunday, October 23, 2011

Port Augusta

Port Augusta Motorpark
It was so good to arrive in Port Augusta - after many hours travelling the Stuart Highway it was good to leave the desert behind and reach some suburbia. We stayed at the Port Augusta Motorpark which is adjacent to the Port Augusta Football Club. This area is a fundraiser for the club and they make their carparking and extra land available to completely self contained vehicles for a small charge. There were between 10 and 15 groups of campers each night with a variety of vehicles from caravans, campervans and converted buses. The group were very social and happy hour each night had lively conversations.
 We are on the left at Motorpark
We have continued to chase the good weather and have had sunshine and blue skies each day. The forecast for each day while in Port Augusta was for storms and rain but somehow it missed us completely. We have not had rain during the day since we were in Cooktown on 5th August and only the occasional overnight shower - it has been amazing. However the wind has chased us completely since we were in Mt Isa on 8th September and we are really tired of it. It certainly has made driving with the caravan more difficult and has certainly helped to increase our fuel consumption!
As usual we visited the visitors centre in Port Augusta - there is not a huge amount of touristy things to do but we were due for a break anyway. The population of Port Augusta is around 15,000 and it services a large outback area. A visit to the hairdresser was top of Peter's agenda although he is threatening to buy a set of clippers so that he can give himself a haircut in the future! The other business Pete was keen to revisit a number of times was the hot bread shop which besides bread made excellent bakery items.
We have arranged for the caravan to be stored in Port Augusta for the period that we return to Melbourne and New Zealand from November to February. We visited the storage facility and have now finalised arrangements for the caravan to go into a storage shed for this period.
 An active dog swimming Port Augusta
The majority of the housing we saw in Port Augusta appears to be 1950's style. Very few of these had any grass but had either paved or concreted the yards. We assume that this is due to the high temperatures and that grass doesn't really like to grow in red sand. However obviously roses like the conditions as many houses had beautiful roses blooming. The local council seems to be quite progressive - the waterfront has been attractively upgraded. We had dinner down on the waterfront one evening and it was lovely to see family groups and others enjoying the evening. A man was there throwing his dog a toy to chase, the dog certainly seemed to enjoy the swiming.  The dog reminded us of Tris and Anna's Aussie/Kiwi dog Hemi - and the man well he was about 65 so guess that he looked a lot like Tris!
Royal Flying Doctor Service facility Port Augusta
While in Port Augusta we visited the Royal Flying Doctor Service at the airport. Each group of visitors are taken on individual tours of the facility. Unfortunately none of the planes were in the hanger when we visited as the four planes were out on clinic runs etc.
The hangar was empty RFDS
On the approach into Port Augusta from the north there is the "Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden". The gardens are on the shores of Spencer Gulf with the Flinders Ranges in the distance. The area is quite large with various walks but as neither Peter or I are that knowledgeable of plants we gave walking the tracks a miss. However visitors area has a display of arid plants which are quite impressive. Lunch at the cafe was impressive as well!
 Arid Lands Botanic Garden
Although I have now purchased a piece of Aboriginal Art (bought at Mt Ebenezer Art Gallery on the Uluru/Erldunda) I am always keen to visit the local art galleries. There is an excellent gallery manned by a lovely Aboriginal lady and it is in the original convent building in Port Augusta. It was so lovely and cool inside the building. The lady was keen to show us the various paintings and jewellery and her own green ointment that was on sale. We have found that it is quite unusual to have the local people prepared to hold a conversation with us and I was most surprised when this lady was so friendly. She even agreed to have her photo taken!
We visited the Wadlata Outback Centre which takes the visitor 15 millions years back in time to learn about the ancient land and the earliest forms of life and the arrival of the white people. There are many different exhibits and a short film and there is even an early Ghan carriage. The museum is extremely well presented and we enjoyed wandering around.
We stayed in Port Augusta four days and really enjoyed the break from travelling.
Entrance to arid gardens
Entering arid gardens
Goanna sunning itself
Wildlife at arid gardens
 Gulf of Spence shoreline from arid gardens
Port Augusta in distance
Cliff face from arid gardens
 Garden showpiece
 Visitor centre at arid garden
Too dry to grow! Or the strangest tree that we have ever seen
Sun dial at arid garden
Garden in front of visitor centre at arid botanic gardens
Quite liked this table setting at botanic garden
Aboriginal lady at Port Augusta art gallery
 Info on convent where art gallery is now housed
The original convent now art gallery
Urramunja Aboriginal Artworks
  In the driving seat again Wadlata Outback Centre

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