When we arrived back at the house Karen wanted people to have a rest but we knew that there were items in the wagon which needed securing as well as getting all the perishable foods out to use up. Jasmine and I ended up clearing everything out both sides of the wagon, food and non-food, to do a stock take to facilitate the next shopping list. For instance, by the time we’d emptied every food container we found 96 remaining muesli bars! That will be sufficient for 2.5 days on the next trek. Roger was coming down with ‘the’ cold and spent most of the day at the kitchen table helping with a submission for part of a $2m grant being used to bribe the local population to accept a nuclear waste site! Nothing like getting involved in the issues of the residents.
There were plenty of odd jobs needing doing but we also had time to walk into town and have a look at a remarkable local artist, Jeff Morgan, who has achieved international acclaim with his panoramas. These are huge pictures of, in this instance, scenes and vistas of the surrounding area. One is actually a full 360 degrees from a nearby mountain which one sees from an elevated viewing gallery. This certainly was amazing but our favourite was a flat picture of Ron’s Creek which provides a very different perspective from either end without any trickery. He is now working on a new 360 panorama which I’m sure will be equally incredible, considering he has no formal training.
Prior to visiting the gallery we had popped in to the petrol station to see the museum, geology collection and seismograph, like you do! In these small towns people and services double up out of both necessity and to occupy themselves fully, particularly if employed. The display cabinets housed a variety of old memorabilia whilst topped with goods and items on sale such as camping kettles and jump leads, a curious juxtaposition. The rock collection was topped by a wall chart showing the seismograph readings from two days before, the day of and subsequent time around the Boxing Day tsunami. Beside this was a large scale map showing where and the size of recent seismic activity in the area, including around the site for the proposed nuclear waste processing facility!!
The paper in the cabinet was showing an almost straight line. A complete revolution covered 15 minutes and a fresh piece of paper is inserted every 24 hours. We spent some time reading all about the local activity then I noticed that the excursion of the graph had become almost equal to that on the displayed readings of 26/12! It settled down a bit but still remained a very jagged line, unlike the flat line on our arrival. Were we stood on some cables to send the readings whappy? Where was the sensor for this reading anyway? We couldn’t feel anything although had heard some loud distant bangs when we’d been out with the camels and it had been suggested that they could have been earthquakes. We were unsettled enough to ask one of the shop assistants (no-one else seemed to have noticed). Most petrol station staff would not necessarily know much about seismography but presumably if you house the equipment you learn something, hopefully! The lady who responded to us was unperturbed and thought that it was probably a kangaroo out about 10km away by the sensor, or it could be the wind. That seems to undermine the reading somewhat but at least we weren’t in the epicentre of any natural disaster in the less than well known earthquake region.
The following day Karen took us, Fabian and Olivia out on a reconnoitre of the route and camps for the school trek. She said it would only take a couple of hours so we carried some water and a couple of pieces of fruit. Anyway, 7 hours later our stomachs thought our throats had been cut! She decided to go even further out, to the next station to see if we could start there. She had lived there a few years ago and decided it would be nice for us to see Lake Torrens. This is a bit of a misnomer, as many lakes are in Australia, as it hasn’t held any water for over 7 years, the last major fill being after the floods of 1954!
Anyway, it was too far so we didn’t get to see it but both trips put us a bit behind on our schedule! We hadn’t even started on the initial plan by midday. Not only were we looking for suitable camp-sites, flat enough for 40 swags and the wagons, appropriate privacy for toilets, not too many rocks as it is getting warmer and snakes like basking (!!) but also, we had to be able to drive the vehicles, with considerable sized trailers behind, in and out of the sites. One place of particular historical interest proved quite inaccessible to all of us except Fabian, who couldn’t see any problems! Finally we did find a track which was not too rocky, steep or undulating, just rather narrow at one point, which would suffice.
The 7th night site transpired to be wonderful, flushing toilets and showers!!! We had a superb drive towards it (despite low blood sugar levels!) Kangaroos watched us with mild interest, some of them diving into the road as an escape path. They’re not renowned for their intellect, particularly when they decide to run away along the track in front of us. At one point Karen slammed on the breaks and those of us in the back of the ‘trooper’ i.e. not Roger, flew forwards off our sideways facing bench seats. A young, but fully grown, wedge tailed eagle sat preening itself on the branch of a nearby dead tree. It wasn’t even perturbed when Karen got out to take a closer look but she was rewarded with series of fantastic photos as it decided to take off.
The following day we were back at Wanaka Station. Diesel, the kelpie pup I’d taken for a walk, was being re-located. She was in absolute disgrace after chewing a brand new handmade stock whip which had been Sara’s 16th birthday present (normal for these parts!) She is quite adorable but will be much happier running over this huge station and working sheep as her breed does almost naturally. The principle reason for our return was that a children’s nature programme, were coming to film Karen, Paul and the camels. This did give us the opportunity to get up close and personal with a few more of the camels as Paul had to muster them all in to the yard to collect the ‘film stars’ he wanted. These were our old friends Ava as lead string with Snowy, Mumpy and Trevor as the novelty white camels, with cute baby Raja, who everyone falls for, bringing up the rear as usual.
All the others were milling around the yard and paddock, so we met Zaki, a boisterous and overly friendly young huge camel who decided to ‘play’ with Canning, equally large and Cato, a Raji-like runt at a mere 400kg. It is not a good idea to get in the way! particularly carrying 2 loaves of bread! Now I fully understand Karen’s obsession with safety, these guys could run you over and cause serious damage in a blink without malicious intent. Unlike Sabre, a scarce long haired Mongolian female camel with more testosterone than all the males (put together) who is very aggressive and is only still here because of her rarity.
The film ‘crew’ wanted children for the feature, Luke wasn’t going to play ball, his film star status was passée at school now, so Sara and her friends took the roles. We were only there as interested observers and had to spend most of the time ensuring that we weren’t in shot, although Karen wanted me to get some photos of the filming for their own website. I don’t think we were too irritating and when it transpired that the sound guy was from St Ives in Cornwall we seemed to be accepted. We did manage to see yet more emus and I finally managed to get a shot, even if they are rather indistinct, but they usually move far too quickly for a snap.
When this was finished the crew were dashing off to another filming and we had to high-tail it back to the house for the man from the grant proposal team’s visit to advise on the submission for the camel milk dairy and cafe, which has taken over Karen, Sam and recently Roger’s lives. He was a pleasant enough guy but we were just hoping that he wouldn’t need the toilet during his visit, despite it including dinner with wine (bribery? not when I’m cooking!) as the septic tank was overflowing! This had been the case for a few days but the man who empties them is in the Australian Reserves and wouldn’t be back for a week, oh joy! Fabian had dug a hole in the garden (the only real work he had done) and amused us with his attempts to erect the toilet tent over the top of the oil drum with seat but we didn’t think that the man from the government wouldn’t be too impressed (even if he did look like Tiger Woods)