Peterborough – Burra – Clare: Wheat to Wine (South Australia)

3/11/15  From Melrose, we headed south through lots and lots of wheat country, then east through even more wheat country to our next stopover at Peterborough. It doesn’t take very long at all for one IMG_7008wheat field to look like all the rest. Seen one, seen them all; but occasionally the scenery included a ruined stone cottage standing amongst the wheat. We called in for a look around and lunch at Jamestown, a pretty little historic town with many nicely maintained or restored stone buildings, and a little further on, we reckoned the small township of Yongala could have been lifted straight from a period movie about our colonial past. The only things missing were horses and carriages and ladies in bonnets and long skirts.

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Peterborough struck a chord as it used to be a junction station linking South Australia’s narrow gauge rail track with the standard gauge track from New South Wales, and became a major transhipping point for transferring cargo and passengers from one gauge to the other. My father was a railway employee in Queensland and, for a decade or so, worked at a similar transhipping point at Wallangarra Railway Station where Queensland’s narrow gauge rail track met the standard gauge track coming up from New South Wales.

In this part of South Australia, we kept coming across wind generators perched on the ridgeline of hills in the distance. South Australia is the largest producer of wind energy in Australia, and there are currently sixteen wind farms operating across the State. We didn’t mind the look of the large wind turbines turning slowly on the horizon; there was something artistic about them, but I guess we don’t have to live with them all the time.

South of Peterborough, the showground at Burra was our next camp. We loved the architecture of the stone buildings in this very historic town, and thought it more reminiscent of England than Australia. You don’t find houses like those in Queensland. It took two days to complete the heritage trail around the town and nearby Monster Mine, and we were provided with the key to gain entry to a number of locked sites including the remnants of primitive “dugouts” excavated into the banks of Burra Creek. In the mid-1800s, around 600 dugouts, some with white-washed walls and glass windows, were used for free accommodation by miners.

Our next camp at Clare was at the pleasant grassy Clare Valley Racecourse which we shared with just one other van until they moved on. We stayed four nights. The first day was a biggie visiting a few of the many wineries in the Clare Valley and restocking the mobile cellar – Mad Bastard Wines, Knappstein Wines, Kirrihill Wines, and O’Leary Walker Wines where we had a ploughman’s platter lunch, then on to Taylors Wines, Shut the Gate Winery, and finally Annie’s Lane at Quelltaler Winery. The next day saw us at the heritage town of Auburn, then to Reilly’s Wines for a terrific lunch in their old cottage cellar door and restaurant, and on to Paulett Wines for tiramisu and coffee. We were totally stuffed, and our wine cellar was well and truly restocked, with bottles shoved into every available spare space in the van and car.

With the sky looking foreboding and the forecast of thunderstorms, we stayed an extra day at the racecourse and spent Melbourne Cup beside the manicured Clare Valley Race Track, just the two of us and the view. Taken to the cleaners ourselves, we gave the Landy and Kruiser a wash, shedding layers of red desert dust that had built up since Alice Springs. It was so nice to be able to touch or lean on the rig without coming away dusty.

“A race track is a place where windows clean people.” – Danny Thomas

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