Guided small group motorcycle tour of World Heritage sites in Victoria and South Australia
A Guided small group Australian for mature and senior travellers is a of learning around the Southern edges of the Murray Darling basin and up to the upper southern part of this complex river basin north of Mildura. It provides the traveller on this escorted small group Australian tours offered by Odyssey for like minded people who are curious about . The itinerary over the 15 days is to , heading south east initially across Southern to Victoria and Port Fairy. The group then continues up through central Western Victoria to Hamilton and then Naracoote and on into the lower part of the Murray Darling basin in of the learning opportunity to gain an insight into Aboriginal habitation land management over some 40,000 years and then more recently the veneer of European settlement in the last two centuries on the landscape. It is part of a portfolio of Mildura, to Broken Hill and then back into to via Burns.
This, like all Odyssey Traveller small group tours is limited to 12 people.
This escorted small group has an interest in both Aboriginal and European settlement history. Over the period of this escorted small group the itinerary takes you to visit three UNSECO World Heritage Sites, two with human cultural significance, one of mammal significance; understand and appreciate the complexity and features of the Murray Darling Basin through some spectacular scenery.The program skirts around the edges of the "Aussie ", but is not a for the traveller. Whilst the Murray-Darling begins in Queensland, by the time the river system reaches it represents one the most complex river systems in against which modern agriculture has placed substantial stress. We see the historic and contemporary evidence of this in Mildura and the lakes around Menindee. and the many landscape changes including the Mallee, observing and learning about the river woodland galleries, arid lands, saltbush plains, agriculture practices; as well as the mining and railway history of Southern .
This small group escorted with your guide meets in where the begins and ends 14 days later. With your guide this unique departs on 2 for Mount Gambier crossing over the hills and then following the coast initially and pausing the for in Robe. The group overnights in Mount Gambier and then continues onto Port Fairy in Victoria. In the afternoon we enjoy have a 1/2 walking around this coastal small town learning about its history, the relationship to and the curiosity of the mahogany ship..... as well as an introduction to the shipwreck coast.
Passing through the Mallee
In Victoria, south-western New South Wales, and , this passes through swathes of mallee . ‘Mallee woodlands’ have been listed by the Australian Department of Environment and Energy as one of the 32 ‘Major Vegetation Groups’ of . Mallee is defined by the predominance of the mallee eucalyptus, a stocky eucalyptus with several stems, which grows on semi-arid soil. Mallee spreads in a belt across the south of , centring around the Murray River in western Victoria and eastern , the Eyre Peninsula west of , and the 'wheat belt' of .
For European settlers, the mallee was a 'dreadful ', desolate and inhospitable, but Aboriginal Australians made a home in these areas for at least 40, 000 years. For the numerous Aboriginal groups who inhabited the Victorian/South Australian mallee, the Murray River was a source of life, providing fishing, meat, eggs, and fibrous water plants. The roots of kumpung were steamed in an earth oven, creating a carbohydrate starch similar to flour, which was in turn used to bake cakes. Kumpung was also used to create twine, which was used for fishing nets, the weaving of bags, belts, and headbands, and traded for stone axeheads and myall spears at great gatherings. Murray River peoples also used fire to create pasture mosaics.
Though each group held custodianship over particular lands, the Murray River peoples shared an overlapping culture, with closely-related languages and spiritual beliefs. People around the Murray River believed in an all-Father who was the creator of all things, though he bore different names to different peoples – Bunjil the eaglehawk to the Wotjobaluk and Kulin people, Tha-tha-pulli to the Wadi Wadi, and Tulong to the Dadi Dadi.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: The Budj Bim Cutural Landscape
The following we to 's latest UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Budj Bim Cutural Landscape. The landscape was shaped by volcanic activity, but about 6,500 year ago local Aboriginal people on their Gudityama started to alter the existing drainage pattern with extensive channels and earthworks to permit eel production for most of the year.
From at least 6,600 years ago, the Gunditjmara created an extensive and complex aquaculture network where modified channels diverted water and kooyang (short-finned eel) into holding ponds. Here kooyang grew fat and were harvested with woven baskets set in weirs built from volcanic rocks and wood lattice structures. Dating back thousands of years, the area shows evidence of a large, settled Aboriginal community systematically farming and smoking eels for food and trade in what is considered to be one of ’s earliest and largest aquaculture ventures. The local Aboriginal people on their Gudityama built houses and managed the landscape as opposed to the traditional nomadic lifestyle of many Aboriginal communities.
This escorted small group has a guided 1/2 with a local guide of the Budj Bim cultural landscape. This is a unique insight into Aboriginal culture.
This afternoon the itinerary has this group continue its across Victoria to Hamilton.
Hamilton is a regional service centre and we break here for the night. There is the opportunity to visit the The Sir Reginald Ansett Transport Museum, Centrepieces of the display are a Fokker Universal aircraft, similar to the one used on the first Ansett flight in 1936, and the 1928 Studebaker. Other memorabilia includes documents from the early days of the Ansett empire. The museum has a complete set of flight attendant uniforms and an array of smaller items to keep the nostalgia buffs busy.
The Naracoorte Caves Park
From Hamilton we to Naracoorte for an afternoon visit to this UNESCO World heritage site for fossils. The Naracoorte Caves Park is one of only three fossil sites in to be given an official World Heritage Listing. There is a two simple reasons why the caves are so important:
They are caves on a flat landscape and therefore were caves that both animals and humans fell into and couldn’t get out of – nature created them as traps. The animals that fell into the holes and died in the caves became a record of such exotica as giant kangaroos, large marsupial lions and giant wombats which once roamed the area.
In the case of the Victoria Fossil Cave a staggering 130 different species of mammals, reptiles, birds and frogs have been discovered. It is a repository of near-perfect fossilized skeletons of ancient megafauna of 's . The bones of Megafauna species such as Thylacoleo carnifex Marsupial Lion, Thylacine, Zygomaturus and sthenurine the have been found in the fossil deposits.The fossils, dating back 500,000 years, have been recognised as one of the richest collections of Pleistocene fossils in the world. There are 28 caves in the area and four caves which are open for inspection. With a guide, we enjoy an escorted to learn about the most important fossils found in the .
The Caves preserve the most complete fossil record we have for this period of time, spanning several ice ages, the arrival of humans in the area and the extinction of ’s iconic Megafauna roughly 60,000 years ago.
This escorted group now heads north to Ouyen and Balranald travelling through the flat land of wheat fields and grazing sheep.
Balranald is located on the western edge of the vast Hay plain initially settled as a place once used to ford the Murrumbidgee River. Today it is a service centre for the surrounding irrigation district. The Heritage Park in Market Street draws the historic interest of the area with the old gaol, the school house and an historical museum.
The following Australian . Pasture gives way to the desert landscape as this group travels up to the Mungo where we spend the next two nights. A unique desert setting for an experience. our itinerary has this escorted small group of heading into the
Mungo has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for some 40 years.
For travellers on this guided the fascinating part when looking at the landscape of Mungo and the Willandra Lakes is that it is a geological window where this small group can look into the deep past of old . Buried here in thick layers of sand and clay are the tell-tale signs of how the climate, waters and landforms have changed over the last 100,000 years. And for at least 45,000 years humans have shared that . The ancient Willandra people thrived with the abundance of the lakes, then adapted to drier, hungrier times of the last ice age and survived to the present . Their story can be discovered in the folds of the land, along with their fireplaces, burials, middens and tools. The people of Lake Mungo and the Willandra Lakes have a long past that is important to the whole world in archaeological studies and human evolution.
The history of these fossil lakes is deeply entwined with what has happened in the dunefields, rivers and Australian and accumulated, piling up like the pages in a history book, waiting to be read in this . But here it is not just the recent geologically record that is important.hundreds of kilometres away. A geological stable region sediment from the Queensland has washed through the
Lake Mungo is one of the most important archaelogical sites in . A unique set of circumstances have created a landscape where it is possible to get an insight into Aboriginal life some 40,000 years ago. At that time Lake Mungo was one of series of large, deep, interlocking lakes teeming with large fish. It was 20 km long, 10 km wide and 15 m deep. On the lake's eastern shore sand dunes provided sheltered campsites. Not surprisingly Aboriginal hunters and gatherers settled on the shores, established campsites and enjoyed a healthy diet of fish, crustaceans and animals which came to drink at the water's edge.
About 16,000 years ago the lakes dried up leaving a 25 km-long sand dune, called a lunette, which stretched along the eastern edge of the lake and was, in places, up to 40 metres high. When shepherds, many of whom were Chinese, arrived in the area in the 1860s they called the lunette the Walls of China.
Lake Mungo's importance are threefold.
- It has "one of the longest continual records of Aboriginal life in " having been occupied for over 50,000 years.
- The skeletons found in the sands of the lunette are the "oldest known fully modern humans outside Africa" and,
- the skeleton of Mungo Woman (or Mungo I as she is officially known), which has been radiocarbon dated to around 40,000 years ago, "has provided the oldest evidence of ritual cremation in the world."
As a small group touring the lake and the Australian was a important meeting place for the indigenous Aborigines. Aborigines painted themselves with ochre, ate fish and mussels from the lake, buried and cremated their dead, cooked meat in simple hearths and ovens, sewed skins to make cloaks and shaped bones and stones into tools and weapons. If you want to glimpse what life was like for Aborigines when our European ancestors were still living in caves then Lake Mungo is a genuinely unforgettable experience., take time whilst at Lake Mungo to gaze across the dry lake bed to contemplate the idea that once, tens of thousands of years ago, here in the
About 40,000 years ago, Mungo Lady lived around the shores of Lake Mungo. A time of plenty was coming to an end at Willandra Lakes, when the basins were full of water and teeming with life. The human population was at its peak, and Mungo Lady was the daughter of many mothers - the generations before her that had lived at Lake Mungo since the Dreamtime. She collected bush tucker such as fish, shellfish, yabbies, wattle seeds and emu eggs, nourished her culture and taught her daughters the women's lore.
When Mungo Lady died, we know her family mourned for her. Her body was cremated, the remaining bones were crushed, burned again and then buried.
About 42,000 -40,000 years ago out here in what is now the Australian , Mungo Man lived around the shores of Lake Mungo with his family. A time of abundance in the Willandra Lakes system was drawing to a close, but he could still hunt many species of game, including some of the soon-to-be-extinct megafauna. Mungo Man cared for his and kept safe the special men's knowledge. By his lore and ritual activity, he kept the land strong and his culture alive.
When he was young Mungo Man lost his two lower canine teeth, possibly knocked out in a ritual. He grew into a man nearly 1.7m in height. Over the years his molar teeth became worn and scratched, possibly from eating a gritty diet or stripping the long leaves of water reeds with his teeth to make twine. As Mungo Man grew older his bones ached with arthritis, especially his right elbow, which was so damaged that bits of bone were completely worn out or broken away. The condition of arthritis was so advanced that he would not have been able to fully extend his arm or turn his hand properly. Such wear and tear is typical of people who have used a woomera to throw spears over many years.
Mungo Man reached a good age for the hard life of a hunter-gatherer, and died when he was about 50. His family mourned for him, and carefully buried him in the lunette, on his back with his hands crossed in his lap, and sprinkled with red ochre. Mungo Man is the oldest known example in the world of such a ritual.
When Mungo Lady and Mungo Man turned up some 40 years ago they rocked the scientific community. They have been dated to 42,000 years old - the oldest human remains in and some of the oldest modern humans in the world outside Africa.
And when 20,000 year old footprints of the Willandra people were found in 2003, they also rocked archaeological records. They are the only Pleistocene footprints in and the most numerous yet found anywhere in the world.
A key feature of the Meeting Place interpreatation centre in the UNESCO World heritage site is the re-creation of part of the ancient human tracks that were re-discovered in 2003. The footprints record some frozen moments in the lives of Aboriginal people who travelled across a damp claypan around 20,000 years ago. This is the largest known collection in the world of such ancient human footprints.
Today these fragile relics are specially protected. The footprints are extremely precious to the people who are directly descended from those who made them so long ago, and they are important to all humanity. To let everyone experience something of the wonder of the tracks, a section has been reproduced as an accurate replica at the Meeting Place.
These finds are remarkable enough in the Australian archeological record, but perhaps the most important thing about the Willandra Lakes is how such discoveries can be connected with the landscape and climate. Places like Mungo are rare, where changes in an environment can be matched with how people have lived there in a continuous record across vast ages.
The scientific evidence shows that Aboriginal people have lived at Mungo for at least 45,000 years. This is the dated age of the oldest stone artefacts that have been found so far, and represents a lineage that extends back over some 2000 generations. But many Aboriginal people say they have been here even longer, reaching back into the Dreamtime, perhaps forever. The long history of occupation at Mungo has combined with ideal conditions for the preservation of some types of relics to create an archaeological treasure house complete with Aboriginal art.
The ability to go so far back in human settlement over such a large area makes for a truly fascinating and touching visit in the Mungo as part of this unique . This escorted small group spends 2 days with the leader and local guides exploring and learning about the park, its and sees an amazing sunset, we hope.. in 's .
After Mungo the group heads to Mildura, a town on the Murray River.
Mildura, a town on the Murray River.
The area is thought to have been occupied by the Kureinji and Latje Latje Aborigines before white settlement. There is also evidence of the Paakantji, Ngyiampaa and Mutthi Mutthi tribal groups living in the area and their presence has been dated to 40,000 years ago. The first European in the vicinity was probably Charles Sturt who passed the present townsite when he travelled along the Murray River in early 1830. He reached Lake Alexandrina in February, 1830.
In this area of Northern Victoria the major event in agricultural settlement occurred late in the 19th century as the Victorian government considered irrigation options after the harsh drought of of the 1870's. Two Canadians, William and George Chaffey who had been successful in setting up agricultural irrigation in California arrived at the invitation of the Government. The offer of £300,000 from the Victorian government as payment for the task of improving Mildura and the Mallee region over the next twenty years may have been a good inducement as well. This escorted in . Problems with transportation resulted in the rapid development of a dried fruit industry and being on the Murray River meant the town quickly became an important river port. learns how the Chaffeys planned Mildura like a town in California. The streets running east-west were given numerical names (First to Twenty-first Streets) and avenues which ran north-south were given North American names (San Mateo, Ontario). The town's main thoroughfare (Deakin Avenue) is reputedly the longest straight avenue in the . They did not stop at street names. There was a plan to run trams through the town which meant the streets were designed to be particularly wide and the central median strip was enhanced with a band rotunda, a fountain, gum and palm trees all of which were planted by William Chaffey. In 1887 the new town was heavily promoted which resulted in the arrival of 3,300 settlers, many from Britain, by 1891. This was despite the fact that the nearest railway was 163 km away. The settlers cleared the land and dug irrigation channels. The Chaffey brothers imported two enormous engines for the pumping stations and water was raised from the Murray to irrigate the fields. So successful was the project that by 1893 the first fruit harvests were being transported to the markets
Like many of the model towns in California, Mildura was alcohol free. It wasn't until 1918 that the first hotel, the Grand Hotel, was opened for business.
In spite of initial success the town suffered major economic problems (drought, plagues of rabbits, transportation problems) and by 1894 Chaffey Brothers Ltd was bankrupt. George Chaffey returned to the USA while his brother, William, remained and went on to establish a winery at Irymple in 1888 and become the town's first mayor in 1920. The group spend time visiting Rio Vista, the historic house built by Charles Chaffey to continue this story.
Today the Mildura region, with a population of over 50,000, generates nearly $3 billion in Gross Regional Product per annum. 17% of this is agriculture and 11% manufacturing.
Our second in Mildura this small group travels to the junction of the Darling and Murray Rivers at Wentworth. This small group escorted learn about the river traffic and take a short on a paddle steamer along the Murray including a lock gate passage. The group also visit the old jail designed by the Architect of the Chief post office and other historic buildings in Wentworth time permitting.
Broken Hill & Menindee
From Mildura our itinerary takes this small group Australian up to Broken Hill, an iconic in . The stops at Silverton just before Broken Hill. Silverton's mining days are long over, but it has a place in the folklore of followers of the Mad Max films. The following we have a , walking Broken Hill, before travelling out to Menindee and the lakes adjacent to the Darling River. We visit the places where Burke and Willsstayed before heading into the unchartered as well as visiting one of the major sheep stations now a .
Peterborough Trains and Burra
After two nights in Broken hill this escorted small group of heads back into Southern , towards Burra via Peterborough. Our first break on today's guided is at Peterborough and to learn about this infamous railway intersection important to the town with its multiple gauges of rail track as an impediment to a by rail or the transporting of goods.
Peterborough is a rare railway town where, because state governments could not agree on a standarised railway gauge, three railway gauges (broad - 5'3", standard 4'8 1/2" and narrow 3'6'') once met from and the east coast, with the rail heading from and Perth and of course . The town became hugely important as a railway link between the iron ore mines at Broken Hill and the iron and steel processing at Port Pirie. At its height over one hundred trains a were passing through the town. It is therefore hardly surprising that it has a museum in a railway carriage and its prime tourist attraction is the "Steamtown" Heritage Rail Centre. It was 1970 when the first to Perth train, the indian pacific, passed through the crossing. By the start of the 20th century there where 70 trains a just from Broken Hill passing along the track. And the Ghan started using the line from 1929 to go from to Darwin. We spend time exploring the history of this town, now a shell of its former days.
We carry onto the state heritage town of Burra where we spend the night. Famous for the film Breaker Morant, copper mining, and beer! We have a of important historic sites in Burra, though like Peterborough this small group touring Burra is another Australian town with a long history of European settlement.
Burra, which calls itself 'An Historic Copper Town and the Merino Capital of the World', is a unique township. It did not become an official entity until 1940 when the tiny, separate mining communities of Aberdeen, New Aberdeen, Kooringa, Llwchwr, Redruth and Graham were drawn together under the name Burra. It was declared a State Heritage town in 1994 because of its outstanding historic buildings and the opportunity it offers for the to understand a little of what life was like in a 19th century copper mining town.
The following Australian tours to the curious traveller with an all inclusive price. our small group touring program has us continue on our past the Barossa Valley and on to to complete the circuit for this . Odyssey Traveller offers a collection of
Articles about Australia published by Odyssey Traveller:
- The Kimberley: A Definitive Guide
- Uncovering the Ancient History of Aboriginal Australia
- Aboriginal Land Use in the Mallee
- Understanding Aboriginal Aquaculture
- Mallee and Mulga: Two Iconic and Typically Inland Australian Plant Communities (By Dr. Sandy Scott).
- The Australian Outback: A Definitive Guide
For all the articles Odyssey Traveller has published for mature aged and senior travellers, click through on this link.
External articles to assist you on your visit to Australia:
- UNESCO: Budj Bim Cultural Landscape and Willandra Lakes Region
- Finding Mungo Man: the moment Australia’s story suddenly changed
- A 42,000-Year-Old Man Finally Goes Home
- Fish traps and stone houses: New archaeological insights into Gunditjmara use of the Budj Bim lava flow of southwest Victoria over the past 7000 years
- ‘A big jump’: People might have lived in Australia twice as long as we thought
- Mildura, Victoria
- Righting the wrongs of the Sunraysia sultana’s confusing history
- Burra, South Australia: Travel guide and things to do
Odyssey Traveller acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn and work. We pay our respects to Elders past, present, and emerging.
Overview: We meet in the late afternoon as a group for an introduction to the tour program. Followed by a group evening meal.
Overview: Today, we depart Adelaide, following the coast to Mt Gambier. We break for lunch at the coastal town of Robe.
From Mt Gambier we travel onto to Port Fairy. In the afternoon we enjoy have a 1/2 walking around this coastal small town learning about its history, the relationship to and the curiosity of the mahogany ship as well as an introduction to the shipwreck coast.
Today we spend several hours visiting the Budj Bim cultural landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2019. Gunditjmara Traditional Owners have known for over six millennia that their Budj Bim Cultural Landscape is special. Gunditjmara stories and oral histories document their cultural knowledge, practices, and material culture. This knowledge is supported by scientific research and historical documents. Thirty thousand years ago their ancestors witnessed the eruption of the Budj Bim volcano, where the Ancestral Being, Budj Bim (Big Head) transformed himself into part of the landscape. Today Gunditjmara refer to their cultural landscape as Budj Bim.
During the time of creation, Gunditjmara Country was inhabited by beings that were sometimes human, sometimes animal, sometimes neither, and these beings brought the Country into life. Their movements are written across Gunditjmara Country and give meaning to the contemporary landscape.
Gunditjmara knowledge and practices endure and continue to be passed down through their Elders. This is recognisable across the wetlands of the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape in the form of ancient and elaborate systems of stone-walled kooyang (eel) husbandry (or aquaculture) facilities. Gunditjmara cultural traditions, including associated storytelling, dance and basket weaving, continue to be maintained by their collective multigenerational knowledge.
The Budj Bim Cultural Landscape, set amid rugged stone country, woodlands, wetlands and lakes, is today owned or co-managed by Gunditjmara. Sacred to the Gunditjmara people, the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape is home to the remains of potentially one of Australia’s largest aquaculture systems.
The Gunditjmara people flourished through their ingenious methods of channelling water flows and systematically harvesting eels to ensure a year round supply. Here the Gunditjmara lived in permanent settlements, dispelling the myth that Australia’s Indigenous peoples were all nomadic. Dating back thousands of years, the area shows evidence of a large, settled Aboriginal community systematically farming and smoking eels for food and trade in what is considered to be one of Australia’s earliest and largest aquaculture ventures.
These engineered wetlands provided the economic basis for the development of a settled society with villages of stone huts, built using stones from the lava flow. Early European accounts of Gunditjmara describe how they were ruled by hereditary chiefs.
With European settlement in the area in the 1830s came conflict. Gunditjmara fought for their land during the Eumeralla wars, which lasted more than 20 years.As this conflict drew to an end in the 1860s, many Aboriginal people were displaced and the Victorian government began to develop resources to house them. Some Aboriginal people refused to move from their ancestral land and eventually the government agreed to build a mission at Lake Condah, close to some of the eels traps and within sight of Budj Bim.
The mission was officially closed in 1919 with the Lake Condah Aboriginal Church was demolished by authorities in 1957. The Gunditjmara continued to live in the area and protect their heritage and identity to see their Mission lands returned in 1987.
In 2007, the Gunditjmara achieved their recognition of their heritage and identity through the Federal Court of Australia’s Gunditjmara Native Title Consent Determination. In 2008, Lake Condah was formally returned to Gunditjmara people by the State of Victoria.
The Gunditjmara manage the Indigenous values of the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape through the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners and Winda Mara organisations.
In the afternoon we drive across to Hamilton, where we rest for the night.
Overview: This day is spent at the second UNESCO world heritage site, the Naracoorte caves. We have a guided tour of three of the main caves to understand the fossil record collected here and the uniqueness of the collection.
Palaeontologists have excavated and dated many of the fossils in Naracoorte Caves and have reconstructed the skeletons of a number of the megafauna that inhabited the area so many years ago.
Wonambi Fossil Centre
An ideal starting place for any comprehensive overview of the caves, the Wonambi Fossil Centre features robotic recreations of the animals which have been found as fossils in the caves. The robotic recreations allow visitors to imagine what the ancient marsupial lion and giant echidna looked like. In total there are are 17 robotic animals including a Diprotodon, a Phascolarctos (a giant koala) and a Thylacaleo carnifex (Marsupial Lion).
The Stick-Tomato Cave is the only cave in the complex which can be visited without a guide. It is an easy self-guided walk with an automated lighting system. There are two chambers: the first has natural light filters through tree ferns and the second is dark. There are about 20 steps leading down into the cave. It is open from 9.00 am – 5.00 pm daily.
The Alexandra Cave is 210 metres long and was first discovered in 1908 by the forester, W. Reddan. It is recognised as containing the most beautiful limestone formations in the district. It has the full range of stalactites, stalagmites, helactites, straws, columns and flow stones. The cave’s major attractions include the ‘Mirror Pool’ (stalactites, straws, white flowstone), ‘Shower Pool ‘ (superb display of straws), ‘Wedding Cake’ and the ‘Butcher’s Shop’. There are two tours daily – both last 30 minutes. For details of times and prices check out https://www.naracoortecaves.sa.gov.au/discover/under-the-ground/alexandra-cave.
Victoria Fossil Cave
The Victoria Fossil Cave was a trap for animals for over 200,000 years. Since its discovery it has been a rich source of literally thousands of bones and fossils revealing the presence of giant kangaroos, marsupial lions and giant wombats which once roamed the area and presumably fell into the caves. Ninety-three different species of mammals, reptiles, birds and frogs have now been found in the cave. It was not discovered until 1969 when members of the Caves Exploration Group of South Australia squeezed through a 25 cm hole. The main section of the cave had been open to the public since 1897 having been found three years before. The fossil section of the cave was open to the public in 1971. The website (https://www.naracoortecaves.sa.gov.au/discover/under-the-ground/victoria-fossil-cave) explains: “On the tour you’ll walk through magnificent speleothem chambers (e.g. stalactites, stalagmites and helectites) on the way to the Fossil Chamber. Your guide will tell you all about the accumulation of bones in the caves, excavation techniques, current research and World Heritage.
Today our escorted group heads north to Ouyen and Balranald where we stop for the night.
Balranald is located on the western edge of the vast Hay plain initially settled as a place once used to ford the Murrumbidgee River. Today it is a service centre for the surrounding irrigation district. The Heritage Park in Market Street draws the historic interest of the area with the old gaol, the school house and an historical museum.
Overview: This group travels up to the Mungo where we spend the next two nights.
Overview: Today is a full day learning about the wildlife, and the all important archaeological discovery of Mungo man and lady. This is a major UNESCO world heritage site for archaeologists studying aboriginal culture and lifestyle. We have have knowledgeable local guides with us to explain what we are seeking and the intrepretation of the findings to date.
Overview: Ensuring that all members have learnt sufficient about the park we eventually leave and begin the short drive to Mildura.
Overview: Today we have a full day learning about the town, the relationship to the Murray river. Agricultural settlement and the Mallee is also important in our visit to the town.
The group travels to the junction of the Darling and Murray Rivers at Wentworth. We learn about the river traffic and take a shorton a paddle steamer along the Murray including a lock gate passage. The group also visit the old jail designed by the Architect of the Chief post office and other historic buildings in Wentworth time permitting.
Wentworth is an interesting historic town on the junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers. It has a wealth of interesting historic buildings from the time when the junction was a vital port for paddle steamers plying the Darling River.
Located just downstream of the town bridge, the Wentworth Wharf, which was built in 1879 when the inland port was booming – it was the busiest port in New South Wales after Sydney and Newcastle.
Also to see.
Monument to a Tractor
Located on the corner of Adelaide and Adams Streets is a TEA20 Ferguson tractor. It is probably the only monument to a tractor in Australia – and probably the world. It commemorates the fact that tractors saved the town in 1956. During that year the floods kept rising to a point where the entire town was threatened. The locals, using about 35 Ferguson tractors, worked day and night to build levee banks. It was widely accepted that these levee banks, built mostly by Ferguson tractors, saved the town. A fitting monument with the quotation: “By God and by Fergie we beat the flood”.
Old Wentworth Gaol
The National Trust-classified Wentworth Gaol was designed by Colonial Architect James Barnet (famous for Sydney’s GPO and Customs House) and built with one million bricks brought from Malmsbury in Victoria and slate brought from Wales as ship’s ballast. It is reputedly the first Australian-designed gaol. The result is considered the best example of a small Victorian-era gaol in New South Wales. It was built from 1879-1881 and was subsequently copied by the gaols built at Hay and Dubbo. It was a small prison for serious offenders with 10 male and 2 female cells, massive 45-cm thick walls, lookout towers, a stretching rack, a whipping stool, stocks, and shackles set into a boulder in the unshaded centre of the courtyard. The gaol closed in 1929.
Wentworth Pioneer Museum
Opposite the Gaol, is the Wentworth Pioneer Museum. Run by the Rotary Club of Wentworth it has 3000 items including fossil remnants found at Perry Sandhills of extinct Australian megafauna including a giant kangaroo. It has a huge collection of river boat photographs; models of megafauna; an extensive collection of folk and pioneer memorabilia; and fossils from Lake Mungo.
Overview: From Mildura our itinerary takes this small group Australian up to Broken Hill, an iconic in . The stops at Silverton for a walking tour of the town before continuing onto Broken Hill.
Overview: We have a , initially with a walking tour of Broken Hill, before travelling out to Menindee and the lakes adjacent to the Darling River. In Menindee, we visit the places where Burke and Wills stayed before heading into the uncharted as well as visiting one of the major sheep stations now a
We head towards Burra today, via Peterborough. Our first break on today’s guided is at Peterborough and to learn about this infamous railway intersection important to the town with its multiple gauges of rail track as an impediment to a by rail or the transporting of goods.
Peterborough is a rare railway town where, because state governments could not agree on a standarised railway gauge, three railway gauges (broad – 5’3″, standard 4’8 1/2″ and narrow 3’6”) once met from and the east coast, with the rail heading from and Perth and of course . The town became hugely important as a railway link between the iron ore mines at Broken Hill and the iron and steel processing at Port Pirie.
These are some of the highlights of the town.
Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre
Launched in 1977 Steamtown, now known as the Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre, was originally created to run a steam train service between Peterborough and Quorn with rolling stock dating from 1920s. It was designed to provide visitors with the experience of an old-style railway journey. Today it focuses on the memories of the town’s impressive railway history. Located at the western end of town, the Heritage Rail Centre has original railway workshops and tools, the impressive half-circle Roundhouse which was built in 1925-1926, the unique triple gauge turntable (reputedly the only one in the world), lots of historic rolling stock and an historic weighbridge.
Town Carriage Museum
Located at the western end of Main Street, the Town Carriage Museum. It is a unique use of an old first class sleeping carriage dating from 1917. There are eighteen glass case displays which “represent events in the town’s history, people of significance and aspects of life in the town. Presented together in a simple chronology – a timeline of sorts – through to the present day, they offer a complete picture and illustrate that this town is diverse, interesting and about much more than just railways.” There are also two sleeping compartments which have been turned into a photographic exhibition which shows works from the Lionel Noble collection as well as a screening room which shows landscapes from Broken Hill to Port Pirie. The carriage, reminiscent of past times, features pressed tin ceilings, leadlight glass, leather seats and polished timber.
The Peterborough Town Hall is one of the largest town halls in South Australia. It stretches along the main street and dominates the streetscape. Built between 1926-1927 it originally had five shopfronts but they have all been converted into council offices. Enter the building to inspect the ornate staircases and the impressive Federation quilt, which was completed in 2001 after an estimated 2000 hours of labour, and which was donated by the Peterborough Patchworkers.
The Statue of Bob the Railway Dog
Located in the small park in front of the Visitor Centre is Bob the Railway Dog, a sculpture created by South Australian sculptor, Silvio Apponyi. There is an entire website devoted to this dog http://www.bobtherailwaydog.com with vast amounts of information (he really did become internationally famous during his life – 1882-1895) including a letter to The Spectator in London which described his uniqueness: “I often see interesting letters to the Spectator about dogs, and I thought perhaps your readers might like to hear about the best known dog in Australia. His name is Railway Bob and he passes his whole existence on the train – his favourite seat being on top of the coal box. In this way he has travelled many thousands of miles, going all over the lines in South Australia. He is well known in Victoria, frequently seen in Sydney and has been up as far as Brisbane! The most curious part of his conduct is that he has no master, but every engine driver is his friend. At night he follows home his engine man of the day never leaving him or letting him out of his sight until they are back on the Railway Station in the morning, when he starts off on another of his ceaseless journeys. I have not seen him on our line for some time, but noticed with regret last time he was in the station he was showing signs of age, and limping as he walked. E Cresswall. Adelaide, August 24th. 1895.”
The inscription on the sculpture explains: “The story of Bob, railway mascot, begins when he was rounded up in Adelaide in 1883 with a lot of other stray dogs being sent north to the rabbit plague. He was adopted by railway guard William Ferry of Terowie and a few months later moved with him to Petersburg. Bob began travelling on trains, first with his owner and then on his own. He jumped on and off trains as the mood took him making interstate journeys and short suburban trips on trams as well as trains (he also made river trips on the Murray Steamers). When he heard the whistle of a train he was off! He travelled far – to Sydney, Melbourne, Oodnadatta, Broken Hill, Mt Gambier and more. “When he died in 1895 he was mourned by the travelling public all over Australia.”
Peterborough Printing Works
A fascinating reminder of a world of printing and newspapers that is fast disappearing. The building was where the Peterburg Times was printed from 1891. It closed in the 1970s but it has been beautifully maintained. Time has stood still and it is a window into a world of typefaces and printing presses that is almost gone.
St Cecilia Heritage Mansion Hotel
This gracious 20 room mansion was made from hand hewn sandstone and was originally the home of Bishop John Norton, the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Port Augusta. It was built around 1912 in a distinctive Edwardian style. In the 1920s it became a boarding school and convent and remained so until 1973.
We carry onto Burra where we stop for the night.
Burra, which calls itself ‘An Historic Copper Town and the Merino Capital of the World’, is a unique township. It did not become an official entity until 1940 when the tiny, separate mining communities of Aberdeen, New Aberdeen, Kooringa, Llwchwr, Redruth and Graham were drawn together under the name Burra. It was declared a State Heritage town in 1994 because of its outstanding historic buildings and the opportunity it offers for theto understand a little of what life was like in a 19th century copper mining town.
Overview: Today we have a tour of Burra before heading to Adelaide. The group visit some of the following heritage sites in Burra.
Monster Mine Site and Powder Magazine
This is a huge open cut copper mine which was so productive it ensured the town’s continuing existence. The site offers excellent views from the platform at the Lookout and there are boards with extensive information and important historic photographs about the mines. A notice at the entrance to the site announces: “The Burra Mine Open Air Museum has been developed to conserve the history and extensive remains of the Burra Mine. The Burra Mine, which operated between 1845 and 1877, was once the largest in Australia. In total it produced 50,000 tonnes of copper and is credited with saving the young state of South Australia from bankruptcy. The site is recognised as one of the most significant mining heritage sites in Australia.
This is the oldest surviving building in Burra and reputedly the oldest surviving mining building in Australia. It was built in 1847 (before the goldrushes) and used to store explosives which were used by the miners.
Morphett Engine House Museum
This remarkable National Trust building was first constructed in 1858, gutted by fire in 1925 and fully restored in 1986. It has a number of displays of Beam Engines.
Police Lock-up and Stables
Located on the corner of Ludgvan and Tregony Streets the police station, with its lockup and stables, was completed in 1847 when, after a number of years as an unruly frontier town, law and order arrived in Burra.
Located off Tregony Street Redruth Gaol was built in 1856 and it housed criminals until 1922 when it was decommissioned. Although it started as a gaol by 1897 it had become a girl’s reformatory and many of the stories are about the adventures of the young women who were incarcerated. This gaol has an extensive collection of memorabilia depicting the kinds of prison conditions which existed in the 19th century. It was used extensively during the filming of Breaker Morant and there is now a room devoted to Breaker Morant with suitable memorabilia from the film. The placards around the gaol offer a rare insight into the life of the prisoners. One recalls: “In 1902 on escaping two girls cut their hair, donned boys caps and breeches and roamed for ten days in the guise of two lads looking for work… In 1919 three girls Violet Benson, Ada Newchurch and Ursula Cruse were on the roof, dancing, singing low songs, swearing downright insolence, destroying the government property and undressing and exposing themselves to all passers by in only their flannels and bloomers.” The Redruth area of the town was the home to most of the Cornish miners.
Hampton Township is located on the edge of town and is now little more than ruins. Today there are now no complete buildings in Hampton. The town is in ruins. This has been the result of locals seeing the abandoned brick houses as ideal for further building and simply “borrowing” the bricks. Although its premier location on the top of a hill overlooking the town offers the best views, it also means that it was the last place in town to receive electricity and water and consequently people moved from Hampton down the hill.
Located on Smelts Road this is the site of the two smelting houses which accompanied the Monster Mine. Between 1849 and 1868 over 1,000 workers, mostly Welsh miners, processed the copper which was then transported to the coast and shipped overseas.
Unicorn Brewery Cellars
Located in Bridge Terrace, the Unicorn Brewery Cellars were built in 1873 and operated until 1902. It supplied beer to Broken Hill and to one quarter of South Australia. The history of the brewery is a series of sublime accidents. Just as one mine closed down another opened up. “In 1873 the erection of a new brewery in Burra probably seemed a risky venture. Although the Burra Mine was still working, the number of miners employed there had dropped from 1,000 in the early 1860s to less than 300, and the town’s population had fallen to 3,000, with more mining families leaving each week. There were still nine hotels open in the townships, but these were supplied by another, long-established brewery in Burra. Quite probably though the new brewer, William Banks, and his financial backers were counting on the expansion, beyond Burra, of the Northern Railway. (In 1878 it extended to Hallett, in 1880 to Terowie and in 1887 to Cockburn near Broken Hill.) The arrival of the line to Burra (in 1870) had made the delivery of barley and the brewery’s machinery much easier, and enabled cheaper transport of bottled and casked beer. Another factor that contributed to the new brewery’s success was the opening up of the northern areas for agriculture in 1872. Each new township soon had a hotel, and so a market for the brewery’s products was assured. The Unicorn Brewery’s machinery, and the extensive cellars that held 500 hogsheads, was far superior to their rivals, and by 1875 Unicorn was the sole brewery in Burra.
When the Burra Burra Mine closed in 1877 the loss of trade in Burra was soon counter-balanced by the unexpected opening of the Silverton and Broken Hill mines. From 1880 until 1902, thirsty Broken Hill miners drank mostly Unicorn Ale. Following Banks death in 1878, the Unicorn was taken over by an Adelaide Company, and run by the Lockyer family until its closure in 1902, following legislation to control individual breweries. A Commonwealth Act that came into force on 1 January 1902, stated that “No person shall make beer unless licensed to do so.” The new regulations were so stringent, and the required paperwork so involved, that only the larger breweries could afford to comply.
In the early 1970s the underground cellars were ‘re-discovered’ and opened to the public. In 1987 the cellars were acquired by the local council, restored and re-opened in 1989. The cellars are a unique design. They are 5 metres wide and approximately 600 metres in total length, and have been tunnelled to form an underground square, the centre of which has been subdivided. The stone vaults are arched, with earth flooring remaining in five main cellar runs. An interesting item is the cold room, which is a basement at the level of the cellars. Massive timber beams support the flooring of the storeroom at ground level.”
Located in Blyth Street (known as “Creek Street’) these primitive dugouts were built in the 1840s as basic accommodation for the miners who came to the diggings. They are extraordinary reminders of the hardship which was part of early life at Burra. It is still possible to walk inside and inspect these simple dwellings. The 1851 census recorded that about 1800 people lived in dugouts along Burra Creek and its tributaries. The town’s population at the time was 4,400. Of these one-third were children under the age of 14 and the unsanitary living conditions contributed to outbreaks of smallpox and typhoid fever. During 1851 alone there were 153 deaths in Burra, many of them young children in the dugouts.
Located on Paxton Square this delightful run of stone cottages (a total of 33 cottages were built at the time) was built between 1849-52. One of the cottages, the Mine Captain’s Cottage, is open for inspection with authentic artifacts dating from the 1860s. The term “malowen lowarth” means “hollyhock garden” in Cornish.
Burra Market Square Museum
Located off Market Street and opposite the Anglican Church, this museum, which was built in 1880, is open from 9.00 am – 5.00 pm daily, is designed as a re-creation of an old style general store and post office. It was opened in 1966 and includes original furniture and fittings. It was originally the home of Andrew Wade, a tailor.
Bon Accord Mine Complex
Located on the corner of West and Linkson streets, the Bon Accord Mine Complex is an interpretative centre which provides a diorama so that visitors can experience what Burra was like in the 1850s when it had a population of over 5,000. The complex includes a blacksmith’s shop and a pump shed and shaft which were used to provide the town with water from 1884-1966. The complex also includes three of Burra’s fire engines including a rare 1919 Model T Ford.
The group completes the journey from Burra to Adelaide.
The late afternoon is at your leisure. There is a farewell group dinner this evening.
Overview: Tour concludes after breakfast
What’s included in our Tour
- 15 nights accommodation.
- 15 breakfasts, 3 picnic lunches, 6 dinners.
- Transport by modern and comfortable 4wd or other vehicle suitable for the highway conditions.
- Entrances and sightseeing as specified.
- Services of Tour Leader for the duration of tour
- Detailed Preparatory Information
What’s not included in our Tour
- Return airfares to Adelaide.
- Comprehensive travel insurance.
- Items of a personal nature, such as telephone calls and laundry