In May this year a group of FOMS members and associates undertook a ten-day trip to maintain and monitor the walking trails installed in 2011 by the Friends of Mound Springs group at Strangways and the Peake, sites of enormous significance because of their natural and cultural values.
Our party was Michael (chief chef) and Grant (co-driver and chief assistant) in the Toyota Hi-lux, carrying everything you could possibly require while camping in the desert, and Bjarne and myself in the trusty Nissan X-Trail towing the very heavy A-van, full of enough supplies for 10 days. We helped to design and install walking trails at these sites on previous trips with the Friends of Mound Springs group, and this time our little group of four people in two vehicles did the monitoring and maintenance run.
This was a challenging trip of more than 2,100 km on rough unsealed roads in remote areas. We survived the full range of mud, rain, cold nights, clear skies, raging winds, a full moon, sunny days and very slow going at times. We reached our goals at Strangways and The Peake repeater stations, but not without some serious challenges.
After a slight delay starting while we renewed the battery in Michael’s fridge, we made good time to camp in Farina at sundown on the first day. We found the camp ground very crowded, as the Farina Restoration Group was in residence for 5 weeks of restoration work. This historic town is rising from the ruins to become a tourist destination with an amazing story to tell, and an inspiring group of volunteers doing an amazing job restoring the town. Most importantly, the bakery was in full swing, producing sausage rolls, apple scrolls and other delicious treats.
We set out from Marree in light rain, but it just persisted, turning the unsealed Oodnadatta Track into an endless ribbon of mud, varying only in colour. There was red mud, yellow mud and brown mud, in sticky gooey masses. It flew up in the air, onto the windscreen and roof, and plastered everything in a sticky layer. The A-van kept changing colour, and will probably never be really clean again!
We finally reached Strangways Springs after three days on the road and spent four days camped there. Several times we experienced stunning sunsets and sunrises, as well as the glory of the full moon rising over the desert. The open skies frequently fill with amazing clouds and light, and the desert landscapes are full of varying colours and landforms. The stars are stunning, with the full sweep of the Milky Way, but you need to look before the moon comes up and the sky is no longer dark.
Our monitoring tasks were to check the status of the walking trails at Strangways Springs and The Peake, and to renew stores of brochures for the trails at each site. Everything was in order, no maintenance work required, and the requested photopoints were taken. We did the trip to The Peake in one day, instead of moving camp, and were glad we were not towing the A-van on still muddy and often corrugated roads. Once the work was done, we were free to go walking, take photos and enjoy the gourmet menu and wines. As the sun shone and temperatures rose, we had to resort to fly nets over our hats to keep out the pesky flies.
We headed back south, stopping first to check classic mound springs at Blanche Cup and The Bubbler, and back to Farina again, before heading for our favourite place of former years, Warraweena in the northern Flinders Ranges Then back to Adelaide for a very welcome shower and comfortable bed after ten days on the road.
Postscript to the above
In an internal report to FOMS after the above trip Anne drew attention to the impact of visitors climbing to the top of Cutting Grass Spring on the Springs Walk at Strangways Springs.
Cutting Grass Spring is site no. 7 on the Springs Walk and in the brochure visitors are informed that it is named for the occurrence of cutting grass, Gahnia trifida, a disjunct plant of the mound springs, the nearest other occurrence being many hundreds of kilometres away in south eastern Australia. The brochure also asks people not to climb to the top, the mound being steep and fragile and not having an open pool on its summit.
In spite of this advice Anne had noticed that people were climbing the spring and she recommended an on-site sign to reinforce the message in the brochure. Given the perceived urgency FOMS organised the immediate printing of a temporary sign and this was installed in mid-June this year by a small FOMS party. A permanent sign, with a lower profile, will be installed as soon as possible.