Before I go on to describe our excursion into the Flinders Ranges, which in effect is in the Outback I want to give you an idea of how big and diversified Australia is. The basics that you might have heard before is that Australia is the only continent that is a country and the only country that is a continent, it is I believe the largest island. It is about as big as the continental USA and it has about 22 million inhabitants. More than 80% of the population are within a few miles from the sea and besides the cities of Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra,Cairns, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney there is not much else. Imagine that, a whole continent with less than 10 major urban centers. We were driving in, relatively speaking, the more densely populated parts of the country and there were times when we did not see a car for 30-40min, driving at a 100kmh.
Some of the older towns we passed through were founded in the late 1800s, my grandfather was born in 1897! Sydney, the oldest of the cities established by white men, was founded in 1788, that is 12 years after the birth of another young nation across the Atlantic (or across the Pacific if you sit where I am now). Melbourne the second biggest city here was declared a city by Queen Victoria only in 1847 the same year that Siemens was founded in Germany and the same year that Alexander Graham Bell was born. In England the first Industrial Revolution was already over. This country is so new and vast it is difficult to describe. I thought I was prepared, I have driven for hours in parts of rural Russia (Russia is the biggest country) and I have driven from coast to coast in the USA and I am still surprised at how vast and sparsely
populated this land is.
We wanted to get up and leave Adelaide early but it was almost 10am before we left Adelaide on the A1 in the direction of Port Augusta and about 200km north of Adelaide we got off the highway and headed for the hills on a parallel road, the Main North Rd, that took us through Gladstone, Laura, Stone Hut, Wirrabara, Wongyara, Murray Town, Melrose, Wilmington, Quorn, Hawker onto our final destination the Wilpena Pound. We stopped at some of these towns, they do have that certain feeling of being frontier towns. They do offer many outdoor activities as they are located along the Flinders Ranges
and also Mount Remarkable National Park. Quorn and Hawker are also significant as they were along
the original Ghan railroad line that went through Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. Actually in Quorn one can still ride the Pichi Richi railroad, which at least partly runs on the old Ghan railroad line. February is still the summer here in Australia (it is the low season for tourism) so I cannot be certain but these towns seemed to be forgotten, way past their prime and somehow living in their past, trying to hang on to a former glory that never really came to be. Quorn though was the most interesting of them all and apart of some modern signs it could be a real frontier town, it really seemed like we were in a movie set.
One of the things that I noticed in all the towns is that they all have memorials to theirs soldiers of WWI, WWII, Korea, etc. (picture on the right is from the memorial in Wirrabara). It is incredible that these people from these remote villages left their tranquil towns to fight and ultimately sacrifice their lives thousands of km away from their homes. We had a significant force of Australians in Greece during WWII. Their most painful memory of course is Gallipoli.
This is the first part, I am almost finished with the second part and I will have it online by tomorrow.