27th April to 4th May
We left our campsite in the Flinders Ranges and drove a staggering 45kms up the road to Beltana Station about 45km south of Leigh Creek. Beltana Station is a 460,000 acre working sheep and cattle station that offers travellers accommodation in shearers quarter, cottages, camping and caravan sites. They also have a restaurant, café, swimming pool, 4WD tracks and a museum. We had heard many great reviews about this station so we had agreed to rendezvous with both the Stricklands and the Leeds at Beltana Station in preparation for our trip up the Oodnadatta Track.
Our first 24 hours at Beltana consisted of washing, washing and more washing. Thankfully the weather gods were on our side and the sun was out so the clothes dried quickly. It also didn’t take the girls long to find where the nursery was and have a cuddle with the week old lambs, Fawn and Flopsy, the 6 week old calves, Blackie and Freckles and the 8 week old kid, Bruce.
The next day was my birthday, so after I had opened my present and some wonderful home made cards that made quite a few references to me being an old fart we had decided to get some schoolwork done, spend the afternoon relaxing and go to the restaurant for dinner. The dinner was a 2 course meal with roast vegetables and the stations own Salt Bush lamb followed by ice cream with quandong sauce. It was all you can eat so everyone went back for seconds!!! It was a lovely meal and Nik and Zoe had also whipped up 2 birthday cakes as well. This old fart was very spoilt and had a lovely day with my other 5 special ones!!
During dinner Laura, the owner, had told us that the next day she would take us out to where the boys had been mustering some sheep. So we were ready and raring to go at 10am the next morning with lunches packed, looking forward to a day out with the cowboys!! After a 45 minute 4WD out to the paddock we arrived at the sheep pens where the men were working. Unbeknownst to me this working involved tagging their ears, putting a rubber band around the boy lambs ‘danglies’ and then using a burning/ cutting tool to lop off their tails………… This would be a real country lesson, gory bits and all!!! After we watched them draught (herd then seperate the ewes and lambs) and do about a dozen lambs, Graham the owner then told the kids to come in and start helping. Out of our 10 kids only 4 of them jumped up and started to help, Zoe, Abby and two of the Leeds children. Bec declared them and the cowboys pyschos and then left to take photos of the landscape and be any where but where they were hurting the poor lambs!!! Zoe and Abby did a great job, in the end they all helped do the first group of lambs which was about 260 in total, which resulted in 260 little lamb tails laying on the ground in front of us, poor things!!
Afterwards we headed home via one of the 4WD drive tracks, stopping for lunch at an old shearers shed that was the shed used in the filming of the move ‘Tracks’. After our country lesson Abby and Zoe came out with some interesting questions about the land, environment and farming. Something they had never really worried about before as they had never really thought that much into things, so it was great that our little field trip had evoked some extra thinking. As for Bec and her thoughts she has decided to not eat meat, in particular lamb, and at the time of writing this blog has stayed true to her word.
Over the next couple of days we went hard doing school work and managed to do about 2 weeks worth in 3 days, a great effort by the girls. They did so well we decided to reward them with a 7km return walk to the Beltana township ruins, they loved that idea!!! The ruins are situated just over 3kms from the homestead where we are camped, there are about a dozen buildings still standing with a couple being private property and even having residents currently living in them. Of course there was a pub and a little old church which in recent years had been restored and there was also an old bakery with the underground oven. The story goes that there was once 2 bakeries in town however one bakery continually kept having its supply of wood stolen. The baker got so fed up that he decided to put dynamite in one of his logs to see if he could find the culprit. Sure enough the next day there was a loud explosion over at the other bakery, needless to say from that day on there was only one bakery in town.
We were also told about the Puttapa Springs located about 11kms from the homestead, so we packed up some lunch and off we went to explore. Just when we had gotten used to seeing ‘dry’ water holes and creeks, we were completely surprised by these springs, as they were quite deep and infact very wet….. We didn’t swim in them though as the water was very chilly and the cattle and sheep do use it as a water hole and god knows what else!!! We spent a lovely few hours exploring the springs, 4WDriving and having lunch.
The remainder of our days were spent watching the butcher make up some sausages from the recently slaughtered lambs and the kids had quick dips in the swimming pool (as it was freezing). Whilst we stayed at Beltana Station, Laura (the owner) had asked the girls if they could feed the nursery animals for her in the mornings and evenings, they all agreed and took their job very seriously. Laura was very impressed with the kids and was sad to see them go as they had helped her out a lot. So after a very busy but relaxing week we had to pack up and reluctantly leave as we still had some ground to cover as we headed north on our next destination on our OZLAP…….