4th May to 5th May
After a week we finally dragged ourselves away from Beltana Station, we made a quick stop in at Leigh Creek to pick up some final shopping supplies as we were not likely to see another supermarket for another 1200kms. After spending and buying more than what we had intended we got back on the road and drove approximately 70km to our next stop, Farina Ruins. Our drive was so short I had only just finished the coffee I purchased at Leigh Creek!!!
When we arrived at Farina we drove through the ruins and headed towards the campgrounds first to get set up. The campgrounds are actually on private property, have flushing toilets and hot showers that are heated by a ‘donkey’, a 40 gallon drum with a fire in it. According to the information sign the current owners of Farina Station and the campground are Kevin and Anne Dawes and together with their three children, they run Merino sheep as well as a few Dorpers and Hereford cattle. Even though to us city folk the landscape looked bare it was enough to sustain the sheep and cattle who rely on grasses and Salt Bush plants which are actually in abundance out here.
After we did a basic set up we paid our fee of $5 per person at the self-registration box and then walked up to the Ruins for another history lesson. The ruins have been well preserved and restored back in 2000 by the Farina Restoration Group with many information boards set up around town detailing the life and times back in the day. Apparently the restoration group even fires up the oven in the old bakery to bake some bread, unfortunly we have arrived a bit before peak season so didn’t get to sample any baked goods. The group have also built a War Memorial monument near the campgrounds to honor the many men from the area that fought in the wars.
As we were exploring the ruins we ran into a Year 10 school group from Mt Barker (down near Hahndorf in SA), they were on a week long school camp staying at a local station and coming out to the ruins every day to survey and map the ruins. When I enquired as to what subject this was the teacher said it was maths and stemmed from a trigonometry lesson. They also had a group of Indian exchange students on the camp with them who were busy doing some great drawings of the Exchange Hotel ruins.
The ruins themselves were fantastic, although there were lots of broken bottles and glass lying around. The story of Farina dates back to the 1850’s, when Farina was originally known as The Gums Waterholes and used as a watering hole on stock routes between the north and the south. In its heyday it was quite the bustling outback town, servicing a large area stretching up to the Strezlecki, Birdsville and Oodnadatta Tracks. In the 1900’s Farina was also used as a stopover for refuelling for plane flights from Adelaide to Darwin (a 6 hour flight), the storekeeper used to drive the barrels of petrol out to the airstrip (dry lake bed called Lake Farina) whilst his wife provided the passengers with sandwiches and tea under a tin roof shed. Farina’s role as a service centre reduced eventually culminating in the closing of the school in 1957, the last resident eventually departed in 1975, the last cattle was loaded and railed out in 1978 and finally in 1980 the Ghan Railway was closed and moved to the western side of the Stuart Highway and Farina became a ghost town. It certainly would have been a tough life back then, the basic diet was boiled mutton, potatoes and onions, baths were taken weekly and the solution for household lightening was going to bed at sundown.
That evening we thoroughly enjoyed sitting around a campfire watching a stunning sunset and just as equally stunning view of a full moon rising. The kids all got out their various instruments and music sticks and entertained us and most likely the surrounding camps for quite a while too. However the best view and photo opportunities were from the hill from the War Memorial which by the time I made it up there the moment and photo opportunity were all but gone. The next day we rose with the sun, packed up, then went for a walk along the dry creek bed watching and taking photos of all the birds. There was an abundance of bird life and the bird lover in our group, Leah gave us quite a run down on the many species we had seen ranging from Tree Martins, White Breasted Woodswallows and White Plumed Honeyeaters as well as many species of birds of prey. There was also a few frogs taking up residence in the nearby toilet too as the kids informed us. After taking quite a few photos we finished packing and got back onto the road for our next destination on our OZLAP……………