A Desert paddle

It was a cold night; a freezing cold night. I peered out but it was so dark that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. The clouds cleared and the Milky Way made an appearance in the night sky. With no lights and the moon not rising until 2am it was a stunning display in the desert night sky. I thought of getting up and trying a night sky photo but quickly dismissed that idea.

The morning light woke us and illuminated the houses of Beltana, a small town in northern South Australia. The town is Heritage listed and the buildings have been restored by the residents and we had been camping near the Community Hall.

Another beautiful morning in Beltana. There are many houses now restored and occupied.

This is a land of contrasts with red earth plains and rugged ranges. When it does rain here it has a huge impact not only greening the landscape but also scouring the water courses with flash floods. Old railway bridges still survive as they were built high above the river bed.

Red dirt roads leading to the Ranges
Disused railway bridges high above the creek

We had come to paddle the Aroona Dam, a body of water that was originally built to supply the mining town of Leigh Creek. A rocky vehicle track leads to the dam wall and spillway which has seen overflows in recent weeks.

You need to portage to get to the launch spot down an interesting track, rocky, narrow and washed away in parts from recent flood inflows but we managed, picking our way down to the water.

Once on the water we enjoyed the company of various water birds including a variety of ducks and a lone pelican.

This one was far from home. Probably following the creeks towards Lake Eyre which is also filling with water.

We had been trying to photograph the native Tortoises that are abundant in the dam. They would pop up their head next to us then disappear at lightning speed. These slippery little suckers were going to be a challenge to add to our photographic collection. (Later we walked along a nearby ridge and saw tortoises sunning on the surface but the camera was in the car)

A number of Wallabies watched us from vantage points along the shoreline seemingly unperturbed by the kayak and camera. This is an area inhabited by Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies and we saw some on our drive in, but none around the dam.

The rock formations are stunning, even more so at water level. Here’s a few photos that hopefully give you an idea of the rugged beauty of this desert waterway.

Robyn always manages to get in the photo
Looking towards the dam wall
Steep rock faces are a feature of the area

We spent a morning paddling, drifting, watching the wildlife and enjoying the sun. We hope you get out and enjoy the beautiful Spring weather and maybe the freezing desert nights.

Ian and Robyn

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