Sunday, October 14, 2012

"50 lashes" at Blinman

"I'll have 50 lashes please!"
Old graves at the Blinman cemetery
It's not my typical order I'll admit, but in the town of Blinman it was perfectly appropriate and my request was delivered with speed and charm from a smiling, friendly barmaid.

50 lashes was a very welcome James Squire beer after a hot and dusty walk around the town. What a great way to remove the dust (temporarily) from the vocal chords.
The old 'pug and pine'* hospital built in the 1860s. 
I don't remember the dust affecting my voice any other time I've been in arid and desert country, but this time it was playing havoc with not only my skin, now dry and flaking, but my voice had a distinct husky quality. Not in a good way either - it hurt.

The barmaid (I hope her employer realises what a gem she is) easily persuaded us to stay in town for a couple of days rather than scampering through with the hit and run, 'been there done that', rushed visit. She enquired with apparent interest about where we were camping and heartily approved of our choice bush camping at the lovely Alpana Station.
Looking towards the Flinders Ranges from a hill
on the 6000acre Alpana Station
She then enthused about the famous Friday Pizza Night at the Blinman Hotel.

Whoohoo, a night off cooking! No washing up! Cold beers on tap! Perfect.

The pub is very popular with locals and tourists alike - no surprises there! The pizzas weren't humdrum, bland, commercial mass produced gunk, but were generously mounded with the fresh toppings and  extremely tasty. It was way too easy to overindulge, but with a long walk planned for the next day, a bit of overindulgence seemed to be in order.
The excellent trail notes provided in the brochure (readily available from the tourist centre and the Pub) tell me that the photo above is of acacia tetragonophylla aka Dead Finish. What a great name for a stunted scraggly bush with distinctly sharp, spiky, unwelcoming leaves.
The track to the war memorial on the top of the hill overlooking town was dusty, and in parts seemed to have been bordered with long lines of tilting rocks. But these are natural and give some of the surrounding hills the appearance of the back of a stegosaurus.
This part of the Flinders Ranges is somewhere in the vicinity of 800 million years old. It's easy to say those numbers quickly, but that's an extraordinary amount of time considering that aboriginals are only known to have come here in small groups from about 60,000 years ago.

Millions of years ago, this land was covered in a shallow sea, and there are areas where fossilised sea creatures embedded in ancient rock have been pushed to the surface by the immense force of uplift over many millennia.
The war memorial on top of the hill overlooking the town was built to honour the ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) who fought in WW1. "It was built in 1918 by the children of the Blinman School and stone for the monument was carried up the hill in the side car of the teacher's motorcycle".

When I look at the rough rocky track and steepness of the hill, I can't imagine how anyone got an old motor bike, let alone a sidecar filled with large rocks up this hill. They must have been a small, but dedicated group and were no doubt encouraged by the local community, many of whom lost too many family members in that war.

The monument can be seen from the town, and it's sobering to visit other tiny towns dotted throughout the country and see family groups remembered. Those left back home would have suffered extreme hardship attempting to continue farming in this harsh, unforgiving environment without much needed manpower.
The dramatic, geologically rich landscape now inspires artists of all types, and we were able to travel down the Flinders Ranges to see some beautiful art for sale at different locations. Before we left, we attended the opening of the "Flinders Ranges - a brush with art" exhibition at the Blinman Memorial Hall. I thoroughly enjoyed wandering round dreaming of spending oodles of money on the outstanding art, while enjoying good SA wines and delectable nibbles!


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