I’m always on the lookout for unusual Aussie places. But staying in a Tuberculosis Sanatorium SO wasn’t on my radar.
Even if it DID have a staggeringly scenic loo and a killer view of the Heysen Range in South Australia’s Northern Flinders Ranges.
Angorichina Tourist Village – ‘Ango’ to the locals – about half-way along the 30 km (19 mile) stretch of dirt road between Parachilna and South Australia’s highest town Blinman is one of those rare places with a little bit of everything. Built after World War 1 as a retreat for servicemen with tuberculosis, it’s got one of Australia’s most picturesque campgrounds.
AND gave us the chance to practice our mud-running skills when the rain that started a couple of hours before we left turned the road from gravel to a miry dirt soup!
Here’s what WE got up to at Ango!
Nuccaleena Mine and Glass Gorge
Sliding down a treacherously steep scree-covered slope awash with potentially toxic mine site leavings from the century before last could have been responsible.
Or perhaps lurching sideways to (unsuccessfully) avoid the sharp rocks littering the embankment AND (sucessfully) avoiding the gaping adit* directly below them might have done the trick.
Either way, I’d ripped the seat out of my jeans and had a prickle in my bum.
The bad luck that plagued what is arguably Australia’s least successful mine – investments of over £57,000 with a return of only £13,000 – had clearly rubbed off on me!
But Nuccaleena isn’t just a long-deserted copper mine site with a transferrable death wish – it’s at the end of a remote 4WD Public Access Route** with enough rugged road, creek crossings, tyre-shredding rocks, erosion AND killer scenery photo stops to make the last 14 km (8.7 miles) of the 36 km (22 miles) drive from Angorichina Village take nearly an hour of fun-filled 4WD fantasy!
For those like us with less clearance and less experience in the Boys Own Adventure art of Four Wheel Driving, that is.
It’s hard to imagine a full scale mining operation in this remote spot despite a number of building ruins, an 85 metre (279 feet) long tunnel (a trap for dead kangaroos) and stunning scenery all around. It’s all great fun to explore – if you’re alert to mine shafts, falling rocks, rotting wood and slippery slopes. And stray Spinifex!
But the odds of YOU ending up with a piece of spinifex embedded in YOUR derriére are much reduced if you choose NOT to use my tried and tested mountainside descent method …
Return the same way, or drive a scenic loop via Glass Gorge and Blinman to Angorichina, 47 km (29 miles) from Nuccaleena.
Blinman Pools Hike
I’m not sure who owned the Reg Grundys*** sodden and forgotten on the rocks of Blinman Creek. And I didn’t want to think how they got there! But the smart money was on one of the hot young blokes in the school group who trotted past us en route to Blinman Pools. As they passed, one of the responsible adults confided that the boys were keen for a swim despite the nearly sub-zero winter temperature of the water.
The even smarter money said it wasn’t ME they were trying to impress.
Hiker information about the 10 km (6.2 mile) return hike from Angorichina Village to the first pool describes the walk as ‘challenging’, with multiple creek crossings, rock-hopping, some steep climbs (ie up a waterfall) and a sometimes unmarked track.
Despite that, finding the first pool is a no-brainer – just keep walking up the dry creek bed! Interesting rock formations, gorges, cliffs, an island, pools, wildlife and a waterfall make this a varied and interesting hike.
The second pool is only another kilometre upstream, but we
gave it a miss left it for next time. I took 2 ¾ hours (with MANY photo and exploratory stops) to walk the 5 km upstream; and 2 hours to return – possibly because the track was easier to find while walking downstream!
The hot young things were long gone by the time I returned to Ango. No one gets to challenge ME for my title of Australia’s slowest hiker! But I’m still wondering if the hapless owner of the Reg Grundys underestimated the effect near-freezing water would have on his ability to impress the girls?!?!
Mt Emily and the Great Wall of China
If you’re looking for the longest man-made structure in the world snaking across the landscape for hundreds of kilometres and reportedly visible from the moon, you’ll probably be disappointed with Mount Emily’s Great Wall of China. For the real thing, spend the bucks and head overseas.
But for the all-natural Aussie cheapskate version, take the road to Hawker for about 15 km (9.3 miles) south of Blinman (29 km from Ango), and check out Mt Emily!! It’s one of quite a few natural rock formations downunder with the words ‘Great’, ‘China’ and ‘Wall’ in their names – no one accuses us Aussies of overactive imaginations in the place-name stakes!
Mt Emily’s a great spot to have lunch especially with a traditional Cornish pasty (watch out for the dessert at one end) and/or Quandong Pie (trust me – get BOTH!) from the excellent Blinman General Store and Bakery.
Besides, the REAL Great Wall of China ISN’T the longest man-made structure on earth – that honour goes to the all-Australian Dingo Fence!
The Heysen Trail and Parachilna Gorge
The sun was getting very low in the sky as we headed out for a late afternoon stroll along the Heysen Trail – the iconic 1200 km hiking track through quite a LOT of South Australia. It starts (or ends) in Parachilna Gorge just a few kilometres west of Angorichina and ends (or starts!) in Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula.
1200 km was a bit far for a casual stroll, so we took the shorter 6 km return option – or would have if a case of terminal laziness and LOTS of photos hadn’t meant we didn’t make it to Parachilna Gorge at Wild Dog Creek****. But walking a short way along the trail through massive dry creek beds, along spinifex-laden slopes and between a staggering array of mountains meant I could channel the late, great artist Sir Hans Heysen OBE for whom the trail is named.
With photos, anyway – I’ll never be an artist!
It’s no accident that the Heysen Trail starts here, in Parachilna Gorge. Some of Sir Hans’ best known works – The Land of the Oratunga (1932); Aroona (1939); Patawarta , Land of the Oratunga (1929); In the Flinders Far North (1951); and The Three Sisters of Aroona (1927) were painted right here in the Northern Flinders Ranges.
Where even a non-artist like me is moved to attempt to capture the magnificent scenery at sunset in these photos all taken within just a kilometre or so from the trailhead. Luckily, we had a watertight excuse to get back – after dark, the road is awash with kangaroos!
Blinman Mine Tour and Walking Trail
NIL = Amount of time spent by me channelling Cornish Miners in Australia before doing the Blinman Mine Tour.
That’s why I didn’t know what chipping out tunnels and stopes with a hammer, chisel and explosives, lit only with candles and protected only by a leather helmet inside the equivalent of an underground 50-odd storey building for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week felt like.
Praise be that I still don’t know what it REALLY feels like, but after an hour on the excellent Blinman Mine Tour and the 1 km self-guided interpretive walk around sections of the mine site above the surface, I had a pretty good idea.
And it’s not something I’m planning to willingly try any time soon 😀
Unlike the Nuccaleena Mine, Blinman’s Mine Tour goes deep underground – which makes it MUCH easier to channel those Cornish miners, despite the hard helmets and lights the miners never had. And without the killer dust from the drilling, explosives and a few hundred miners jostling for position under the surface at any given time. And spending only 1/12 th of the time underground than the average miner spent on a shift.
Actually, perhaps it’s NOT that easy to channel a Cornish miner’s experience after all.
These days, with modern mining techniques and machinery, the section of the Blinman Mine that took 8 years to tunnel out would only take a couple of weeks. And while it’d leave a dirty great hole in the ground instead of the intricate network of shafts and stopes inside the Mine, the chances of modern day miners being affected by silicosis of the lungs, fatal injuries and unpleasant working conditions like their counterparts of yesteryear would be virtually NIL!
Contact The Blinman Mine Office for current prices (my July 2015 tour cost $27.50 for an adult ticket; there are concessions and cheaper prices for children and families.
Angorichina Fast Facts:
WHERE: 500 km north of Adelaide, South Australia.
HOW to get there: Travel north from Hawker to either Parachilna or Blinman. From Parachilna, turn right and travel for 15 km along a dirt road through Parachilna Gorge. From Blinman, turn left and travel for 14 km along a dirt road.
WHEN: Angorichina Tourist Village is closed in summer. The Heysen Trail is closed during the fire ban season from November to March.
WHAT’S THERE: Campground (powered & unpowered sites); Self-contained accommodation; General Store (supplies, alcohol, souvenirs); Workshop for minor repairs including tyres; Mountain bike hire.
- Angorichina Tourist Village, Northern Flinders Ranges
- Flinders Ranges, South Australia
- Flinders Ranges and Outback Touring Guide
- MORE Angorichina Photos on Flickr HERE!
* Adit = Mine opening (as any crossword aficionado will tell you!)
** Public Access Route = a through track or road on private property on which permission to enter the property is not required
*** Reg Grundys = undies = underwear (Aussie rhyming slang!
**** Wild Dog = Dingo. Wild Dog Creek = one of the most common creek names in Australia!