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Retrace 1996: Morgan
Saturday 28th September 1996
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We are in one of those grand old pubs with squeaky floors, horrible carpet and a bathroom down the corridor. A real find, as there was simply nowhere to camp when we crossed the intensive farming country near Jamestown, to the east of Port Pirie. It is one of two pubs facing the Murray River. The other was booked out by a local football club as it is Grand Final day. Being non-sportive we had no idea about this this until we called in to Port Augusta. We decided to go for a bit of a stroll as Jack had become a little difficult owing to being couped up in the car for so long.

We wandered into a tiny bait and tackle shop beside the old jetty. The owner had his feet up on the counter and was watching TV. He said someone had bet $100,000 at 3-1 on North Melbourne. At that stage the Sydney Swans were winning. A little later Susan and I had a beer in a pub down the street and watched some of the match. At that point North Melbourne suddenlt came good and hit the lead.

Our journey south was again unremarkable except for a walk on a salt lake and a visit to Woomera.

Because of the rain the salt lakes we had seen on the way up were now lakes of water. At lake Hart where both the road and the railway line sweep close to the lake's edge, I went for a walk on the water. The hard salt crust remained but was covered with about one and a half inches of clear water which seemed to be moving south at quite a rate. I must have walked out for about a kilometre. Very gradually, it deepened to about two inches. It tasted very salty but was cool and refreshing to walk in. No doubt the salt would gradually dissolve before it all evaporated again in a week or two.

Walking on water at Lake Hart

Woomera was an errie place, obviously in decline. We thought Jack might be distracted by the rocket display. The whole place was in a time warp, like stepping into a brochure from the 1950's. Even the radio hits blaring from a conical loudspeaker over the deserted mall had a 1950's feel to them. Apart from a few large women from a tour bus and a Japanese family with a stroller, the town was deserted. Very evocative of some Neville Shute story about the end of the world after nuclear attack.

Woomera rocket

The rocket display was outside the museum. It was very weathered and strange. There was almost no signage except for huge keep off signs. Some of the buildings were boarded up. I seem to remember propaganda films from the 1950's about Woomera, lauding Australia's incredible inventiveness in coming up with the Jindivik - the world's first pilotless target aircraft. There was one on a stand painted orange-red along with a few other badly weathered rockets and a Canberra bomber. The only difference betwen the Woomera in the films and the Woomera now is that there are no green manicured laws, only bare earth and a general dustiness staining all the concrete structures north of Port Augusta.

We turned off towards Gladstone after Port Pirie to find rich green farmland of great beauty. It merged into the mist as we crossed the ranges and for the first time for a while we were actually cold. On the other side of the Mount Lofty Ranges it all gave way to salt bush country again with dead kangaroos everywhere. The rain followed us so we pressed on into the darkness watching for roos and conjuring up a fantasy of a cheap old pub with large breakfasts.

Front rooms in The Commercial at Morgan

7 a.m.

All that we imagined became real, in the form of a huge stone pub, The Commercial across the road from The Terminus. It seems that Morgan was once the second busiest port next to Echuca in the riverboat days. We could not have asked for more, and cheap too. We had a huge meal last night of thick steaks and salad etc with an equally huge caraffe of red wine. We slept like logs and are now waiting for our giant breakfast. The Murry in front of us again, just as it was on our first night.

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