Exploring the Towns and Ghost Towns of the Mid-North

Part 1.

The region known as the Mid-North of South Australia is one I always find myself driving through, on my way to some off-roady destination. However I’ve always fancied just having a little tour around this area, which is not a traditional tourist area, but is full of history.

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So I left the Land Cruiser at home and took the Six Series out for some exercise.

First stop was Collingrove Hillclimb. I used to race here but with some serious 4x4 adventures taking up my time the last few years its a while since I sat in a race car. I was just calling in to check on my mate, The Captain, who was campaigning the Mitsubishi Evo TME race car he’s been building for the last few years. Unfortunately by the time I got there the Evo was already back on the trailer with a slipping clutch. Despite all the work done to the Evo this year (cage, perspex, weight reduction, etc) the engine and gearbox whilst having been out of the car, haven’t been apart. I make a couple of suggestions that we can try to diagnose the issue, but the weather is foul and I think the lads are resigned to heading home.

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Nice choice.

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Collingrove is a foreboding place to race when it’s cold and wet and even just being there now, the knot in my stomach, reminds me of how tricky it is to tackle in these conditions. So stressful you wonder why you do it!

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So, once the lads push the 6er out of the slick grassy field that is spectator parking, I tell them to keep me informed and let me know if they need a hand. We head our seperate ways.

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I track north, soon trading the vineyards of the Barossa Valley for green and rugged farmland further north. Thankfully the rain eases and the ground starts to look less waterlogged. Up through the towns of Eudunda and Robertstown, the sun even shows itself intermittently, and I start to see the mixture of historical and derelict buildings that provide a lot of character of the region.

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The roads are mostly straight, but with some sweeping curves thrown in for good measure.

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A quick stop at Worlds End Gorge, named after the community that used to exist here. I’ve stopped here plenty of times before, there are quite a few campers taking advantage of the free camping here. Despite the wet and wintry conditions we’ve been experiencing of late.

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On through Burra and further north, the 6er reminding me what a great grand tourer it is. I’m now retracing the route we followed a few weeks ago in the 4x4’s on our little outback tour. However this time I have time to stop along the way, and so I head into the historic pioneer town of Terowie. I don’t mind admitting this is partly morbid curiosity that has brought me back here. The town has been in the news for a grisly story, that is in keeping withthe Mid-North’s darker side.

I didn’t see the house being investigated, although I didn’t go looking for it either. What I did find was a great example of a town left behind by a simple change in technology (for decades this was the change point from narrow to broad gauge railway lines, so trains and freight would need to stop here, eventually the line was made all one gauge, removing the need to stop at Terowie) and some fine photo opportunities.

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There’s a couple of teenagers rallying their pick-up around the block, seeing how sideways they can get off the dirt onto the main street. It’s not like there is anyone to stop them. Boredom must be a big issue out here, you don’t see many young people...

Right, time was getting on. Time to think about somewhere to camp. Without the Land Cruiser’s go anywhere ability, I’m restricted to staying on the bitumen. Not that I’m precious about taking the BMW on the dirt, but with so much rain lately I’m not confident of not getting into a sticky situation with it off the highway.

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Anyway, I fancy a few beers and a hot meal. So I head for the next decent size town, Peterborough.

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I get to one of the two pubs left in business (out of at least four large hotels). Just me, and a few drunk locals to start with, trying to get stuff out of one of those slot machines full of soft toys... Boredom, like I said.

A group of about fifteen bikers from Tassie roll in, lifting the atmosphere considerably. Asking for accomodation, no they didn’t book. Here for the bike museum no doubt.

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I order a camel schnitzel. I’m trying to cut down on intensively farmed products, and this is the third time I’ve eaten camel in the last month, all up this way. I’m glad someone up here is processing these feral beasts. It tastes fine, not too different to beef, just slightly earthier and gamier, as you would expect from a wild animal.

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I cross through the period looking subway on the way back to camp. Put in after complaints from locals that it wasn’t safe to cross the railway tracks. At its height this town saw over a hundred trains a day stop here.

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I turn in early, it’s bloody cold and I haven’t brought any wood for a fire. I have a good book for company, so I’m sorted.

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More to follow.

Cheers.

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