Finding small adventures in Yacka, S.A.

We’ve been staying with my partner’s family in Yacka, a small town 200 kilometres north of Adelaide, South Australia. And I mean small; there’s one business and the post office is open three hours a day. We’ve spent the past few weeks working on our van (well, my partner Troy has, I’ve mostly floated around trying to be useful).

It’s very peaceful, the biggest distraction being the baby lizard that hangs out in the vegetable patch. Given that semi-wild lizards with a penchant for sitting in kale don’t actually require much attention, I’ve had a fair bit of spare time. It’s been a good opportunity to work on this blog. Ironically though I haven’t done much that’s exciting or adventurous that I can write about.

Bearded Dragon, Pogona vitticeps

I purchased a mountain bike recently and have been pretty keen to ride it, as well as craving some exercise after a week of sitting in the car. So every few days I’ve been riding a 14km return route along unpaved roads from Yacka to White Cliffs Reserve.

The route has some elevation so hopefully I’ll get a bit stronger by doing it. The most challenging part of the ride is not swallowing any flies. No kidding, there is an insane amount of them. Forget loathsome sores and seas of blood, the apocalypse will be heralded by plagues of flies.

When I’m not getting harassed by hell demons flies I find it easier to appreciate my surrounds. It’s mostly low pastured hills grazed by sheep. The landscape isn’t amazing but with certain weather patterns the sky is stunning.

A few days ago I rode an extended route to the nearby town of Koolunga and back. Even though the town is similar to Yacka it was good to have an endpoint for a ride. It turns out that it’s much hillier between Yacka and White Cliffs so even though I rode double the distance than usual it didn’t take double the effort.

It took about an hour to reach Koolunga. It’s claim to fame is that it is the location of the great Bunyip hunt of 1883. The bunyip is a water dwelling creature of Aboriginal legend that made it’s way into the folklore of European settlers. It has been described as a seal-like monster as tall as a gum tree that haunts it’s abode with deep wailing cries.

After a slew of sightings in a nearby creek the locals of Koolunga decided to capture the Bunyip using dynamite. Surprisingly, it didn’t work. They swore to attempt a second time, as reported in Port Adelaide News in March 1883; “…I hear another attempt is to be made by the same company that tried the dynamite, but this time with nets.” To this day the Bunyip remains at large.

There’s very little to do in Koolunga, but it’s a quaint town rimmed on two sides by the Broughton river. There’s a gravel river trail which took me to a small, still waterhole.

I did a loop around the handful of street blocks that constitute the entire town of Koolunga before making my way back towards Yacka. On the ride back I came across some caterpillars crossing the road in a line. My inner ecologist finds this behaviour fascinating. I’m not sure why they line up like this but my guess is that it’s for protection from birds, like when fish gather in a school to appear like a bigger fish.

Another possibility is that they’re part of a tour group and need to stay together. We may never know.

Later in the day I went for a walk with Troy’s mum to explore a dry creek bed. Walking under the shade of the trees that border the creek was a welcome contrast to my normal walk along the sun-exposed road surrounded by fields. The diversity of native plants and wildlife was surprisingly high given that the creek is surrounded by fields of cropland.

In some places the creek was bordered by red and white sandstone cliffs that looked ready to crumble with the next rain. The bed of the creek is sandy which means that it shows a record of recent animals that have crossed its path, including snakes and lizards.

Yacka is one of the sleepiest towns on earth and the surrounding landscape is rather monotonous. But by taking the time to search I found there’s actually a few hidden paths to explore. These are the kind of places that aren’t flashy or unique but exist in every small town and have their own kind of beauty.

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