Port Augusta lies at the very end of Spencer’s Gulf and remains an important hub for east-west road and rail traffic. We’d been there on our last road trip in 2013, and more recently on our APT tour to Lake Eyre. This would therefore be our third stay at the Standpipe motel. We enjoyed an Indian curry for dinner, prepared and served by Indians. On our travels we’ve often encountered Indian people manning the counters at road houses and servos, and needless to say, they do excellent curries.
Next morning, we set off toward Port Lincoln. The Flinders Ranges, behind us, were swathed in cloud, and off to one side a flat-topped hill looked like something out of Africa.
We stopped in at the old steel works town of Whyalla. The main iron ore deposits were here in South Australia in the sixties, before the Pilbara in Western Australia took off. They used to build boats here, but that industry has largely moved to places like Korea and China. Efforts are being made to ensure this town doesn’t go under, taking everyone’s livelihood with it. And not just this town. Iron ore is still mined at places like Iron Knob and Iron Baron.
There are small holiday towns down the coast, and they’ll mostly likely be in trouble if Whyalla goes under. We stopped for coffee at one, which has a most impressive pub.
We arrived at Port Lincoln before lunch, which gave us some time to look around. It’s an important fishing port, with a reputation for a proliferation of Great White Sharks. Tourists are offered a chance to go out and meet them while safely inside a wire cage. (The tourists, that is.) The tour wasn’t available, probably because the ocean would have been bloody freezing, but I’m not sure I would have done it, anyway. Swimming with the sea lions might be nice, though.
Apart from Great Whites, Port Lincoln is also known for its tuna fishing fleet and that most remarkable racehorse, Makybe Diva. The mighty mare won three consecutive Melbourne Cups (Australia’s greatest staying race, run over 3200m on the first Tuesday in November. No other horse has ever won three. Not many won two.
We drove around to a small park with a nice view of the bay bathing in sunshine. I went out on the rocks to take picture and discovered a group of superb fairy wrens hopping around the rocks. I was surprised to see them so close to salt water.
The big thing about Port Lincoln is the seafood, so we went to the award-winning Del Giorno’s café for dinner. (Mind you, there were few other options.) To our surprise there were few seafood dishes on the menu, but one of them was tonight’s special, fish, mussels, prawns etc in a tomato broth with potatoes. In fact, pretty much the same as the meal Pete ate with such gusto in Adelaide. So we ordered that. It was very disappointing. The broth was watery and lacking flavour and the seafood didn’t impress. Oh well. That’s life.
Back at the nice little motel, the proprietor told us our experience didn’t surprise. He also told us the tuna fleet only went out for a couple of months, then sat idle. I expect that’s to conserve tuna stocks. Pete asked about the fish farms we’d seen on our excursions. Our new friend told him they’d given up on trying to raise tuna in farms – it didn’t work. But the trawlers brought back live fish, which they fattened in the farms. It’s always useful to chat with the locals.
Tomorrow we’ll see if Coffin Bay oysters are as good as the hype.