Little Desert Trip – 2017

28th September to 1st October 2017

Ian Blainey reports:

Thursday 28th 2017

We arrived at Serviceton late Wednesday afternoon and set up camp. Thursday morning, we accompanied Alan on some pre-trip planning, which started with a coffee at a little bakery in Bordertown. From there, we headed out to the Olivalle Estate Olive Farm at Telopea Downs to make arrangements for a guided tour.
After lunch, we started to work our way towards the Rocky Lamattina & Sons carrot farm, again to arrange a tour time. Along the way, we checked out a couple of wildflower locations. Following a couple of weeks of rain, we found a good variety of native flowers, particularly native orchids.
These included Donkey, various Spider and a number of coloured Sun orchids.

Also we were lucky enough to see an
echidna at fairly close quarters.

Before returning to Serviceton, we called in to the Frances pub to ensure arrangements for Saturday afternoon were in place.
On arriving back at Serviceton, we found quite a few other people had arrived and set up. Later that evening, one of the other travellers produced a couple of radio controlled models. One was a truck prime mover and the other was a fully operational front end loader.

It was interesting to note that the loader was fully functional, including lights and hydraulics. A demonstration showed it could move earth.

Friday 29th 2017

On Friday morning, we initially headed into Bordertown for a caffeine and cake hit.
On leaving Bordertown, we headed east on the highway, then turned north on to the Serviceton – North Telopea Downs Road.

When we arrived at the Olivalle Estate Olive Farm, we were greeted by the Manager, who gave us an excellent guided tour of the orchards and their
processing plant.
This tour unfortunately dispelled any romantic notions I had of traditional olive farming methods.

The trees are planted in rows at precise distances apart. They are pruned to ensure automatic harvesting equipment can run up and down the rows to maximise the collection of olives.

This machinery is based on grape harvesting equipment and slightly modified by the Manager to suit the olive crop.
Our tour then took us to the mixing area where the underground water supply is treated to remove unwanted materials, especially salt. It is then enhanced with fertilisers and minerals.
Bulk chemicals are placed into mixing vats and then diluted to a usable concentration. It is then dosed into the water supply and fed to the trees as required. After washing, the olives are pressed in bright shiny stainless steel tanks and then filtered.
The extra virgin oil is then stored in 20,000 litre tanks. The bulk of the oil is then on sold to larger companies, such as Cobram Estates. They also bottle their oil for local sales outlets under the Olivalle Estate label.
After lunch on a hill overlooking the estate, we headed south towards Kaniva. We crossed the highway and drove down the Kaniva – Edenhope Road to the Lamattina carrot farm.
This is one of two, 6,000 hectare properties, which supply major supermarkets, such as Woolworths.
The carrot seeds are imported from France and sown at the rate of one million seeds per hectare.
Rows are prepared using GPS and laser equipment and, prior to planting the seeds, grasses are grown in adjacent rows to reduce erosion by wind and to protect the carrot tops as they develop.

The seeds are sown using specialised equipment at a defined distance apart.
Carrots are grown in one out of every three years. In the other years, crops are grown which can be ploughed back to replace nutrients and goodness to the soil.
One of the largest pest problems they encounter are feral deer.
Once the carrots are harvested, they are placed into trucks and transported to the company’s processing plant.
Here they are cleaned then spray chilled before being packed and forwarded to the supermarket distribution centres.
They aim to have the carrots in these distribution centres within twenty four hours of picking.

At completion of the tour, we returned to camp for Happy Hour

Saturday 30th 2017

On the previous days, we had established that, despite the recent cooler weather and rain, there had been enough sun to bring out a large variety of wildflowers and orchids.
In a number of places along some of the tracks, there were just carpets of colour. So today we were to check these out.
Some diehard football fans elected to stay at camp and head to the Frances Hotel later to watch the AFL Grand Final.
The remainder of the group headed to Kaniva for the usual morning dose of caffeine before heading into the Desert.
Suitably refreshed, we headed down Yanipy Road, into Three Chain Road and on to Miram South Road. Along the way, we stopped to look at and photograph wildflowers along the roadside.

During this drive, we also found a couple of little spots where we could have a bit of fun in four wheel drive.
After lunch, a few more footy fans left the convoy and headed off to the Frances Hotel. The rest of us headed down Edenhope Road and on to East West Track.
Here we split into two groups, as some of us wanted to tackle the Mt Moffat Track. The others followed Alan out of the desert on an “easy short cut”.
We knew this area would be a bit damp in places and were not disappointed.

A little damp shortcut

Several interesting bog holes were negotiated satisfactorily.
Greg found a very soft patch and needed to work a little harder to get back on to a sound surface.

A little further on, we appeared to run out of track, as it headed into the fringe of a swamp. Johan was kind enough to get out, take his shoes and socks off and walk the track so we could satisfy ourselves it was okay to negotiate.

Two alarmed ducks managed to startle Johan, who moved faster than the ducks as they took off.

We negotiated a stretch of water around eighty metres long and up to fifty centimetres deep.
From here it was an easy drive into Frances to watch the end of the footy, before sitting down to a nice dinner at the hotel.

Sunday 1st October 2017

Sunday morning we headed down Serviceton South Road and on to Mt Moffat Track looking at wildflowers. After a walk to Mt Moffat, we continued down Elliots Track and found more wildflowers.

looking at wildflowers

While we were here, we were lucky enough to have a pair of Red Tail Black
Cockatoos fly overhead.

While we were here, we were lucky enough to have a pair of Red Tail Black
Cockatoos fly overhead. A short stop at Moree Reserve on the Tallegeira Track followed, after which we drove back to camp.
Some had started to pack up and head home, while others were able to have a quiet afternoon before departure on Monday morning.
Many thanks to Alan for sharing his extensive knowledge of this area and
again making for a very enjoyable Little Desert long weekend.