Para Wirra – My Childhood Stomping Ground

(pic - Story) Para Wirra - title

Years ago, back when as they say I was ‘knee high to a grasshopper’ (and I wonder where they actually came up with that saying because grasshoppers are pretty small), I used to be in the Scouts, and before that I was a cub (which is pretty much the same thing but cubs tend to go to primary school while scouts go to high school, or at least they go to junior high). I would suggest that living in Adelaide meant that there was lots of bush where we could go out and wander, but I suspect that that happens to be the case anywhere and everywhere (unless you happen to be in the middle of Los Angeles or some such place, but since I have never been to Los Angeles I can’t really comment).

So, where I grew up there was a national park a short distance from where I lived, and being a scout one of the things that we would do a lot of was hike. Actually, we did more than just hike namely because we would also camp out in tents, and do other outdoorsy stuff, though I was a bit slack and never actually got any badges of any worth, particularly my Campcraft Badge, which was the main badge that we had to get. As I said I was lazy, though I was always up for a good hike and a good camp, and one of the places that we would regularly find ourselves hiking around was Para Wirra National Park.

For a bit of assistance, where is where to can locate it:

You can also find a map of the park here (along with another blog post).

As I have been doing of late, when I returned to Adelaide I decided to do a few things that I had done in the past but hadn’t go around to doing for a long time since, namely because when I ended up at university (or what not) I tend to put behind me things that I considered to be childish, and traveling through the bush was one of those things. Fortunately, I got away from my university friends, and the friends that I had made at church did enjoy a good hike, however those adventures are stories for another time and another place. This time it was Para Wirra, and my research revealed that not only was it open until sundown, but I could also bring my dog along for a walk. I was told that I had to pay, however when I got there (probably due to the inclemental weather) it turned out that it was free. So, we drove in to our first spot, the lake.

This is my dog when he discovered he was going for a walk:

Walk Around the Lake

I probably shouldn’t call this a lake because it is more a dam than a lake. The reason I suggest this is because a dam is artificial, created when you dump a whole heap of dirt over the stream, thus causing it to become blocked, while a lake is generally natural. Mind you, the term ‘dam’ probably refers more to the heap of earth (or concrete) that is designed to block the water as opposed to the body of water that the dam creates. Anyway I’m being somantic because in reality the first thing we did was pull into the carpark, at a time when it has began to drizzle, and then got out and went for a walk.

Mind my, the dog wasn’t particularly impressed, probably because while he likes to go for walks, he doesn’t like going for walks in the rain. Also, he is starting to get old (and ironically turning grey – I never realised dogs turned grey), so he is nowhere near as active as he used to be. However he wasn’t that difficult to take for a walk. Anyway, what can I say other than this was a lake – an artificial lake but a lake nonetheless. Mind you, it seems as if people seem to like to have picnics near lakes because there were some barbeques, and some benches, around the area. The odd thing was that I never actually remembered this lake being here when I was younger – maybe it was I just simply cannot recall it.

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Like a lot of parks, they do have well defined trails. Okay, you can bash your way through the bush, and while they don’t necessarily forbid you from doing that (they don’t have any signs instructing you to stick to the trails), it is not something that I would personally encourage. Okay, when I was younger, and much stupider, I had no problems, and even went out of my way to go, bush bashing, however as I have grown up and discovered that Australia is basically out to kill you, it might be best to trek through places where not only are you able to see where you are going, but also aren’t going to suddenly get lost. Unlike Europe, where you are always within shouting distance from something or somebody, in Australia you could wander for huge amounts of time without ever encountering another human being.

(pic - Story) Para Wirra - Wilderness

Lizard Rock

After our little trek around the lake I jumped back into the car and headed off to our next destination – Lizard Rock, or at least the trail head that would take me to Lizard Rock. Okay, I could have walked, but the thing with hiking is that you generally need to head back once you have reached your destination, and while Para Wirra isn’t exactly a huge park, it is big enough that I would prefer to drive to the trail head as opposed to walk (and I’m sure the dog was happy with that as well).

(pic - Story) Para Wirra - The Dog

The trail to lizard rock began at a place known as the ‘Gawler Views Picnic Area’, which includes an oval where people can play sports. I do vaguely remember this being quite a popular spot in times past, and remember lots of barbeques and people running all over the oval. I’m not sure if they actually play any games here, particular school cricket or football matches, but then again it is pretty much out of the way, and spectator sports have a nasty habit of creating lots and lots of rubbish. As such I suspect the park rangers probably discourage schools from having games up here.

After having a quick wander around here it was time to head of on the trail, and fortunately the trail was well marked, namely because it was part of an orienteering course. Actually the trail is considered to be one of the easier trails namely because it is short, and relatively flat. From what I remember trails were graded based upon how long, and how steep, they tended to be, and this trail fell into the ‘pretty easy’ category. Mind you, actually finding Lizard Rock is a challenge in itself because you can quite easily miss it. When I was younger I only discovered it because one of my scout leaders pointed it out, and I found it again this time because somebody had placed an orienteering marker on it.

(pic - Story) Para Wirra - Lizard Rock
And Here We Are

It wasn’t all that great mind you – it was a rock that is supposed to look like a lizard, but in reality looks absolutely nothing like one. Well, it is probably like clouds, while they don’t actually look like anything specific, if you use your imagination then can look like anything, even gigantic, white, cloud shaped spaceships (which I have to admit is pretty lazy when it comes down to it). However, even if ‘Lizard Rock’ is a little disappointing when you actually there (just like the Eiffel Tower), some of the views that you get on the route are pretty spectacular.

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The Gold Mines

One of the things that I remember doing as a scout (or a cub) was panning for gold. Well, actually we panned for fools gold, because I suspect that all of the gold that would have landed up in the streams had long been taken by people in the past. Actually, panning for gold seems like an awful lot of work for hardly any gain, and it makes me wonder why people actually did it. In fact you could spend years busting your guts only to end up with a few small grains which the guy down the road just happened to dig a hole out the back of his property and struck it big time. In fact panning for gold isn’t the most profitable way of searching for the stuff, though it seems that these days prospectors aren’t individuals but mining companies (and even then could end up burning though bucket loads of money with no result – in a way it is sort of like acting).

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because when I was a scout I remember hiking along this rather long route that began at the Knob and ended at the park edge, and on the way descended into a valley, and then back up again. At the bottom there was a stream (which was usually dry thanks to the concrete dam up the road) and nearby were a couple of tunnels. In fact I remember as a kid loving these tunnels, and while I would crawl to the back of the one a little up the hill, we never entered the one down below, namely because it was always full of water. While I was sitting at my desk at work I remembered these tunnels and decided that I would go and find them again to see if I could explore them.

I did find them, and the route was pretty long. In fact I walked from a carpark near the oval to the Knob (I could have driven to the Knob, but when I was younger we always walked, so I decided to do it again), and in doing so was caught up in the wind that blew through the trees. I even decided to take a video of the trees blowing in the wind.

So, after reaching the Knob, I crossed the road and began to make my way down into the valley. One thing that had changed was that there were a number of seats set up along the track. A part of me felt that destroyed the natural aspect of the park, but I then discovered that I couldn’t sit on the seat because when I did the dog would get upset because he couldn’t jump onto the seat and sit next to me, so I ended up sitting on logs. The other thing I realised was that once again I had forgotten to bring a bottle of water.

As I was approaching the bottom I looked to my left and discovered the peak known as ‘The Devil’s Nose’. A part of me wanted to climb it, but then realised that I didn’t need to (and even then it would have taken ages, especially since it is one of the longest walks in the park) namely because from when I was a kid I simply remembered looking at it from the track. Actually, Devil’s Nose is probably one of the remotest parts of the park because I can only get there by hiking, and the hike itself is pretty difficult. However, just looking on it from the path I was on was pretty impressive and made me feel like I was in the middle of the wilderness. The reason they call it ‘The Devils Nose’ is because it is shaped like a nose (well, sort of).

(pic - Story) Para Wirra - The Knob 02
The best shot I could get

Actually, browsing google maps, there is a suggestion that the Devil’s nose is actually a rock shaped like a nose, however getting up there (especially with a dog in tow) isn’t something that I was keen on doing that day, so maybe another day I can give Devil’s Nose a shot.

I eventually reached the bottom to discover, much to my disappointment, that in the time between when I was last here and now, I had grown up – not mentally, or intellectually, but physically. I was simply too big to be able to walk into the caves. Well, I could have crawled into the cave, but the reality was that I had a dog that wasn’t too keen on going inside, and I also wasn’t too keen on getting too dirty. I then climbed an almost vertical cliff to the second cave to discover, much to my disappointment, that the cliff face had collapsed, and while I could still get into it, once again I was too big. Mind you, the dog was screaming his head off, so I climbed back down and headed back to the car.

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The Wall

It may seem as if I had come to an end, but not quite yet because there were a couple of other places I was going to explore. Okay, I was intending on visiting a couple of pubs, which I did, but since these pubs are technically in the Barossa (and that I have yet to explore enough to the Barossa to warrant a post) I’ll leave them. Okay, I did go to Williamstown, which is sort of in the Barossa, but not quite, but other than a lovely country atmosphere, and a typical country pub, there really isn’t all that much to write about it. Okay, I could write about it, but I won’t. Instead I’ll just post some photographs.

However, there is another aspect to the area that I probably shouldn’t miss, and that is this huge dam known as ‘The Whispering Wall‘. To me it is just one of those oddities that we would occasionally visit as a child, but as it turns out people seem to head out here quite often. Okay, it is a dam, and pretty much looks like a dam, but it has one aspect that makes it stand out – it’s curvature.

(pic - Story) Para Wirra - Whispering Wall

The thing with The Whispering Wall is that it is curved in such a way that if you stand at one end, and whisper into the dam wall, the whisper travels across the dam and somebody standing on the otherside can hear the whispering. I do remember doing such things when I was a kid, and being really amazed at it as well, however since the only companion I had with me this time was the dog, I decided that I would give it a miss. Instead I just watched other people marvel at this feat of engineering.

Then I worked out why I didn’t want to get too dirty back at the park – it was time to go to the pub.

Creative Commons License
Para Wirra – My Childhood Stomping Ground by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.

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