15 to 16 October 2019
Port Germein to Wallaroo, 129km
to Moonta and back, 40km
Arriving in the town of Wallaroo we almost turned right round and left. Something about it seemed very bleak
but after a coffee in the local bakery/junk shop we realised it had all the hallmarks of a good Australian town in its fine heritage buildings.
There was just also something a bit, well, Welsh about it!
We realised that the abandoned ruins that had greeted us were evidence of Wallaroo’s past as part of the Copper Triangle. Copper, mined in Moonta (more about that later), was smelted in and exported from Wallaroo. The port was the largest and most important on the Yorke Peninsula until the end of copper production in 1923.
The Welsh miners and smelters who brought their skills and expertise to the Copper Triangle are celebrated with a memorial, a single vein of copper running through three great boulders.
The ghosts of the Welsh community that founded Wallaroo were not far away too in the local Heritage and Nautical Museum.
This was another of those museum staffed by volunteers and stuffed so full of exhibits it was hard to know where to look. Tales of shipwrecks and a link to the Titanic (the only female survivor of the sinking later lived and worked in Wallaroo) predominated
but the biggest billing went to George the Giant Squid! Yes, that’s him – all 8.5 metres of him from head to tentacles, preserved in formaldehyde!
We had a great chat to the volunteers, Bob and Mark, at the museum. Bob was particularly enthusiastic about the ghosts said to haunt the town. There seemed to be very few buildings that weren’t reported to be haunted. Whatever you do, if you ever find yourself in Wallaroo and in need of accommodation, don’t stay in room 11 at the Weeronna Hotel!
To see where the copper smelted in Wallaroo was mined we took a short day trip to Moonta. There copper was discovered in 1861 and an advert for miners by the South Australian Government saw large numbers arriving from Cornwall. The scars of mining are everywhere on the landscape outside the town. We climbed one of the five lines of lode for a better look.
And the old mines and machinery are dotted about, silent since 1923.
The population of Moonta had once been 12,000 and it has some grand buildings and long high street to show for it but it’s population is now only 623.
The old sweet shop was still open though and I stocked up on liquorice wheels and pear drops for the long journeys.
At Moonta Bay we of course had to have a walk on the jetty. Beneath it even the rocks are copper coloured and the waters a shade of verdigris.
Back in Wallaroo Stefan decided it was time for me to have another great Australian cultural experience – a game of pokies. Without fail, every hotel in every town has a sign declaring pokies (slang for poker machines) and Wallaroo’s Weeronna Hotel is no different. After a game of pool that was as long as my ineptitude, Stefan led me to a fairly airless back room full of machines flashing all sorts of invitations. At random I selected to play the dolphin one and we loaded $2 into the slot. With not a clue what to do, buttons were pressed, noises made and lights flashed and somehow we ended up $6 up. Knowing well enough to quit whilst ahead we walked out again richer in pocket but no richer for the experience! It is hard to fathom the appeal of pokies. There is seemingly no skill or real player involvement yet somehow still too many find themselves addicted to it.
But WAIT, I hear you cry, you said Copper Triangle. What makes up the third of this triumverate of places?! Well, it is the inland town of Kadina where copper was mined until 1938 and where we stopped only to admire the water tank art depicting the importance of the railway and the May Queen holding a chunk of copper in one hand and a sheath of wheat in the other, the Triangle’s great exports.
And with that flying visit to complete the Triangle, it was time for us to leave the copper behind and explore South Australia’s wine country…