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Ask someone where tourists should go in SA and the usual responses would almost certainly include the Barossa Valley and the Clare Valley.
Both regions offer some excellent local wines and innovative food delicacies that we are proud to show off to our visitors. The wineries themselves have been "freshened" in recent years, so there are some very attractive venues where you can taste, dine and sometimes even obtain accommodation.
But sandwiched between these two extremely popular regions is the Gilbert Valley, an area that even few South Australians have visited.
The Gilbert Valley is mainly a farming and agricultural area, reached via the Barrier Highway as it meanders up to Broken Hill. But don't dismiss it as just as an agricultural region, there are attractions for many tastes.
Driving up from Adelaide, the first town in the area that you will encounter is Tarlee, with its massive grain silos on the main street. There is a little rest area with maps and an overview of the towns in the region.
As with many country towns, Tarlee has been hit hard in recent years by tight economic times. A number of the local businesses have closed, but it is still worthwhile to stretch your legs and look at some of the quaint and unusual buildings.
As I approached Riverton I was pleased to see a sign advertising the Riverton Railway station, as it is also mentioned on the local council website as a heritage location worth visiting. It was to be my first stop in the town and I drove past some grand old buildings on the charming main street as I made my way to the station.
I was quite disappointed to find a "Private Road" sign on the track leading to the station. Not to be deterred, I drove a little further away from the station on the other side of the tracks. On walking through some scrub I got a great view of the grand station building which seemed in mostly good condition.
Much of the railway infrastructure still seems to remain - I saw a couple of old "Red Hen" trains parked nearby, and there were signal boxes and equipment, cattle pens and other equipment.
As I stood across the railway line from the station building, someone called out asking me to leave, which I did promptly. Clearly tourists are not welcome in this part of town.
It would have been great if I could have stayed longer in Riverton - there is plenty to see on the main street alone, with shopping and a homely pub to explore, while nearby there is an art gallery and a museum. If you still have energy to burn, go for a bike ride on the Rattler Trail along a former railway line.
There was a pleasant surprise in the car park, a sign advertising the Saddleworth Historical Walk, and a container with some slightly rain damaged maps of the 3 kilometre walk. Somewhat disappointingly the brochures are not available online, but I have scanned a copy and placed it at the end of this section.
There is a Saddleworth Museum, but it is only open on Sundays or Public Holidays unless by appointment.
At first I thought that the only other sign of life was at the Gilbert Valley Hotel, the most prominent building in Saddleworth. But like others before me, I had been fooled. As I discovered on my return journey, the main street of the town runs off the Barrier Highway and is easily missed.
I passed up on refreshments, and soldiered on to Manoora, my ultimate destination for today and the source of the Gilbert River.
The end game for my lightning trip to the Gilbert Valley was the township of Manoora, originally a sheep station established in 1840. There is a helpful information bay and map with suggestions of places to visit opposite the imposing Manoora Institute as you enter the town.
After a long trip I was ready for lunch, although my options were quite limited to the Manoora Hotel. Country hospitality was at its best though, and the friendly publican was happy to make me a toasted sandwich to carry me over for the last leg of my journey.
I eat my tasty lunch chatting to a friendly local man with an enormous (equally friendly) Rottweiler, then headed for my goal - the abandoned Manoora railway station built in 1898 from bluestone quarried in Tarlee.
The roses, once carefully tended by the Station Master in the days when 60 steam trains passed by every week, now ramble rampantly across the deserted platform. The waiting room that echoed with the cries of excited and happy children is now silent.
The station name is still visible through foliage, while a camera UV filter lies lost on the platform by an earlier explorer.
It's with a feeling of sadness that I depart the station. Despite the small size of the place, it's clear that the inhabitants take pride in their town, with houses kept in neat and well maintained condition.
I regretfully I set out for home. It's late in the day, and I didn't get to see even half of what I had planned. But perhaps another time I will get a babysitter for the dogs, maybe even base myself in Riverton to explore the area more fully.
There is a lot more that I want to see - up as far as Peterborough, and I could hardly do another visit without visiting some of my favourite wineries in Clare.