Oratunga Cactus Cull – 1-8 September 2019

Report 1

Under the supervision of our trip leader Ralph Abbot we all made our way to Oratunga, some on the Friday, some on Saturday, and the remainder on the Sunday. Not having any rain for the last 2 years the country side is very dry and barren. The neighbour that runs sheep on Oratunga is in the process of destocking (selling all the stock) as they have never seen it so dry.

At roll call at 9am on the Monday morning Ralph had 25 willing helpers. The Overland Club was represented by Ralph Abbot, Trevor and Barb Burford, Bruce Cates, Alan and Cecilia Littlewood, Greg Dean, Jim Corbett and Les and Eileen Butler. The rest of the crew were made up of Walking groups, Bike riding groups and anyone else than Ralph can con.

Ralph had allocated us team to do the Monday search with Trevor having Barbara, Bruce, Mal and Syd, while Les had Eileen, Alan, Cecilia, Jim and Greg.

Les’s team had the job of search north of Mount Falkland and Trevor south. We drove to the station boundary fence through some very stony country but no cactus, but on our way back eagle eye Eileen spotted one which we treated. We then found a creek bed which we walked but no cactus. It was close to lunch time so we crossed the road to a shady creek bed for lunch and found a cactus the Burford team had missed.

After lunch we made our way back to camp and found a number of cacti on the way, once again thanks to eagle eye Eileen. Back at camp around 4pm. After dinner we all gathered at the shearers quarters for debrief of the day’s activities. Our group found and treated the most cacti of the day.

The weather was quite mild with even the morning unlike last year when we had frosts most mornings.

Tuesday we went off in our groups again this time we were to search the end of the track that we did the Wednesday drive last year. We had a little trouble finding the gap between the hills, but it was a pretty drive. We found and treated a number of cacti before Greg found a crossing he thought was going to be a challenge so we headed back to camp still finding cacti that we had missed on the way in. Back at camp around 4 again.

After dinner we were all back at shearers quarters where 3 young lads from PIRSA (Primary Industries and Regions SA) gave us a talk on weeds, cacti and boxthorns, and the control of cacti they were getting with the aid of the Cochineal beetle.

Wednesday drive

The PIRSA boys joined us on our Wednesday drive. Ralphs first stop was a patch of prickly pear cacti that the Toyota 4WD club had treated early on this year.

There was a very heavy infestation of the Devils rope cactus at the lunch stop all infected by the cochineal beetle. Our 3 visitors took a number of cochineal treated cacti which they attached to a number of rope cactus that we found on our way to Trevor’s grandfather’s market garden.

The cliffs shown above were covered with the prickly pear cactus, they had a crew abseil down the sides and infected the cacti with the cochineal beetle, and it did the trick as only dry remains can be seen.

Thursday the teams went out again and some stayed back at camp and did some jobs for Gini

Thursday night Gini and her helper cooked a meal for all of us at the shearer’s quarters. As a professor she is not a bad cook, also seeing she was 200 km away from the nearest shops.

This year we treated nearly 700 cacti plus a number of rope cacti were treated with the cochineal beetle.

Friday and the Butlers and Littlewoods packed up and headed home due to other commitments, with the others returning on Sunday. It was a windy and showery trip back to Adelaide.

Thanks Gini for the week, and a big thankyou to Ralph for the work he puts in behind the scenes. The team system seemed to work well this year, but it was noted that Ralph had the 3 new ladies with him each day. To Maria and Michelle, your menfolk behaved themselves and looked after us older folk very well (well that’s what they told me to say. A good time was had by all.

Les & Eileen

The crew of 2019 – From left: Bob, Mal, Gini, Skye, Ralph, Cecil-ia ,Alan ,Sue ,Greg ,Ross ,Jim, Betty ,Bruce ,Syd ,Robert ,Ruth ,Peta ,Brian ,Dorothea ,Eileen ,Trevor ,Barbara ,Tim, Maggie,,Katie ,Les and Cynthia.

Report 2

Oratunga Cactus Cull trip was for us (Alan and Cecilia) a great experience. So much so that I now see cactus everywhere, even when I’m reading or writing, this for example.

I must admit I was not as fit as I should have been as the geriatrics of the group put me to shame. I can’t blame my crook knee for being out of breath climbing those hills, or nearly falling down them, Though that is the quick method of descent I’m told, but can be quite painful. Next year if we are silly enough to volunteer again I shall endeavour to get fit first.

We wish to thank all the people who helped organise the trip and the activities for the days we were there, we left on Friday as we had other commitments so I hope we didn’t upset the teams too much as we were the A team there for a while under Les B then with Trevor B.

That’s it then, just a quick note for the newsletter to help fill the gaps I’ll get back to picking out the prickles from hands knees and feet.

Alan L