Oratunga Cactus Cull 2018 (Flinders Ranges)

Oratunga Cactus Cull – NW Blinman, Flinders Ranges

Travelling to Oratunga.
Some travelled up on Friday, some on Saturday and the remainder on Sunday. As I had arranged to meet Bruce at the Caltex Service Station at Bolivar we travelled up together. Hamley Bridge, Balaklava, Clare,
Jamestown (for pit stop) and it started to rain; Orroroo, Hawker, for a fuel stop, lunch and to report home as further north we run out of mobile phone; onto Blinman and Oratunga; arriving just before 3pm. We set up our
camps and then went down to the shearer’s quarters to meet the rest of the team. Gini, as usual, cooked a meal for us on the first night with sweets (sticky date pudding) to follow. I must say, as a professor, she makes
a pretty fair cook. After dinner it was back to our sleeping quarters and bed, ready for a 9am start tomorrow.

Oratunga Homestead
Helpers with Gini, 2nd from left

Day 1
Ralph signed everyone in, gave us our pep talk and split us into 3 groups. Burford’s, Nechvoglod’s, Bruce (the drone) and I were in one group, with Trevor being our leader. After checking and filling our equipment we headed up the Mount Samuel track, lead by Ralph, to where we had finished last year. We split up into our groups, crossing the fence into Oratunga property and started our search for the cactus.

We walked 2.42 km and, as you can see from the profile, we found some steep bits. You are probably wondering why Bruce is called the drone – it’s because we sent him places we couldn’t go! As we had walked and treated
this area some years ago, it was pleasing to find less cactus, but 106 were found and treated by the group, on this day.

Our team at work
Each Wheel has to be drilled and given a 4ml of glyphosate marked with pink paint and recorded on the hand held GPS. Due to the drought conditions all the cactus we found had been eaten. We were told that the kangaroos are eating them as there is very little grass for them. On returning to our vehicles it was back to camp and prepare our evening meals. We were all in bed and lights out pretty early.

Day 2
Packed lunch once again at the shearers quarters for a 9am start.
Refilled our supplies and off, up the Mt Samuel track to where we left off yesterday. Walked 2.33 km day 2 but look at the profile we put the Bruce to good use. Only 63 treated by the 3 groups today. It is pleasing to see that
we are having some effect on the cactus.

Day 3 is a rest day that we usually do a drive and the bike riders do a bike ride. Our drive was just over 70km, with one group of bike riders doing about the same, but 2 of the group did just on 90kms for the day. We drove the full length of the Mount Samuel track, led by the Burford’s. On our way back to camp it was ice cream stop at Angorichina Village.

On our return to Oratunga it was shower and dress up for dinner at the Blinman Hotel. Back to bed and ready for 9am start.

Day 4
Two groups headed back up the Mount Samuel track while the Overland
Group, minus Bruce, did a drive down the Oratunga Creek. We did this
last year and found quite a number of big plants and some rope cactus
which we were keen to see again. We found the remains of one we treated last year, put in the trailer and took it back to Oratunga where it was put onto a fire and cremated… but not before Steve had it fall on him. He had to take his shirt off as it was full of barbed prickles. We were still pulling prickles out of Steve the next day!

Back to camp and after dinner we went to the Quarters where Ray showed us some of his funny videos. 9:30 it was lights out; end of another eventful day.

Day 5
Gini had advised us that the people on Angorichina Station were having success with the cochineal beetle on the rope cactus (different cochineal beetle to the wheel cactus), so we did a drive to Angorigina to collect some beetle.

We had found more Rope Cactus in the creek last year so we downloaded last year’s waypoints into our GPS and went looking. Luck was on our side as we came across 2 very healthy plants. We decided to try the beetle on these plants. Plants were GPS marked to check next year.

Day 6
Bruce teamed up with the A team as Brian had seen some large cactus on top of Mount Samuel. After the 7 did a 15 km return walk, they found someone had beaten them and treated the cactus, but they did treat a number on the way up and back.

Trevor & Barb and Steve & Maria went cactus hunting in a creek bed just by the Oratunga turn off and were rewarded with a large number of large cactus and a trailer load of loose wheels, which were loaded onto Ralph’s trailer and taken back to Oratunga and burnt. Les and Ralph did a rubbish tip run for Gini.

During the week we didn’t only hunt cactus, we did a number of jobs to help Gini. She had a big wind gust just before we arrived which blew down her wood shed. We tried to dismantle it but it was too big a job. We repositioned her wood pile and split her large wooden logs.

Some stats for the week: 561 Cactus treated; Approx. 513 Ha covered; 1148 man hours.

Crew of 2018

Thanks to all that attended. Big thanks for Gini for having us, and very big thanks to Ralph for organizing the event.