Flinders Ranges, South Australia
Still dark. But time to get up. If we were to experience an outback sunrise then this is how it must be. And oh, what a sunrise it turned out to be. The orange hue of the sky to the east of us and the increasing red glow of the mountain peaks to the west.
Ethereal early morning light
After leaving Kangaroo Island, on mercifully a much smoother flight than the outbound leg, we’d driven six hours north from Adelaide. Our destination was a former sheep station now turned conservation park. There are still areas within our own home three acres that I have never fully explored, but imagine driving a circular route around just a small portion of your property and it taking four hours? This place covers a staggering 93 square miles.
Relic of a time gone by
Clearance of vegetation and fencing for agriculture destroys and fragments natural habitats. Sheep then strip the grazing bare, contributing to erosion of the landscape and damaging the food source of native animals with obvious consequences for natural biodiversity. With the sheep turfed off, the land is slowly reverting back to bush and the natural flora and fauna returning.
Kanga and baby Roo..
Red kangaroo, Western Grey kangaroo and wallaroo all now flourish here.
An emu with a line of youngsters in tow was a common sight.
Interestingly, it is the male of the species who incubates the eggs. He hardly eats or drinks and loses a significant amount of body weight in the process, rising from the nest only to turn the eggs which he does about ten times each day. The eggs hatch in eight weeks or so and the young continue to be nurtured by their fathers. They reach full size at about six months but can remain together until the next breeding season with Dad passing on to his offspring all the tricks and tools of the trade. It’s the female who does the courting and there can be vicious fights over males. One up for feminism here ladies. There is no doubt about who wears the trousers in emu world.
Wedge tailed eagles soar on thermals high above the mountain peaks.
Our second morning was forecast cloudy. No sunrise then, but one of the guides was to bash on the door if the weather changed. At about 5.45 I’m awoken by Mike searching the room with a torchlight. “Do you hear that noise?” It was the sound of your typical hotel style phone. The familiar low warbling that signifies the early morning call. A second or so of trilling. A similar length gap. Repeat.
But wait. Isn’t there a point to this place? Yes we have dramatic scenery and the abundant wildlife but it’s also meant as something of a retreat. People come here to extricate themselves temporarily from the trappings of the modern world. No internet. No TV. No radio. And, most definitely, no phones. And yet that familiar sound could not be denied. We re-checked the bedside tables, the desk, the likely places on the walls where a phone might be stowed. Still the sound continued. We checked the bathroom, inside the wardrobe, under the bed. And then Mike opened the door. The volume of the noise quadrupled. The location of the source identified as the hedge outside our room. Would you believe it. A bloomin’ telephone bird.
Days fell into a familiar routine. Up with the lark (or Willie Wagtail, so we were told) and straight out onto a drive. Back for lunch and an afternoon spent idling around the homestead and chilling out. A shower and then a further drive culminating in sundowners on some far flung hill. Return for a dinner that would surely merit an award should the Michelin man ever venture this far.
A neighbouring farmer’s humorous take on a mailbox
On the horizon, a natural amphitheatre in the mountains, this view seen from outside the rim. From the air it looks like a meteor crater or a monumental extinct volcano but it’s actually composed of sedimentary rock, deposited by a sea which covered this area some 800 million years ago. Geological forces compressed the layers and forced them upwards to form the ranges we see today.
Aboriginal ‘Dreaming’ provides a more colourful interpretation. The indigenous name for Wilpena is Ikara or ‘meeting place’. According to legend a large number of people were gathered together for a celebration when two serpents closed in to encircle them. The serpents (Akurras) ate so many people they were then unable to move, leaving their bodies to form the walls of the Pound.
Looking at the undulating nature of the ridge it’s not hard to see how the story arose
The walk into Wilpena, through an avenue of gum trees
If a tree survives a fall its branches can turn upwards, towards the light, forming a series of new trunks
Natural vegetation along the trail
Inside Wilpena Pound we climbed up to a viewpoint on one side of the ridge
Nope, I kid you not.
At nearby Arkaroo Rock we found indigenous art. It was discovered by settlers relatively recently, around 1960, but under tragic circumstances. A local boy had gone missing and it was the search party which happened upon the cave. Sadly the outcome for the boy was not so good. His skeleton was found some 18 months later.
It’s believed the paintings, in charcoal and ochre, tell the story of the Akurras and the formation of Wilpena Pound. Some of them have been dated at 5000 years old.
Blackened trees are a common sight in the Flinders Range.
Plants have evolved to defend themselves against fire and some actually need it for a stage of their lifecycle or to prevent other species from thriving and competing for space. Gum trees drop branches and litter the ground around them to encourage fire to spread. Grass trees or yaccas contain oils which are actually flammable, producing a fire which is fiercer but moves quickly from one plant to the next. Faster moving blazes do less damage than slower, smouldering, fires protecting the inner growing layers and ultimately saving the plant.
Spiky yaccas on the path to Arkaroo
Passing hikers are slowly building up the mound of stones. We contributed two more.
Nowhere near as shy and retiring as they would have you think.
A final drive as night starts to fall on the outback
Pause for refreshment..
Can there be a better way to see out the day?