Arkaroola – Sun 22nd & Mon 23rd March
Its worth saying a little about Arkaroola (more at their website http://www.arkaroola.com.au). Originally a sheep station, it was purchased in 1967 by Dr Reg Sprigg and his wife Griselda. Since then it has been run as an ecotourism resort. Covering 610 square km adjacent to the Vulkathanha-Gammon NP it has become a haven for native wildlife. It also covers a key geological area of Australia. Dr Sprigg was first a geologist, training under Henry Mawson.
Surprisingly, given how long it has been since it saw sheep, it is also a haven for flies; so much so I was forced to buy a fly net. The girls soldiered on without. All well and good, it keeps the flies off, but also makes it impossible to drink a beer – some design rethinking is required…
As well as a wildlife haven, its also a great place for off road driving. Unfortunately the ridge top drive is off limits (unless of course you pay the $140 to be driven round like Miss Daisy..) but there are plenty of other tracks. If you have a 2WD a note of caution, Arkaroola’s idea of 2WD is somewhat loose.
First up was the Bollabollana smelters, set up by some Cornish miners. Not much remains aside from a few ruins. En route the track passes an interesting set of formations named the Pinnacles and also the Bollabollana spring.
Next was the track to the Arkaroola Waterhole. Whilst the waterhole was not special this drive affords a chance to see the rare yellow footed rock wallaby. What the wallabies make of the high season crowds who knows, presumably “blow this, lets hide somewhere quiet”; being the only vehicle on the track they put on a show for us.
Wilpena Pound – Tue 24th & Wed 25th March
Heading out from Arkaroola we came across this little chap, sunbathing on the road
Wilpena Pound is the White Fella name. Ikara is the name belonging to the Adnyamathanha people. Whilst a ceremony was taking place two big Akurra (Dreaming serpents), surrounded the ceremonial group, with their encircled bodies forming the sides of Wilpena Pound. Geologically speaking it’s like a dish, surrounded by escarpments aside from a single entrance
Sadly the campsite is outside of the Pound, however there are various hiking options either through the Pound or up to the Escarpment, from where there are great views of the Pound. The girls did fantastically well, completing their first serious bush walk to the summit of Mt Ohlssen Bagge – in places this was a scramble on all fours, with Bonnie taking great delight in being a mountain goat. The views from the top are spectacular, whilst looking from the bottom the girls were amazed at what they had climbed
At the start of the walk the trail runs alongside a dry river valley. An incredible feature of this is the gum trees split into two by fire / flood.
Also at the campsite are the “wild” wallabies. First visit, which delighted the girls, was from one very curious as to what we had in our camp, until the idiot next door thought dried pasta to be natural wallaby food.
I’d love to claim I stalked for hours to get an elusive shot of Mum feeding baby, in reality this was next to the walk to the toilets with Mum looking over as if to say “nothing to see, move along”.
Brachilna Gorge – Thu 26th March
Leaving Wilpena and heading north takes you past the Cazneaux Tree. I must admit I’d never heard of Harold Cazneaux, although it seems he was the Australian equivalent of Ansel Adams (despite being a Kiwi). In this case he photographed a lone red gum, titling it “Spirit of Endurance”, which as become one of his most famous images. The tree still stands, alone on the plain.
Taking the scenic drive through the centre of the Flinders the road alternates between smooth and irritatingly corrugated, neither consistent enough to fall into a rythym. Some fantastic views though.
Brachilna Gorge, it has to be said, is impressive, with the road following the riverbed in many places. At the west end is a campsite called Teamsters, and it is tempting to imagine, in the days of horses, that this was their rest before attempting the run of the gorge heading west. Also evident is that beneath the dry crust there is moisture, in this case seemingly forced to the surface by rock steps.
Camp for the night was Brachilna Gorge East. A site of two parts the 4WD area entails crossing the river. Whilst not a difficult drive, and at this time of year entirely dry, it was interesting to read the comments on Wikicamps about having to spend a few more days there when it rained and the river flowed.
Its fair to say this was our first truly isolated bush camp. Its also funny how the brain works, instead of thinking “there’s no-one for miles’’, it jumps to “we’re so isolated, what if there’s an axe murderer out here”. A ridiculous train of thought and the stars were fantastic.
Morning brought confirmation the noises we heard overnight were indeed dingoes, with a pair heading across the river. No photos unfortunately as they were frightened off by the squeals of the girls as they threw themselves into the car and slammed the door.
Whyalla – Fri 27th & Sat 28th March
Time to leave the Flinders, so an early start. Hitting the road by 8.30 was an eye opener, the number of kangaroos and emus feeding along the road was incredible. Also the eagles dealing with the road toll.
Stopping in Hawker for a break confirmed that you meet people when you least expect. Grabbing a snack at the garage we bumped into Kate from Mt Little Station, where we stayed on the way North.
Aside from that it was an uneventful journey. I’m sure Port Augusta has its positives but stopping to replace the tyre we killed on the way to Arkaroola, they weren’t apparent.
Heading south into Whyalla the town hardly presents its best side. First you run through the steel factories in all their industrial glory. However after that it is quite a pleasant place. The site itself had a lovely seafront position, affording some great sunrises; and in the local harbour there was a pod of dolphin which follow the recreational fishing boats in. The girls loved getting so close to them.