Northern Flinders Ranges. South Australia
Back on the main road I headed north east, I hadn’t seen another soul since the pub last night and I only passed one other vehicle that day. It was a Hertz rental 70 series Landcruiser, and it was a very straight bit of road, we could see each other coming for quite some time. It is customary here in Australia that you wave or raise a friendly finger or whatever as you are passing another car when in the country. It’s quite possible to go a long time without seeing another car. I raised my hand to the driver of the 70, nothing, didn’t even look my my way. They were probably from overseas and hadn’t picked up on this particular little custom yet, but as that the only other vehicle I saw that day I was a smidge crestfallen to say the least!
As you get close to Akraroola, the Gammon Range rises spectacularly on your left, as if separating you from some hidden wonderland. It wasn’t going to remain hidden from me.
Arkaroola is now a wilderness sanctuary, after being acquired by the Sprigg family in 1968. With geologist Reg Sprigg taking over the pastoral lease to preserve the natural flora, fauna and geological significance of the area, more on it here and here if you are interested. They built Arkaroola Village,
a tourist facility, with a number of different accommodation options, restaurant, bar, etc. Don’t worry though, it still very much retains ‘outback’ character.
On arrival I re-fuelled the Cruiser, booked in for dinner and paid for my camping spot. I also bought a book they had for sale ‘Dune is a Four-letter Word’ by Griselda Sprigg. Who was Reg’s wife, I realised afterwards that the older people running Arkaroola were the children that she talks about in the book. I was interested to read the book myself and knew my mum would enjoy reading it too.
People complain about the costs of fuel, etc, in the bush. I don’t understand that attitude. I’m just glad there are people willing to live and operate businesses out there. I always make a point of spending some money in the places I go to.
Camp for the next few days.
I chilled out in the bar for a while before dinner and played with ‘Becky’ a never ending ball of energy that was a blue heeler puppy. I called home to let N know I was still alive, me “I’ve got a new friend out here, her name is Becky”. N “Right...” just hilarious I am.
I pretty much had my own personal chef over the next few nights, he was a backpacker from England who had escaped Sydney to come and see the real Australia. Good choice I say. He said at times the place was absolutely packed and the restaurant would be full every night, I was glad it was quiet for my first visit, although I would be interested to come and sample the atmosphere when the place is at it’s peak.
The sun was going down as I walked back up to the swag.
I got going early the next morning, there are a number of planned drives around Arkaroola and a tour you can take riding in their Land Cruisers. Of course I wanted to do my own thing and go exploring the 50km circular track I could see on the map, inside the Gammon Ranges NP I had driven by the side of yesterday.
Even at this time, about 0730. The sun is seriously bright. Selfie!
Heading into here, felt a bit like heading into a pre-histroic park. I real sense of being quite alone (which I was) and looking at a landscape that has changed little since before (white) men came here, and had relatively little human interference.
The wildlife was abundant at this time in the morning. Considering how barren a lot of this environment can look, it supported a huge amount of birds, roos, wallabies, etc.
I have never seen this many kangaroos together and such large males either. You never see them like this anywhere close to civilization. After this big fella I saw an even bigger one, but he was too far away to get a usable photo. They both just stood there puffing out their chests and staring me out!
I love this kind of scene, where you can just see the track stretching out in front of you and winding off up a faraway hill.
The trail was easy going. I didn’t see another person all day, till I got back to Arkaroola Village. You have to be pretty comfortable with your own company on days like these!
About 2/3 of the way round the loop track there is large climb. I seem to remember this part is one way. Makes sense as anyone having to back up on these climbs is likely to get into trouble, a long way to hospital from here...
This is a spot you can stop at the top of the climb and then a short walk elevates you further. Just to the right of the Land Cruiser you can see a yellow direction road sign. This is because of the steepness as you come up the climb you cannot actually see the road goes slightly to the left before heading down again.
Good views. Don’t get lost out there.
Towards the end of the loop there is the start of the hike to Bunyip Chasm, I had wanted to do this hike. The warnning sign at the start of the hike was enough to deter me. Along the lines of don’t do this on your own, notify the Ranger, very steep and difficult ground, high risk of flash flooding, 5 hour return, etc. I felt under prepared enough to give it a miss this time. Next time though. This is it below, but obviously not my photo!
Anyway, good reason to go back!
I completed the loop and headed back out on the link track to the main road.
Certainly feeling like I had got a real taste of Vulkathunha NP.
On the way back to the village I took one of the back tracks away from the main road.
Good little detour.
That night it was more chatting with my pommy chef, and a few bevvies after a great day in the bush.
The next day, after 3 solid days of driving, I figured I would stay closer to camp and doing some of the hikes around the village.
I was surprised to find that there was a small amount of water in these pools. I suppose all those Kangaroos and Wallabies must drink somewhere.
More purple in the rocks. Wave rock.
So it was good to stretch the old legs and have a break from driving. Knowing I had 700km to do home tomorrow.
Another round of steak and chips that night, thanked my hosts and signed the visitors book.
I was up with the sun the next morning.
I had little to pack and rolled up the swag and got going.
Driving out I saw one of my favorite things, wild horses! I know they are feral but you rarely see them over here and there is something joyous about seeing horses in the wild.
The rocks of Australia are at their best when the sun first hits them, before everything gets bleached out.
The drive out through Italowie Gap is spectacular, but it was time to get a move on. Ok, just time for one more photo, when I caught this scene in my rear view (Toyota ad!).
That’s my dust trail, it would be sometime before I saw another vehicle.
I was, ahem, ‘making progress’ when I though I heard a slight noise, at first I thought it was just a slight surface change, but then I thought I better slow and see if everything was alright...
Not a surface change then.
It sounds incredible but I literally felt nothing from the drivers seat, only when I slowed right down was the noise pronounced. As the road was well sighted and deserted there may have been the odd lazy four wheel drift, but I used to drive the Range Rover like that all the time on BFG’s, never had a problem. These were the tyres that came on the truck when I bought it (Goodyear Wranglers) and wouldn’t have been my choice, but anyway. Slipped on the spare and trucked on.
Next town was Copley, which I have since re-visited on our trip to Warraweena. It was still early, maybe 0830 so I was hoping that there would be facilities and open. As it’s turns out Copley is a town geared up for travelers and those travelling through, unlike the nearby Leigh Creek, which is much more of a residential community. Housing mostly workers for the nearby Alinta coal mine, which Alinta has just announced will be shutting, very uncertain time for this community.
A brighter future for the small town of Copley hopefully, the garage not only had my size tyre, but four different brands to choose from! I choose the Cooper, which was just short of AU$400, but as I’ve already said you just have to be glad that the facilities are there. With still 550km to get home it was too much to chance with no spare. I had breakfast at the Quandong Cafe while I waited, which was next to the caravan park, there is also a good looking pub there. I really must spend a night or two here one day.
New spare, fueled up, I set the cruise and started knocking off the trip home, once I had made some good time on the highway, I detoured through the Southern Flinders and then through the Clare Valley, finding that the LC was much happier at around 90km/h rather than the 110-120km/h you would be at in a ‘normal’ car. As a happy side effect, this meant the fuel consumption went from being catastrophic to merely terrible.
Still home in good time. It had been a great first trip for me and the new truck, Arkaroola was a true escape. The weird barren landscape and the total lack of people just meant you ended up in a whole different place mentally, no radio, no phone reception, no internet, just basic living. It’s like a detox for the mind. Looking at it from afar you would think there is nothing there, not much to do. But having been there, and with so many of these ‘outback’ places, once you’ve been, you have many reasons to go back.