From Adelaide we headed north to Peterborough; a little country town with an impressive steam train heritage. Then it was a short hop up to Hawker where we called into a local gallery (Jeff Morgan) to view some huge painted panoramas of the Flinders Ranges. The largest, some 46m, curved around a central staircase in a purpose built display room.
Leaving Hawker, we caught our first glimpse of the Flinders Ranges. Rings of ancient rock, rising above sparsely vegetated sheep stations. The landscape here is largely dry and brown, although the creek beds are lined with the most beautiful red gums. And there is no shortage of wildlife: emus, kangaroos, walleroos and the majestic wedge-tailed eagle.
Our first few days were spent within Wilpena Pound; camping with emus and waking with dozens of corellas. The camping here was a little rustic – with an open amenities block that come nightfall, filled with all sorts of insects. But it was nice to be out in the bush and the kids thought it was a great adventure – minus the huge spider that walked into Thomas’ shower cubicle!
The weather was clear but gradually got very hot. Just before Sienna’s actual birthday (I know, it’s been a fiesta), it hit 42 degrees. Fortunately, there was a pool and air conditioned restaurant we could retreat to. Then a change came through and it settled back into the mid-high 20s. With the cooler temps we then got some walks in – both inside the Pound and just outside. The view from nearby Stokes Hill was certainly memorable and worth the climb in the 4WD.
We had some great 4WD adventures in this area. In particular, the Bunyeroo and Brachnia Gorges were amazing. This area has international importance, being the home of Endocronian fossils; 600 million year old fossils of the first single celled life on Earth. It’s also home to the endangered yellow-footed rock wallaby (which we weren’t lucky enough to see). However, the kids were happy spotting goats, emus and chipping any number of rocks in search of fossils and shiny crystals.
Anthony and Sienna took a scenic flight over Wilpena one morning. Thomas had had a bit of a cold – so the birthday girl lucked out. Certainly such a vast landscape is best appreciated from the air and the conditions for flying were perfect.
From Wilpena we moved to Rawnsley Park Station. Rawnsley is an active sheep station, but like so many properties in the area, has diversified into eco-tourism for survival. Located just to the south of the Pound, this campground offered views of the surrounding Elder and Chase Ranges. The sunsets here were stunning…
Our final few nights in the Flinders were spent at Arkaba Homestead. Arkaba is a 60,000 acre property that offers – yes a bit of bush luxury – but more importantly, a chance to contribute to a great conservation success story.
Formerly a sheep station, under a new owner the sheep were removed in 2013 and all efforts directed to returning the land to its’ original ecosystem. This has involved: ceasing all artificial water supplies (to help reinstate the water table and encourage the return of native flora), remove fences (to assist native wildlife) and extensive feral cat control (there are some 15 million feral cats in Australia and each kills an average of 7 native animals per night!).
Shown around the property in an open top 4WD by very experienced and passionate staff, it’s apparent that in three short years, an amazing transformation is underway. 500 year old Red Gums that had been consistently dying back are now growing. Native grasses and trees are returning which is leading to a regeneration of the soil and new habitat for native fauna. Birdlife that has been non-existent for decades is returning.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Arkaba. It was very inspiring to see the reversal of so much damage and what true passion can achieve.
Bunyeroo and Brachina Gorges
Rawnsley Park Station & Arkaroo Rocks
Arkaba Station Conservancy