Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Flinders Ranges Adventure

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Our second visit to the Flinders Ranges was a bit more adventurous.  We decided to rent a camper van.  We figured in doing so we would be able to camp without having to invest in all the equipment.  Also, since it was the beginning of the rainy winter season, there was a special on camper van rentals.  It was cheaper to rent a van than a car.  Plus, there was the additional savings of not having to rent a place to stay!!!
My visions of a cozy camping trip in a Vanagon quickly disappeared when I received a text from Mark telling me that he was downstairs and couldn't fit the camper into the parking garage.  Apparently we had been upgraded to a monster camper van.
We quickly loaded the illegally parked beast and began our road trip.  We arrived at the gates to Wilpena Pound at 5 p.m.  It was decision time, and we could either camp at the main campground or continue on what our map showed to be a 35 km seal road to the bush campground.  We decided to go for the latter, since it would mean that we wouldn't have to drive to the trail head the next morning.  Halfway to our destination, the sealed road turned to dirt.  As we turned onto the last 7 km section, not only was it very dark, but it was drizzling and there was a lot of lightning on the horizon.  The road continued to deteriorate.  The rain concerned us because of the several creek crossings that we had to make, but since turning the monster around was not an option, we had to continue.  Finally we arrive at the campsite.  We weren't surprised to see that there were only two other cars in the area, nor were we surprised when one of them got up and left at 6 a.m.--it was a bit cold and wet.
Fortunately, the rain stopped by the time we got up.  As Mark prepared breakfast, I pulled out the maps.  I wanted to see if all the maps showed the road our campsite as sealed, or if it was an error on the map that we had used.  Oops, we used the wrong map.  It turns out that other maps not only mark the second half of the road as unsealed, but the last 7 km was a 4wd road.  How on earth did we miss the signs?  Oh well, nothing we could do about it at that point, so we decided to hit the trail.
The Wilkawillina Gorge Trail followed Mt. Billy Creek bed which was dry for the most part.  About an hour and a half into the hike we did come across a wonderful fresh spring oasis.  There was evidence of wildlife, but no one came out to greet us.  The lack of wildlife was made up by the spectacular surrounding hills.  Their undulating forms and contrasting colors were breath taking.  At about 7 km into the trial, we left the creek bed to climb the abrupt peak of Mt. Billy.  At the top we had a panoramic view of the spectacular country side.  As we returned to camp, we realized that on our outbound journey we had missed the trail.  Rather than following the creek the entire time, we were supposed to cut through a canyon and cross over a small hill.   We were glad to have found this short cut on our return and were left in awe by the desolate moon-like landscape that we had to cross.
When we arrived back at camp, we found that everyone else had left.  At first I worried that we would be a bit lonely that evening, but we were nice and cozy inside the van.  That night we were even treated to a full moon.
We were relieved to have received a minimal amount of rain throughout the night.  I know that was a bit selfish on our part, but we were stressed about getting the monster through a 4wd road.  We awoke to a wonderful rainbow on the horizon and wondered what pot of gold it would hold for us on this day.
After breakfast we hit the road.  I may have been stressed on our drive in, but seeing the road in daylight had me terrified.  It took what seemed like hours to traverse the 7 kms to the regular unsealed roads.    We stopped so that I could look for the signs indicating a 4wd road.  No wonder why I missed it.  There on the side of the road were two lonely posts, obviously some joker must have the important message hanging in his bedroom!
As I reflect back on our hike it that part of the Flinders, I realize that, like Arkaroola, it also was very dry and the the drought had hit this area with force.  However, since it was the start of the rainy season we thought that the conditions were temporary and would improve as winter went on.  I now think that even with this years wet winter the conditions at this eastern section of the Flinders Ranges have probably not improved much because, due to their location, they just don't receive the water they need.


  1. Sure looks like a dry spot yet beautiful in a remote kind of way

  2. Quickroute, very dry, but indeed beautiful.