When we were planning our trip to the Flinders Ranges (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flinders_Ranges) we decided to base our adventure around the Wilpena Pound (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilpena_Pound) as it is probably one of the better known areas of the Flinders Ranges. Other folks may have different views about the best place to go and we have friends who spent a very enjoyable time at Arkaroola Sanctuary (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arkaroola,_South_Australia) and found it to be a magic spot.
Wilpena is easily accessible and is centrally located for visits to a number of the gorges and peaks that are well worth visiting. We decided to stay at Rawnsley Park Station (http://www.rawnsleypark.com.au/) just south of Wilpena Pound and just outside the Flinders Ranges National Park (http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Flinders_Ranges_and_Outback/Flinders_Ranges_National_Park). Rawnsley Park is a working sheep station and provides a variety of different accommodation styles including a caravan park – where we stayed. There are all facilities at the caravan park but all the sites are gravel and only a few are equipped with an annexe slab; consequently the park is quite a dusty spot at times and the area is crying out for rain.
Friday morning we left our spot at Port Augusta and drove the 150 kilometres to Rawnsley Park traveling through Quorn (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quorn,_South_Australia) and Hawker (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawker,_South_Australia) along the way. We stopped at Hawker to look at the town and to catch up with Bush Pilots Airways (http://www.bushpilots.com.au/) through which company we had arranged a flight on Sunday, arriving at Rawnsley Park around noon. Once we had established our camp and had some lunch we decided to take one of the many walks available from the station.
Our walk took us on a 6.5 kilometre loop around the Ulowdna Range, a low range adjacent to the caravan park; we walked along a creek bed and through natural pine forests across some very dry and poor looking country to a spot called “Pine Cave”. The cave is a 6 metre rock hollow almost at the top of the range, by the amount of scat in the cave Kangaroos obviously sleep in the cave and there were remains of a dead animal in the rear of the cave. Our return journey saw us walking along the top ridge of the range across some very rough stony paths and one had to be careful not to slip particularly at the end of the journey when we walked down the last slop of the range to the caravan park.
On our return to the park we found that a caravan had parked next to our site while we were out. We introduced ourselves to the van owners who are Queenslanders from Bundaberg. This couple is traveling in their van Maggie – a Roadstar Magnifique and spends extended periods on the road in the van or taking other trips each year. They are soon to join a tag a long tour departing from Uluru and covering many remote areas including the Gun Barrel Highway and the Canning Stock route (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canning_Stock_Route) but will do so as passengers leaving their car and van in Alice Springs.
Saturday morning saw us in our truck exploring the country side. Firstly we drove the fifteen or so kilometres into the Wilpena Pound Resort (http://www.wilpenapound.com.au/) to see what was there. We had a look through their resort shop then left. Next we headed for the Sacred Canyon (http://www.southaustraliantrails.com/trails.asp?id=14198) some 13.5 kilometres along a gravel road to a dry creek bed where there are examples of Aboriginal etchings along the canyon like creek bed.
Once we returned to the bitumen we traveled a few kilometres along the road to the turnoff to Bunyeroo Gorge and after 29 kilometres along the road into Brachina Gorge (http://www.flindersranges.com/attract/nationalparks.htm). The trip through these two gorges is quite an adventure revealing spectacular scenery and magnificent ancient geological formations millions of years old, simply breath taking. We traveled back from Brachina to the Blinman road then traveled north to the historic mining town of Blinman (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blinman,_South_Australia) where we stopped for coffee before returning to Rawnsley Park via Stokes Hill Lookout (http://www.wilpenapound.com.au/explore-flinders-ranges/) which offers stunning views of the ranges in the vicinity and for us offered a number of kangaroos ready to pose for photographs.
On Saturday evening we joined our neighbours for the evening. The park provides fire pits for residents and the couple had decided to build afire and cook a savoury damper so over a few drinks we enjoyed the company and watched the damper cook in the coals of the fire – very tasty it was too.
On Sunday we had booked a flight over Lake Eyre with Bush Pilots Airways (http://www.bushpilots.com.au/fly-lake-eyre/) and drove into the Hawker Airstrip to join another couple and the pilot for the flight. The flight departed Hawker and flew over the Wilpena Pound and the Flinders Ranges National Park north to Lake Eyre flying over the towns of Leigh Creek (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leigh_Creek,_South_Australia) (which provides coal from an open cut mine to the power station at Port Augusts some 250 kms south) and Marree (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marree,_South_Australia) which sits at the junction of the Birdsville Track (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birdsville_Track) and the Oodnadatta Track (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oodnadatta_Track).
Madigan Gulf is the entry point to Lake Eyre and the flight traverses the lake for some distance until turning on a bearing to William Creek (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Creek,_South_Australia) where we land at the local airstrip to have lunch at the local pub – the William Creek Hotel (http://www.flyingtheoutback.com.au/william-creek). The pub has a reputation for legendary burgers but on the day we visited there was no chef available and the food fare consisted of pies, pasties and sausage rolls.
After lunch the return flight took us over the Painted Hills (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Painted_Desert_%28South_Australia%29) situated on Anna Creek Station. These hills are quite spectacular from the air which is the only way most people will see the formations as the pastoral leaseholders will not allow surface access at this stage in an effort to ensure the integrity of the formations. The flight tracked over the Woomera area, Olympic Dam, Roxby Downs and Lake Torrens on the return to Hawker.
Although there was very little water in Lake Eyre (muddy patches here and there) we thoroughly enjoyed our trip and saw lots of country which we would not otherwise have experienced. Perhaps we may return one day to fly over Lake Eyre when the lake has filled again.
Monday was to be our last day in the Flinders so we decided we would like to climb to the Wilpena Lookout on Rawnsley Bluff (http://www.southaustraliantrails.com/trails.asp?id=14028); the brochure detailing walks at the station suggested this was a walk of some 11.5 kilometres rated as difficult and indicated a round trip time of about four hours. Margaret prepared a slow cooked meal using or Shuttle Chef (http://www.thermalcookware.com/) and prepared a cut lunch that we packed into our backpack together with water and snacks for the trip and at about 10:15am we departed from the caravan park and drove to the Bluff Car Park – the start of the walk.
The first part of the walk was about 3 kilometres climbing on reasonably formed tracks through bush land heading towards the sheer wall of the bluff. As we drew closer it was apparent the path to the Bluff was along a ledge climbing diagonally up the side of the hill. When we came to the base of this ledge we realized where the “difficult” rating came from as the approach from here on was almost straight up over loose rocks and boulders for about 1.5 kilometres. Onwards and upwards and after many rests we reached what we thought was almost the summit – Lone Pine Lookout. While at Rawnsley Park mobile phone reception had been poor but on the lookout reception was fine and we encountered another couple one of whom was talking on her mobile phone.
After resting for a while we moved on to the next short climb of about 50 metres (it seemed like straight up) to reach the Bluff track which makes its way along the top of the bluff to a point where a choice of paths – to Wilpena Lookout or Rawnsley Bluff Lookout – is encountered; we chose Wilpena Lookout and followed the path of some 900 metres to the large rocks which are labeled Wilpena Lookout. From this point there is an excellent view down the centre of Wilpena Pound. At this point we decided to eat our lunch and after about twenty minutes we were ready to return to the caravan park.
Just as we were preparing to depart the lookout, the couple we encountered at Lone Pine Lookout arrived at the lookout and the ladies phone rang once again. We departed on the return trip and left the couple to their own devices. Making our way along the track we encountered two young British ladies making lite work of the track to Wilpena Lookout. The way down the steeper sections of the track was quite taxing as finding the right footholds on the rough track was a slow process for us – but not for the young British girls who caught up when we were about four fifths of the way down. Finally we reached the formed track at the base of the track and were very pleased to have done so.
As we completed the walk we encountered several kangaroos and the British girls encountered an Echidna – the girls didn’t know what they were looking at until we caught up and explained the animal to them.
Back at the caravan park we had warm showers to ease aching muscles and prepared our van for the departure next day. We joined our fellow Queenslander neighbours for the evening and sat around the open fire enjoying salt and pepper squid with another couple from Tarree in NSW who joined us over drinks and shared experiences. We also enjoyed our beef stew (courtesy of the Shuttle Chef) and quite enjoyed the evening and the pleasant company of our neighbours.
Overnight predicted rain fell on Rawnsley Park and our pack up and hook up on Wednesday morning was completed in light rain – quite unpleasant. We said our goodbyes and headed off back along the gravel road from the station towards Hawker and Port Augusta and the conclusion of our visit to the Flinders Ranges.