As I said at the start of my last blog, the cycling is finished in Australia so were now doing some trips as “normal” tourists, we've already been to Kangaroo Island but this time we head out to The Flinders Ranges!!
We booked the trip online with a company called Heading Bush, we got lucky because they agreed to pick us up where we were staying which saved us having to get a taxi into Adelaide !!
Our guide and driver, Flynn turned up on time and we got settled for the trip. We picked up three other people and that was it, just the five of us and Flynn !
It's great that we had a 16 seater mini bus and so few people, just so much room. Once everyone was on board and settled Flynn gave the introductory speech and outlined a basic itinerary for the next few days, he also said that as there were so few of us we could decide amongst ourselves where and what we should do and see….brilliant !!
It was still very early when we left Adelaide behind us for the trip up to the Ranges and most of us nodded of for a couple of hours but when we reached a place called Snowtown our guide let us out for a stretch, and to take a look at this…
It's a blade from a wind turbine, it's huge !! Now Snowtown is on the map because it has the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere, it just so happens that the hills and wind conditions make it a perfect place to sight these behemoths and they produce enough electricity for 70,000 homes !!
From Snowtown we continued north to the coastal towns of Port Wakefield and Port Germaine, the landscape was shrouded in mist and the wind turbines looked quite ghostly standing on the hills !!
We reached Port Germaine, it boasts the longest wooden jetty in the Southern Hemisphere, this is a day of big stuff and big boasts !! Seriously this jetty is huge, over a kilometre long..and no we didn't walk to the end, we didn't have time !!
What with the jetty, lighthouse and some odd looking clock it was a great place to fire up the camera and rattle of a few photos !!
Sadly our stop at this lovely place didn't last long and we needed to get going, we still had a long way to go to our accomodation at one of the original sheep stations in central Flinders !! And we still had plenty to see and do before we got there !!
Our next stop was at Mount Remarkable National Park, here we'd have lunch, but first a little walk along the river and into the bush. Flynn was a great guide, he and his family come from the Flinders area, they've farmed sheep for generations so he was very knowledgable about the various plants, trees and wildlife, made it much more interesting having a little info about what you were looking at !
Needless to say the cameras were clicking away madly, it it was pretty, colourful or moved we took photos ! Then it was a gentle walk back to the minibus and trailer to sort out lunch. Now as with our kangaroo island trip, the guide cooks but the punters get to wash up…no problem !!
Well so far we're all loving this trip, Flynn is a great guide and careful driver, the scenery so far has been fantastic, lunch was excellent and we've only just started,lots more to do and see so what's next ?
Quorn, historic township on the northern end of the Pichi Richi pass and the start of the original Ghan Railway, the old railway buildings are still there but sadly the steam locos stopped a long time ago !! We stopped here mainly for fuel and grocery shopping but we did have a quick look round and it is a very quaint looking place !!
Still heading north and getting more and more remote with each passing kilometre we turn off the sealed road onto an unmade road that stretches out into the distance further than my eyes can see, surrounded by 600 million year old mountain ranges, the sun picking out the crests, the birds chattering and the desiccated trees standing alone in this wilderness….I felt so small !!
We were on our way to visit the grave of a guy called Hugh Proby, the son of a wealthy Scottish landowner, Hugh set out for Australia in the 1850's. He made his home here in the Flinders and set up a sheep station, he was only 19 years old when he arrived here. He worked hard and built a fantastic home (we'll see that later) but sadly during heavy rains he was swept away by flash floods while trying to move his sheep to higher ground. I can only imagine the sheer effort of will needed to carve out an existence in this landscape but to do it at only 19… Incredible !! His family made it out to his grave after several years and shipped his grave stone from the UK, it weighs a ton and must have been a logistical nightmare to get to this remote part of the world !!
From Hugh's grave we carried on, still heading north to our home at Rawnsley Park for the next two nights. Naomi and I had opted for the tent option, much cheaper than the dorm or cabin and as it was warm it wasn't a problem !! We got ourselves settled in then met the other guys for dinner. The sheep station we're staying at is now more for tourists than sheep. It has places for caravans, motor homes, theirs dorms, tents and several levels of cabins with or without ensuite !! There are also plenty of facilities including fully equipped kitchens and dining rooms and plenty of showers and toilets. It's a huge site and it was very busy, I was quite surprised considering how far from major towns and cities it is !!
As we watched the sun set over the Range our guide promised that we would be in a great spot to see not only sunset tomorrow night but sunrise in the morning…looks like we've got an early start then, bed early I think !
No surprise to find us up and about early then, we skipped breakfast as we all agreed that we'd see sunrise then come back for it after. So all aboard the minibus and off we go to the well positioned viewing area, it's up a fairly steep unmade road and we didn't think the bus would get up but we were wrong !! The views were fantastic and as the sun rose slowly into the deep blue sky it highlighted the red rocks just as if someone had shone a torch on them, it looked incredible !! What a great start to our day, and with breakfast still to come it was only ever going to get better !!
As I said earlier, our guide gave us the option to change the itinerary if we wanted to see something in particular but we all agreed to just let him drive us about and show of this beautiful area, our only request was to visit Wilpena Pound so that's where we headed first !!
We made our way there though more rugged landscapes and into the Flinders Range National Park, we had to get our permits to visit this wonderful place. From the office it's a short drive through the campsite to a carpark further up the range, a little less hiking and more time to see things and take photos…good idea.
From the carpark Flynn guided us up the trail through long since deserted farms, through dense bush and up steps carved into the rock of the Pound itself, up and up we walked, the air already hot and humid, the sky a brilliant blue such a great contrast to the rust coloured rock and vibrant greens of the vegetation. Finally we made it to the viewing platform and we were in awe, what an amazing place…
Although from the outside the Pound appears as a single range of mountains, it is actually two: one on the western edge, and one on the eastern, joined by the long Rawnsley's Bluff at the south. A gorge called Wilpena Gap has been cut in the eastern range, and most of the inside of the Pound drains into Wilpena Creek which exits through the Gap. A small part of the high northern slopes of the Pound drains into Edeowie Creek, which drains in time of flood over steep cliffs and waterfalls in Edeowie Gorge to the north.
The wall of mountains almost completely encircles the gently-sloping interior of the Pound, with the only breaks being the gorge at Wilpena Gap and a high saddle in the south-western range over which the Heysen Trail passes. This latter saddle is called Bridle Gap, supposedly because it's the only place other than the gorge where a skilled horseman might ride into the Pound. The interior of the Pound does not rise to a height at the northern edge, but instead simply drops off very steeply to the plain below in a series of steep gullies.
The photo that was taken from above shows if this natural phenomena far better than I can explain it and my own photographs taken from ground level hardly do it justice but take my word for it…..it's incredible !!! Needless to say we took lots of photos, not just of the great view but if plants, rocks, trees and carvings….fantastic !!
Well how do you top that ? Easy, you head straight to Bunyeroo Gorge, stopping along the way to view it first from the lookout. What amazing colours in the rocks and with that unmade road snaking it's way past the Razors back it makes for a fabulous photo, we couldn't wait to get down there !!
This gorge is one of several in the area that we could have visited but Flynn picked because it's home to the Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby, strange though, it doesn't have yellow feet but it does have a banded tail and distinct markings on it's face…real cute but very skittish !!
The gorge is through rock that are over 600 million years old and are a treasure trove of fossils, no wonder it's called the “Corridor of Time” !! We hoped we might also get to see kangaroos, emus and ostrich and we did, sadly we still didn't get to see an echidna or any snakes !!
The gorge really did live up to expectation, such a great place to take photos, lots of them, wildlife, plants, trees and rocks were all on the hit list, such vibrant colours..amazing !!
From Bunyeroo we travelled through more incredible scenery to Sacred Canyon but not before we changed the flat tyre we'd gotten on the rough roads through the gorge. A team effort had it done in no time and with the old tyre on the roof rack and the jack stowed safely we were on our way again. The canyon is an Aboriginal sacred site, with it's watering hole and rock carvings it's not hard to see why. We parked up the bus and walked in, surrounded on both side by towering ancient rocks with huge native red gum trees clinging to the scant soil at the base. The path winds it's way through the canyon, over rocks through crystal clear springs until you round a corner and are faced with, it might not look much, a muddy brown pond, but it hardly ever dries up and that's why it's so important. The rock walls are adorned with carvings honouring this place, the split in the rock at the rear of the watering hole leads you further into the canyon and more photo opportunities !! Such a fantastic place ;-)
It's getting late in the day now, it's been an incredible day but we're all a bit excited about the sunset so Flynn heads back to Rawnsley Park and the lookout. As we head back through this wonderful place the sun sinks lower and lower, the rock walls now lit up, there rust colour just seems to shout at you. The desert floor covered on low scrub, home to snakes and numerous other forms of wildlife starts to cool but the contrast of colours is amazing !!
We reach the viewing area in plenty of time and take our positions, cameras ready, batteries charged for the greatest show on earth, sunset at Flinders Range !!!
How amazing is that !!!
And so back to camp, weary after a long hot day but elated, we've all taken literally hundreds of photos and I for one can't wait to see them on my ipad but first the small matter of showers and dinner !! The group worked well as a team and dinner took no time at all, we were ravenous and it was soon demolished, the dishes washed and then we joined Flynn for a quick beer under the stars before heading to the tent for much needed sleep. It'll be another early start in the morning and we need to pack up our kit, it's a long drive back to Adelaide and we have a few things to see on the way !!
I got up early and relieved Flynn in the kitchen, I made breakfast for everyone, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and tomato, Naomi played commis chef and sorted the toast, we just got it to the table as Flynn and the other guys arrived…perfect timing and a very tasty start to our day !! Then Flynn looked up and noticed this huge spider above where I was working, he said it was a huntsman and although not deadly it would be very painful. Next thing you know he's off looking for more spiders and spots this one right by the door, a red back, again not life threatening but certainly painful if bitten !! Let's get out of here !!
Our first stop of the day was to be Hugh Probys Homestead but as the sun climbed higher into the sky we noticed this beautiful spot and persuaded Flynn to stop for photos…
Well worth the stop I think you'll agree but we really must get on, we've got a long way to go. The Proby estate is big, in it's heyday it must have been an impressive place and hard to believe the guy was only 19 when he arrived here. Its sadly now ruins but the sheer scale of it is still amazing and it certainly makes for some great photos !!
Well it's still early in the day and we're already having a great day, where next we wondered ?
The answer was a place called Melrose, the oldest town in the Flinders Range and a very pretty place indeed. We'd be having lunch here but first a short walk through some of the idyllic countryside. The diversity of plant life here had me snapping away like a maniac, such great colours. Not just plants either, fungi, leaves, trees were all there to be photographed not to mention the old brewery, old doors and stone work !!
After the walk we met Flynn in the local public garden where the pay as you go electric BBQ was getting full use, grilled chicken was on the menu with some great salads and bread to accompany it. The food was good and plentiful but yet again I was longing to take photos, such a beautiful place !!
Heading south back to Adelaide and with still quite away to go we had to cross the railway lines more than once but we got caught out by a passing train on one occasion and boy did it take a long time to pass. I stopped counting after 50 carriages and it still had lots left….makes for a great photo though !!
Now were approaching the Clare valley, one of Australia's best wine regions and that means another stop but this one is for wine tasting !!
To be honest when we pulled into Mr Mick's winery we were all quite disappointed, it wasn't quite our idea of a Clare valley vineyard, we were expecting somewhere a bit more rural, vines, a nice farmhouse, outdoor tables with stunning views. The reality was a modern facility next to an old stone building but it was situated in what looked more like an industrial area and was next door to an Australian version of B & Q !! Hardly a romantic setting and to be honest the wine wasn't up to much either, it was the first and only disappointment on this trip and we quickly forgot about it !
With just one more comfort stop before Adelaide we took the opportunity to sit and have a coffee and cake, the owner had a parrot outside, lovely looking animal but we gathered he could be quite naughty so fingers were kept well away !!
It wasn't to long after that we arrived back in Adelaide, Flynn was a star and dropped us back at our place in north Brighton !
Well what a trip, great guide, fantastic scenery, lots of photos and nice people, it was expensive but worth every penny !!
I hope you enjoyed this tour of The Flinders Range and that you'll continue to follow our adventures ;-)