Lake Eyre and then where? (Part 1 The Flinders Ranges)

Friday, Dec 30, 2011 at 03:55

Member - Michael John T (VIC)

Home after a three month trip overseas we landed back in Central Victoria in the middle of June. Now for the last 10 years we haven't spent winter at home and my wife, Brenda was adamant (after a few weeks of cold winds and rain) that this year wasn't to be the first, so with our only objective of taking a flight over Lake Eyre we headed off. A couple of days later we rolled into Hawker to for fill our obligations of completing the census. Actually it is a great little township and the kicking off point for the Flinders. Before leaving the next morning our camping neighbours suggested we should visit the "Wilpena Panorama" attraction, an unique 360 degree vision of the Flinders Ranges by internationally claimed local artist Jeff Morgan. (Google him for more info) I have to say it was terrific and as if you were standing atop of St Marys Peak. Three other wall size paintings of gullies and waterholes in the Flinders "Outback on Canvas"can also be viewed. One of them called " Ron's Creek" is 15 metres long, 5 metres high and took 3000 houirs to paint These were equally impressive with great perspective and an uncanny feeling you were actually there. Well worth the small charge.
Now the Flinders Ranges we have visited several times over the last 25 years but more recently only passing through on our way home. They remain one of our favourite destinations, almost the "Pilbara of the South". So we decided we would spend a few days revisiting some of those beautiful spots from years ago.
By-passing the popular Wilpena Pound we turned off into Sacred Canon just as a short shower of rain made the track a little slippery. Lunch and a stroll up the pretty creek bed into the canyon rewarded us with great colours and several small plants to photograph. Well worth a visit if you are in the vicinity. On the way in "old dad emu" with his three chicks crossed in front of us and then waited on the side of the track until his fourth chick was safely across.

Our destination for the night was one of the several camping areas in the Bunyeroo Valley.
It took us awhile as we stopped on numberous occasions to take in the views, the road through (even though we have driven it both ways several times in the past) is just stunning and must rank very high on the must do agenda around Australia. The flowering vegetation, the colours in the distant hills and rolling hillsides, the creek beds and rocky outcrops just makes it a wonderland. Eventually we settled into the small but pretty camp site sharing the area with a young couple who we would meet several time later in our travels. Following a large red gravel scree sprawling down the reasonably steep hillside we took a lovely walk through the lightly timbered bush. With the storm clouds hovering over the hills and the sun still breaking through them the stillness of the bush was only broken by the small birds and the occasional roo fleeing our path. A small camp fire and cooling night air saw us into bed around 9.30 pm. Another day to remember.

The last time we visited Chambers Gorge was in the early 90's so we decided this would be our destination today. Well it took us until 4pm to travel the 116 kms to reach it. Leaving the beautiful Bunyeroo Valley we turned east into the Brachina Gorge and followed the well sign posted Geological Trail stopping at each point of interest. As well as the geology there was a grave of a small child who died while passing through in the late 1800's and ruins to explore.

A further 11 kms to the turnoff to Blinman where we found the old copper mine and it's ruins, another of those remains of the hard work and hardships endured by early Australians. Lunch along side a small creek a few kms outside of the town and then 33 kms to Wirrcalpa turnoff before heading in a NE direction for 21 kms to the turnoff to Chambers Gorge. I vividly remembered the gorge itself but as we entered the designated camping areas it didn't look famillar. A quick set up of camp and a scramble to find firewood as Brenda made a cuppa and then all righted itself with a walk along the track to the mouth of the Gorge itself, years ago you could drive all the way now it is discouraged. If you follow the signage you come across numberous aboriginal etchings. The walk back on dusk rewarded us with a lovely sunset and the realisation that tonight we would be the only ones there, later that night however we caught site of a distant light as late arrivals pulled into camp.

The drive from Chambers Gorge to the Yunta road took us through the low hills and winding road of the very pretty Wearing Gorge and from there to the wide open plains that encompass Lake Frome. The road was in good condition and we made steady progress stopping to view the ancient sand blow just opposite the now dilapitaded grave of the swagman who perished on this track in 1871, what a lonely place to die. Further on we approached and drove by the Gammon Ranges and into the rugged landscape of Arkaroola. Here we registered and paid $18 per night to bush camp along the dry creek course, a good spot. That afternoon we drove through the quite spectacular hills and valleys to Ballabollana Spring where we spent some time wandering along the water hole and talking with three other couples. A few kms on the Bollabollana Copper Smelter, still in remarkable condition and the opportunity to fossick among the discarded slag heaps. At this point you actually enter just inside the border of the Gammon Ranges NP. Time to head back to camp as although the track is well defined and traveled some of the dry creek crossings and the stony surface makes it slow going, all the better though to take in the scenery, wild flowers and fauna that abounds in this spectacular area. Sitting around the camp fire that night, down by the creek with the night sky brilliant with a near full moon above, you could imagine that you were hundreds of Kilometers from any where, I guess in a way we were.

Today we head out to Paralana Hot Springs. Boy does this bring back memories, the last time we did this was in 1981 and we made it out there in a Ford Fairmont sedan with 4 kids in the back seat. Brenda spent a lot of time checking that the under carriage was clearing the rocks etc... Actually it was when we returned home that we bought out first (very basic) three speed Nissan 4WD. We haven't looked back since. Anyway it was a slow trip out this time as we stopped off at several attractions, there was Lively's Gold Mine (Find) - how did he come to look for gold out here? Then we needed to drive through the twin Jaspers a pair of large rocks and then stopping at the Welcome Copper Mine remains for a rummage. At this point the floral vegetation was absolutely stunning and small thorn bills and juvenile red capped robins flitted among the low scrub and hops bushes.

From here the track became a 4wd track and in places quite rough as we climbed over the ridges, with fantastic views, to Stubbs' Water Hole. Unfortunately at this time of the year only a dribble of water in it, but a short walk along it revealed great rock formations and interesting examples of varying loose stones. A great place for lunch. The scenery became more spectacular as we topped the ridge to view and then drive through Welcome Pound exiting it via Claudes' Pass. Now a sign indicated the Springs at 11 kms, with an increasingly rough track (did we really drive it in a ford 2wd? - not today) and it took us 3/4 hour to reach the Springs. Unfortunately they were not as we remembered them and had to really look hard to find them, but the bubbles (mildly radioactive) were still evident. Although a little disappointing at the end the drive out and equally the 30 km, 1 3/4 hour return trip was a high light of our stay, that scenery again. Some cloud tonight so a warmer night.

Day eight of our trip and we decided last night to drive to Grindells Hut in the Gammon ranges. We have heard a lot about it and are keen to visit. Leaving Arkaroola without doing the Ridge Top tour seems wrong, but we have fabulous memories of it last time with the kids, all sitting in the back of the Toyoto on milk crates and that fantastic ascent of Chillas Lookout. Just short of Balcanoona Ranger Station we turned west and followed the relatively easy but slow 17 km track to the hut . The area is very picturesque but not quite as rugged as around Arkaroola. The pastoralist MacLachlan built an additional residence in front of the original Grindell's hut and this has been "done up" and is available for hire, sleeping eight people. Excellent tank water is available, but limited to 20 litres. Plenty of camping space a few hundred meters below the hut among the scrub. Plenty of opportunity for walking makes this an ideal spot for e few days and a loop 4wd road passes through it. Tonight we had a beautiful sight of the full moon rising between the hills and over the trees.

From here we have decided to make our way to Marree and our fight over the lake, the subject of part two.
We retired to travell
It's time to go again...
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