Following the Big Wet - 2011 Trip – Part 6: Sturt National Park to the Flinders Ranges.

Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011 at 20:30

Member - John and Val

Next morning we took the opportunity of some fine (but still grey) weather to do a bit or repacking so we didn’t get on the road until late in the morning. Then it was west to Cameron Corner where we indulged in bacon burgers for lunch while we chatted to the locals about the rain and the roads, and to a young Canadian couple who had just that day started work there. Around Bollards Lagoon the country was green and there were pools of water where previously there had been red claypans. Then we were into new territory, never having been on the track west of Bollards Lagoon.

With warnings about soft spots on top of some of the dunes we continued west – up and down over the many dunes, but also with quite a few stops to take in and take photos of the country and the increasing number of wildflowers. The country, despite being semi desert was still quite green, with big patches of Crotalaria on the dunes. In the swales there was a lot of Nardoo with its furry clover like leaves. We were excited to find our first – for this trip – patch of spinifex in all its glorious spikiness.

We didn’t see much wildlife apart from another emu with chicks and a solitary well-fed camel that ran along the road in front of us for a few hundred metres before turning off the track. We had to laugh at the rear end view of its swaying gait. We had not expected to see any camels this far east. At the yellow bus we stopped to take photographs [Image cannot be loaded]but the graffiti and overflowing rubbish bins were a turn-off. Nevertheless, it’s still amazing that such a vehicle could have got there regardless of which direction it came from. We also liked the signs in the nearby dry tank.

Near Merty Merty we found a pleasant spot on Strzelecki Creek to spend the night. Miracle of miracles, the sun broke through the clouds late in the afternoon and it seemed amazingly bright. We were able to have a small fire and watch the stars come out, and we even saw a few satellites. One was so big and bright that we guessed it must have been the space station. And that wonderful outback silence was only broken by the hooting of an owl. Things were looking up.

Fog and ice on the trailer greeted us next morning but this soon cleared to a bright blue sky, which was wonderful to see. It cheered us up and made us eager to be on the road, and soon we were onto the Strzelecki Track. It had been 10 years since we were last on the track and now it was in very good condition, with even some lengthy stretches of bitumen – what is the world coming to? But we would not have recognised the country we were travelling through, it was green with grass and low shrubs, and there were lots of wattles and rattlepods in flower. The cobbler country with its mounds of sand shaped by the wind looked as strange as ever though.

About lunchtime we pulled into Montecollina Bore and decided that this was a good opportunity for a shower using our 12V pump and a bucketful each of the hot water from the bore. Bliss, but a whole bucketful was more than we could use! After we had eaten lunch we spent a while exploring the artificial wetland that has been created by the outflow from the bore. Quite a few birds were feeding there, and the big mounds of sand made for an unusual but interesting landscape.

Continuing south we were soon approaching Mt. Hopeless and the turn-off from the Strzelecki Track to the track that would take us down the eastern side of the Gammon and Flinders Ranges. A convoy of vehicles towing camper trailers was having a break at the turnoff and with a cheery wave they obligingly opened the gate to let us through.

The road now was not much more than a track in places, but it was easy driving and there was hardly any traffic. This is dry, remote but interesting country, and while it was now very green, there were still large areas of gibber. And tantalisingly blue in the distance, slowly emerging from the rolling plains as we moved south, were the beautiful Flinders Ranges.


The Flinders Ranges are one of those iconic Australian places, like the Barrier Reef, or Central Australia. Even before we had ever gone there we had images of these places firmly implanted in our mind’s eye.



A long time ago, from quite early in our lives, the art of Albert Namatjira came to represent what we thought of as quintessentially Central Australia. In much the same way, the pictures by Hans Heysen had a special place as representing the “real” Australia. These two artists defined for many people their image of the inland. Heysen’s River Red Gums especially defined what a gum tree should look like. His landscapes were interestingly different from those we’d personally experienced but were accepted as true Australiana. Decades later we still admire his ability to convey the beauty and toughness of the Australian landscape. A short biography may be found here and a small selection of his works is here

One of Heysen’s special loves was the Flinders Ranges, and in particular, the Aroona valley and its environs, where he produced some of his more familiar works. We hoped to go there are see the range named after him.

We’d passed through the Flinders on a number of occasions, always en route and in a hurry. This trip we wanted to allow time to explore them in more detail and experience in some small way that relationship with this country that had so inspired Heysen. We are never interested in simply ticking the tourist boxes and rushing on, and particularly wanted to experience the feel of this country and let it seep into us (if that makes sense!)

The landform is “different”. Different from the east coast ranges where we have lived, or the ranges and gorges of the Kimberley, different shape, different colour, softer and constantly changing light. Geologically, some areas are relatively young but others are very, very old, softened by weathering, and going back before the first known life on Earth.

With all these thoughts swirling around in our heads we stopped for the night by a creek lined with River Red gums that Heysen might have painted, and within sight of the Flinders. As we pulled in a bustard slowly paced the track ahead of us before vanishing into the bush. Wretched cloud was building again and produced a few spots of rain as we settled in for the night around a cheerful red gum fire.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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