How can we begin to describe the Flinders Ranges in ways that do justice to its rugged beauty, grandeur, remoteness and especially the colours that herald the sunrises and sunsets over the jewel in the crown, Wilpena Pound? We’ll cover the bits we enjoyed most.
We based ourselves at Merna Mora station, part of a 130,000-acre pastoral estate running sheep and cattle, just outside the national park. Sadly, the cold windy conditions each evening meant no campfires, however the locals weren’t unhappy about the 6mm of rain on the first night.
The Flinders Ranges are extensive, with plenty of short walks, long hikes and 4WD tracks to explore. We particularly enjoyed the Moralana Scenic Drive, with its magnificent river gums and stunning early morning views of the ranges. The Brachina Gorge Geological Trail was also a highlight; the diverse array of rocks exposed along its pathway reveal a rich geological history between 500 and 650 million years old. The area was apparently flooded by seawater for much of this 150-million-year period, hard to imagine given it is now 165km from the nearest coast at Port Augusta.
While driving the Brachina Trail we arrived at a small creek crossing (which actually had water in it!) at the same time as three older ladies in a small front wheel drive hatchback arrived from the opposite direction. The track at that point was quite rough with a short steep descent on their side. Clearly the water across the road concerned them and they waited for us to cross before questioning us as to whether they could make it across. As we eased past, we assured them they could make it across. We waited while they crossed and were rewarded by happy waving and horn tooting as they headed up the other side. We could only assume they had thought it was a nice day for a drive in the country, perhaps?
We loved the rock formation of the ‘Great Wall of China’ and, having seen the real thing in China, this was a great natural feature which deserves the name.
Exploring the remote villages of Blinman and Parachilna, just north of the national park, was like stepping back in time. (And, to be honest, didn’t take a lot of time … they are pretty small outposts!) The heavy drawn grader on display in Blinman was the very one used to grade the roads around here from the 1930s. Now that’s hard yacka! We stopped for coffee at the Prairie Hotel in Parachilna but weren’t ‘game’ enough to sample their signature dish – the Feral Mixed Grill (kangaroo, emu, goat etc.). But we did take advantage of the opportunity of a mobile signal to call home.
Oh, and as this area is the start of our outback experiences (on this trip, at least), it was also our first introduction to how bad the flies are out here!