Now I know this doesn’t look good at all, but it’s not nearly as bad as it seems! The Disco started having a hissy fit with unknown error codes on the computer as we came out of the Flinders Ranges, we had a few options and mostly because we were covered by Landrover Roadside Assist and party because we thought it would be a different kind of adventure for the kids we decided to get a lift from Quorn to Adelaide on a flat bed, not a small distance you realise – it’s some 350kms down the road. After four hours riding in the tow truck we all appreciated how spoilt we’ve been with the smooth ride of the Disco over the last 45,000km – that tow truck sure did bump down the road.
But I’ve digressed, before the excitement of ‘The Big Tow’ we spent a wonderful few days in the Flinders Ranges. We headed to Wilpena Pound thinking we’d camp there but discovered that the campground and resort at Wilpena are privately owned and the South Australia National Parks pass that we have ($65 for all the camping and National Park entries you can do for two months) was not valid there. We decided to head up to the national park to camp at the Trezona Campground in Brachina Gorge. The campgrounds all through the national park were almost deserted, we stayed at Trezona for three nights and barely saw anyone. Campers in general have been getting fewer over the last couple of weeks, I guess as people head home to spend Christmas with their families.
We are certainly in rural South Australia now, as evidenced by the huge number of rabbits around the place, there was a massive warren in the bank opposite our campsite at Trezona and the kids were fascinated with watching their activities.
We had a little taste of the wet weather the east coast is having on our first day in the Flinders, although in all honesty it barely wet the ground. We opted for a drive through Brachina Gorge and up to the Aroona Homestead ruins rather than any hiking that day though. The road through Brachina Gorge winds over the Brachina Creek in various spots although all bar a couple were completely dry, the same couldn’t be said to the roads though – the small amount of rain that had fallen made the roads very sticky, the car’s mudguards were plastered with mud and our shoes felt a few inches higher when we stepped out of the door of the car.
The ruins at Aroona were worth the visit, you can quickly climb the hill behind the old homestead to get a great view down Aroona valley between the Heysen and ABC ranges and if you continue on the trail there’s an 8km loop weaving through the ABC Range, but I couldn’t find the enthusiasm in the Malpass crew to do that with the possibility of rain – funny that. There are a lot of emus all around this area, some who hang around if you get near them. Indianna was a little too friendly on the day of our Aroona ruins visit and the emu arched his neck and started stomping his feet at her – you have never seen a little girl run so fast and scream so loudly, I’m not sure who ended up getting the bigger fright – Indi or the emu.
The birthday celebrations continued in the camper with Jake turning 11 while we were at Trezona. Unfortunately his birthday gift of new scooter bits and pieces couldn’t be put to the test here – there’s a distinct lack of skate parks in Flinders Ranges! So we opted for a 7km hike instead – as you can imagine Jake was not all that impressed by this birthday option.
We climbed up Mount Ohlssen Bagge to the rim of Wilpena Pound for Jake’s birthday, it was a pretty steep climb up and with still 1.5kms to go to the top Ben and I were wondering if everyone was going to make it… but we did. It’s been a while since we’ve done any walks and I think we were all a little out of practice!
Wilpena Pound is a massive natural amphitheatre of mountains in the southern part of the Flinders Ranges National Park. From the top it looks like it could have been formed from a giant meteorite falling to earth, but apparently not, it was formed from folding land masses a few hundred million years ago. The mountains that encircle the ‘pound’ reach as high as 1170m (St Mary Peak), Mount Ohlssen Bagge, which we climbed is 923m high and is obviously a great place for mountain goats to hang out. We saw a herd of feral goats on the mountain side as we hiked up and they’d moved their hang-out as we descended. Along with the goats there were a lot of lizards sunning themselves on the climb and when we made it to the top Tobey spotted a racing lizard! A lizard with the number 74 marked on his back in white paint, obviously part of some sort of research or monitoring program, but the people at the Information desk in Wilpena were not all that helpful in telling us exactly what it was about.
We had another wildlife treat in the carpark at Wilpena where Old Man Emu was supervising his babies having a drink and a bath. It was very cute. There is so much more to do in the Flinders Ranges area that we just have no time for now, we’ll certainly have to return here again one day. One thing we had rally wanted to do was the “Skytrek” on Willow Springs station. This is a 4WD trek around the station taking about a day, but includes driving to the highest point you can drive to in SA. With the recent rain and our shortening timeframe it’s something that we’ll have to leave until next time. We left our campsite at Trezona and headed north to the little town of Blinman. Blinman was established as a copper mining town in the mid 1800’s and today you can take a tour through one of the old underground mines.
We carried on through to Parachilna on the main road north in search of a birthday lunch for Jake of a different kind. The Prairie Hotel in Parachilna specialises in ‘feral food’, with goat, camel, kangaroo and emu on the menu as well as a whole load of other bush influenced food such as rosella flowers, quandong, lemon myrtle and saltbush. The menu certainly has a sophisticated feel to it though with the likes of Red Goat Curry, Chunky Kangaroo Tail Soup with warm ciabatta and Quandong Crumble Pie with cream and quandong coulis. We opted for the Feral Antipasto which included red gum smoked kangaroo and camel, roo mettwurst, emu pate, goats cheese, chargrilled vegetables with bush tomato chilli jam and warm ciabatta. You wouldn’t even know the meats were ‘feral’ unless you were told. It was all quickly gobbled up with requests for more. The hotel itself is a plush haven in the middle of nowhere with the interior having been revamped recently and displaying some beautiful modern indigenous art. Obviously not having a huge local clientele the hotel organises all sorts of special events which look like they’d be well worth making the effort to get to.
Our drive from Parachilna into Quorn was where our car started playing up so we decided to make an unscheduled stop in Quorn. Our stay in Quorn coincided with the Quorn Christmas Carols – hmmmm, that was an unusual event which seemed to be largely a vehicle for the lead singer of the town choir to order everyone around in front of a captive audience. As she continued to screech away we decided to cut our festivities short, but could unfortunately still hear her wails from the caravan park across the town! So much for the early night to wait for the tow truck.
So, the car has had a holiday at the Landrover dealer and we have had a holiday at the biggest caravan park we have ever seen (Adelaide Shores Big4) all thanks to the very worth-while extended warranty that we purchased a year ago. Thanks Allianz! Now we’re back on the road again trying to make it from Adelaide to Yamba for our Christmas booking. As we make our way towards rural NSW there’s a feeling of deja vu with flood waters closing some of the roads, this is the same situation we had at the beginning of the year as we travelled from western Victoria to Queensland. I only hope we’re as lucky this time as last with avoiding any major delays.