5 days in The Flinders Ranges

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Located from 200km to 800km north of Adelaide, the largest mountain range in South Australia is discontinuous and includes the Southern, Central and Northern Ranges. Over 500 million years old, the geology is diverse and dramatic and each town or city along the way offers something different. I’ll share with you the path we took, after doing some research.

Day 1: Pt Wakefield Road to Quorn. We stopped for a break and an excellent coffee at the Flinders Rest pub in Warnertown, then non-stop to Quorn. After checking in at the Quorn caravan park, we drove out on the Arden Vale Road (dirt, but good) to the Simmonston Ruins, where eager pioneers had built, anticipating the railway’s course, which altered.

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There are several sights along this track, including Proby’s grave, the sad tale of a wealthy 24 year-old Hugh Proby, who drowned in a freak flood (the same flood that had pioneers think that there’d be plenty of water in the area).

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Everywhere is a good spot to get some view of the Ranges, but Buckaringa Scenic Drive and lookout was reasonable, despite the falling light.

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We headed to Warren Gorge expecting somewhere to hike, but found instead a popular place to camp on the cheap. You could certainly do hikes if you stayed here, but it wasn’t the gorge walk we were expecting. Fabulous examples of rock formations and flora typical to the area.

On our way back, we checked out the road to Dutchman’s Stern Conservation Park for the next day. 

Day 2: Dutchman’s Stern is a great hiking spot, but the road out isn’t suitable for a caravan. Most of it was fine for a regular car, but there were some deep corrugations.

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We decided to do the Terrace Viewpoint and see how we went for time, but then continued on to the summit. As time was short we returned by the same route, rather than doing the loop hike. The paths vary, but are not suitable for wheelchairs and there’s often loose rock. We made it in 2 hours and are of average health and fitness for over 55s. No terribly steep bits, just the occasional rubble.

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good signage

The views, on this early, foggy morning were inspiring, even before we got to the Terrace Viewpoint.

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Making it to the summit about 10 minutes later.

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and walk back with wildlife.

Accommodation is available at the homestead and shearer’s quarters, for a reasonable group, if you decide to base yourself here and look around the area or do more walks. We went from here to Death Rock. I couldn’t find why it was called that, but the local Aboriginal people call the area Kanyaka, meaning piece of rock, and it was significant to them because it was, and remains, a permanent waterhole.

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Hugh Proby (mentioned earlier) moved to the area and set up a cattle station that became one of the largest in the area until drought forced its closure. The ruins are substantial and hint at more prosperous times. They are very picturesque.

It is an easy drive from here to Hawker and then on to Wilpena Pound, where we camped in an unpowered site, beside the river bed. The park is very large and there is a swimming pool, but I’m not sure if it’s for motel guests. The rest of the park allowed open fires, which I didn’t expect at this time of the year.

exuberant campfire builders later in the night

We set out fairly soon for Sacred Canyon, which has some Adnyamathanha engravings. The Aboriginal people do not mind that you take photos of it and the canyon is short, making it manageable for families with young children. If you can make it along the serious corrugations to the canyon, it is pretty, interesting and has some great rock formations.

We continued on a short way to Huck’s lookout and Stoke’s Hill lookout, the latter having a short but shocking dirt road. The views were ok, but late light on a cloudy day isn’t the nest for photos (sorry).

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We passed some emus on the way back to the campsite. They were everywhere and you need to keep an eye out for them, as they can dash across the road and into your path.

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Day 3: We took Explorer’s Highway, beside paddy melons, to the Great Wall of China

and then on to Blinman, the highest recorded town in South Australia. It has an art gallery, great bakery/coffee shop, pub and excellent public toilets.

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From here we headed to Glass and Parachilna Gorges. It was a long stretch that had no water, like most of the Ranges, and you couldn’t help but wonder how beautiful it would be with some rain. Apparently, it had been 18 months since they had had a decent rainfall and the effect was shocking. Gorges that I had been to in years past, with thundering rivers, were dry dust bowls. Campers took advantage of the dry beds and pitched in isolated spots.

Driving towards Brachina Gorge, on good road and with the Ranges to your left, was lovely. Brachina Lookout is interesting, with its geological information repeated as you travel through the gorge, as if through time. But, again, the dry river beds we lunched beside were disappointing. Plenty of campsites here, if you are self-sufficient or only need a toilet.

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Returning to Wilpena, I took the walk at the back of the park, to the old Wilpena Station. This is a beautiful path and easy on foot or in a wheelchair, or you can get a lift at the tourist centre, I think, most of the way.

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good signage
significant rock
creek bed

The lookouts were not remarkable and I think the view from the hill at the back of the park is much better and you get plenty of roos.

steep upward path to the lookout
the view from the first lookout
view from the hill behind the park
roos a-plenty

Day 4: We set off at 8.45 am for St Mary’s Peak, the highest mountain in the range, without intending to climb beyond the shoulder, as the Adnyamathanha people hold the peak as a significant site.

We checked at the tour centre first, as the maps provided weren’t clear, as in which direction to head. There is an easier, level track that is longer but pretty flat, with exposed sections, and an outer track that is fast, steep and difficult.

After a disagreement regarding which marker to follow, we believed that we were on the easy track, and powered on.

a level path for about an hour

The track was picturesque and enjoyable for about an hour and then we got to some very steep climbs requiring vertical scaling of rock walls. We stopped for a bite (thankfully we had the scroggin) and went on and up. Needless to say, we had taken the difficult way and although it was quite quick, we didn’t joyfully anticipate the drops on return. 

the steep escarpment required goat-like skill
A view of St Mary’s peak, I think

Taking the longer route back (12 km) took a lot longer than it should have. A mistake in judgement had us travelling with one bottle of water and no sunscreen. The way was flat but very exposed and by now it was midday. The whole trek took us 7 hours, instead of the suggested 6, or less. BIG MISTAKE – please don’t make it. 

view at the shoulder
Hill’s homestead

We stopped at the Hill’s Homestead, built in 1888, and read about Jessie Hill, daughter of the owner. We meandered along the shady path back to camp for a huge rest and an average beer on our return, only venturing to the office to seek WiFi.

WiFi is picked up more easily near the office

Day 5: We went home via Cradock, stopping at Maggie’s Rendezvous in Orroroo for homemade quandong pie (don’t miss it) and to admire their pink ribbon support. Maggies had some quirky table puzzles and nic nacks that kept you distracted while you waited (not that it was a long time). We had lived in Orroroo a short time while doing teacher placement and it is a lovely town, very friendly.

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Maggie’s Rendezvous supporting pink day

Last stop historic Clare for a bakery vegetarian pasty and then home.

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Safe travels. Take plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen. It’s not pleasant if you forget!!

Sequel to Morialta

A rare event! Rain in Adelaide. So, with visitors from Western Australia in tow, we headed back to Morialta Falls and did the same trek. There’s no need to lead you through the same, but I’ll use photos to show the difference 10mm of rain can make to colour and effect.

 

 

IMG_4590 (2)IMG_4732Perhaps my first blog on this waterfall could have been Prequel to Precipitation at Morialta. So many more water shots could be taken, and you see both falls from more vantage points. The path was at times slippery.

Walk safely, with the map downloaded on your phone (although it’s only very general) and take water because even in the rain you get thirsty.

Backyard bathing

In response to this week’s photo challenge, “What makes you smile?” I have to say, New Holland Honeyeaters using my sprinkler for a bath.

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They disappeared for a few years, following the arrival of the Noisy Miner Birds (vicious birds who harass other birds in groups) but I noticed their return last year. Shy creatures, they dart away from my dog and wait until the sprinkler is near a tree or shrub, so that they can hide away while they bathe.

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But they make a lot of noise, chirping and cavorting.

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Shaking off the drops

Or signalling that the coast is clear!

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Wet and wild!

And amusing!

Oddities at the beach

In response to Cee’s Oddball challenge this week, I am submitting a couple of photos of I don’t know what, taken at the beach.

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strange sea offering

They just got washed up on the shore and I tried to google any sightings of odd sea creatures at Semaphore, but nothing showed up.

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seaweed adds authenticity to this one

The patterning and colour is very like Aboriginal artwork.

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Each one is about the size of my hand.

They are soft and jelly-like (yes, I touched them). Mysterious, beautiful, creepy.

Safe beach travels. Watch where you tread!

A sunburnt country

Dorothea Mackeller, 1885 – 1968, described Australia as “…a sunburnt country…” in her poem, My Country. The weekly photo challenge this week involves choosing your favourite sunrise or sunset photos, and there are plenty of opportunities, here. I noticed that most of my sunrises are over land and my sunsets over water. I’ll be interested to see if that’s common for most photographers in the challenge.

I wake early, so I see many sunrises from my backyard and from farther afield.

In Australia, the redder the sunset, the hotter the next day will be. Although I’m not a night owl, I also see lots of sunsets.

My father used to say,

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a girl healthy, wealthy and wise.”

I achieved the first and in my definition of what is valuable, I am rich beyond my dreams. There’s still time for the wisdom.

Safe travels, whatever you do between sunrise and sunset, this week. Take your camera!

Waterfalls of Adelaide – Morialta.

So, I’ve decided to do a series on Adelaide Waterfalls, for three reasons: Winter is approaching, there are only three of them, and they’re accessible sights of Adelaide.

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Morialta Falls, like Waterfall Gully and Horsnell Gully Falls, is 10km from the centre of Adelaide, along good roads.

There are several carparks, allowing you to either walk long the creek to the main base, or to start from the latter. We had my niece with us, who has done two walks here, so we were competently led along the Falls Plateau Walk and returned via the Second Falls Gorge Track. If you were limited for time or had no desire for trecking, the direct path to the falls is very flat and takes about 10 minutes. There are warnings that it can get muddy and slippery.

The uphill paths are narrow but in good condition and the start was very steep for about an hour, which was only 2km! There were rest stops where you can also get some nice views.

Then it’s onward and upward, past xanthorreas, to see what the viewers ahead can see.

Escarpments, the lower track and the city of Adelaide in the distance.

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Parakeets dashed into the thicket, hid among ghost gums and xanthorrea.IMG_4508IMG_4510IMG_4511IMG_4515

Until, finally, the rugged cliffs of the first falls appeared below, nestled in a harsh ravine.

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You approach the falls from behind, almost on top of it, and the aspect is beautiful.

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Anticipating greater things, and an easier, more downhill climb, we headed for the second falls, which soon became visible.

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From one of  the many bridges and lookouts, we had great views.  The valley is impressive.

IMG_4552We were keen to see the Giant’s cave and face the first waterfall, so we took advantage of the de-cline, checked our route once more and made for the correct track, admiring the views along the way.

Within a short time we were at the mouth of the Giant’s cave, with its functional stairways and nooks for young and old to enjoy.  Our final destination was before us and the main path, here, is very wide and suitable for wheelchairs, prams, the not-so-ambulant and groups of people. It is a short walk, with steep natural walls and century-old constructed walls.

At last! We were facing the first falls. Or trickle.

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We’ll have to see it in Winter and compare the flow, but the sight was majestic, nonetheless. We made our way back to the car, but this time being a little more aware of nature. The park is quite well-known for sightings of wildlife and today was no exception.

If you’ve heard about ‘drop bear’, this is a close up of the culprit.

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looks harmless, right?

Apparently there were roos (kangaroos) but we didn’t see them. The entire walk took us 2 hours, with all of our stops and photos. A couple of Richmond FC players ran past at some stage and they definitely wouldn’t have taken that long. It was an overcast day and only about 23C but the demands of the first stretch did make us thirsty. So be prepared.

Morialta Falls is part of Morialta Conservation Park. You can download the maps for free on your smart phone and know exactly where you are (I discovered later). Morialta was the name given to the park in 1972. Prior to that it was a National Pleasure Resort in 1915, after being donated to the Government by James Reid Smith in 1912. He had purchased it in 1901, but in 1870 Angora goats were introduced to the area, following attempts at mining and grazing. It has an interesting history. The original owners are not named, but I think they would be the Kaurna People. Park management still works with Aboriginal people in the development and maintenance of the area.

For the driest State in the driest Continent, I think we’re doing very well to have waterfalls!

Why! I might just see the one near Victor Harbour and make it a ‘Waterfalls in South Australia’ series.

Safe Travels. Visit South Australia and bring water and a hat. Watch out for drop bears.