The Fella and I left Menindee, stocked up at the supermarket in Broken Hill, and headed into South Australia. Our plan was to get up to the northern part of the Flinders Ranges, to a remote area, Arkaroola.
We stayed one night in Copley, and watched the coal train go through. It has 161 trucks — I know, because I counted them! — and is 2.8 km long. It travels from Port Augusta to the mine and back each day.
The road into Arkaroola was great, through dry creek beds, around windy corners and over crests. Like everyone we arrived dripping with dust, set up camp in the camping ground and got our bearings.
This is not a traditionally beautiful place. It is rugged, hostile, dry, stony but also majestic, ancient, and gets into your soul. It is the bones of the earth laid bare. The Ranges glow in the morning and evening light, and the stark light of mid-day reveals all the fissures and faces.
(Peter McDonald lives in the Ranges and superbly photographs all their beauty. You can see his images on his blog, The Sentimental Bloke. Much better than my snaps!)
Also, Arkaroola was alive with colour from plants flowering after recent rains. These were no meek little ground hugging plants either. There were large bushes of yellow sida and senna, purple flowers of the bush tomatoes and the creams and reds of eremophilas.
Arakaroola is a privately owned wilderness area. It was bought in 1967 by Reg and Griselda Spriggs. It had been a struggling sheep station before that. Reg Spriggs had come up as a geologist student with his professor, the famous Sir Douglas Mawson, and like Mawson, had fallen in love with the area.
Griselda Spriggs, an intrepid woman, describes Arkaroola in her autobiography, “Dune is a four letter word”:
We climbed a ridge and looked northwards across the most breathtaking outback scenery I had ever seen: contorted regiments of rock, phalanxes of folded hills plunging into chasms, and creekbeds strewn with boulders and populated by giant river red gums, their bases still wrapped in the detritus of the last flood, so long ago now the litter was dry fuel for fire. We were in a mountain wilderness that had been forced high above the surrounding plains by continent-shaping forces long before mankind started counting time.
Eradication of feral animals was an important part of returning this stunning land back to its natural state, and the proliferation of plants shows the success of their programme. The Arkaroola website, linked at the beginning of this post, has more interesting information. Griselda Sprigg’s book is also a fascinating read of an amazing woman. Read it if it comes your way. Next time I want to tell you about the Ridge Top Tour.