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Plants Travels

The southern Flinders Ranges

After we left our magical overnight camping ground, and our lovely new neighbours (and all the flies!), we spent some nights in Rawnsley Park Station. We stayed there two years ago, and this link will tell you more about the history of the station. It is a great place to stop.

We did some walks around the hills. One took in the views of the Elder Range, to the south of Wilpena Pound. As a botanical artist I love looking at the flowers and plants that are growing, (that’s why you never take a botanic artist on a walk if you are in a hurry!), so I was fascinated to see these fields of plants. They seemed to be some sort of salvia, but I couldn’t find them in my reference books. I loved the way they carpeted the area, and set off the view to the ranges.

Perhaps “carpet” is a relative term! For an arid, rocky area, this is quite a carpet. This photo shows you the sort of soil they have to grow in. By the way, that is white lichen on the rock.

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)

Like all these arid areas they come into their own in the morning and evening, when the light is soft. There are often spectacular sunrises and sun sets. I will leave you with photos of some, so you can see why places like this get into your soul.

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Travels

South from Arkaroola

The roads from Arkaroola are unmade and can be quite difficult after rains. It is always good to get up-to-date information about road conditions when travelling in the more remote areas of Australia. However, the one we took south was dry and dusty, and in quite good condition. Except for the creek crossings. They were all dry, as most creeks in that area are seasonal and are dry more often than running. However, the road through them can be rough and washed away, so you have to take care. You can’t just drive through at the same pace as you would the rest of the track. You also have to be watchful for kangaroos, emus and stock on the roads.

After quite a few kilometres of billowing dust we came into the little town of Blinman in the middle of the Flinders Ranges. It was a long weekend in the middle of the South Australian school holidays and there were people everywhere. We rang a few caravan places. No room. (We had to ring them from a public phone, after buying a phone card. Fancy that! There is no mobile coverage in these areas.)

So we pulled off the road and camped beside one of those dry creeks. How idyllic.

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This was the view from the van across the creek.
Our little van has a solar panel and water tanks, so our fridge was able to work and we were right for water and lights at night. We didn’t have a caravan park amenities block close by, but we are both experienced bush campers and knew how to deal with those issues. As for showers, we didn’t use these “facilities” but they were available.

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Someone has created this shower, with a little privacy screen and a floor tiled with smooth rocks. I guess you could hang a bucket from the dead branch, or may be have a bird bath from a bucket behind the screen. 🙂

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Campers further along had made a bath. The little trickle of the creek flowed into a hole they had dug. A tarp collected the water!

We even had some delightful company. One of the joys of camping is the camaraderie of fellow campers. We met a couple from Queensland and sat chatting to them for a number of hours over a few glasses of red wine. We had breakfast together the next morning — bacon and eggs and a trillion flies! I ate with one hand and waved away the flies with the other. 🙂

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An experience like this stays with you. And it is good to know that with our set up we will be able to do more free camping.

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Travels

Arkaroola

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.

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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.

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(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.

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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.