Last Monday we drove up the Oodnadatta Track to Coward Springs for lunch and a spa bath in a bore in the desert. On the way we passed an open air sculpture park – “plane henge”.
Our return was via mound springs and Curdimurka siding on the disused Ghan railway line. We returned with the setting sun behind us.
Starting at Wilpena Visitors Centre at 8.45am, well equipped with boots, water, sunscreen, walking poles, lunch and snacks, we registered our details in the trail book and headed out on the direct route to St Mary Peak (1171m). This walk is 14.6km in length and walkers are advised to allow six hours return and leave prior to 9am. Well. All started deceptively simply, just a walk in the park, watched by a ring neck parrot. Until we started our ascent, which proved to be up a steep rock face. By the time we got to Tanderra Saddle, about 1.8km from the top we were all in and the thought of making the steep descent, never mind continuing to the top, was totally daunting, given the state of our wobbly leg muscles.
After an early lunch admiring the view, we decided that it would be safer to return by the longer inner loop route. We knew we were supposed to allow
nine hours for the return version of this walk, but getting in late was preferable to the risk of falling off the cliff face. In actual fact, the return by this longer route proved quite doable and we completed it in good time.
After pegging out the washing, we drove to Wilpena Pound where I bought fingerless gloves to facilitate working the camera in 10 degrees temperature with a massive wind chill. We did a two hour walk to a lookout, before driving up Bunyeroo Gorge for a picnic lunch. We then continued on a loop up to Brachina Gorge and Moralana Scenic Drive, arriving home to the van at sunset.
We are in the campground at Rawnsley Park Station. Forty years ago we introduced our baby to the Flinders Ranges, by staying in the shearers’ bunk rooms. The owner, Clem Smith drove us about in his ute and let us try shearing a sheep in the woolshed.
Clem has long passed on but the property, is still a holiday destination, now with swimming pool, store and a recreation room alive with families enjoying the term break. A restaurant is attached to the shearing shed.
A coloured brochure suggests half a dozen walks, so yesterday afternoon we followed the one to Clem Corner. The euros and us were treated to 360 degree views of the surrounding ranges as the sun lowered. With such far horizons, we are glad to be back in the outback. There are abundant native pines and white-trunked gums along dry river beds this winter – much greener than in previous years.
Last Wednesday two granddaughters and I visited Werribee Open Range Zoo. It was a bit rainy but we dressed accordingly and had a great time.
First experience was the Safari train, which was included in my ticket and free for the girls. The driver stopped the vehicle at each exhibit, so we were able to get good photos, although the engine was kept running so a slight vibration softened my zoomed shots. We got great views of giraffes, zebras (which are Iris’ passion) and rhinoceroses.
Then it was time for lunch and a walk around the circular pathway. We had a magic moment when the mother and baby hippos raised their heads from the pond after everyone left but us. Some monkeys gave us another chance to practice with our compacts cameras, under a rain shelter.
Another highlight for the girls was the ranger shelter. Here they were able to bandage sick animals (soft ones), examine X-rays and fly a helicopter, under the helpful guidance of volunteer guides, while the adults relaxed on padded seats.
A gift shop pocket-money expedition, afternoon tea and toilet stop meant we were all set up for the three quarters of an hour trip back to the Big Smoke and dry socks.
Just before the South Australian border, we cooked up our remaining vegetables (onions, celery and garlic) and mixed some with tinned tuna for lunch. We did this because it is forbidden to take fruit and vegetables into the area to prevent the spread of bugs such as fruit fly. Cooked veg and juiced fruit are legal. We stocked up again in Naracoorte before travelling to the Caves where we are camped.
We had time to check out huge diprotodon, constrictor snakes, and other reconstructed ancient critters at the Wonambi Fossil Centre then to visit the vast Wet Cave and finally to walk past Western Grey kangaroos on the World Heritage hike before settling in for the night.
Today we visited three different rock art shelters near and in the Grampians: Bunjil (East of the Grampians), Billimina and Manja on the western slopes. Each had its unique attributes, Bunjil, situated in a rocky outcrop, featured the legendary creator of the world with two dogs, while Billimina included dozens of “tally marks”, possibly recording visits or other events. Nearby were the Jardwadjali Falls. The dominant images at the Manja site were handprints. By then the sun was setting, bringing out the red colours of the rocks.
The western sites had been impacted by bush fires several years ago, but I did love the red sundews with their low white flowers.
This rock wallaby watched us as we returned from our afternoon walk to Boronia Peak, above Halls Gap in the Grampians. It was a three-hour return walk but we were rewarded with a commanding view of the valley. The plants don’t seem to realise that it’s mid winter and heath, hakea, correa, even wattle are all blooming.
This morning we visited the Brambuk Centre, which has Park information and a Koorie Cultural Centre, where I photographed an eel trap.
Snow is forecast overnight with a temperature of 2 degrees. Intermittent wind gusts rock the van, so we’ve rolled up the awning, which means that we have to dash through rain and mud to the amenities block. But hey, we’re off and away – nomads seeking the sun and today reaching Halls Gap in the Grampians, west of Melbourne. Kangaroos leapt in front as I splashed to the loo: I guess they were fleeing the exposed lawn to the shelter of the gums.
When we stopped by the roadside at the edge of a forest, we realised that we’d finally left the city (and home) behind. Chocolate brownies were the last home-baked goodies we’ll enjoy for a while.
Halls Gap is a township that punches above its weight in amenities, boasting a pharmacy, restaurants and cafés, an outdoor supplies store. This is possibly because at other times of the year it is a Mecca for walkers and holiday-makers. Now it is quiet but we are snug
We have packed for all seasons – the last photo shows my gear – laid out at home a couple of days ago: boots, thongs, warm hat, sun hat, waterproof trousers and bathers, thermal underwear. Turn the pic sideways as I didn’t rotate it. Follow us as we go to Lake Eyre and Kakadu and see which items we need on the way…..