Friday, 27 February 2015

Learning our ABC - Flinders Ranges National Park


After plans A and B are thwarted we come up with plan C and ironically, or naturally, it leads us to the ABC range, one of the lesser, but integral sections of Flinders Ranges National Park in South Australia.

A is for Aroona


We arrive at the Koolamon Campground in the Aroona Valley mid morning, then pitch the tent and head for the hills. We are aiming for the top of a small but impressive looking peak, marked on the National Parks walking map as The Three Sisters and part of the long, stretch of the ABC Range. It is 548m in elevation and we start walking at about 350m, so it's a good steep pinch to the top. Heading south from the campground, there is an unnamed, dry creek that cuts through the hills. We cross its sandy bed and from here begin veering upwards, sticking to the hills rocky edge, with the creek below us. There is no marked track to follow but the terrain is open and so easy to navigate.



Ahead we see the movement of a yellow-footed rock wallaby, disturbed from its sunny spot amongst the rocky ledges.  The wind is furious with us up on the summit. It whips across the rocky ridge top. Looking out past cypress pines and over the exposed red slabs of the peak, routes and options seem endless, along with the views.

To make a loop of this little expedition into the ABC Range, we descend off the eastern side of the hill, down a curving ridge to our left and back into the gully. The creek is not flowing but it is holding several deep pools of water, one of them filled with the bleached bones of a long dead wallaby.



Following the watercourse west, back towards the campground, the side-walls tower above us. Big blocks protrude from the cliffs. One distinctive piece catches our eye – square and elongated it juts out of the northern wall like a pointer finger. It is lined up with the summit of our little peak. Then just 10m on, something else. At ground level there is a small piece of rock art – two ochre and white arches side by side. One is a single arch, one is a double arch. I wonder if the pointer rock and the paintings are connected and I wonder at the many stories in a landscape I will never know.

Back at camp, we take another small trip, heading up Yuluna Creek, which also carves its way through the ABC range. This creek forms part of the 8km Yuluna Circuit Walking track (for excellent track notes, with a geological bent, you can get free brochures here www.walkingtrailssupportgroup.org.au). The walk reveals some beautiful geological features including the rippled, sandy bottom of an ancient ocean now frozen in stone. Another story beyond time. 



 B is for Bunyeroo


Our adventure through the ABC Range is a sort of expect the unexpected odyssey. Firstly, we didn't expect the problems that forced us here. But, before we leave the Aroona Valley and head south down the ABC Range to the Bunyeroo Valley there is one more unexpected natural event to take in.

It is evening and we are wandering around the creek beds and dry forest around camp. There are red-capped robins to chase, babblers and ringneck parrots in the grass. This area was once grazed extensively and the roos we encounter are nervous - as if they have inherited a memory of humans walking towards them with a rifle raised. Our evening stroll takes us behind the campground, past strange hills made of tiny flakes of stone, and there, ahead, a wild splashing in the waterhole downstream catches our attention. There are two birds; just their heads visible and what look like long elongated necks, craning above the pool. They are about 150m away from us but are alert. Despite trying to creep closer they are onto us. Through the binoculars I watch them, two emus swimming and then rising out of the pool with water streaming off their huge backs. They watch us warily as they climb out of the thigh deep water. A few nervous turns of their heads and they are off, racing down the rocky river bed with that loping, feather-swinging jog they have.




Further south, at Acraman Campground in the Bunyeroo Valley, Caz sets off in the dark pre-dawn to climb to the top of the sheer, pointed peak east of camp. It is a wild and rocky hill and he follows its south-western razorback to the summit. In the deep dark reaches of the ascent he hears the nearby hiss of a male Euro, too close for comfort.

Caz is hoping for some nice dawn light. Up until now, it feels as if we have been battling expectations in this landscape, wanting to see the expected red, glowing hills only to find the mountains shrouded in grey cloud beneath a dim, flat light.

The important thing we learn (again) is to keep an open mind, and the repeated surprise that sometimes climbing the lesser peaks will give a more grand perspective of the high mountains nearby. From the top of his summit, Caz's view is a spectacular panorama stretching from the face of Wilpena Pound and St Mary's Peak all the way north along the curving arc of the Heysen Range with the Haywards Peaks dominating the furthest skyline. 


C is for Curiosity


The first unexpected development on this holiday was a couple of injuries that thwarted our Plan A, to walk the spectacular Gammon Ranges further north. The second unexpected development was 33mm of rain at Wilpena Pound, which closed many remote roads and raised all the creeks so that the 2WD tracks turned into 4WD adventures thus temporarily thwarting our plan B idea to access the Heysen Range gorges such as Brachina.

These unexpected developments forced us to come up with a plan C which led us to the ABC Range. But it was curiosity that saw us exploring and climbing small peaks and venturing down numerous unnamed gullies that otherwise might have simply been admired at a distance from the car window.

At the Acraman Campground we spent our last afternoon roaming the sunny hillsides to the west so that we could look along the ABC Range as it stretches from north to south. Caught on the low hills between these two impressive ranges, I stop to rest on a rock in the sun.  There is nothing nicer; nature spread all around, daydreaming of a life with this view. Then two Euros bound over the crest of the hill. The male gives me one its distinctive hissing coughs, but I stay where I am, perched on my rock with the sun on my back. He soon settles in to scratching his rump and also turns his back to the sun as if to say, this Plan C stuff is not too bad, eh.


Postscript: The way the rivers run in the semi-arid wilds of the Flinders Ranges became part of a poem I authored, titled 'Ghosts', which was recently published in the online journal Eureka. You can read it here.


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