Where’s Wallis? Flinders Ranges, South Australia

 

Where we stayed:

– Converted Bedford Bus, Kookaburra Creek Retreat, Mount Remarkable, $70/night

Wilpena Pound Resort, Flinders Ranges, $155/night

Merna Mora Station, $100/night

Clare Valley Motel, $138/night

Where we ate:

North Star pub, Melrose

– Woolshed Restaurant, Rawnsley Park Station, Flinders Ranges

The Prarie Hotel, Parachilna, Flinders Ranges

– Wonderful home cooked meal with room neighbours at Merna Morna (they took pity on our dinner of cheese and crackers!!)

Sevenhill Hotel, Sevenhill, Clare Valley

 

What we did:

– Visited the pink lake at Bumbunga

– Climbed Mount Remarkable, 17km return (4k was detour as got lost!)

– Climbed St Mary’s Peak, Flinders Ranges, 14km return

– Drove Flinders Ranges national park circuit

– Cycled the Riesling Trail, Clare Valley (bike hire $25 for a half day)

– Visited Hanhdorf, Adelaide Hills

– Minigolf at Glenelg Beach, Adelaide

Part 2 of the South Australia adventures saw Ben tag teaming out with my friend Loren. He flew back to Sydney after 5 days in Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, and McLaren Vale.

In McLaren Vale we went to Doc Adams Vineyard where you could create your own platter…you’d think there was a child on the trip with the smiley:

There were also some ridiculously cute 8 week old collie puppies at our AirBnB.

There were 3 more too!

So Ben flew back and Loren arrived for part 2, heading north from Adelaide to Mount Remarkable National Park and then on to the Akara Flinders Ranges National Park.

My original planned itinerary for the 10 days off was to do Kangaroo Island and then drive the whole way up to Birdsville via Marree and the Birdsville track. This was veto’d for being ‘too ambitious’ and in hindsight perhaps a good thing as:

1) The Birdsville Track ended up closing due to the RAIN!

2) I would have had to take a ReX (Regional Express) flight back from Birdsville to Brisbane, which takes 6 hours as it has about 6 stops to deliver post to rural locations etc!

Loren landed in Adelaide to dazzling sunshine. This was the last we would see of the sun for 5 days…

We zoomed straight up north, spotting a pink-ish lake next to the road a couple of hours north of Adelaide. This was Lake Bumbunga. We strolled down onto the lake for a couple of snaps 🙂

1..2…3… BUMBUNGA

Salty

Later we would read a local newspaper article which complained about all the tourists who keep driving onto the lake and needing to be towed out.

It was another hour or so until we reached the small town of Melrose. There was no particular logic behind the decision to stop at Mt Remarkable. I basically looked at the map, decided that the drive from Adelaide to Flinders might be a bit long to do that afternoon, found the only other patch of green (National Park) north of Adelaide and saw it was called Remarkable, so decided that would be a good place to spend a night or two.

Our accommodation at Mt Remarkable was absolutely wonderful. We stayed at a place called Kookaburra Creek Retreat, about 15ks north of Melrose. The accommodation is set about 2k off the main road and the owners, Joe and Melita, have a wonderful piece of land, that they’ve developed into an amazing collection of little places to stay.

Home for the night!

We’d gone for the ‘Bedford Bus’, a converted bus with a double and single bed inside. The bus was under a shelter so no risk of rain getting in, and there was a great outdoor area with fridge/cooker/sink – everything we needed!

So cosy inside!

Kitchen area

As soon as we opened the car door we could smell the rain in the air. Shortly after we got settled in the bus the heavens opened, and basically didn’t stop for over 24 hours!

Mount Remarkable is a hub for hiking and mountain biking. Neither really appealed in the rain but we thought we had less chance of falling over walking. After a very cosy but slightly scary night’s sleep in the bus (no other people around and lots of noises – I know I know, city folk) we set off on the summit return hike. There were various versions of how long this is/how long it would take but we got the gist it was about 12-14ks return and would take about 4-6hours.

We drove to the main street of Melrose and then turned up to a monument, this was the start of the trails. We faced an instant hurdle of which way to start walking….there was a sign pointing right, and the path straight ahead had a large ‘Private Property’ sign, so we went right.

Soon after we started walking we were both commenting on how ridiculous the trail was, it kept winding back on itself, so it would take 3 times as long to get somewhere you could get to by just going straight. We realised that it must be a mountain biking trail, but this didn’t ring any alarm bells.

A mountain biking obstacle

We also commented on the fact that for a summit hike it didn’t really appear to be going uphill very much! An added difficulty, was the fact that everywhere we looked was covered in thick cloud, so we couldn’t even see where the peak we were supposed to be climbing was.

We got about 2km in, and checked our Strava which had been mapping our route. We had probably made it about 500m as the crow flies from the start. We decided to head back.

4km in. Back at the start. On closer inspection, next to the large ‘Private Property’ sign, there was a very small ‘Please take care when walking through the Private Property on the summit hike’ sign…….

To sum up the walk: it rained constantly, I nearly fell down a huge scree slope (where a plane had previously crashed!!), we both tripped multiple other times, there was nothing to see at the top, even if it hadn’t been cloudy there were trees all around the summit viewpoint!

So. Wet. I had to ditch the glasses eventually.

One of the better views we had all day…!

Crashed plane. I nearly joined it.

Summit. Woo.

Our total walk was 17kms and took about 3.5hours.

Kookaburrah Creek Retreat was our saviour with one of the best hot showers I’ve ever had when we got back. No real reflection on the shower just how cold and wet we were!

The next morning we woke up to some semblance of sunshine coming through the trees, hurrah!! We decided trails would still be too saturated to try mountain biking so hopped in the car and set off for Flinders Ranges National Park.

30 minutes into the drive…FOG. I couldn’t even see the road infront of the car. This fog was to follow us at varying severity for the remainder of the trip.

Standard lookout shot from the trip…

We arrived at Wilpena Pound Resort (the only hotel in the Flinders national park) at about 10am. For somewhere in the middle of the national park the staff were rather confused at answering questions about it.

I walked into the information centre to see if we could check in and to ask about the St Mary Peak hike, I was told I was at the wrong desk and had to go to the resort.

I went to the resort (where the same girl worked as the visitors centre!!) and they still couldn’t really answer how long the hike was, and even where it started from!

The reason we were concerned about the hike is I’d read things saying you should set off on the hike before 9am and that it was 21kms!

It turns out that the St Mary peak hike is composed of a loop, this starts from the visitors centre and you can either take the longer, but more gradually inclining “inner track”, or you can opt for the shorter but steeper “outside track”.

These two tracks meet up at the ‘Saddle’ about 1.6km from the summit. The 1.6km is an out and back section, so you could do: inner track up, summit optional, inner track back; OR outer track up, summit optoin, outer track back (this is what we did); OR a loop in either direction, either with or without summit.

If you were doing the loop I’d recommend doing the outside track up since it’s steeper, and inside down.

The first 4km of the hike was relatively flat, but the final 3 were really tough going, especially the section from the saddle to the Peak. The descent was equally hard.

There were MONSTER spiders along the valley at the start of the walk. Some of the biggest bodies and webs I’ve ever seen. Made walking somewhat nervewracking.

Just one of HUNDREDS of giant spiders

Once again summit views were somewhat blighted by clouds.

A bit of a view

Made it.

We were hoping to go on a 4WD sunset tour that evening but this was also cancelled as in the words of the resort “There will be no sunset”. Sunset is cancelled!!!

We drove over to the nearby Rawnsley Park Station, saw a few Emu en route, and got a teeny bit of pink in the sky as we had a sundowner hiking reward drink. Unfortunately Rawnsley Park had been fully booked for accommodation and was also fully booked for dinner, but the kind chef made us some chips to nibble on as we sat outside.

Emuuuuu

The next day we drove the rest of the Flinders Ranges loop. This is the natural route you’d take through the park from Hawker at the South, up through Wilpena Pound and up to Blinman in the North, West through the Parachilna Gorge to Parachilna, and back South down the Outback Highway to Hawker.

We hadn’t been able to get 2 consecutive nights at the Wilpena Pound so had booked into Merna Mora station which was on the Outback highway. This actually worked really well from a logistics point of view as meant we never had to double back on ourselves.

As we set off on the drive…you’ve guessed it…FOG STRUCK AGAIN!! Then came the rain.

The road from Blinman to Parachilna is unsealed, meaning it doesn’t mix too well with rain. There were various creek crossings which were rapidly filling up, and by the time we reached the 8km of ‘flood plain’ near Parachilna, large parts of the road were underwater.

Small kangaroo in the background copying the sign

In the gorge

We made it to Parachilna and the iconic Prarie Hotel just in time it seems as we heard that they later closed the road, along with others heading north. The Prarie Hotel was full of tour groups that were either supposed to be doing 4WD tours or scenic flights up to Lake Eyre. Unfortunately I think everyone’s trips were cancelled that day.

Lunch started at 11.30. Keenos were there from 10am.

Locals repeatedly told us “you are SO lucky to see it like this…it’s so rare…it hasn’t rained in months and it’s never like this”…. Hmmmm…… someone even likened it to “seeing Uluru with water running off it”. I’m not so sure, we just saw cloud.

The ‘Feral Feast’ served at the Prarie hotel came recommended by Russell and Lisa, two friends of ours who have explored more of Australia than most people I know. We were presented with a platter of Kangaroo Steak, Camel Sausage, and Emu…well, emu burger perhaps?

Useful flags!

Kangaroo was yum, just like a good steak. Camel was too fatty for my liking and emu tasted fine at first but had an aftertaste of wet dog smell. For someone who doesn’t eat much meat Loren was brave in trying them all, but I don’t think she’ll be doing it again in a hurry!

We spent a very relaxed afternoon at Merna Mora station. We did a little walk up to a nearby hilltop, and raced the rain home. This was exploring just a tiny portion of the 150,000+ acres of land that the family owned. They grazed sheep for wool and cattle for beef right across to the edge of the Flinders Ranges in one direction, and right out to the dry Lake Torrens in the other! The Lake Torrens 4WD track was also shut, but in better weather you can drive from their house right out to the lake!

And time to run home before the rain comes again!

That night we were invited for dinner by a wonderful pair of couples who were from Manly, Sydney, but were on a 9 week adventure around South Australia. It was such a lovely evening exchanging stories, and their roast and rhubarb crumble definitely beat our cheese and crackers.

For the majority of the trip we had no phone signal coverage, this was actually wonderful as it helped lead to interactions like this one that might have otherwise been missed out on! It made me realise how much time I waste on my phone and I’m trying to make a more conscious effort to only be on it when I need to do something.

I’d left one night not booked, as I wasn’t sure how long we’d stay in Flinders Ranges. If the weather had been good, we would probably have stayed another night and done the Lake Torrens drive, but as it was, we set off early the next day and drove down to the Clare Valley.

A couple of brief stops at: 1) Orroroo (there are more than 2 available letters people!) petrol station which only ‘opened’ at 10am and even from 10am you had to phone them and pay $10 for call out, just to fill up fuel!!  2) The Giant Gum Tree…Orroroo’s only advertised attraction when driving into town:

We arrived around midday, went to a far more helpful visitors centre who booked us a room at the nearby Clare Valley Motel (which was actually delightful for a motel!!)

There was a bike hire place right across the road from the Motel so we picked up bikes for a half day and set off along the Riesling trail. This is a converted old railway line, stretching 25km from Clare to Auburn, with cellar doors every few hundred metres!

We stopped off at:

  • Kirrihill;
  • Sevenhill Cellars;
  • Skillogalee Wines;
  • Mr Micks.

We were recommended to ride the ‘John Horrocks Loop’ which was about 25ks and had a lovely roll downhill back into Clare.

Skillogalee was my favourite vineyard with a cosy cottage feel and beautiful outdoor garden.

Cycling is a limiter to the amount of wine you can buy (we didn’t have panniers). I always find it a little awkward where you don’t have to pay for tastings, which you usually don’t in Australia. I’d far rather pay $5/$10 to try 5 wines rather than free but then an unsaid commitment to buy a bottle or having to guiltily sneak out muttering “Oh yes we’ll pop past later”.

I found a good solution to this is asking if they sell by the glass. Often they don’t advertise this but do sell by the glass, so we had a very pleasant ride with a glass of sparkling at each location at about $5 a glass!

My favourite wine was the 2010 Sevenhill Cellars Riesling ($40/bottle).

This almost marked the end of the adventures, we finally got a sunrise on the last day, although the sun rising over the Clare Valley motel didn’t quite have the same effect as over the mountains in Flinders Ranges.

We spent the last day driving through an autumnal Adelaide Hills, having brunch in Hahndorf, trying to visit Cleland conservation park (more FOG) and then popping to Glenelg beach for a final bit of rain and some mini-golf.

Adelaide Hills

A fabulous trip, but I feel like I need to go back to Flinders Ranges to see it in a different light…or just in light at all!!!

Cleland Conservation Park…

Thanks for reading!

Xx

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