Sunday, 11 November 2012

Wilpena Wonders

On the way out of Warren Gorge, we decided to take the long way back to the bitumen, and do a scenic drive via some of the nearby hills and ruins.  We took the dirt road around, checking out things like Proby’s Grave, a pioneer who had lived here and had drowned trying to cross a flooded river.  We also went to Buckaringa Lookout, which looked down into the valley and surrounding ridges.  Very impressive country and no shortage of sights to admire.

We also passed Simmonston ruins.  An information board told of the story of this town that never was.  Apparently, on the prospect that the all important rail line was to pass directly through this area, Simmonston was created.  A two story pub, a general store and two dwellings were erected before news came that the line was to run further east, not through Simmonston at all.  The town was dead before it had even started.  How disheartening!

The story of heartbreak and hardship is littered all throughout this country.  Many pioneers, pastoralist and farmers strove to make a living in this semi-arid, harsh country.  After being surveyed and explored in the mid 1800’s, there had been unusually high levels of rainfall in the area, therefore an abundance of grass and plant life.  A large number of settlers ventured into the country, taking up leases and building infrastructure.  After a couple more years of these bumper seasons, the country returned to its normal levels of rainfall and its hard, desert-like land.  The grazing and pastoral leases were over-run, and eventually failed.  Many people simply walked off the land with stories of heartbreak and loss.

We drove to Hawker and into the Flinders Ranges National Park.  For all the ranges and hills prior to this, the Flinders proper loomed large and impressive as you drive in. 

Wilpena Pound is National Park and tourist central, with a campground, resort accommodation, bar, restaurant and even a pool.  We booked a site, not too disgusted with the $22 a night we had to pay (we’d seen MUCH worst elsewhere.....  let’s not get the rant started!).  We set up, had a shower and then lashed out on a meal at the bistro. 

Wilpena Camp ground
The meal here was surprisingly fantastic.  It was not too over-priced and the quality was quite impressive.  The kids had their normal kids fare, whilst we enjoyed a chicken schnitzel... yummo.  Amy’s only criticism was the frozen vegies that had been steamed, but not enough given some of them were still cold.  The whole park was pretty quiet, so obviously off-peak and we wondered if in peak times they had a regular supply of fresh vegies.  Anyway, only a small blip on an otherwise lovely meal.  We topped it off with desert, jelly for the girls, quangdong crumble for us.  Deeeeeelicious.

After walking back to our camper that night, some big ominous clouds started to roll in.  By the time we had the girls in bed, some deep rumbling thunder had started (which wasn’t just from the dinner).  It all built up pretty quickly and we sat under our awning watching a huge lightening display.  Amy commented on how many of the lightning strikes lit up the campground like it was daytime!

The lightning and thunder were quickly followed by some dumping rain.  It bucketed down.  Glenn was madly trying to get some computer banking done, much to Amy’s distress.  “Do you think you should be doing that with all this lightening??”  “Well, probably not, but we’ll run out of money if we don’t!”.  Probably a little melodramatic, but the jobs got done.

We quickly finished packing up and shot off into bed early to listen to the show.  It was full on, but we were happy we were off the ground in our camper.  We settled back into bed and watched a DVD on our portable DVD player.  Actually, after only watching about 3 movies in the first 6.5 months of our trip, lately we have kicked into nearly one a night.  It’s become quite a nice ritual.  The two of us have never seen so many movies in all our lives.  We MUST be relaxed!

The rain eventually eased and we drifted off to sleep.  In the morning, reasonably early, Glenn got a call on his mobile.  It was our friend Gabby.  “There’s a huge storm coming your way, maybe you shouldn’t be under trees, or should get indoors!!”.  “Errr... wow, really, when’s it coming??”.  “It should be there pretty much now”.  At this stage, Glenn was thinking, ‘how fast can we pack up the camper and get to a unit accommodation?’

So Gab looked up the BOM site.  “Hmmmm.. umm, I can’t see it there, let me check when all this was posted on Facebook.......”. 

“We did have a big storm last night, is that what you’re talking about?”. 

Gab, “Oh, the postings were from last night!!.......   are you ok?  Did you survive?”

It was great to have concerned friends looking out for us.  Pity it was SO LATE!!! J  Funny.  Lucky we didn’t get the call the night before, we probably would have packed up and booked into a unit.  Anyway, we survived the Mega Storm!

We wanted to go for a walk into Wilpena Pound.  Glenn had been through this area probably a half dozen times, but had never done any of the walks.  The morning was still pretty drizzly, so we decided to stay an extra day, do the walk tomorrow, and go for a drive today.

We found the Moralana scenic drive which goes along the southern edge of the Flinders.  Driving along some little ridges looking up at these magnificent ranges was well worth the trip.  It was a pity that things were so grey and overcast, but still, the mountains stood out and looked as rugged as ever.  We really enjoyed this little excursion.
Along the Morolana scenic drive
 The next day was sunny and blue skies, so we trekked off to do the pound walk.  We cheated a little (having the two girls to think about) and took the shuttle bus the 2.5kms into the walk to make things easier.  We walked up to the homestead, and then up the 800metre climb to the lookout.

The kids would have been happy with just the five minute shuttle bus ride

From the top, you can really see the ‘bowl’ that the surrounding range makes to form the natural pound.  It was a big area and you can see why it was used by early settlers to contain their livestock.

At the top lookout at Wilpena Pound


Back down at the homestead, they had some great information boards, telling stories of the families that had lived there.  Needless to say, there was significant hardship, troubles and heartbreak.  Many people worked their guts out here, many died, and lost their loved ones.  One interesting point was talking about how the early settlers were taxed on their lease based on what level the Government ‘thought’ they should be able to stock the land.  These figures were grossly overestimated.  Within a 15 year period, the overstocking had destroyed the countryside and ability to keep grazing.
Old Wilpena Homestead


When we got back to the campground, around lunchtime, we had decided that we would pack up and move to a bush camp further up into the National Park.  Unfortunately we forgot to tell Savannah about this plan.  She was “not happy!”.  She become very upset, saying that she didn’t want to move on, she liked it here, and they hadn’t even swam in the pool yet!!!.  This was heart-wrenching stuff.  Savannah was well known for wanting to stay in nearly every place we stop at, even roadside stops.  She’s a home body and likes where she IS.  This was a little different though, she REALLY meant it, and it took some convincing to talk her back from the edge.  We both nearly caved, she was so heartbroken.  It was awful.  We were later to be validated (as we knew) when she absolutely LOVED our new spot.  Mental note: remember to set expectations on what we are doing early, a rare slip up this time!

No comments:

Post a Comment