Monday, 16 May 2016

Half-lap Day 12: Flinders Ranges

I was keen to see sunrise in Wilpena Pound and no one else wanted to get up that early, so I got up at 6 and quickly drove in to the National Park. It was getting light as I began the walk in to Hills Homestead, and I could see the sunlight hitting the tops of the cliffs occasionally as I walked. It was an easy walk at first along a cleared road, with amazing gumtrees – huge, with lots of massive branches – and lots of undergrowth. The creek was mainly dry until I reached a point where there was a lot of standing water, and some of it was flowing further down the creek. There was a large pond further along, with great reflections of the cliff and the trees. After a while the track became more undulating and narrower, and wound past Sliding Rock and then over a bridge over the creek. There were massive gumtrees which had fallen across the creek, crashing in to the other side and throwing branches everywhere.

As I walked in to the pound I could see the sun was on the far ridges and starting to peek over the edge on the side I was on. It was only a short walk up to the lower Wangara lookout, and from there I could really see that the mountains formed a contained circle around a flat area in the middle. The mountains were like cliffs on the outside (what we’d been seeing so far) and smoother hills sloping to the middle on the inside. I climbed up to the Upper Wangara Lookout – it took 20 minutes from the Pound floor up to the top, and it wasn’t steep but it was a good climb. The view from there was amazing – I could see right around the pound to all the mountains, and the sun was shining on the tips of all of them. It was so quiet – I could hear birds singing and that was it. There was dew all over every surface and it was quite cold. I checked the log book of walks when I came out and no one else started a walk until 8.30, so I think I was the only person in the pound at that time – a pretty cool feeling. The whole experience was exhilarating.

I stayed up the top taking photos and drinking in the view for half an hour, had a bit of a snack then headed back down. As I arrived at the Hills Homestead at the bottom of the lookout a tour group arrived. I chatted to a couple of the women who had chosen not to walk up to the lookout. While we were talking a rosella was in the gum tree above us and whenever it shook the leaves we had dew rain down on us.

I walked back along the track – it was a lot warmer walking back now that the sun was out! – and drove back up to camp. We spent the rest of the sunny morning hanging around again, doing logic puzzles (Sudoku and similar) and soaking up the sun. The only real drawback to this campsite is the tiny little burrs that stick to anything that falls on the ground – I feel like we spent half our time picking them off things. It was a small price to pay though for a fantastic location. Millie even felt brave enough to try out the pit toilet for the first time, and it wasn’t quite as scary as she’d thought (as long as I was with her to hold on to her, she’s a bit worried that she might fall in).

We had eggs and kabana for lunch, then Tony and Caitlin rode their bikes to the Visitors Centre. I was a bit nervous about Caitlin riding on the main road, but she was nervously confident and Tony said he’d ride behind her so she’d be safe. They enjoyed the ride and found it challenging though doable. Caitlin increased her confidence enough to be able to ride over the cattle grids instead of walk her bike across them.

LiAM, Millie and I hung around for a bit longer, watched the eagles some more and then tidied up a bit and drove in to meet the others. We’d decided to do the same walk that I had done in the morning, now that I knew that it wasn’t too hard (LiAM and Millie were still reluctant to do walks – even today, it was easier to say we’ll just explore the creek a bit, and they were happy to do that, rather than ‘we’re going for a walk). It was interesting seeing it in afternoon light instead of early morning light, different aspects were noticeable, different trees and rocks and features. I noticed in particular that though the creek was mainly dry, it had obviously been full of water and overflowing at some stage, judging by the debris that was caught up in the trees.

The kids really enjoyed looking the pond, and trying to spy creatures in there – we could see lots of bubbles but didn’t find out what was making them. We saw several wallabies and lots of burnt tree trunks that looked like different creatures, including one that was like a puma. When we reached the Homestead we sat and had a snack, then walked up to the lower lookout. The sun was heading down so the light was fantastic again, and I loved seeing the pound for a second time. Tony, LiAM and Caitlin headed up to the Upper Lookout to see the full view, while Millie and I stayed in the sun in the lower lookout and played animal games. Millie also took some photos of me in front of the mountains – almost the first shots taken of me this trip.

Once everyone came back down (and they were all glad that they’d gone up there) we read about the dreamtime story of how the Pound was formed (2 big serpents) and the history of the homestead – a tough place to live and try to make a living. It was getting cold and the light was fading so we tried to walk back quickly. The kids had a bit of a play on Sliding Rock (the side of it did look like a big slide) and Millie agreed to go in the sling – not because she wanted to be carried, but because she was really cold and it was the warmest place to be. On the way back we saw one of the feral goats we’d been reading about.

We got back to the Visitors Centre just in time to buy some milk and use the flush toilets before heading back to camp. We lit the fire and had noodles and soup for dinner, and more marshmallows on the fire afterwards. Millie curled up on our double chair, under a blanket in front of the fire and quickly went to sleep. I got my tripod out and took some cool photos of the stars. We were all exhausted and the tent seemed very cosy and comfortable when we climbed in to bed. I put some extra blankets on LiAM’s bed, under his sleeping bag (I realised that his bed was made of mesh while the girls’ are solid fabric, so he was getting cold air from underneath as well as above) and he was much warmer all night.

Stars over the Flinders Ranges

No comments:

Post a Comment