Welcome to the post of one thousand photos! And it is only Part 1!!!! No kidding, the reason it's taken me over two weeks to sift through all the photographs from our trip to the Southern Flinders Ranges is because not only did I return to a pressing deadline, but also my memory card held over 600 shots!! I think I may have a problem... taking excessive amounts of photographs is becoming an addiction. It doesn't help that I'm obsessed with my camera and having SO much fun playing around with all the settings. You gotta learn it all somehow, right?
So let me begin by introducing you to a little pocket of the world called the Flinders Ranges. I've included a couple of maps because it occurred to me when writing this post that a visual might really help with gaining an understanding of where we visited and the location of the Flinders Ranges in relation to the rest of Australia. A little while ago, I Skyped with a friend of mine (she's U.S. based and has not yet been to Australia) who asked how far I was from Melbourne as she wanted to connect me with another friend. When I answered that we were a decent eight hour drive away she was somewhat awed by the sheer vastness of this country. She's not alone, even I am continually amazed at the space between each main city, but since I know many of you are based outside of this place I call home, I thought the maps might help.
The Southern Flinders Ranges is a few hours drive north from Adelaide - we took our time with many stops because that's what you do when your traveling with two kids and a dog. So for us, with those stops, it took close to five hours but if you went directly there it would be about three. It is completely, totally and utterly magical and so very worth it. This area is an ancient landscape created around 800 million years old. That earth and those rocks hold Indigenous sacred knowledge. The wisdom of elders. It nurtures, it nourishes and it restores you in ways no words can describe. It's a place where you stop, breathe and allow for the healing to happen.
The area named 'Flinders Ranges' begins approximately 200 kilometres north of Adelaide and stretches over 430 kilometres. It is vast and wide and blends spectacular rugged mountain ranges with the dry, red cracked earth of the Outback. The links near the bottom will offer more info but it is made up of many National Parks, Conservation Parks and Regional Reserves.
I have always held a very special place within my heart for the Flinders Ranges. I have memories from childhood camping trips and even more memories from my early years with Tuck. Those days from my twenties feel like a long time ago now. A time before our overseas adventures and before our many interstate moves, even before marriage and kids. Each year over the Easter long-weekend Tuck and I would pilgrimage to Wilpena Pound right in the heart of the Flinders and we would spend those days pitched in an unpowered site along Eagle Ridge, part of the Wilpena Pound Resort. We loved that ridge and would make our journey as early as we could just to guarantee that spot. Our days would be spent hiking, 4WD-ing, playing cards and hanging out by our campfire. It was about connecting with Mother Nature and that ancient landscape while the pure magic infused with every part of our Being.
For this trip away, I didn't want to travel as far as Wilpena Pound and the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park but my craving to reconnect with those mountains was strong and so these past Autumn school holidays seemed like the perfect time. When a friend suggested I take the kids to the Southern Flinders and Mount Remarkable National Park instead of the more central area around Wilpena, I instantly started clicking around.
That little collection of three photos above is not technically a part of the Flinders Ranges but is an often overlooked lake along the road toward Port Pirie (in other words, it's on the way). That is Lake Bumbunga by the "blink and you miss it" town of Lochiel. I am so glad that same dear friend of mine recommended not to drive past it but to stop and have a wonder. Oh my goodness!!!! I never knew it even existed but this lake is amazing. It is salt water but the concentration of salt far outweighs the water. We wandered a fair way out and the water level never past our upper shins. Well, my upper shins, it was higher on the kids and Snowy was off somewhere having a sniff in the bushes. You can see from the photos that it's pink salt! Rich in minerals, wet pink salt!! So instead of purchasing Himalayan or Celtic salt, all I have to do is visit this incredible lake in my own state! Underneath a thick crust of salt lies a mass of dark mineral rich clay. My friend also suggested that I may want to bring a couple of jars to sample some. I didn't hesitate!
Continuing on to the small town of Wilmington, we found our camp at the Beautiful Valley Caravan Park. There's nothing fancy about this caravan park, it's simple but fulfills all your basic needs and best of all, owner Jack is more than happy to babysit sweet friendly and full of love shag-piles like Snowy while we day-tripped into the National Park.
A quick flashback to the past... remember those things called phoneboxes? There's not too many around anymore and the ones that are don't look like this with the old 'gold phone' inside. Not that I want to make myself sound old or anything, but I use to think a lot about the changes my Grandmother saw during her lifetime... you know, post Industrial Revolution and all, but for us GenX-ers, wow, it's been the Technological Age, or Information Age as it is also coined. To think that public phoneboxes were a mainstay on nearly every street corner but now we all have a small, wafer thin handheld device slipped effortlessly into our pockets that does way more than make a simple phonecall. And how outrageously reliant upon that funny little device we have all become. Mmmm... my thoughts are wandering. I should probably move on from my fit of nostalgia and get back to talking about our family road-trip ;)
I very nearly didn't pack the bikes with us thinking that this trip was more about hiking and exploring rather than being on bikes but I will be forever glad I did throw them in. The number of hours those two kids spent peddling around the camp was incredible. If we weren't hiking or in the car, they were on their bikes! And even more incredible, is that it was only the week before our trip Noah transitioned from his balance bike to his BMX. That kid is peddling with the best of them now! He amazes me, as does his big sister.
Not far from Wilmington is another small town called Melrose. This town is a mecca for the mountain bike enthusiast and hosts an annual event called the Fat Tyre Festival. I am stunned I have not known about this area, or this town and it's festival before! I have a mountain bike and not that I engage in any hard-core downhill but I do love to take a few trails. The best bit is that the festival is totally family-friendly and caters really well for kids with more gentle trails. With the flood of visitors who descend upon the town each June long-weekend, they close off the main street and play host to a three day street party. Apparently there's market stalls, local food and produce, face painters, live music and street performers. What a blast!!! I think we might just have to plan a return trip for next year's festival.
Among the coastal towns in the Southern Flinders Ranges there is a small settlement called Port Germain. I imagine back in it's heyday, Port Germain was probably quite a bustling precinct. These days however, it is one step away from becoming a ghost town. I was curious about it though, so we took a drive and on the way into town I spied this shop.
An outback store like the Junk Shop is not a place to pass by. It's the kind of trove where an avid treasure seeker like myself can stumble upon a golden nugget. In this case I did actually find a long sort after wardrobe staple in the form of a denim jacket! It was dusty but nothing a few washes hasn't fixed. It's colour, it's cut and it's size are absolutely perfect on me, what are the chances, eh? But the true golden nugget was the store's owner, Karen. I knew from the moment she greeted us that I wanted to chat with her and chat we did. While the kids fossicked around, Karen shared some of her story. Sometimes when you meet a person, you just know there's a memoir inside waiting to be told. Karen and I barely scratched the surface with our conversation but she is one of the most colourful and interesting people I have met in a long while. And as for her shop? Oh my goodness! It's packed to the rafters, literally. It's completely disorganised and layered in dusty cobwebs but so totally fantastic! Just take a look...
And then there was the orange van! By this stage it was nearing lunch time and we had planed to stop in Melrose for a bite to eat on our return trip. That was still a little while away so I took a punt and grabbed some hot chips from the orange van. Hands down, they were the best hot chips I've had for years, possibly ever! And so I passed that compliment on to the two ladies and one gent as I ordered us a second lot! The best things always come about in the most unlikely and unexpected places. A 'new to me' denim jacket, a wonderfully rich conversation and a top-notch bucket (or two) of hot chips all in a washed out, almost abandoned old port town. Oh, and The Crab Train with the Clawd and Clawdette carriages? Umm I really don't know what to say about that except it gave me such a lot of humour that I had to take a photograph.
The number of stone dwellings out this way is staggering. Evidence that this area was an important settlement for the early pioneers. I wanted to stop the car and photograph each and every one of them but the kids would have confiscated my camera! They all spoke to me in one way or another, each bursting to share a piece of their story. Most are in ruins, long abandoned, but some are inhabited regardless of their disrepair and a rare few look to have been lovingly restored.
So for now that is all, but tomorrow I'm going to bring you Part 2. How about that!?!... Two blog posts in the one week! Ha it's just like the old days ;)
Part 2 is all about Mount Remarkable National Park and our day of hiking! It was spectacular, you won't want to miss those photos! Read Southern Flinders Ranges - Part 2 here.
Now for those links I mentioned earlier... Click
- Here for a geological history on the Flinders Ranges and some of the Aboriginal legends.
- Here for a list and details on the National Parks, Conservation Parks and Regional Reserves.
- Here for tourist info on the Flinders Ranges and Outback.
- Here for tourist info specifically focused on the Southern Flinders Ranges
- and of course Wikipedia always offers something.