Wilpena Pound

November 10, 2013

We were up at 8 am, organized our packs, and cooked up noodle soup for breakfast. The plan was to pick up our rental car from Hertz’s city office at 9:30 am the Mercure Hotel, so we headed down there. But when we arrived there were five people ahead of us and only one agent working. So it was closer to 11 am by the time we got out of there.

After the terrifying task of maneuvering the unfamiliar car out of the underground car park, we found our way out of downtown Adelaide—fortunately all left turns—and through the suburbs to Princes Highway heading north towards Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges. We chose the main road, the M1 and A1 highways, and cruised along for a while at 110 km/h. But eventually this got boring because the road went through the middle of nowhere. Our reference book, Backroad Drives in Australia, showed a parallel route on a smaller road which went through some towns, so we decided to divert via the B79 to Gladstone, where we stopped for a rest and a bit of a walk around.

According to our book, Gladstone was established in the 1870’s and its main historical feature was a jail which was built in 1881 and used as an internment camp for Italian and German nationals during World War II. We walked around a bit looking for it, but it must have been located at the other end of town. Rather than going to look for it we headed back to the highway to continue our journey. This highway, the northbound B82, was slower, but it did take us through small towns which had nice architecture on some of the buildings. But we were in the “wheat belt” here, and just like in Canada’s wheat-producing areas, the towns are decaying as their reason for existence is drying up.

Past Quorn we got into drier high country with some trees, which was quite beautiful, and we stopped at the information centre in Hawker. Here we found that for us the best place to camp would be at Rawnsley Park Station, just outside Wilpena Pound, so off we went. After a while we saw a flock of six emu chicks at the side of the road, so we had to stop to take pictures, and soon after that we turned off the main road onto the unsealed road leading to Rawnsley Park. The area of the campground reserved for tents was up a small hill, and while driving up there we drove the car into a small ditch. The part of the body below the front bumper was quite scratched up, but we had paid for insurance which covered that, so we didn’t worry much. We found a tent site and set up our new tent for the first time, finding it quite easy to put up. The view was quite lovely, looking over at the hills of Wilpena Pound.

The campground had a very large camp kitchen which turned out to be very useful once it got dark. We spent the evening there chatting with a German couple who were travelling around Australia in the same way we were, and catching up with computer stuff.

November 11, 2013

Our sleeping bags were very comfortable last night, but our site wasn’t sheltered by trees so we were up quite early. Our campsite was quite close to the campground’s water tank, which had a small leak, so there were a lot of birds coming to it for water. We packed up our camping gear—unfortunately we weren’t staying another night—and had breakfast, after which we headed farther up the road into Wilpena Pound National Park.

Not far along the road we came across a couple of emus, so we stopped to photograph them. While we were doing that a truck from Rawnsley Park went by, and we noticed the people in it seemed to be laughing. Anyway we carried on, and when we turned onto the side road leading to the park we saw about 25 emus feeding in the fields. So now we understood why the Rawnsley Park people were laughing. We also saw our first kangaroo, which might have been a Red Kangaroo or possibly an Eastern Grey Kangaroo.

Once at the visitor centre we went in and got a map of the park area. The lady there suggested that since we only had half a day available, we could walk to the Hills homestead and then up to the lookout over the pound. This trail was about 6 km return, so it worked out perfectly for the time we had. First we followed an old road up through a forest of giant gum trees. The temperature was about 20°C, so it was very pleasant, and we saw lots of birds (but no kangaroos). After about 2 km of walking we came to an old homestead which had been built in the 1880’s, then eventually abandoned, and then renovated by the parks people as an exhibit. While we were standing there reading the story of the place, two kangaroos (probably euros) came hopping by, so quickly and quietly that we almost missed them. The only photograph we got showed them disappearing into the bush.

Climbing the short but steep trail to the viewpoint took about 15 minutes. From the top we could see the shape of the pound with the mountain walls around all sides with the exception of the narrow gap where we had come in. It looks like an old eroded volcano, but in fact it was never a volcano at all. It was quite impressive and very beautiful. It was too bad we had such a short time to spend at the park; the air was clean and fresh with the scent of the eucalyptus trees, the walking very pleasant, and the temperature just right.

We retraced our route to the visitor centre, where we had our lunch before departing. It was now time to head back towards the Adelaide area. The German couple we had been talking to last night had mentioned that they had stopped at a nice campground in Clare, and since that was about the right distance for us to drive we decided to head there. We followed the same roads back through Quorn and Gladstone, continuing along the B82 to Clare. The caravan park was easy to find, and we were making our dinner within half an hour of putting up the tent. Their camp kitchen didn’t have an enclosed sitting area, so we sat outside on the picnic tables where it was a bit chilly. There was a TV set on the wall there which was playing very old episodes of MASH and Get Smart, but we turned that off after a while.

Next: Victor Harbor

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