Friday, March 21, 2008

Motorcycling in Australia - pt 4 Flinders Ranges

On to Flinders Ranges, then south through to Burra.

( click on map for enlargement)

Heading out of Broken Hill towards Petersborough noticed the landscape change considerably. Seems to be on a down hill slope the whole way . Not sure of the altitude of this area.

Still many old stone buildings in the area and strangely sea shells in the soil on the road side.

First sight of the most well know landmark in the Flinders Ranges Wilpena Pound. The road runs along side it on the way to Wilpena Resort, where I was to camp for the next two nights.

What is seen here is the wall of the Wilpena Pound rising up above the surrounding flat lands.

Decided to take a closer look at the Wilpena Pound so early next morning before the heat became too intense, took a flight on this little Cessna for a birds eye view for this unusual geographical feature.

As the plane ascends over the area east of the Pound, the other ranges are in view. Fantastically beautiful forms and patterns here in the morning light.

And the picture postcard view of Wilpena Pound itself. Sometimes assumed to be a meteorite crater similar to Tnorala, or Gosse Bluff in Central Australia. However it was actually formed the same way as New Zealands Southern Alps, by plate tectonic pushing up rock. However this area, unlike NZ has been subjected to hard erosion for millions of years to create this land form.
The road can be seen bottom of picture.

Another view of the ranges in the Flinders area. The valley running from top to bottom of photo has a road which I was to ride the following day which goes through two fantastic gorges.

Absolutely magic seeing this area from the air. A great way to get a very good picture of the whole area.

I just love the folded hills and the patterns formed. Have many great images from the flight.

After the flight went for a walk up into the centre of the pound where the settlers tried to grow wheat. The harvest unsuccessful and depleting the soil of all nutritional content so nothing will grow there now. It is only a small area but very obvious from the air. Remaining is still the homestead and the most beautiful dragon flies I have seen for a long time.

Just look at that face!

click on image for close look!

Following morning set off to ride through Bunyeroo and Brachina gorge through the ranges and out on to the west side.

A very good road most of the way with occasional rocky parts and in wetter times ford crossings to negotiate. However a slow trip due to my continuous stopping for photos and to look around. And the temperature is rising!
The road follows the tops of the hills and winds its way towards the gorge

800 year old trees, not many of them but those here are truly impressive with their size and strength to survive this dry hot land.

Under all that gear, yes I am sweltering! But I just felt I needed to wear the protective gear, just in case.

The bike getting abit of a dust collection now too. The camel bak is priceless here as I am able to drink and ride simultaneously!

Spectacular landscapes here. These rocks are 570 million years old!

A fascinating area that I feel the will to return to, and spend more time investigation and just soaking in the atmosphere here. It had an almost spiritual magical feeling here, the age of the area is clearly felt and seen. I absolutely love this area. And full of wildlife, roos, wallabies, lizards and tremendous variety of birds.

A handsome little shingle back lizard. One of many I was to encounter on the travels. They are also known as stumpy tails and have a defence strategy of curling into a semi circle with head and tail close together. Prey are confused as to which is head and tail apparently. Cute wee dude!

The only other travellers seen that day in the gorges. A lovely couple of photographers, working on capturing bird and yellow footed wallaby shots this day. I was to discover that the big white thing in the back of the truck is in fact a fridge full of cool drinks, which they kindly shared.

However they did have to fight me off as I tried to climb into that haven of coolness!

The strata of the rock clearly seen in this shot. Evidence of the tilting and protruding of rock from plate tectonic activities.

Once out of the gorges and on the west side of the ranges I headed back toward Hawker a wee town with some fantastic art works, including a huge panoramic painting of the Wilpena Pound. A magically and brilliant piece of work from the artist Geoff Morgan.
Along the ride more deserted stone homesteads from a time when the first settlers came in an abnormally wet year when they were able to farm this area. However those year have not repeated and the farming and families no longer here.
This shot has the west wall of Wilpena Pound in background.
By this stage I was actually starting to feel a little unwell from the heat and long slow day. Dizziness, lightheaded and stomach cramps along with an inability to gain breath alerted me to the fact I may be suffering from some form of heat stroke.

However I noticed some very beautiful ruins just out of town so dragged myself out of the pool to go and photograph on sunset with the beautiful golden light. Check out that over heated face!
Still sweating and unable to cool at 8.30pm. I believe the temperature was the high 40s and only cooled to high 30s over night.
The illness I felt continued for the next couple of days also and no matter how much I drank I still felt thirsty and dehydrated.
This country is extreme for sure.

Hey but the shots are good! Worth feeling a little unwell for. Such a spectacular light. More images at my gallery

Despite the relentless heat I love this part of the world. The huge blue sky and gorgeous red dirt somehow feels so very good to me, and makes me feel very alive and close to nature.

Many of my friends the Galah here too.

So left Hawker and slowly wandered south, back into more farming areas with treed hills and sheep.
Stopped off at Clare which did not appeal to me with its fast food restaurants and abundance of vineyards, so on to Burra. Burra touched my heart. A small old mining town overflowing with historic buildings and friendly people, and great cafes! Here I decided I needed to trade in the trusty XT which by now I have grown to love, for a 4 legged friend. So went riding with the Burra Man. Apparently he has featured on the TV show Outback Jack. However I think I burst his bubble a little having not ever seen it. But what a wonderful day on horse back. A lovely little horse. Shes a little gem.

Horse cam............and they think they have a drought in NZ!

So from here I headed back east to the border to Victoria and to visit Mungo National Park and one of the most memorable experiences of the trip.

But that's the next story.......