Having hit the highest point of my full-day’s hike, Bridle Gap, on the edge of Wilpena Pound, I tuck into my lunch and look out at the ancient landscape that surrounds me: the magnificent Flinders Ranges.
This landscape is millions of years old – 500 million years, in fact. It’s here that you’ll find the earliest signs of life on Earth. David Attenborough has visited the region several times to explore the fossil-filled hills and gullies.
Fossils aside, the view is magnificent. This is the largest mountain range in South Australia stretching over 430 kilometres from Port Pirie to Lake Callabonna.
I’m sitting on the edge of one of its most characteristic features: Wilpena Pound. It’s taken us all morning to get here, setting off from nearby Rawnsley Park Station at 7.30am; we arrive at our summit just in time for lunch, provided by our hosts at Rawnsley Park Station, along with a guide, who has led us to this point, telling us stories of the pioneers who first settled this unforgiving land, explaining the geology of the Ranges and pointing out various flora and fauna along the way.
See more of Australia on foot. Take A Wander Down Australia’s Country Way
Even the roos eat Vegemite out here. Even Kangaroos Eat Vegemite In The Outback
Families Of Emus Graze Among The Pines
The foliage changes as we walk through this vast amphitheatre, starting at Wilpena Gap, where the walking track is lined with enormous Red River Gums, through large open areas thick with pine trees, to grasslands and mallee as we approach the higher open areas.
Large families of emus graze among the pine trees and wallabies play hide and seek in the shady areas underneath the tall gums.
It’s been a long yet rewarding day so it’s lovely to return to my cozy eco cabin at Rawnsley Park Station for a quick freshen up before owner Tony takes us for a 4WD tour of the property and a view of the sunset, complete with champagne and canapes.
The following day we explore the wider area of the Flinders Ranges on a 4WD tour that covers the pioneering history and geology of the region. The tour takes us through Bunyaroo Gorge and on to Brachina Gorge before stopping for lunch at the Prairie Hotel on the Parachilna Plain.
Bunyaroo Gorge is where David Attenborough’s story of life is revealed and our knowledgeable guide points out the famous fossils, the earliest forms of multi-cellular life found on Earth, that prove how old these rocks are.
Glorious Sunset And Gourmet Dinner
Our next stop is for a bit of wildlife spotting at Brachina Gorge, a popular hangout for rock wallabies, before we head over to try out the famous feral lunch menu at the Prairie Hotel. Its Feral Mixed Grill features kangaroo fillet, emu filet mignon and camel sausage.
We save dessert for our next pit stop at Blinman, an historic mining town named after the lucky shepherd who first discovered a green stone while watching his flock, scraped together $A20 for a mining lease and ended up selling his copper mining lease for $130,000.
Blinman is also famous, however, for the quandong crumble pie available at the cafe. Served with cream or ice cream, it’s highly recommended.
Arriving back at Rawnsley Park Station, we’re just in time for another glorious sunset followed by dinner at the property’s gourmet restaurant, The Woolshed.
Where to stay
Rawnsley Park Station has a range of accommodation on offer, from campgrounds to luxury eco cabins, built with straw bales, which insulate naturally against the elements. While lying in bed you have the choice to roll back the ceiling and watch the Milky Way overhead as you doze off.
Three and five-day guided Flinders Ranges walking tour packages are available, which allow you to explore the area on foot with an experienced guide and return each night for a gourmet meal.
Walks range from easy walks to Hills Homestead or the Sacred Canyon, moderate hikes such as the Bridle Gap hike, which takes you through Wilpena Pound, to serious hikes to the Pound’s highest peak, St Mary, or the Wilkawillina Gorge.