Today will be a big day. 30 kilometre walk with a 1.5 k walk in through Mayo Gorge. Walking past the majestic Elder Range, we will be trekking through the amazing Arkaba Station. Stunning views, ever changing geology and plenty of wildlife. We will end up at Moralana Drive in between two Titans of the Flinders. Elder Range and Wilpena Pound.
A nice cold 6° and sunny this morning, with “sinister” clouds creeping over the imposing Elder Range. A fresh road kill on the Outback Highway was breakfast to a pair of very impressive Wedge tailed Eagles, as our driver Kym, shared his experience climbing Elder Range.
Feeling a little pensive about our walk today though. I was not feeling particularly well yesterday and with the pending 30 kms through some pretty remote country side, I was not feeling as confident as usual. We were well prepped though, with a days rest before and carrying extra gear and water for any unforseen events. My good lady had also given me some sound advice if we get lost and run out of food. “Eat Grant first” she said. My wife the ultimate survivor!
Fear though, is a funny thing. It is always important to take note of your feelings, but check that the fear is based on something real, and not just an irrational thought. Clearly I was just feeling a bit off, as once we actually got going, all seemed to be ok.
Heading east up Mernmerna creek from Mayo Gorge, we wandered in the creek as we did in Wonoka . The northern edge of Elder Range already quite impressive, followed our left as we snaked along the creek for the next four k’s.
A Wedgy perched atop a nearby hill watched intently as we passed by. Waiting, I am sure, for us to stumble and fall, so he could pick our bones clean. A song popped into my head just at that moment, “The Holy Grail”. That particular line, “And those big black birds, they were circling in the sky”. (Betcha you are singing it right now too). Kinda felt appropriate with the Wedgy watching and waiting, as well as the fact we are on a quest for our own “holy grail”. It stayed in my head for quite a few k’s.
The left hand turn out of the creek was always going to be hard to find, so we kept a keen eye on our distance travelled, and the map. A bloody big fat old Gum with a very little Heysen sign marked our exit from the creek. A short break was in order before venturing up the hill though. We were not looking to break any speed records today. Into Arkaba Station we went. Over the hill and following the track for a while before taking a right down the hill and into a creek again. This time it was Slaty Creek.
Gums and native pines abound with Kanga’s and Wallabies plentiful in this marsupial haven. Steep hills keep watch over the creeks and the gorges, with the ever present Elder Range imposing itself over the entire area.
The occasional stone fireplace still standing as a reminder of a harsher life. The earthy tones continue through the creeks with the surrounding hills contrasting ochre, tawny, and pine against the vivid blue. Smaller creatures, mostly hidden, reveal themselves on occasion.
A young bearded dragon narrowly escaping a hungry crow, while we narrowly miss walking into a massive Orb weaver strategically strung across our path, just waiting for a delirious Heysen Trail walker to stumble in. Face height, I came to within 20 cms of wearing this very ornate eight legged face jewellery.
The creek is pretty easy walking, although following every meander did get a bit tiring. Heysen signs are a bit scarce through here and as it turned out my GPS sent us a little awry out of Slaty creek and into a feeder creek heading the wrong way. Took us 30+ minutes to work out what happened and to get back on track. Very easy to get lost in this hilly landscape. They all look the same. Even checking our direction was no help as the creeks meander from west, to north, then to east again in every kilometre.
After a stop for lunch we, strode on keeping a keen eye on trail markers, GPS, and the map. We were now a bit behind time, and needed to make up some ground to get to Moralana Drive before dark.
I started hearing voices at one point, and in this sacred landscape, thought my spiritual ancestors were breaking through to speak to me, but alas, it was just Red Range camp site, and there was a quite a group. Chatting and having a great time. Now, ordinarily we would be stopping for a chat, but no time to waste today. With this being only our half way point, we picked up the pace.
We paced up hills, through creeks, traversed gully’s and battled through scrubby trees, until we came to the “garden of stones”.
Perfect place to pull up a rock and rest our bunions. The hills we now traversed were comprised of compacted red stone chips, which were devoid of all but the hardiest of plants. How the hell does anything grow in this stuff?
A little further along we crested a hill, and the wonderful Wilipena Pound came into view, meaning we were on the home stretch (albeit a long one). A few more gentle hills and we made our way to the car park at Moralana drive.
Seated between Wilpena and the Elders, we rested our weary bones. A little sore and a bit fatigued, but mind at ease in the peace and tranquillity of the Flinders.
Every thing at peace, except maybe for our taste buds. The crisp bite from that first sip of amber joy, ruminating throughout my body in repeating waves. Ahhhhhhh.
It’s easy to understand the spirituality of this place. As we sat quietly between the majestic Urdlu Warlpunha, and Ikara in the fading light, we breathed in the very soul of this most ancient of lands. Easy to do, especially after a beer. It’s the simple things really. Life on the trail.
Mount Little Station to Moralana Drive
Distance : 31.5 kms (we walked 34kms due to slight detour)
Pace : 4.8 kph
Duration : 7 hours 33 minutes
Calories burned : 4442!!!!!
And a couple extra….
Elder Range (in full)