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IMG_4154Who would have thought there was a some sort of temporal time/space portal in the Southern Flinders Ranges?  Descending down the stairs at Alligator Gorge you are immediately transported to a typically stunning gorge somewhere in Northern Australia.

Why didn’t I know about this little gem in South Australia? Anyway, here’s the treat.

IMG_4505The still chilled air sits calmly in the silence of this meandering wonderland. Bright ochre cliffs etched and cracked over centuries, stand guard over the world they command. Just as Ali the shepherd did all those years ago looking after his precious flock.

The caressing babble of the creek accompanies you as you explore and absorb the beauty of this rich landscape. Slender trees grow tall reaching for the light, with some seeming to hold back the ever imposing canyon walls. IMG_4518Those same ancient walls give up their solidarity to the greenery that flows from the cracks, softening the hard edges and contrasting those earthy tones.

With older creek beds still visible half way up the gorge walls, and remnants of even older tidal flats on the trail. An ancient landscape revealing it’s secrets from a time before time. Native pines and blackboys keep company amongst the gum’s, while delicate wild flowers and native orchids surprise the senses. So keep a keen eye out for the miniature delights.

IMG_4467Visit the well polished Narrows, with quartz veins running through ochre and blood red walls. Or the easy walk to the Terraces where the natural staircase takes you gently up stream. Perhaps even the longer Loop walk into pristine bushland, where Ali once walked while tending his sheep.

Alligator Gorge is a must see in the Southern Flinders Ranges. My only regret was that I did not spend enough time, just existing in the space. There is a story around every bend, on every trail, and imbedded in every rock.IMG_4498 Just waiting the epiphany that awakens your senses, to the hidden history of our ancient land.

I challenge anyone to visit the Gorge and not be surprised. Personal experiences and comments welcome.

The road into Alligator Gorge is about 1 km south of Wilmington. It is a national park, so don’t forget to get a park permit before you go.

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Fencing with Kangaroos.

IMG_9553Traveling on roads in the Aussie bush, a keen eye is always kept on the road for unexpected events. Cars, trucks, flock of sheep, or a bounding Kangaroo. Everyone of these can cause quite a mess of your car, not to mention threaten your safety.  As it happen the other day while driving on the road to Alligator Gorge, something caught my eye off to my left.  Not enough to feel threatened, but enough for me to pull up once passed the ‘something’, and investigate.  My eyes did not fail me, as I looked back from my car I could see a Kangaroo or Wallaby, and it appeared to be struggling.

Sure enough, it was a Wallaby (or young Kangaroo), and it was in trouble. Laying on it’s side with both legs caught fast, twisted in the fence wire. First thought was to free the poor critter, and after the Kanga gave me a not so friendly growl (yes, Kangaroos do growl), I grabbed the tangle wire and separating them just enough for Kanga to pull his legs out. It Snapshot 2 (20-07-2015 11-15 PM)was only then that I noticed how badly this Kanga was damaged. Both legs were bloodied, and as the Kanga tried to hop away and fell to one side, I noticed that one leg had was worn down to the ligament and to the bone. Ouch! I have to wonder just how long the poor thing had been struggling to get free. Long enough I guess to wear away all of his skin and his flesh. Kanga then tried hopping again, struggling a little further into the bush, before falling again.

It was then that I started thinking about what was the ‘right’ thing to do. Freeing it immediately as I did, or securing it before making any further decisions as to it’s fate.  Was it likely that Kanga would now be ok, being free?  Was it’s leg broken? Would it probably get an infection and die anyway? Would it now be easy prey? Should I have attempted to rescue it and rung someone? Or should I have put it out of it’s misery?

As the Kanga was now some metres away from me and clearly not receptive to my care and concern, the point was now mute.  I returned to my car and resumed my journey. Clearly though, I was now troubled by this encounter. Thoughts ran though my head. My humanistic inner self came up with solutions that my rational realistic self just scoffed at.  As a caring human being, should I have ‘saved’ the poor Kanga, or, should I have, as many would do in the bush, decided that the Kanga would probably not survive and end it’s suffering then and there.

These are the questions I am left with. What would have been more compassionate. To free the injured creature to perhaps survive, or, to end it’s suffering by ending its life then and there? I guess, because of my lack of forethought, I will now never know.

Life in the “real world” can be tough. Our insular lives in the city do not remotely prepare us for such situations. I have grown just a little this day.

IMG_4341No, not real Alligators, just the road into Alligator Gorge.  A little known South Australian gem hidden away in the Southern Flinders Ranges (See future post).  A relatively easy walk today. 15 kms from the gorge road through to Horrocks Pass. The road is sealed into the gorge so no drama’s with any wet weather.

As we are well into the Southern Flinders Ranges, the hills are getting a little more challenging as was evident on our last walk. Today was no different. The upside of course, is the great variety in greenery and the views from the hill tops. There were some classic Aussie bush settings for a walk or a picnic on the way, although quite a trek to get to some of them.

Saw some Emu’s on the way in. They always look so dorky. Real nerds of the animal kingdom. Plenty of IMG_4340Kanga’s too. These last four days I would say I have seen 100+ Kanga’s. No risk of these buggers going extinct.

They were not the only animalia I saw on this trip. I stopped to check out a couple of foxes running across the road, and just as I was returning to my car, I spotted something else aside the road. In the middle of nowhere was a cute little kitty cat. Not a feral, but clearly a long way from home.

IMG_4294This particular week, we had very sad news as everyone in S.A. knows. The pain and shock was felt far and wide, and as the adjacent photo shows, it was felt up here too. RIP Phil.

This walk was challenging enough with the hills but an easy enough 15 kms.  Now, if the 15 kms is not enough for you, there are two other highlights near this walk. Alligator Gorge and Hancocks Lookout.  Check out these two if you have the time. Hancock’s Lookout is a great spot to be at around sunset, with views of the top of the gulf, and Alligator Gorge is just “gorgeous”.  Definitely worth the short walk down the steep steps.

A good friend of mine who lives in Wilmington, promised I would see a white kangaroo in Horrock’s Pass this trip. Four times I visited the Pass over four days with no white kangaroo to be seen. Now she has a photo of the said kangaroo, but I am now starting to question the veracity of her claim. I will return in the near future to attempt to track down the “Ghost Kanga of Horrock’s Pass”. Stay tuned.

In Short :

Alligator Gorge Road to Horrocks Pass

Distance : 15 kms

Duration : 3 hours

Pace : 5 kph

More visions along the way….

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A giant fossilized duck head?

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Great morning for a walk.

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Horrock’s Pass. Is that where I left my beer?

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View from Hancocks Lookout.

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IMG_4273“A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. So Shakespeare said. But in this case, the rose in question on the Heysen Trail, is as sweet as it’s name might imply. Melrose is an everlasting flower sheltered in the bosom of the Southern Flinders Ranges. The original Flinders town, with an Ayre of historical charm, surrounded by cropped fields, and nestled against the dark green shadow of the Remarkable. Yura Muda created the world you now submerse yourself  into, bringing a sense of calm IMG_4258and peace gently on your being as you surrender your soul and free your mind from your distracted sensibilities.  A land of such history unknown, with only subtle hints of it’s fascinating past, of which remain elusive to all but the most astute or spiritually intuitive.

But for those with simpler ambitions, the bush trails offer all measure of pleasure for walking or riding, while the country pubs and cafe’s that sit within the great Aussie landscape await your presence to complete this friendly and relaxed work of art.

IMG_4232Our first trek this week takes us from Melrose up Mount Remarkable and onto Alligator Gorge Rd. Just under 26 kms. It’s a bit of a bypass from our usual linear trekking, always walking consecutive sections from south to north. But Wirrabara Forest is still closed due to the fires last year, and the detour did not present us with a very attractive re-route, with the vast majority of it, on roads from Mills Rd to Murraytown.  So we have catapulted ourselves a little further north this time, and will have to see Wirrabara on another day.

IMG_4251Ice on the windscreen greeted us as we emerged from our cabin just after sunrise on our first day. Clear sky offering the promise of a beautiful day though. Quite a few trekkers were stirring this morning taking good advantage of the decent weather. Though it was cold, we dressed light, and by the time we strolled passed the War Memorial a short way up Mount Remarkable, we were sufficiently comfortable.  I passed by what I believe is the fattest Euro alive. Residing near the caravan park at Melrose, what do you think this Wallaroo was doing at the time? Yep eating, of course.

IMG_4374The first 6+ kms walking this morning is a steady climb up Mount Remarkable. 560 metres up to the summit. Not sure if the mountain has changed height recently because the listed height is 960 metres, but the sign at the top says 995??? Great views though as we climbed, especially from the very rocky scree fields, which opened up a window amongst the trees to reveal the sweeping plains below.  Visible from one of the screes lies the wreckage of a light plane crash from a few years before. Plane VS Mountain? Mountain wins every time. I believe it was very foggy that day.

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Ancient river or sea bed.

Seeing some sandy tracks near the top of the mountain, I wondered if it had once been a sea or river bed, and certainly that was confirmed on finding a fossilised wavy sand bed. Pretty cool!

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This is not the Heysen Trail!

As always when you go up, you must come down, and descend we did quite steeply. The track is wide but very rocky, but you have to expect that on a mountain, as that is what they are made of.  Once we hit the low point in a nice little green gully, we headed off on the flat path aside Spring Creek, soon to realise that we were no longer on the Heysen. It is easy to do when a Heysen post happens to be turned 15°. Thank goodness for our GPS fully loaded with the Heysen trail.

After climbing another hill we wandered down a gentle slope and onto Gray’s Hut. Nice open camping spot with hills all around. Although sparsely appointed, the hut did have the original fireplace as well as one of the most valued facilities in the bush…….”a toilet!” Perfectly placed camp site as well, to take a break for lunch.

IMG_4406The following part of the trail wound it’s way up and down way more hills than the book indicated. Some steep enough to slow us up considerably in pace and in wear and tear (sore feet and blisters).  The trek through rocky creeks and bush was punishing, with loose rocks every where, one of which would bring me undone. I have always been light of foot and stable on my feet, having spent a lot of of my childhood running over rocks at Marino and Hallett Cove. Usually bare foot at that, but this IMG_4410large innocuous rock that I placed my right foot on, rolled immediately, bringing me down on my right thigh and elbow. I think I saw a kangaroo blush from my ensuing language! After regaining my composure and even though I was now battered and bruised, I regained my feet and carried on. In pain, but, as we were more than 10 kms from any road, there really is not any other choice.

Great scenery, and lots of Kangaroos all along the way, but very punishing walk. In total we ended walking a full mile up hill as well as almost a mile down. Just to ensure there was no easy end to this walk, we had another hill right at the end. We were very happy to see my car today, especially because I had cold beers on ice in the boot. It never tasted so good!

In Short

Walk : Melrose to Alligator Gorge Rd.

Distance 25.7 kms

Duration : 6 hrs 1 min

Elevation Gain : 1,626m up.

Elevation Loss 1,540 m down

Pace : 4.3 kph

and the rest…….

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The long walks, you get a bit crazy.

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Best bank I’ve ever been to.

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IMG_4021 The cool air bites, as the early morning sun pierces through the bright blue sky, with a promise of the warmth to come. The silence pervades the land and seems to dominate and inhabit every perceivable space without, and within. The moment you exit your bubble within known time and space, you embrace the world as it is, just at the moment, that it is. This is, the Aussie bush. Welcome to the Heysen Trail.

We arrived late in the afternoon at Georgetown, just as the friendly general store owners were IMG_4078packing away the signs and cafe chairs.  We had just enough time to warm up our legs with a 5km stroll from Noonans Rd through the town and onto the end of Slaughterhouse Road.  I did wonder whether there was a “slaughter house”, or perhaps there had been some unfortunate mass crime in the distant past. As Grant mentioned at the time, “well, still waters do run deep in S.A”. Hmmm Indeed.

I did laugh, however at the (obviously) poor photo I took of the street sign, which turned a morbid IMG_3953place into a place of cheer. If only I really did have that power!

Day two saw us head off into the rolling hills between Georgetown and Crystal Brook. Pretty easy going this walk and although not as interesting once we hit the roads, Rocky River and the ruins gave us a nice spot to take a break.

The trail runs through the caravan park at Crystal Brook and would have been an ideal place to stay as this was one of our start/finish points. We did however stay in a neat little cottage in Gladstone for the two nights. Conyningham cottage. Well appointed for most, including families with a mini play park in the back yard, and some very interesting old stuff inside. Very comfortable warm beds which we did appreciate. after a days walk.

IMG_4098Be wary along the caravan park as the Heysen signs seem to be rather sparse in this section, and as we would find out on the following day, the golf course as well.

The actual “Crystal Brook” we followed for quite a way, was quite a surprise. Beautiful river scenes from Bowman Park onwards. One of the original settlements in the area, Bowman Park is a little gem in this often sparse landscape. Great place for picnic or BBQ.

IMG_4119We found a bar “Haps Hoochie” in the middle of the bush adjacent the “Brook”. Pity the pub had run dry, and the publican was absent. Oh well, onwards we marched, onto Wilkins Highway and turning north again onto more dirt roads. Going to need a bit more padding in the shoes soon. These hard limestone roads are giving my feet a pounding.

After climbing up a few hills to the top of the ridge, we followed Youngs  road all the way to Mills road. It got a bit cold and windy on the ridge so I got to try out my new hat. No more cold ears for me.

IMG_4088In Short :

Walk : Noonans Rd near Georgetown to Mills rd near Beetaloo.

Distance : Day One, 5.7kms. Day Two, 22.3kms. Day Three, 22.5kms.

Duration : Day One, 64 mins. Day Two, 3hrs 50mins. Day Three, 4hrs 2mins.

Pace : Day One, 6.1kph. Day Two, 5.7kph. Day Three, 5.6kph.

Best Part : Bowman Park to Wilkins Hwy.

And the rest…..

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Two old men on the porch.

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Always looks good at the end of a walk. Especially good this day. Anyone wanna buy? Gonna need a 4wd soon.

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Rocky Creek ruins

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IMG_3809The Australian azure, filled our view, dissolving all thought. Chilled mid north air welcomed us to reality. The simplicity of the Aussie country side, rescuing my spirit from the 21st century sarcoma on my soul.

The soil has been tilled with it’s richness on display. The recent rains have tinged the remaining land with green.  New life and old, basking in the Autumn sun, while echo’s of the past still resist the inevitability of time. Walking the less traveled road along fields of hope and creeks of promise.  Wandering the ancient valley amidst a brood of Blackboys.  We once again immerse ourselves, in the Heysen trail.

The first walk for 2015 saw us just north of Bundaleer Dam. A beautiful sunny day with a cool breeze.  20 K’s for the first day to Neindorf rd adjacent Bundaleer IMG_3782Forest.   The original route through Bundaleer Forest Reserve is still closed due to the fire a few years back, and it has not yet been re-opened. So it is a re-route with extra K’s for this, our first walk.  A fairly easy walk though, with few hills on the first day, and with another new year, Grant also has another new pair of boots.   I’m sure he has every brand of hiking boot available by now I would be guessing.

IMG_3811One of the valleys we walked through was filled with thousands of Blackboys (Grasstrees).  This was a bit eerie, especially with one watching us as we passed by. “Invasion of the body snatchers” anyone?

The walking on this stretch was fairly easy. Gentle slopes on dirt roads and  tracks through valleys and rolling hills. We ended up adjacent Bundaleer Forest at Neindorf Rd at the end of the first day. As is customary on our walks, we celebrated with a nice cold beer back at the pub.  The Barbed Wire Hotel in Spalding had the best tasting beer, I swear. Funny how it always tastes so good after a walk.  A big shout out to John, Anne and Margaret, who we had dinner with that night. Three of the End to End group walkers on the trail that weekend. Thanks for a great chat.

Day two was a little more challenging with a few hills and ridge walking. Great views though of the surrounding plains and valleys. One of the valleys had a fair few Heysen markers down on this walk, so I was pleased we had the GPS.

We pushed on passed all of the cars parked at this section’s end to end point to finish up a few K’s out of Georgetown.   A quiet little place with a pub and a general store, and plenty of history.

In Short

Day One

The Walk: The Old School (near Bundaleer Dam) to Neindorf Rd Bundaleer Gardens

Duration: 3 hrs 48 mins (walking time)

Distance: 22 kms

Pace: 5.8 kms per hr

Terrain: Gentle slopes. Roads and (at times) narrow tracks

Best Part: “Blackboy Valley”

Day Two

The Walk: Neindorf Rd Bundaleer Gardens to Noonans Rd

Duration: 4 hrs 17 mins (walking time)

Distance: 24 kms

Pace: 5.6

Terrain: Roads and paddocks along ridges and in vallleys.

Best Part: The views from the ridge.

 

Scene’s along the way:

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Echo's of the past

Echo’s of the past

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Valley of the Blackboys

 

How Aussie can you get!

How Aussie can you get!

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Barbed Wire pub

 

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Going long on whiskers.

For all those fans of the “bearded market analysist”. Tom Piotrowski.

Going long on whiskers

“It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas”. The latest creepy crawly in my back yard. Too cool.

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Christmas Beetle

 

 

Inspired on the Aussie road.

We traveled north through the Adelaide hills, with a Eucalypt guard of honour opening our eyes to the paradise within.

Travelling in Between

 

IMG_1182I had a phone call the other night on our home phone, which could only mean one of two things. My mum is calling, or it’s a canvasser or scammer.  In my usual manner to ward off “cold callers”, I answered the phone with “Bon jour, ca va”.  Answering in another language works most of the time. I just get a delay and then they hang up. Not sure that all my friends are aware of my habit, but hey, it keeps the call centres and scammers at bay, so I’m stickin with it.

This particular caller however, either ignored my greeting in french, or was so nervous that he didn’t even hear what I said. He must have been concentrating so hard on what he was supposed to say, he was not remotely aware of my apparent “Parisian” background. So, he ignored my french fluency and got straight to the point of his call. It was if he could not contain himself any longer and with the briefest of greetings, got down to business.

So, this young gentleman, whom I will call “John”,  identified the candidate he was representing right off the bat, and asked if I had any concerns regarding local issues. Our previous long standing member (Bob Such) was very much dedicated to the local community and much loved. A decent fellow (RIP).  Anyway, “John”, represents Nat Cook, a brand new Labor candidate, who stands on an anti violence platform. “John”, then went on to ask what were my concerns in the local or wider community. Well, I felt like asking him if he had enough time this fine evening, because I had much to say, but knowing full well, he probably would not be too interested in my slightly right leaning/Libertarian views, I picked just a couple of issues to niggle at his socialist heart.

“Not so much local issues” I said, “but more macro issues are my concern”, sounding very knowledgeable with my politico economic speak. “The recent bungle with our soon to be moth balled Desal plant and water rates hike, as well as electricity prices, (which incidentally here in SA are among the highest in the developed world) are my biggest bug bear!  These two, along with our emergency services levy which has increased this year, up to 400 odd percent (average is supposed to be 62%), is sapping all of our “hard earned” before we have the chance to support the local economy by spending it at the businesses that employ our kids etc.

I then could not help my self but have a dig about extra costs associated with renewables of which we all end up paying more for, with absolutely no benefit at all!  John, I have to say stayed composed throughout our conversation, however, he did still appear quite nervous and unsure of how to answer my questions. His standard response to many of my comments was, ” I will pass on your concerns to Nat”.  His nervousness was more obvious by now, (was it me?) and feeling his awkwardness, I helped him finish up the conversation. ” I have a pressing engagement and have to go now”, I said. He seemed happy to leave the conversation there and proceeded to make his two closing statements.  “You can call Nat any time to discuss any of your concerns”, and, then he asked whether I had decided who I was going to vote for. I am sure if he had considered any part of what I had just said (mostly issues with labor policy) he would have realized that it would not be in Nat’s favor. We parted company cordially, and I am sure he was thankful that this call was over.

I do wonder now whether I had been just one more non Labor supporter (Labor are not strong in this electorate) he had rung that night, and was nervous about the possibility of being abused or being asked difficult questions “again”.

I do have to add though in spite of the fact that I probably will not vote for Labor, at least they made the time to call. I have not heard anything from any other candidate as yet. I may have to harangue the other candidates at the local shopping centre over the coming weeks.

Not sure who to vote for though.  Is the Marijuana Party running in this election?

JTF62

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