Day 460a. Wilpena Pound

Posted: September 24, 2016 in Australia
Tags: ,

I got to the top of the rocky outcrop towering over the spectacular landscape and looked down. There was Clement, waving frantically perched on a small rock jutting out from the cliff face. I needed to get there too. Cliff face scrambling at St Mary Peak.

Spot me in this picture - Wilpena Pound

Spot me in this picture – Wilpena Pound

St Mary Peak at Wilpena Pound is one of my favourite places in Australia. From the top, you have a spectacular 360 degree view of the circle of mountains that is Wilpena Pound, and also the ridge of mountains that stretches into the distance that form Bunyeroo and Brachina gorges (as well as many others). The rain and hail had stopped by the time we got to the top, so we were able to enjoy the view for lunch, our feet dangling over the edge.

Wilpena Pound

Wilpena Pound

Wilpena Pound

Wilpena Pound

St Mary Peak

St Mary Peak

We returned via the interior of the pound – another feast of amazing views.

Wilpena Pound

Wilpena Pound

Other than the amazing walk, we were excited to run into Alex and Alaine again – our friends we met in Oodnadatta and camped with on the moon plain. In the evening we had another interesting talk with a couple, the woman of which collects mannequin heads. Rather an unusual hobby..

Alex and Alaine

Alex and Alaine


Today was wet and cold. Our plans of visiting Brachina and Bunyeroo gorges along small, beautiful roads were foiled by cold rain, wind and ever-muddying roads. We aborted our plans and headed to the main road, and pushed on through the cold to Wilpena where we hung out in the cafeteria all afternoon.

Pine trees in the rain

Pine trees in the rain

It was also my anniversary of leaving Eindhoven. I’ve now been on the road for two years, and the end is getting very close.


Today we left the long, straight, flat bitumen road and climbed into the mountains. Yes. There are mountains now and we are happy to be in them – the Flinders Ranges.

Road to Blinman

Road to Blinman

We climbed on the dirt road through the fields of bright green grass full of white and purple flowers with rocky peaks standing majestically on either side. It was then time for an extended lunch in the beautiful outback town of Blinman – the highest town in South Australia – about 600m. We then turned off into the Flinders Ranges proper on the small dirt biking track – the Mawson Trail. It is totally beautiful and amazing, and we are happy to be off the beaten track again.

Road to Blinman

Road to Blinman

Mawson Trail

Mawson Trail

View from our campsite

View from our campsite


The hills have started. On the horizon on both sides of the road are the last ridges of the Flinders Ranges. Emus are everywhere, the odd kangaroo, and the eagles are soaring on high. Fields with sheep and cattle – endless grass where normally there is just red dust. We are slowly leaving the remoteness of the Australian Outback.

Road to Parachilna

Road to Parachilna

We passed the last of the cyclists on the Race to the Rock – two New Zealanders that were taking it easy. They were hesitating on continuing – rain is coming and they don’t know about the dirt roads. Give it a go! It is a beautiful track, and if it rains, you just have to wait a few days.

Cyclists on the Race to the Rock

Cyclists on the Race to the Rock

The day started in Farina with a group of emus checking out our camping spot. They circled our tents while making a deep thudding sound – their call.

Emus

Emus

Farina is a town of ruins. One of these buildings must have been where my great grandmother was born. Many many years ago. Back then when Farina was a happening place.

Farina

Farina

We are camping in a small river just before the turnoff into the Flinder Ranges. More dirt roads tomorrow.


The roads were bogged and we were stranded in a ghost house in the middle of the desert, surrounded by weird statues made from rusty machine parts. Inside it felt like a squat – graffiti on the walls, a dusty smell, and ‘Keep Out’ signs on the doors where once someone had dwelled. Still, it was a homely place, and was clearly being taken care of. Everything worked. We slept in, talked, and did our washing with an amazing contraption made from a bike, parts from a car, and a barrel.Thank you carers of Alberrie Creek!

Washing machine at Alberrie Creek

Washing machine at Alberrie Creek

Getting away from our home of two nights was a slow affair. With a melancholy mood, I swung on my bike, and we made our way down the not too muddy road. We passed several cyclists taking part in the Race to the Rock bike race – from Adelaide to Uluru as quickly as possible. These people are doing 300km a day, and are amazingly chirpy and not worried at all. We passed one that is planning on arriving in William Creek at midnight, wants to eat something and then continue. Our bike trip is feeling very normal indeed.

Bikers on the Race to the Rock

Bikers on the Race to the Rock

We arrived after sunset in Farina – where my great grandmother was born. A look around will have to wait until the morrow.


We sat from under our corrugated iron lean-to behind the abandoned house, watching the rain pour down. We could make out the dark black spearhead cloud above us as the evening turned to night and the lighting flickered the sky. This rain would lock us in again, and make this our new home for a while.

Alberrie Creek

Alberrie Creek

Today was a different weather regime. The sky was a patchwork of blue and dark, threatening clouds. The air was hot and sticky and the wind howled from the north (a side wind). At different places around us the clouds released rain that we could see arc southwards with the wind to dump their load on the normally dry Lake Eyre Basin.

Lake Eyre South

Lake Eyre South

As I cycled, I felt vulnerable to the elements, and my mood changed with the light. Moments of blue sky and bright light raised my spirits, followed by a sudden realisation of my insignificance in this stark, desolate landscape as a dark cloud passed over and the wind howled.

We stopped for an early lunch as the raindrops started to fall as we passed an abandoned railway siding – Curdimurka. Today would be a day sleeping in one of these abandoned buildings – we knew this already.

Curdimurka

Curdimurka

Only a few drops fell at lunch and we continued. We saw bubbling mound springs in the sun, Lake Eyre South in the rain, and finished as the black clouds descended in earnest at the ‘Aeroplane-henge’ at Alberrie Creek – a strange collection of rusty sculptures make from old mechanics parts. We considered sleeping in the Ghan Hover Bus, but opted on the abandoned house for better protection from the rain.

Mound springs

Mound springs

The road to Marree

The road to Marree

The road to Marree

The road to Marree

Bus at Alberrie Creek

Bus at Alberrie Creek

Alien

Alien

Planes at Alberrie Creek

Planes at Alberrie Creek

Dog at Alberrie Creek

Dog at Alberrie Creek

The Oodnadatta Track follows a chain on ‘mound springs’ – pools of water supplied the Arteasian Basin – a huge underground water reservoir that lies below one fifth of Australia. The little pools of water sit on mounds that rise around 10 metres above the flat desolate landscape. These springs are at weak points in the earth’s surface where the underground water can push it’s way to the surface. Water bubbling out of these springs has been on a two million year journey through the artesian underground system from where it first dropped from the clouds in Queensland. These springs have great spiritual significance for the Aboriginal people, and were also key in opening up central Australia for the white settlers.
Today, sitting next to the spring, alone, in this desolate landscape with the hot wind on our faces, and the dark clouds looming on the horizon, Clement and I contemplated our mortality. In Clement’s body are atoms from Victor Hugo. In mine are atoms from my mother – that I will be visiting in just a few weeks – the endpoint of my bike trip where her ashes are scattered. Our bodies today are made of completely different atoms to the day we were born. Probably only a very small fraction of our mass was there when we first saw the light of day. Are we still the same people? Are we still Clement Peltier and Matthew Harris? Looking back I see a very different person in my body to the Matthew Harris of my childhood. Life is such an amazing thing – twisting and turning through fate, shaping and moulding as one tries to understand one’s soul.

‘Are you afraid of death?’ I asked Clement.
We both agree that if we died tomorrow, we would both die happy. Life is about living, and that is what we are doing – every day. Living despite my fears – running out of water, not being able to fix the bike, and many others. Sometimes I look at Clement and want to see fear. Does he not doubt himself sometimes? He told of a comment a host wrote about him – ‘Clement is fearless.’ I definitely am not.


There are lakes on the side of the road. There are rivers full of water. The desert has taken on a new face for us. Today we swam in a river, underneath a rusted bridge of the old Ghan train line. We also had a bath in the natural spa bath at Coward Springs. And then we talked and talked as the coals turned from orange to black, under the beautiful blanket of stars.

River

River

The road was easy – a hard surface with only a few corrigations. The wind decided to be at our back, and it wasn’t too hot. We had a rather relaxing day, stopping often and stopping early for the night. There is little rush now, and we are just enjoying the desert.

The road to Marree

The road to Marree

The road to Marree

The road to Marree

The road to Marree

The road to Marree

We passed a cyclist today. He had almost no luggage, and looked completely knackered. No wonder – he had cycled from Adelaide, covering around 300km each day. He’s part of a race to Uluru along the back roads. I gave him some water and dried apricots.