The hard packed dirt road north of Blinman to Arkaroola is a little slippery as it has been wet in the outback over the last few weeks. Some of the creeks retain shallow pools from the last deluge and there are numerous birds in the trees that line these ephemeral waterways. I stop the SUV near one promising area and walk slowly along the bank. I am fortunate. A small group of emus are drinking near the edge of the water.
Arkaroola is a long day's drive (700kms) from Adelaide or just a few hours by light plane. If you drive then it is best to make an overnight stop at Wilpena in the southern Flinders Ranges to rest and take in the magnificent vistas. Then; refreshed, take the road to the northern reaches of the ranges and the fascinating world heritage listed area that is the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. Despite its remote setting, Arkaroola Village has all the facilities that any outback traveller could need. There is a range of accommodation, country style restaurant and bar, fuel and motor repairs, visitor information, defined walking and 4WD trails, helicopter availability and even an astronomical observatory.
After unpacking and with half the day remaining, I decide to explore the walking trails near the village. This rugged country with its amazing geology and diverse assortment of hardy outback wildlife and plants is a natural wonderland. Before too long I have encountered numerous varieties of small outback birds including robins, wrens and finches as well as a magnificent wedge tail eagle that circles high above the surrounding peaks. And with a little patience I am able to get close enough to photograph a female mulga parrot munching on an herbaceous ground cover.
It is late afternoon and the shadows of the peaks are encroaching on the landscape. On the advice of a local I take a short drive to nearby Bararrana Gorge where there is a population of rare yellow footed rock wallabies. These glorious little macropods are most active at sunset and sundown so the timing is ideal though the diminished light conditions are not the best for photography. I catch sight of several animals, one is careening down an almost vertical cliff face using its soft padded feet to grip the surface.
The next morning I start with a hearty breakfast at the local restaurant which has a shearer's shed/outback barn feeling. It is a wonderful venue for meeting other travellers and swap stories about the journey so far and what is planned for the days ahead.
Leaving the village, I set off in my SUV on the Paralana Springs trail; a rugged, unsealed 28 km track that leads to a hot springs region heated by radioactive elements in the local rock formations. Along the way I stop at an ochre deposit located in the bank of a stony creek bed which was an important resource for the Adnyamathanha people. They inhabited this area for tens of thousands of years prior to European settlement and used the ochre in ceremonies and to trade with other Aboriginal groups.
I spend the next hour wandering along the creek enjoying the wildlife. There are cockatoos and crows in the trees and smaller birds and insects chirp and buzz in the undergrowth. In one stony area alongside the trail there is a wonderful growth of Sturt desert pea, the state's floral emblem.
From the creek I push on further up the trail towards Paralana. Unfortunately, a spiky piece of tree branch punches a hole in one of my tyres. After changing the tyre I decide to return to the village for repairs. Even though the trail is well used, travelling in the outback without a spare, adequate water or letting someone know your plans, is foolhardy. Tomorrow I will return here or perhaps try another off road track. Whichever option I choose I know that Arkaroola's harsh outback terrain will provide many more exciting experiences.
I may be mistaken Barry, but having been to Arkaroola twice and camped there and also Chambers Gorge(a place we do not hear about too often..although it is fab. gorge) , I have a feeling the wild desert pea photo was not taken at Arkaroola,but in Chambers Gorge.The peak in the background looks very much like Mt.Chambers to me.