Top Ten Australia Off-the-Beaten-Path Adventures

Walk the Flinders Ranges
By Ron Moon & Viv Moon

The native pine sighed softly as the gentle breeze wafted down the valley and up to our airy viewpoint perched on a rock slab high in the Flinders Ranges, the spectacular, rugged mountain country north of Adelaide and a fixture of the Australian outback. Below us a thin trickle of water meandered through a gorge; a solitary kangaroo came to drink, and the cry of a couple of raucous galahs—Australian cockatoos, with pale blue-gray plumage and pink breasts—could be heard on the breeze. Across the valley the nearly sheer-sided bluff of the peak known as The Guardian dominated the surroundings. To the west, in a gap in the range, the vast flat desert plains around the dry, salt-encrusted Lake Torrens could be seen.

Here, up in the Flinders Ranges, we were in a relative oasis where water, although not abundant, was in almost permanent supply. Stark white-barked red gums lined the creeks, while tougher acacias and mallees dotted the steeper slopes; at their feet wiry, spiky spinifex grew in great low clumps.

We scrambled down the rocks (frightening a rock wallaby in the process), here and there hopping over the spinifex clumps and passing Australian grass trees—primitive plants in a primitive land, where the upheavals of the geological past are etched into each and every red, raw scarp and valley wall.

Once at the base of the ridge the walking became more of a stroll along an animal pad that wound across a undulating valley floor amongst gums and native pine. The peaks of the ABC Range stretched away to our south to the great cupped hand formation of the famous Wilpena Pound and its surrounding high peaks. We turned towards them and onto the Heysen Trail, the 1,500-kilometer long-distance walking trail that is arguably the best long-distance desert-and-mountain hiking trail in Australia. The good thing about this trail though is that in many places you can join it just for a day, while keen walkers can take in 100 mile or more in the one go.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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