Blame it on the Rain


Advertisement
Australia's flag
Oceania » Australia » South Australia » Arkaroola
September 21st 2020
Published: September 21st 2020
Edit Blog Post

Spriggina Walking TrackSpriggina Walking TrackSpriggina Walking Track

Arkaroola, South Australia
A windy night gave way to an overcast Friday morning as I prepared to leave Marree. A few drops of rain falling on the dusty ground hinted at what was to come. After leaving the Marree Hotel, I had to get some fuel and buy some bread. While there, an optimistic fellow asked me about conditions up the Oodnadatta Track. I told him it was fine when I came down two days ago, but with the rain closing in, I didn’t like his chances.

I drove south on the bitumen for a bit over 100km – the longest stretch of sealed road I had driven on for a few days. As I headed south, the flat landscape gave way to rising hills, and I knew I was approaching the Gammon Ranges – the northern part of the Flinders Ranges.

At Copely, I turned east and returned to gravel roads. So far, the weather had held off; I encountered only a handful of raindrops since leaving Marree. So I pushed on with my plan to drive to Arkaroola via the 4-wheel-drive track through the Gammon Ranges National Park, instead of keeping on the road via Bulcanoona.

I turned onto
Cockatoos at Arkaroola SpringsCockatoos at Arkaroola SpringsCockatoos at Arkaroola Springs

Arkaroola, South Australia
the Umberatana Road and was surprised that it was little more than a track. I wasn’t even on the 4-wheel-drive track yet, and already my speed had been reduced greatly. By the time I turned off on the track to Indinha, the rain was closing in. I reached the Indinha Outstation and decided to stop for lunch. Fortunately, the rain eased off so I could make a sandwich without getting wet, but shortly started again so I ate in the car before continuing on.

The track was reasonably easy at that point, but as I turned down the one-way track heading south to Grindell’s Hut and Loch Ness Well it became more of a challenge. The views were amazing, especially at Gill’s Lookout where I had to stop and take a photo, despite the weather. The track had bulldust holes that caught me off guard a couple of times, so I was going pretty slowly. I stopped at Grindell’s Hut and took a couple of photos, but what I thought was the historical hut turned out to be a later building that is now used for tourist accommodation. With the weather closing in, I decided to skip looking for
Echo Camp BacktrackEcho Camp BacktrackEcho Camp Backtrack

Arkaroola, South Australia
the historical hut as I needed to get to Arkaroola before it got too wet.

It was fortunate that I did, because I arrived as the rain started getting heavier. As I checked in, they told me that the roads were expected to be closed soon. Thankfully, I would have a roof over my head when the storm hit that night. Less fortunate was the news that most of the tracks around Arkaroola would be closed too, and they weren’t sure for how long. I settled into my room, had dinner in the restaurant and went to sleep with the sound of rain lashing down.

It was still raining in the morning when I went for breakfast. There I saw that as expected, the roads were closed and so were all of the tracks except for one walking track. As I had changed my plans to start my stay at Arkaroola a day early, I thought of it as a bonus day anyway, so I headed back to my room and returned to bed. I spent the morning having more sleep and watching tv. Around lunchtime, the rain had finished, and the sun came out.

After lunch,
Gill's LookoutGill's LookoutGill's Lookout

Gammon Ranges National Park, South Australia
I got myself moving and headed out for the walk through the Mawson Valley. The views through the valley were fantastic and a great taste of things to come. After reaching the end of the Mawson walking track, I reached the Pinnacles. I don’t know how many “pinnacles” there are, I know of at least 2 other places that are called that in Australia. But they were some pretty impressive rock formations. I returned to Arkaroola via the Spriggina walking track. It was a total of 8km, so not too bad for a lazy day.

On Sunday morning I woke up worried that I would be stuck in Arkaroola for 4 days with nothing to do. However, when I asked about the tracks, I was told that even though the roads out of Arkaroola were still closed, all the tracks were open except for the Echo Camp Backtrack – the toughest 4wd track open to the public. Hopefully, it would be open on Monday, so I set out to see some of the other sites. I also booked a Ridge Top Track Tour for Tuesday, the day I leave. That is apparently the best track, but it can only
View from Grindell's HutView from Grindell's HutView from Grindell's Hut

Gammon Ranges National Park, South Australia
be accessed via a tour.

I headed out onto the road to the Paralana Hot Springs. I wasn’t going to the springs today, though. I would visit them after doing the Echo Camp Backtrack on Monday. First stop was at a crest of a hill before the road descends into Welcome Pound. The view into the valley was spectacular. I drove to Stubbs Waterhole and had a look around. It was okay, but nothing special.

I continued on through Claude’s Pass and then the road entered more open country. I turned off onto the track to Arkaroola Springs. Here was a much prettier waterhole, and I walked from the car along the rocky creek bed with cockatoos watching me the entire way. There wasn’t a great deal of water, despite the rain, but I’m sure it would be a lifesaver for the local wildlife.

I returned to the car and headed back towards Arkaroola. My next stop was Barraranna Gorge. There were a couple of kilometres to walk from the road, but it was a pleasant walk for the first part and the breeze coming through the gorge was nice and cool. When the going became very
Mawson ValleyMawson ValleyMawson Valley

Arkaroola, South Australia
rocky and it looked like the best of the gorge was done, I turned around and headed back to the car.

Continuing on, I descended into Welcome Pound once more. But instead of returning to the main road to Arkaroola, I turned off onto the Mt Jacob Backtrack. This was the only other real publicly accessible 4-wheel-drive track on the property. Most of the other tracks could be driven in a standard car, or possibly an all-wheel-drive SUV. The Mt Jacob Backtrack wasn’t difficult, but it had to be taken slowly as there were many dips and river crossings with steep entrances and exits. The highlight was reaching the top of the hills that gave some superb views of the hills and valleys south of Arkaroola.

I returned to Arkaroola for a late lunch before heading off in the opposite direction to visit the Bollabollan Copper Smelter and Nooldoonooldoona Waterhole. The driving was reasonably slow on the rocky and windy road, but not too difficult. At the copper smelter there are a couple of ruined buildings, and I stopped for a few photos. The waterhole was pretty, but both sites stank pretty badly. The cause at the waterhole
Mawson ValleyMawson ValleyMawson Valley

Arkaroola, South Australia
was obvious – there were quite a few animal corpses in various stages of decay. I guess they were from before the rain filled up the waterhole.

On Monday morning the roads to Arkaroola were still closed, but I hoped that the Echo Camp Backtrack would be open. When I checked with the staff, they told me they would find out later in the day as there was a tour going there in the morning. So after breakfast I returned to my room to process the photos I had taken so far. Returning to the main desk after 11am, I was greeted with the good news that the track was open. I collected a key and track guide, and signed some paperwork acknowledging that I knew what I was in for. Then I was on my way.

First stop was off on a sidetrack to Arkaroola Waterhole. That was another pleasant waterhole nestled within rocky cliffs. Once again I had cockatoos watching me the whole time. I returned to the main track and continued on to the Echo Camp Historic Site. Here I ran into another group who were having a look around. I had a look around
Mawson ValleyMawson ValleyMawson Valley

Arkaroola, South Australia
at the monument to W.B. Greenwood, a pioneering prospector in the area. There was also a stone arrow he and his son had laid to indicate the direction they were travelling. I had some lunch there and was ready to tackle the Backtrack.

Once through the locked gate, I started the steep climb up to the top of Dinnertime Hill. The descent on the other side was just as steep, and I knew I was in for a proper 4-wheel-drive experience. The most challenging sections were on a side track to the northern end of Bararrana Gorge. The steep descents and ascents to the creek crossings had loose rocks and some deep holes. I took them all slowly and managed to get to the gorge without incident. The gorge was very narrow there, and I walked along as far as I could go. A section where the water pooled between two sheer rock walls forced me to turn around and return to my car.

I had to traverse the difficult sections again to return to the main track, and once again I had no problem. But just after I reached the main track, I began a descent after
Flowers in Mawson ValleyFlowers in Mawson ValleyFlowers in Mawson Valley

Arkaroola, South Australia
cresting a steep hill. At the beginning of descents, I find the visibility is the worst because the car blocks view of the track. Unfortunately, I missed a bit of a hole and my left-front wheel dropped in. I heard a loud bang and stopped the car to find out what happened. One of the lateral bars of my rock sliders had come down hard on a rock and now has a dent. But that’s what the bars are there for, and once again I was glad to have them.

The remainder of the track involved climbing and descending a couple of large hills. It was fairly straightforward, although there was one descent on a bend that gave me an adrenalin rush as I had to make the turn without sliding into a deep rut. It was all good though, and the views from those hills were over plains that didn’t seem to end. It was spectacular.

I reached the end of the track at 3pm, so I continued on to Paralana Hot Springs. The road showed the most signs of the recent rain out of the tracks I’d driven over the last couple of days, but it
Mawson ValleyMawson ValleyMawson Valley

Arkaroola, South Australia
was soft dirt and some mud so there were no dramas. There wasn’t much to see at the hot springs, but I managed to bury one of my shoes in mud as I crossed the creek. After washing the shoe as best I could in the creek, I returned to my car and drove back to Arkaroola.

That nearly completes my time in Arkaroola. I will do the Ridge Top Track Tour in the morning and will probably have lunch here before I head out. Thankfully, the road to Blinman is open again, although last time I checked it was open for 4-wheel-drive vehicles only. I need to shop for food there as I will be camping for the next few nights as I make my way south through the Flinders Ranges. If the rest of the Flinders is as good as Arkaroola, it’s going to be a great finish to my trip.


Additional photos below
Photos: 47, Displayed: 29


Advertisement

The PinnaclesThe Pinnacles
The Pinnacles

Arkaroola, South Australia
The PinnaclesThe Pinnacles
The Pinnacles

Arkaroola, South Australia
Spriggina Walking TrackSpriggina Walking Track
Spriggina Walking Track

Arkaroola, South Australia
Spriggina Fossil ReplicaSpriggina Fossil Replica
Spriggina Fossil Replica

Arkaroola, South Australia
TelescopesTelescopes
Telescopes

Arkaroola, South Australia
Welcome PoundWelcome Pound
Welcome Pound

Arkaroola, South Australia
Bird at Stubbs WaterholeBird at Stubbs Waterhole
Bird at Stubbs Waterhole

Arkaroola, South Australia
Cockatoos at Arkaroola SpringsCockatoos at Arkaroola Springs
Cockatoos at Arkaroola Springs

Arkaroola, South Australia
Arkaroola SpringsArkaroola Springs
Arkaroola Springs

Arkaroola, South Australia
Arkaroola SpringsArkaroola Springs
Arkaroola Springs

Arkaroola, South Australia
Claude's PassClaude's Pass
Claude's Pass

Arkaroola, South Australia


21st September 2020

Understanding
Spectacular and fascinating. Looking forward to my much lesser experiences next year but I reckon I also have a greater understanding of the thinking behind the Brisbane Line when you see such inhospitable country.
30th September 2020
Echo Camp Backtrack

Solitude
A lonely back road full of beauty and excitement.
30th September 2020

Back country Australia
You have found many wonderful places to hike and enjoy. Thanks for sharing.

Tot: 0.169s; Tpl: 0.02s; cc: 30; qc: 149; dbt: 0.0319s; 1; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.8mb