Arkaroola, north of Wilpina Pound, South Australia 23-25 November 2016

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November 25th 2016
Published: December 12th 2016
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Wednesday 23 to Friday 25 November 2016

We were away by 9.30am leaving Leigh Creek and heading for Arkaroola. We called onto Copley to ask what the road, and more particularly, the river crossings were like after the rain the previous day. We were told the school bus had got through so that was good enough for us. The road was good, as long as we drove to the conditions and slowing down at creek crossings.

It took us 1 1/2 hours to travel 130kms including our stop at Copley. We were in no hurry. The car and van travels so well on any road we have subjected it to so far.

Arriving at Arkaroola Village after travelling through several Aboriginal areas which had commercial outlets for tourists, we booked into the caravan park. There was one other caravan and a camper trailer. Facilities were OK but we could tell we were out of season as staff numbers were down to skeleton.

We found out that the owners of Arkaroola was the Sprig family. Tom knew the father, Reg from his time in the SA Government. Reg Sprig was very involved in the geology and mineralogy area and was a student of Professor Sir Douglas Mawson. They used to travel out to Arkaroola regularly. Through Reg’s involvement in uranium and petroleum, he had a hand at starting SANTOS (South Australia Northern Territory Oil Search).

Eventually, Reg decided to buy the area and set up the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary which eventually was protected by an Act of Parliament to prevent any mining. However, mining continues in surrounding areas. In past years, copper and radium mining occurred but very little profit was made.

We met Reg’s son, Douglas Sprig and his sister Margaret who we chatted to frequently aver our 1 ½ days at Arkaroola.

We also met Neil Gibbins and his wife who was the Chair of Beach Petroleum after Reg Nelson whom we know through my sister Sheryl and Brian. They share-farm for the Nelsons at Kapunda. We had a great chat with Neil and discussed many other links and shared friendships and acquaintances.

The 1st night at Arkaroola Village they put on a BBQ so we had lots of opportunity to chat to various people. Another couple we got to know had flown into Arkaroola in their acrobatic aeroplane. They were also snake people ie. Their business was breeding non-venomous snakes and selling them to private people throughout Australia. He had many tales to tell of his antics with catching many snakes in Australia, including the Inland taipan, the deadliest snake in the world. He was also into motorbike racing so he was certainly an adrenaline junkie. Before he retires 2 years ago, he was a biologist but mainly sat on environmental Boards.

After getting advice from Douglas Spring and his sister Margaret, where to drive to see the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, we visited all the main features of the area. It was absolutely beautiful, stunning, geologically unique, beautiful colours, including bird and animal-attracting waterholes. We saw several Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby and many Euros.

The roads were challenging but we took them slowly, particularly through the creek beds. We pumped up our tires to 45psi for this slate area, unlike the Oodnadatta Track and Birdsville Track where tires should be at between 25-30psi.

Some of the names of the sites we visited were Nooldoonooldoona Waterhole, Bollabollana Copper Smelter & Waterhole, Barraranna Gorge, Stubbs Waterhole, Arkaroola Waterhole and Mt Oliphant (named after Mark Oliphant who visited the area frequently – ex- SA Governor), and Ochre wall to name a few.

The last day at Arkaroola, we joined the Ridgetop Tour for 5 hours. This area can only be seen by tour in their sturdy 4x4 vehicles. The tracks were very rough so we were pleased we weren’t allowed to take out vehicle. Our guide Rick told us that the tires last for 2000kms!!!!

We drove out to the Coulthards Lookout which is definitely on top of the world!!!!. The scenery was exceptional. The red colours of the rocks were beautiful. We learned a heck of a lot about the fascinating geology of the area. It seemed that every hill had a different geology story. The whole region is of sedimentary rock but the volcanic and uranium and radium stories were particularly interesting. Vegetation changed as the geology changed. Rick did a fantastic job, including telling stories of Reg Spring (who even knew Marie Currie) Sir Douglas Mawson, Sir Mark Oliphant and Premier Tom Playford and their contribution to the history of the region.

Throughout the trip, we hung on to the bars at the back of the open-sided 4x4 which was good fun. It was however good to stop several times, including for morning tea and the famous Arkaroola lamingtons. The 5 of us really enjoyed ourselves.

On our return to the Arkaroola Village after driving for 42kms, we went back to our van, had lunch, hitched up and headed for Copley (120km). We stayed the night in the caravan park, had a couple of beers at the local pub and chatted to some drilling blokes who were looking for coal-seam-gas.

The evening was cool so it was very pleasant. We had mobile phone cover for the first time in 5 days so made the most of it by calling both Kerrie and Adam and checking with my sister Judy that we will still meet them on 30/11 at Birdsville. They were looking forward to it.

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