The house that Akurra built

Published: July 14th 2006
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The main attraction in the area is the Flinders Ranges National Park, in particular Wilpena Pound, a natural rock amphitheatre formed by a giant serpent in Aboriginal legend. My first day there was overcast, and the walk to Waranga Lookout resulted in a fine view over the Pound but, creaturewise, only a solitary roo, an emu, and a few small birds.

The trip to Sacred Canyon was quite different. It was along an unsealed road, which left the (red) car covered in orange dust, and almost shook the filling out of my sandwiches. This is precisely the sort of road that's specifically forbidden in the rental contract, given the risk of the paintwork being chipped. I passed any number of kangaroos, bouncing around in their peculiar fashion. They also have an endearing way of shaking their heads when stationary, making their oversized ears flop around as though not entirely under their control. The canyon itself was a bit disappointing. I can only assume I somehow missed the best Aboriginal carvings there, as the ones I saw were very simplistic. On the way back from the canyon I stopped at a red gum tree that was immortalised in a famous photo from the 1930s called "The Spirit of Endurance".

I was hoping to make Burralinga Gorge my last stop of the day, the guidebook having implied it would be knee-deep in yellow-footed rock wallabies in the late afternoon, but the road signage let me down and after about 30km on truly awful roads there was no gorge in sight, so I retraced my steps and decided to try Warren Gorge instead. Though I was able to find that easily, it started raining shortly after I arrived. I figured the wallabies would be as uninterested in wandering around in the rain as I was, so I headed for Quorn, intending to return to Warren Gorge for sunrise.

A weird American guy had materialised in my dorm, and I say weird because he had an obsession with finding dorms where he was the only resident. Normally he would camp if such a situation wasn't available. I hadn't told the hostel that I'd be back for another night, so they'd told this guy he would indeed have the place to himself. It was pretty clear he was not happy that he'd have a dorm-mate. Later, in the bar, I bumped into him again and he was almost apoplectic due to the fact that four Germans had also arrived in our dorm. I felt it might appear condescending to point out to him that privacy wasn't something you'd normally find in a hostel.

I tried the Transcontinental Hotel, aka The Tranny, for dinner, with the "feral grill" appearing to be the most interesting item on the menu. It consisted of two emu sausages, two camel sausages, a kangaroo fillet, and a hog spare rib, plus veg. Way too much meat for me, and greasy to boot, but I gamely struggled through all but half the rib. The evening was then spent at the bar with the American guy and an Australian woman visiting from Port Augusta who, much to my amusement, told him he'd have a "bloody big forehead" by the time he was 40, when he claimed that he had a good head of hair.

As we returned to the hostel, he confided that he was going to sleep in one of the spare rooms tonight then attempt to cover his tracks in the morning. I agreed not to "dob him in" (i.e. grass him up) if the owner asked me about this. With that, I got into my bunk and a lullaby of Teutonic snoring sent me to sleep.

The following morning I was up seriously early, in order to get through the bathroom before it was claimed by one of the large tour groups that had checked in yesterday. I was at Warren Gorge well before sunrise, and picked a likely-looking place to park the car and wait to be overwhelmed by yellow-footed rock wallabies.

I waited for nearly two hours, seeing only a handful of creatures, none of which had conspicuously yellow feet. A group consisting of a guide and 4 Germanic-looking people - who I correctly guessed were my dorm-mates - passed by on foot, asking if I'd had any luck. They hadn't, so I casually said I'd seen a few things. When I spoke to them later, they'd seen droves of the blighters, whereas I'd seen none. The guide also opined that the American guy was weird, further confirming my own view.

I came to grief mid-morning when returning to Quorn, having the first car vs. kangaroo contest of the trip. Despite the day being well underway, and hence not generally a risky time for driving, a roo shot out from some bush at the side of the road and thudded into the front right of the car before I could react. I screeched to a halt in a cloud of dust and rattling pebbles, seeing the roo struggling to its feet and shaking its head in the rear view mirror. It was already bounding off back into the bush before I was even out of the car. The car also appeared unscathed but the incident had been quite scary, and my nerves were buzzing for a good while afterwards. Though the roo behaviour verges on the suicidal, I don't particularly want to kill or (worse) maim one.

Back in Quorn, I saw someone who looked remarkably like Leif (my Great Ocean Road campervan colleague) striding across the road. On closer inspection, it actually was Leif. It turned out that his tour was simply passing through on the way from Alice Springs to Adelaide. This was to be the first of many re-encounters with people, a feature of Australian travel that's linked to the limited number of routes taken around the country.

With the weather suddenly sunny, I returned to Wilpena Pound to inspect it in sunlight. Many roos were out taking advantage of the warmth, and I even saw a joey with its mother. A knowledgeable passing walker said that the joey had only been out of its pouch for a month or so.

Dinner was kangaroo schnitzel, and I realised that recently my diet has gone to the dogs, with meat and alcohol forming an unsafely high proportion of my intake. Preventative measures will need to be taken.

Additional photos below
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Looking at me

In which some Germans lived
Sacred CanyonSacred Canyon
Sacred Canyon

Aboriginal carvings

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