Fantastic Flinders Finale


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Oceania » Australia » South Australia » Flinders Ranges
September 30th 2020
Published: October 1st 2020
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Reached the top of Billy Goat RidgeReached the top of Billy Goat RidgeReached the top of Billy Goat Ridge

Bendleby Ranges, South Australia
On Friday night I set my alarm for 6am to make sure I wasn’t late for my 7am booking. Awake in the morning and ready with plenty of time to spare, I headed out to the airstrip for my scenic flight. There was a minimum of 2 people on the flights, so I had booked onto a flight that already had someone booked in. However, when I got there the other person (or people) never showed, so I was left with the option of missing out or paying for 2 seats. I opted for the latter – expensive, yes, but I hoped it would be worth it.

The pilot Hugh was a pleasant chap and he said it was a perfect morning for a flight. A couple of clouds over Wilpena Pound, but no wind. And he was right. It was an awesome view from up there. We started by flying along the Chace Ranges before heading up over Wilpena Pound. The Pound is impressive from the ground, but from above it is amazing. It looks like someone has moulded a bowl out of clay. We then headed along the Heysen Range, looking at Bunyeroo, Brachina and Parachilna Gorges before
Wilpena Pound from the airWilpena Pound from the airWilpena Pound from the air

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia
turning around and crossing Wilpena Pound again, this time north to south. With that, the 45 minute flight was done and we landed back at the airstrip safely. This was definitely a highlight of the trip. I’m not sure if it was as good as the Uluru sunset flight, but it was pretty close!

Before returning to the cabin to cook breakfast, I went to pick up the key for the driving track. At reception, I found out that the 4-wheel-drive track was now open, so I was going to do both. They were not as long as Skytrek, so it should only take about 4 hours. So I had time to use the kitchen in the cabin to cook a proper breakfast. I have to admit, flying on an empty stomach, quickly shifting from side to side taking photos, left me a bit queasy so I waited until my stomach settled. While I waited, I made a couple of sandwiches to take with me for lunch. With breakfast done, it was time to head out.

The all-wheel-drive track was pretty simple, although there was one section that I would have been hesitant to do in an all-wheel-drive
Descending from Pat's PeakDescending from Pat's PeakDescending from Pat's Peak

Bendleby Ranges, South Australia
without low-range. It was a steep descent, but as it was the only one, I guess it would have been okay to ride the brakes. It was a pleasant drive through some diverse countryside. There were stops pointing out the various types of trees along the way, but as these were all trees that had been pointed out on Skytrek on Thursday, I didn’t stop very often.

I then drove down the road a bit to the end of the 4-wheel-drive track. I’m not sure why, but the track is now done in reverse order. The track is much shorter than the all-wheel-drive track, but definitely more fun. There were some steep ascents and descents, but the track surface was pretty good so it wasn’t difficult and low-range handled them with ease. But there were some great views on the top of the hills. One of the hills had a picnic table that would have been a great place to eat lunch… if I’d remembered to bring my sandwiches with me! So I did the track and returned to the cabin for a late lunch.

On Sunday morning I checked out but as I had plenty of time,
Rawnsley Bluff, Wilpena PoundRawnsley Bluff, Wilpena PoundRawnsley Bluff, Wilpena Pound

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia
I stayed at Rawnsley Park and went on one of the many walks. There are some long ones up to Wilpena Pound that I would like to do on a future visit, but I only wanted to spend the morning, so I opted for a walk out to the Pine Cave. It started with a walk up to Alison Saddle, an easy uphill climb with good views of Rawnsley Bluff to the north and Elders Range to the south. I turned east and headed along the ridge, on a rocky path that was easy to lose track of. The track finished at a small cave among the pine trees. I walked back along the flat walking track south of the hill before returning to my car via Alison Saddle. The walk was only 2 hours, but it was really nice. The views from the hill were great, and the walk through the trees had lots of birds.

I then got in my car and got ready to head to my final location for the trip – Bendleby Ranges. However, I needed to stop in Hawker to get some fuel and some bread as I would be camping for the
Wilpena PoundWilpena PoundWilpena Pound

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia
next three nights. Fuel was not a problem, but the small shop did not have any fresh bread because it was a Sunday. They suggested going to Quorn. That wasn’t quite the way I was planning to go, but I needed my bread.

Arriving in Quorn, I was surprised by the large number of people in the town. I put it down to the start of school holidays. The supermarket in the town didn’t have bread left, so I was out of luck. Once again, I figured Port Augusta was the best option. My city slicker credentials were on show again! As I left town, I saw a steam train arriving at the station, so that explained why the town was so busy.

The drive to Bendleby Ranges via Port Augusta was not as interesting as I had hoped, but at least I was ready for my final three days. I drove into the station to see a few 4-wheel-drives parked at the reception office and I was worried that school holidays were going to make the place crowded. As I headed into the office, I saw that one car had a man getting a leg injury treated.
Wilpena PoundWilpena PoundWilpena Pound

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia
I found out that he had rolled his car on the famous Billy Goat Ridge Track, which I had already assumed I wouldn’t be driving because it is often considered the toughest track in the Flinders Ranges.

As I checked in, the owner gave me details of my campsite and went through the many tracks across the property. There are tracks of varying difficulty, from all-wheel-drive tracks up to the difficult tracks. He gave me a suggested itinerary that would increase the difficulty so I could stop when I reach my comfort level. He said that Billy Goat Ridge is rated 10/10, so the culmination of day 1’s itinerary was Pat’s Peak that is rated 9/10. Based on how that went, he said I can then decide if I want to do Billy Goat Ridge. I was still thinking that I probably wouldn’t, particularly after seeing the injured guy outside.

I headed out to my campsite, coincidently called Valley View, the same as my campsite at Willow Springs. Although I could hear a nearby campsite, I couldn’t see it so it was perfect. There was a drop toilet and a firepit, but this time they supplied firewood as
Wilpena PoundWilpena PoundWilpena Pound

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia
part of the booking. So I figured I should bother with a fire this time. But after splitting some kindling and smaller pieces of wood to get the fire started, I realised I had no way to light it! In the end, I lit a small piece of kindling from my Weber barbecue and resolved to buy a box of matches at the station office the next day.

After a pleasant night with a fire and a surprise drop of rain, I headed out in the morning for some driving. As per the itinerary he suggested, I started off in the Bendleby Ranges, one of two small mountain ranges on the property. It started with a drive along a creek bed which was easy but had to be taken slowly due to the rocks. Then it was up to a lookout over the homestead, and a scenic drive that was rated all-wheel-drive. I then started the climb back up the range to the two medium-hard tracks in the Bendleby Ranges. The drive to Quarry Springs was good fun, and the Kokoda track was a steep descent, but not too difficult.

With that, I headed over to the Hungry
Wilpena Pound Wilpena Pound Wilpena Pound

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia
Ranges, where the real 4-wheel-driving tracks were. You have to put your details on a whiteboard so they know who is over there and whether they have returned. I did this and then headed out. I went along some medium tracks to get to the first difficult track. It was not yet named, as it had only opened a few days earlier and I think the owner was keen for people to drive it and let them know what people think. The track has a steep ascent to a mountaintop with little else up there except for the track. Once I got to the top, the road disappeared. I got out to look and saw that it did continue. The descent looked really steep, and I was a bit worried. But it turned out to not be as bad as it looked. When I told the owner that, he said that is part of their sense of humour. It’s mostly designed for men to scare their wives.

I then headed along a track that runs alongside the ranges so I could go up to Kings Ridge track, which was rated 8/10. I started using my diff-locker and found the
Wilpena PoundWilpena PoundWilpena Pound

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia
steep climbs much easier. I didn’t lose traction at all and by taking it slowly, I had no problems. The biggest drama was keeping my eyes on the track because the views were amazing! I stopped at the top of one of the hills and made myself some sandwiches. One of the best lunch sites I’ve ever had.

With Kings Ridge finished, I had a choice to do Pat’s Peak or to head back to camp. As the 8/10 track was fine, I thought I would give it a go. Rated at 9/10, Pat’s Peak is fairly new and is named for an Australian 4x4 television personality, Pat Callinan. It started with a long climb that was extremely steep. I’ve not been on anything that steep before. The ascent was good fun though. With the diff-locker on there was no problem getting traction, although there were a few small sideway slides that got the heart racing. However, what goes up must come down and that was where I had my brown-trouser moments. While there was one ascent, the descent had two sections. They were about as steep, but they had some big drops on them and I was worried
Heysen RangeHeysen RangeHeysen Range

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia
if my car had clearance. I crawled really slowly down, probably using the brake too much, but I couldn’t help it. The surface was pretty slippery and the car moved on its own way more than I would like. But I got down safely.

Returning to the homestead, I had a good chat with the owner. When I told him of my experience on Pat’s Peak, he said “Yeah, Pat’s Peak is ridiculous.” He could have told me beforehand! But he did say that Billy Goat’s Ridge is all climbing, no crazy descents and that he thought my car would be fine. It’s only rated 10/10 because it’s technical – you have to make sure you take the right line. He said it doesn’t have the thrills of Pat’s Peak, particularly if you do it correctly. He also told me about the guy with the leg injury. Apparently he was very gung-ho, just the type of guy who gets into trouble on Billy Goat’s. He actually rolled his car because he went to get out and forgot to put the handbrake on. When it started rolling back, it hit a bump and he couldn’t get his foot on the
Heysen RangeHeysen RangeHeysen Range

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia
brake. He was thrown out of the window as it rolled, so was extremely lucky to escape with just some grazes on one leg! The owner said, that being on my own would actually be an advantage, because groups of guys egging each other on are the ones that get into trouble. I said I would think about it overnight, but deep down I knew I was going to give it a go.

Tuesday morning was overcast and rain was due to arrive at around 11am, so I got up early. I wanted to head out and do Billy Goat’s Ridge before the rain arrived. The track begins on the far side of the Hungry Ranges, so I had to take the Ridge Top track to get there. Rated 7/10, it was not too bad for the most part but I found the descent on the far side was too much like the descents on Pat’s Peak for my liking. But again, I survived and soon found myself at the base of Billy Goat’s Ridge.

The climb started simply enough and after coming up a rise, I stopped for a photo as the main part of the track
Gorge through the Heysen RangeGorge through the Heysen RangeGorge through the Heysen Range

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia
rose in front of me. The track was not that steep, but there were a number of key places where I had to stop and get out to look at the track. In one case, I had to place a couple of rocks to help get over a step. But once I got out of the car, I found that it wasn’t too difficult to see where the best line was. Two of the places looked like steep rock steps on right-hand turns, but by walking it first I could see there was enough track behind the step to go around. But you can’t see that from the vehicle. The trick was to take the lines I had picked out, and fortunately I managed to do that every time. A couple of the places were almost anticlimactic by driving the right line. The track took about 30 minutes, and I was elated when I reached the top. Completing the toughest track in the Flinders Ranges was a great way to finish my holiday. Bendleby Ranges was a great place to visit for 4-wheel-driving. I will be back again.

I returned to camp on a high, so I decided to
Heysen RangeHeysen RangeHeysen Range

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia
put up the awning and open a bottle of red. I spent a relaxing afternoon listening to the rain and reminiscing on what has been a fantastic holiday that was everything I had hoped, and more. I think I have improved as a 4-wheel-driver, and it turned out to be a perfect time to visit South Australia and Uluru, with the crowds much reduced from normal. With the border now being opened, I think the crowds will increase as nobody is going overseas. So I got pretty lucky.

And with that, it was time to drive home, which I am doing now. With the holiday over, it is time to do my holiday wrap up:

What was the Best Thing?




When I did the sunset scenic flight at Uluru, I knew it was going to be tough to beat. The scenic flight over Wilpena Pound came close, but Uluru was definitely the best. Such an iconic sight was amazing to see from the air, and the colours at sunset were unbelievable. It’s funny that I have seen pictures of Uluru so many times, but none of them prepared me for seeing it in person. I cannot recommend
Heysen RangeHeysen RangeHeysen Range

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia
taking a scenic flight there enough. Do it, if you get the chance.

Worst Thing?




While the flies in the outback made a strong case, I couldn’t go past the quarantine for the worst thing. I was lucky that I was able to quarantine in an Airbnb rather than a hotel, so I could cook my own food and had a bit more space. But not being able to leave the apartment for 14 days was not an experience I want to repeat. I think it was worth doing though.

The Biggest Surprise?




This was the hardest to come up with. Everything was great, but I did expect they would be. In the end, I think it was doing Billy Goat’s Ridge track at Bendleby Ranges. I honestly was not going to tackle it, because I had seen videos on Youtube and read that it was really tough. But I was surprised to find that my car was more than capable, and more so that I was capable. I don’t think I would have if I’d gone to Bendleby at the beginning of the trip, so I guess I have gained a lot of experience on
Heysen RangeHeysen RangeHeysen Range

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia
this holiday.

The Biggest Disappointment?




Halligan Bay takes this, for sure. Not because the campsite had the worst flies during the day, and terrible bugs at night. As bad as they were, I was really disappointed that the track to the campsite was not the challenging 4-wheel-drive track that I was expecting. I assume that it is rated as 4-wheel-drive only because in wet conditions it might be difficult. But when I visited there, it was nothing more than a gravel road. The only item on my itinerary that disappointed me.



Thanks for reading. I hope everyone is doing as well as possible in this difficult time, and hope we can all get back to normal travel sooner rather than later!


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Heysen RangeHeysen Range
Heysen Range

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia
Wilpena PoundWilpena Pound
Wilpena Pound

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia
Wilpena PoundWilpena Pound
Wilpena Pound

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia
Wilpena PoundWilpena Pound
Wilpena Pound

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia
Heysen RangeHeysen Range
Heysen Range

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia
Chace RangeChace Range
Chace Range

Rawnsley Park Station, South Australia


3rd October 2020

Finale
Thank you for taking us along.
3rd October 2020

Thanks for coming along
I had a great time, so I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it too.

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