DAY FOUR – Flinders Ranges By Bike
Gum Creek Station to Wilpena Pound, approx ~70 k.
We stretched our legs in the cool of the morning, surprised to find, no sore muscles after yesterday’s hard slog. Our stomachs were full of porridge, the water bottles full and bike packed, it was time to ride. We left our bags in the woolshed, crossing our fingers that they’ll get to Wilpena Pound. Would we?
The smell of sheep, grass and earth permeated the stillness and we hoped like hell, that yesterday’s blistering headwind, would not come back to torment us.
The easy going and well maintained station tracks meant we could relax on the bikes, and take in the scenery without focusing on ruts, drops and other nasties. We were heading into Hans Heysen landscape country, Heysen called the Flinders “the bones of nature laid bare” and I was keen to see for myself the inspiration for much of his landscape painting.
The ABC range rose in front of us, leading the eye into the far distance. In this morning’s light, the undulating red cliffs were simply stunning. Up close, even more impressive and mysterious with numerous gullies and ragged escarpments, that begged to be explored.
Just before Red Hill lookout, we said goodbye to Gum Greek Station pastoral land and crossed into the National Park. Its here that we join onto the Mawson Trail, which has skirted Gum Creek station from Blinman in the north and the track, becomes wider and well marked.
Sir Douglas Mawson, Australia’s famous Antarctic explorer and geologist, studied these ranges in 1910 and this red, flinty and fine packed trail has been named in his honour. We expect to see walkers or other bike riders, but so far we have it all to ourselves. The absence of any sign – both visible and audible of other humans, adds to our sense of isolation, and makes the beauty all the more powerful.
Brachina River, is a welcome stop. I break out the sketch book and Mark, explores. The many ancient and gnarled river gums invite a closer but cautious look. We’ve been warned that gums can drop their hefty limbs at any time, and as the gums offer shade its a big dilemma.
Gentle rolling land brings us to the Bunyeroo Valley Lookout, and after a climb we take in the views back to Wilpena and west across to Willow Springs in the far distance. The bike path joins the road, here, winding down to the Gorge. We wait for a few cars trailing dust clouds to disappear before making Razorback ridge ours. The steep descent is a curvy high speed, high adrenaline ride. Mark is in his element and soon disappears from my view.
The gorge itself is bouldery and slow going, red fractured rock rises on both sides of this narrow gorge, giving us some welcome shade for lunch.
There is a geological walk here, with sign posts telling a story so ancient that we feel very insignificant, and reflect on our own tiny timeline in the Anthropocene age.
We are now on the other side of the ABC range and in a valley with the Heysen Range on our left, there’s also no wind here and it’s much hotter. Our water supplies are doing better than yesterday though and we don’t need to ration.
The red cliffs of the Heysen range make a fantastic backdrop to the greenery of the native cypress ( Callitris columellaris) and Sheoak and its hard not to stop and take photos every five minutes. We met a group of hikers – our first meeting with any other track users.
The valley broadens out a little and we start a descent on a stone hard, water rutted dirt track. With a few k’s to go to Wilpena Pound, there’s more sign of use here, and its not long before we met day walkers.
As the setting sun turns the rocky cliffs a stunning orangey red, we go for a short walk into the pound to stretch out our legs. The Pound is about 18 k long by 8 k’s wide and was an important Aboriginal ceremonial site until it was taken over by europeans for grazing stock. A homestead built by the Hill family, and now restored, lies at the end of the gorge, where it opens to the pound.
We treat ourselves to a beer and a meal cooked by someone else at the Resort Bistro. The end of our trip is in sight and its disappointing that tomorrow will be a short day. We are now into the groove of spending the whole day biking in this stunning landscape. Its such a fantastic way to absorb what the country offers on many levels.
190 k done, with only 25 k to do.