Rawnsley Park to Wilpena Pound, anti-clockwise via Sacred Canyon. Approx ~ 53 K.
Reception staff took away our car and camper for safe keeping and gave us, a loan UHF for keeping safe. It was amazing and a bit daunting to realise that for the next five days, it was just us, the bike, under pedal power in this big country. The paper map provided, states in huge letters: “Warning, plan carefully before riding the Flinders Ranges By Bike trail”. Yes, we had planned, but were we fit enough? The Sacred Canyon beckoned.
The route took us toward the distant Chace Range on a well-formed dirt road, it was easy going with no wind, and those small fears were fast evaporating. The Pugilist Hill lookout beckoned; a steep bike up that soon became a strenuous walk and push for the last 100 meters but the reward was stunning.
It felt as if our worldly worries were slowly dissipating in the peace and the stillness. And the next turn-off, took us onto some lovely single track, where we could smell eucalyptus and damp earth as we biked along the riverbed. Could it get better?
As the sun rose, it was getting hotter. Shady spots were rare in the scrubby pastoral country and judging by the poo, it’s where the local kangaroos and sheep hung out. If we wanted shade, we had to stand in it. I was sure we would smell the poo all day as it clogged up our cleats.
We began to get worried about our water supplies as we biked past skeletons or parts of, and kept our eyes out for snakes as the low scrubby country continued to evolve, with small cliffs of red dirt, sage green bushes and surprising patches of green grass.
Our idyll was not to last. We joined with a dirt road at about the 20 k mark that led to the Sacred Canyon and discovered that it is a popular spot with day-trippers. A short walk down the dry riverbed, past indigenous symbols (the circular ones mean waterhole) and hidden within ancient waterworn rock walls, was the waterhole.
A sign tells us that the local Adnyamathanha people believe that the engravings were not made by people but were created for them by ancestral beings during the dreaming.
Our bike route continued on the Sacred Canyon access road – a wide road, that rolls up and down, on and on through a thick cypress pine forest. It was busy and the dust thrown up by fast traffic stayed in the air, the odd stone pinged our bikes making 13 k seem very long indeed.
After hitting the main bitumen road, we turned toward Wilpena Pound, the late afternoon light intensifying the red ochre of the jagged cliffs against the fading blue sky. I learnt that Wilpena means ‘place of bent fingers’ and it’s believed that this references the pound’s resemblance to a cupped hand. The resort lies at the only entrance to this enclosed valley, and the gorge is a great walk. It was also Kangaroo time, and surprisingly easy to get up close and personal with Skippy.
Our two bags of food and camping gear had been transferred (for a fee) and now we wondered if it had arrived. But Dave (a local to the country) found us and we had dinner accompanied by noisy birds and another starry night, glimpsed through the trees.
Getting into bed, we were both delighted to find there were no sore muscles but the mattresses did seem a bit thin, for this hard ground. Only 190 kilometres to go!