Walk Wild Wilkawillina!
A six hour drive north of Adelaide takes you deep into South Australia’s Outback zone AND into the Flinders Ranges National Park.
It’s considered remote. By most people’s standards, anyway.
Factor in its staggering scenery, wonderful wildlife, numerous hiking trails and awesome natural beauty, and you’ve got one of the best eco-tourism adventure destinations in the country! That makes it the perfect place to get away from it all.
And when we based ourselves in central location Wilpena to sample the Flinders Ranges, it WAS the perfect place to get away from it all. So perfect,we got away from it all at the same time that a lot of other travellers were getting away from it all.
So where do you go when you want to get away from getting away from it all?
You head for the hills, of course!
The Bunkers, actually.
Take the Wirrealpa road roughly following the park boundary for about 45 km north-east of Wilpena when it passes through The Bunkers, a
range of low hills.
Further along is the extraordinary Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary*.
And on the other side of the road outside the park is the privately owned Bunkers reserve, home of Willow Springs Sky Trek, known for its spectacular scenery.
Saving that trip for another day, we headed for the Little Bunkers trailhead, start – or end – of the fabulously amazing Wilkawillina Gorge hike which would show us a very different side to the Flinders Ranges National Park. A hike on which we would see NO OTHER PEOPLE!
Ironically, the hike actually works better with more people as it’s an 11.4 km tramp one way through the Gorge from the Little Bunkers Trailhead to the Mt Billy Creek Trailhead (or vice versa). And the track notes suggest setting aside 6 hours. One way. So the smart walkers will travel in a group with two cars, leaving one at each end of the track.
Or just do what no-friend-losers like Pilchard and I did – and hike the trail to the halfway point, taking in some of its highlights before retracing your steps.
It doesn’t take very long to start seeing those highlights.
Although that depends on your tolerance for red rock, blue skies, broad and empty river beds and dramatic profiles. In other words – classic outback scenery!
While there’s some evidence of the Barite exploration (there are two mines outside the park boundary) the walk is an opportunity to view Wonoka Formation rocks and minerals, Wilkawillina Limestone, Bonney Sandstone and Rawnsley Quartzite in its natural and largely unadulterated habitat.
If you can’t distinguish Cambrian from Pre-Cambrian, forget the geology lesson, and just admire the staggeringly scenic landscape! The unusual layers, colours and patterns don’t seem real in this empty and lost world landscape. What we’d normally expect from familiar objects like hills and valleys doesn’t apply in this parallel universe where swirling patterns cover the low hills; rocks soar from the dry river bed, full of eucalypts saplings; and striking colours interspersed with dramatic lines frame the sky.
‘Ten Mile Creek’ doesn’t accurately describe the broad river bed, with Archaeocyatha fossils embedded in its rocky banks and massive River Red Gums growing in the gravel, that traverses the gorge. Today it’s dry, except for a few pools, but the flash floods it’s built to carry have helped create this unique landscape, weathered by the harsh outback conditions.
With such amazing scenery on offer, it was tempting to keep going – just to see what was round the next corner. But although it’s fairly easy going, without any friends with a welcoming car at trail’s end, there’s just not enough time in the day. We’re not known as the world’s slowest hikers for nothing! So after lunch (no bakeries out here!)(and sadly, no scenic public toilets either!!) overlooking the river we reluctantly turned back, wandering along the river bed until we reached the river crossing.
Maybe next time we’d walk to this point from the other end. Or find some friends.
But for now, as we happily discovered, the landscape was just as spectacularly dramatic in reverse.
Finally we left the wonders of the gorge behind. Ahead, I could see the car in the distance, perched high above the river bed – the first sign of civilisation we’d seen in several hours.
But I wasn’t entirely sure it was a welcome sight.
- Wilkawillina Gorge Track Notes
- Flinders Ranges National Park
- More Redz Australia adventures in Flinders Ranges National Park
- *My adventures in Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary
- MORE photos on Flickr HERE
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